Lying in the southwestern area of China, Tibet is bordered by Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan, and by Myanmar, India, Bhutan, Nepal and Kashmir Region in the south and west. With an average elevation of over 4,000m, Tibet is known as the “Roof of the World” and it is one of the places where people feel closest to the sky. Tibet’s unique scenery, the overwhelming religious devotion and its long history of ethnic culture have exerted a magnetic pull over travelers for centuries. Although the transport infrastructures in Tibet are still outdated, airlines, railways and highways have made it much more convenient to get into Tibet.
You can fly to Lhasa but flying in from a much lower altitude city puts you at high risk of altitude sickness because of the quick transition. If you are in Sichuan or nearby, flying from Chengdu is the easiest option. Lhasa Gonggar Airport has daily flights to/from Chengdu as well as several connections weekly with Xi’an, Xining, Kathmandu, Kunming, Chongqing and Zhongdian.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway starts from Xining in Qinghai in the east and ends in Lhasa in the west, 1,956 kilometers long in total. It links with the Lianyungang-Lanzhou Railway in the south, and the Eurasian Land Bridge in the north, via the Kunlun Mountains, the Tuotuo and Tongtian rivers, the Tanggula Mountains, the Yangbajain Canyon, Kekexili, the origin of the Jinsha, Lancang and Nujiang rivers, and the Changtang National Nature Reserve in the northern Tibetan Plateau.
There are direct trains to Lhasa from Beijing, Xining, Lanzhou, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu. The journey all the way from Beijing takes about 41 hours.
Begining at Chengdu, the Sichuan-Tibet Highway extends to the south and north at Xinduqiao via Ya’an and Kangding, and joins together again at Bamda after entering Tibet. This highway has a high elevation and winds its way around mountains. During the rainy season, it is blocked up owing to the landslide.
Southern Route: the No. 318 National Highway (2,159 kilometers)
Chengdu (149km) – Ya’an (166km) – Luding (54km) – Kangding(156km) – Yajiang (129km) – Litang (189km) – Batang (105km) – Markam (158km) – Zogang(107km) – Bamda (94km) – Baxoi (217km) – Bomi (215km) – Nyingchi (147km) – Gongbo’gyamda (200km) – Maizhokunggar (73km) – Lhasa
Northern Route: the No. 317 National Highway (2,407 kilometers)
Chengdu (369km) – Kangding (218km) – Dawu (164km) – Garze (213km) – Dege (101km) – Jomda (122km) – Toba (104km) – Qamdo (170km) – Bamda (94km) – Baxoi (217km) – Bomi (215km) – Nyingchi (147km) – Gongbo’gyamda (200km) – Maizhokunggar (73km) – Lhasa
The Qinghai-Tibet Highway is a good way to Tibet. It goes up and down slowly. With an asphalt surface, it is good for vehicles to run.
The No. 109 National Highway (1,947 kilometers)
Xining (103km) – Daotanghe (116km) – Heimahe (80km) – Caka (190km) – Xiangride (150km) – Momhon (144km) – Golmud (180km) – Budongquan (89km) – Wudaoliang (150km) – Tanggulashan (92km) – Yanshiping (100km) – Tanggula Mountain Pass (89km) – Amdo (138km) – Nagqu (164km) – Damxung (75km) – Yangbajain (87km) – Lhasa
The Yunan-Tibet Highway was built along the Tea Horse Road frequented by the businessmen and tourists in the ancient times. But the shuttle buses pass through Deqen in the Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, tourists to Lhasa have to ask a lift by passing-by trucks here.
The No. 214 National Highway (2,317 kilometers)
Kunming (397km) – Xiaguan (14km) – Dali (166km) – Lijiang (145km) – Zhongdian (152km) – Deqen (103km) – Yanjing (111km) – Makam (359km) – Baxio (450km) – Nyingchi (420km) – Lhasa
The Xinjiang-Tibet Highway, going to Lhasa from Yecheng, Xinjiang, leads its counterparts in its elevation. Most sections pass through depopulated areas. In summer, a few trucks go from Yecheng, Xinjiang, to Shiquanhe, the capital of Ngari Prefecture. But it is hard to find a truck from Shiquanhe to Lhasa.
The No. 318/219 National Highway (2,693 kilometers)
Yecheng (69km) – Pusa (88km) – Kuda Daban (83km) – Mazar Daban (339km) – Tianshuihai (110km) – Jieshan Daban (177km) – Doima (143km) – Rutong (87km) – Shiquanhe (331km) – Parga (334km) – Zhongba (145km) – Saga (293km) – Lhaze (157km) – Xigaze (337km) – Lhasa
From Kathmandu to Lhasa
Every day there are buses from the City Bus Station in Kathmandu, capital city of Nepal, to Kodari. Across the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge at Kodari, you will arrive in Zham, Tibet. The state-owned long-distance bus station in Lhasa has shuttle buses to other parts of the country.