Getting to Tibet: Main Gateway Cities to Travel to Tibet

Gateway cities to enter Lhasa, Tibet

So far tourists can enter Tibet in three ways: by train, by flight, and by road. Currently, there are 7 Chinese cities have train to Tibet. They are respectively Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Xining, Lanzhou, Chongqing, and Chengdu (of course, there are some middle-way stations too). For many travelers, taking a train tour is the most exciting way for traveling to Tibet, as the scenery along the railway is really spectacular and fabulous.

Besides the train, flying to Tibet is also a good option. For some tourists who rarely have opportunities to visit China, visiting more cities in limited time is part of their plan. Normally, they would like to choose some famous historic Chinese cities to stay for 2-3 days before flying to Tibet. Beijing, Chengdu and Xi’an, with many famous and attractive scenic spots, become three of the most popular cities among international tourists.

In addition to getting to Tibet by flight and train, taking an overland trip to Tibet is another choice for travelers. However, international tourists are not recommended to take this way, since after 2008, the travel permit rules for the overland trip from Sichuan and Yunnan to Lhasa is quite unstable, no one could expect the special permit for the overland trip can be definitely obtained or not. The rule can change without any prior notice which is very risky for organizing such a tour.

Which Cities Are the Main Gateway Cities to Enter Tibet?

Most popular gateway cities to enter Tibet

To figure out which cities are the main gateway cities for international tourists to enter Tibet, we have done some researches based on the market and our years of operation. And result is shown below in the picture, which shows that the top four gateway cities that tourists prefer to enter Tibet are Xining to Lhasa by train, Chengdu to Lhasa by air, Beijing to Lhasa by air and Kathmandu to Lhasa by air. If you want to know why they become the main gateway cities for entering Tibet, just move to the next part.

Why Chengdu, Xining and Kathmandu Become the Main Gateway Cities for international tourists to enter Tibet?


Most international tourists choose Chengdu to enter Tibet because it is the biggest and closest metropolis to Tibet and has high frequency of flights and train. Every day, there are at least 10 flights flying from Chengdu to Lhasa. And Chengdu-Lhasa flights are also regarded as the most convenient and economic airway to enter Tibet, which only takes 2 hours to reach Lhasa. Additionally, compared with other cities like Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, more-flights makes it easier for tourists in terms of scheduling, especially during the travel peak season (June to October).

Chengdu to Lhasa Trasports Routes

Also, Chengdu to Lhasa is one of the most popular train routes to Tibet. The train departs every other day from Chengdu Railway Station. On the train journey, you can see many fabulous natural landscapes. Plus, Chengdu is also the starting point of the famous Sichuan-Tibet Highway, if not the travel permit restriction, each year this highway could see many international travelers since the scenery along this highway is regarded as the most beautiful one in China.

In addition to providing tourists with convenient options to Tibet, Chengdu also boasts its own unique life style, beautiful scenery, delicious food and diverse culture. For tourists who want to get more, especially unique experience before heading to Tibet, Chengdu is undoubtedly one of the best choices.

Panda Base in Chengdu

As one of the ten ancient capitals, Chengdu is a historical and cultural city with 4500 years history of urban civilization. Surrounded by pristine mountains and rivers and immersed in rich and glorious culture, Chengdu has attracted a large number of tourists from home and abroad every year. In Chengdu, you can see cute giant panda in the natural habit, taste the delicious local food in old street, or visit some famous historic attractions. Anyway, Chengdu, as the land of abundance, is a city you never want to leave. So, don’t miss it before traveling to Tibet.

Tips: If you want to fly to Lhasa from Chengdu, just try to book the first flight of the day, as the weather conditions and visibility will be optimal in the morning. A clear day will present you with a tremendous view from the plane, so don’t forget to get a window seat. In general, you can get a good view from the left side of the plane from Chengdu to Lhasa and right side from Lhasa to Chengdu.


Taking the train from Xining to Lhasa is one of the most popular ways to get to Tibet. Partially because it enjoys the shortest distance to get Lhasa by rail, and also because it gives your body time to adapt to the high altitude while the train rides up. More importantly, there are countless stunning views along the railway. You just feel like sitting in a sightseeing train on the roof of the world and cannot stop taking pictures.

Xining to Lhasa Railway Route

For many tourists who want to experience a spectacular train tour to Tibet but don’t want to spend too much time on the train (like trains to Lhasa from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou), undoubtedly, the best choice is to fly to Xining firstly, and from there taking train to Lhasa. In this way, you won’t be too tired because of the long-time train journey. The train ride from Xining to Lhasa only takes around 21 hours, you still have around 13 hours picture time even you spend 8 hours on sleep.

And Xining also boasts the most frequent train schedules to Lhasa. Every train departs from Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou will stop at Xining Train Station for 20 minutes. There is also one train originally departs from Xining to Lhasa at 14:05 every day and takes approximately 21 hours to reach Lhasa. The frequent train schedules make it easy for tourists to book train tickets. Moreover, the train's huge windows provide tourists with great views to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau throughout the journey. That is definitely a big feast for eyes.

Qinghai Lake

More importantly, Xining (Altitude: 2200meters) is high enough to help tourists acclimate the high altitude but not too high to make tourists sick. If you stay in Xining for 2 or 3 days before heading to Tibet, it will help you acclimate Tibet’s high altitude better. Don’t worry you would be boring in Xining, because Xining is an ancient city with a lot of historic attractions for you to explore, for example, you can visit Ta’er Monastery that is the seat for the Tsongkapa who was the founder of the Yellow sect of the Tibetan Buddhism, not far from Xining, you can visit the Qinghai Lake that is a very picturesque plateau lake.


Kathmandu to Lhasa Transports Routes

There are also many tourists choose Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, as theirgateway city to enter Tibet, since Nepal is close to Tibet and it is the only overseas city that operates international flights to Lhasa directly. Also, international tourists can enter Tibet from Gyirong Port by overland, the Gyirong Port in Tibet is only 170km away from Kathmandu. From there, tourists feel easy to travel to Mt. Everest Base Camp (north).

In addition, Kathmandu has many great places to visit too. Kathmandu is an interesting city with many remarkable historical and cultural attractions like temples and monuments. Attracted also by its scenic beauty nearby, many tourists want to travel there. Tibet, as its neighbor, also catches a lot of travelers’ eyes. In general, tourists would like to choose Tibet as their next destination after finishing their tour in Nepal, partially because they can fly to Tibet directly with ease, but also because Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu offers very favorable policy for international travelers to obtain visa for Tibet. Check out how to obtain visa for Tibet in Kathmandu with ease .

Travelers' Questions Might Help

The questions raised by our past customers can help you get a more clear picture about tours to Tibet, read them or tell us your own questions please contract us, our specialists will reply you within 24 hours.

Ms. Ho*** from: When to get my Tibet permit
January 15, 2020 05:11

Hello, we are considering to travel in Tibet in summer. We are a family of 5, two adults and three kids, age 13(then), 10, 8. We are interested in the 10 days Mt. EBC & Namtso Lake Group tour. We are US citizens with valid 10-year Chinese multiple entry visa, which we have applied when we went to Beijing in 2019. We are currently living in South Korea.  


1. Are kids suitable (or even allowed) for this tour?  

2. If kids can join, are there any discount deals for kids?

Answered by Helen
January 15, 2020 07:54

Dear Ms. Ho***,

    Greetings from Helen at Budget Tibet Tour and welcome you to join our 10 days Mt. Everest & Namtso Lake group tour. For your questions: 1. Your kids are suitable for this tour. Travelling in Tibet is as safe for kids as it is for their parents. While the high Tibetan plateau may be the highest place on the planet, very often, the kids that visit this region are more adaptable and have fewer problems than their parents. We also have arranged wonderful Tibet tours for many families with kids such as a tour to EBC for a family with a 3-year-old son, a 9-year-old girl and a 11-year-old boy, they did have fun in Tibet and there is no problem for them. Or you can take some medicine under the guidance of doctor to prevent high altitude before enter Tibet. 2. If kids travel with you, we'll offer some discount for them, please check your email and find more detailed information. Thanks & Regards

Email to Helen about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

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