Mentioning Tibet, it always seems a far off place filled with many mysteries and not for the faint-hearted. Tibet definitely does not pop up in one’s mind for those who just started. To many avid travellers, Tibet is one of the bucket lists to cross out. However, most started worrying about the uncertainty of travelling to Tibet.
It took us more than 5 years from proposing the idea of visiting Tibet, to planning and actually completing it. Naturally, like all other travellers, we had our doubts, plenty of questions to answer and lack of proper information. We had one of the best travel experience travelling to Tibet and strongly recommend others to go for it. The sceneries were mesmerizing while the Tibetans are friendly & very religious.
Despite the fear of health condition, poor infrastructure, doorless toilet, inconvenience of reporting to every police station in every new city and bumpy roads, the journey was worth the trouble. I would say Tibet is once a lifetime adventure for us.
How Many Days in Tibet
Tibet is not suitable for short trips as the distance between attractions are quite far. Expect to spend an average of 8 hours on the road and changing new hotels on a daily basis. We recommend allocating at least 13 days, 11 days to travel around Tibet and 2 more days to reach Tibet.
For most people, Tibet is once a lifetime trip, so if you really plan to go, allocate sufficient days for your trip as you might not have the opportunity again to revisit Tibet.
Getting to Tibet
Most people will take a 37 hours train ride from Chongqing or Chengdu to Lhasa. We arrived in Chongqing 重庆 and flew to Xining 西宁 for a 1-night stay to acclimatize our body.
Xining has an elevation of 2,275 meters while Lhasa’s elevation is at 3,656 meters. Therefore Xining is a good starting point for our body to accustom with higher altitude before arriving Tibet. By taking a train from Chongqing or Chengdu, the first 15 hours of the train journey is actually on flatland whereby your body has no opportunity to acclimatize as oppose to staying in Xining.
AirAsia has started a direct flight to Lanzhou. From Lanzhou, it is just 2 hours train to Xining thus further savings in cost and time. From Xining, it only takes approx 22 hours train to reach Lhasa, Tibet. This is the other main reason for us to start in Xining as 37 hours train ride for us is too tiring.
True to our expectations, all of the train’s toilets were out of order 20 hours after departure due to erratic behaviours of the Chinese passengers. We could not imagine how horrible the state of the toilet if we took the 37 hours train.
Booking Train Ticket
We took a soft sleeper cabin train to Lhasa and flew back from Lhasa to Chongqing for our trip. Train tickets are available for booking 2 months in advance.
As for now, it is best to leave the train ticket booking to the local travel agency as train tickets to Lhasa often sold out within seconds (秒杀) due to syndicates racking profits from tickets resale. If you miss out on the train tickets, it might disrupt your travel planning or alternatively by flight to Lhasa.
When to visit Tibet
We visited Tibet in early April in conjunction with flower season and favourable weather. Before deciding on April, we were considering November and January as well.
Foreign visitors are unable to visit Tibet in March due to restrictions. It is advisable to avoid going to Tibet during any long holidays in China to avoid the crowds.
All foreign tourists travelling in Tibet must be accompanied by an official tour guide. Your trip MUST be arranged by an appointed local travel agency in Tibet. There are many English or Chinese speaking guides in Tibet hence language is not an issue.
Our Journey in Tibet
15 Days Tibet Itinerary
D01：Malaysia 馬來西亞– Chongqing 重慶
D02：Chongqing 重慶– Xining 西寧
D03：Xining 西寧—Lhasa Train 拉薩青藏列車
D04：Arrived Lhasa 抵達拉薩
D05：Lhasa City Tour 拉薩觀光 – Potala Palace 布達拉宮—Jokhang Palace 大昭寺—Bajiao Street 八角街等
D06：Lhasa 拉薩— Mila Mountain 米拉雪山— Pagsum Lake 巴松措湖– Nyingchi 林芝八
D07：Nyingchi 林芝– Gala Peach Blossom Village 嘎拉桃花村– Seji Lashan 色季拉山– Lulangzhen 魯朗鎮– Tongmai通麥– Guxiang Lake 古鄉湖– Midui Glacier 米堆冰川—Ranwu Lake 然烏湖
D08：Ranwu Lake 然烏湖—Bomi Peach Blossom Valley 波密桃花溝– Lulangzhen 魯朗鎮– Nyingchi 林芝
D09：Nyingchi 林芝—Mila Mountain 米拉山—功德林草场— Sangri 桑日– Tsetang 澤當
D10：Tsetang 澤當– Yungbulakang Palace 雍布拉康—Yamdrok Lake 羊卓雍措湖– Palcho Monastery 江孜白居寺– Shigatse 日喀則
D11：Shigatse 日喀則– Tashilhunpo Monastery 扎什倫布寺– Tingri 定日—Mount Everest Base Camp 珠峰大本營
D12：Mount Everest Base Camp 珠峰– Shigatse 日喀則
D13：Shigatse 日喀則– Yangbajain 羊八井– Namtso Lake 納木措湖
D14：Namtso Lake 納木措– Lhasa 拉薩
D15：Depart Lhasa by Flight 離開拉薩
Important Things to Know before Travelling to Tibet
1. Every foreign traveller requires a Tibet Visa (入藏涵) apart from the usual China Visa to enter Tibet. Travellers are not allowed to board the train or plane to Tibet without the Tibet Visa (入藏涵). The Tibet local travel agency will arrange the Tibet visa and pass to you upon arrival in China.
2. All foreign visitors are not allowed to self-travel in Tibet. It is compulsory to engage a local tour agency for your Tibet trip. There are many places that are restricted to foreigners. All foreign travellers are required to report to the police station when arriving in a new city.
3. Travellers can buy Diamox from a pharmacy. Diamox is the medicine to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness as it decreases headache, tiredness, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Start taking Diamox 1 or 2 days before arriving Tibet. We start taking Diamox once we boarded the train.
4. All foreign tourists are unable to visit Tibet in the month of March due to travel restriction by the Chinese Government. Please check the exact dates with the local travel agency.
5. It is very important to bring Flu medication and not to catch flu before or when in Tibet. Catching flu in Tibet can be fatal due to fluid gathering in the lungs and is the most common cause of death from altitude sickness.
6. Do not bath on the first or second day upon arriving Tibet to allow our body to accustom with the high altitude environment. Bathing on the first day might cause dizziness or faint due to lack of oxygen.
7. Avoid using the oxygen bottle if possible as natural physical acclimatization is the best way.
8. Do not discuss sensitive topics especially on politics.
9. Bring sufficient wet tissue and restock instant noodles upon arriving in China. Food in Tibet especially breakfast is very plain and many foreigners might find it unsuitable.
10. Not all hotels in Tibet accept foreign tourists so avoid booking yourself if uncertain.
Despite the facts above seems scary on first glance, all 7 of us completed the trip without any problems. Most importantly, is to aware the above facts and enjoy your trip with a positive mind.
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