How to Reach Lhasa from Kathmandu
An increasingly popular tourist destination, Tibet Autonomous Region, at the roof of the world, is easily accessible from either China or Nepal. There are flights from China and Nepal to Lhasa (Tibet Autonomous Region), and trains run from China, along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway every day, from seven different points in China.
From Nepal, there are several ways to get into Tibet. Flights from Kathmandu run daily, and it makes sense to travel from Kathmandu to Tibet for the ease of travel. Most western countries do not need a visa to travel to Nepal, which makes it an ideal starting point for a tour of Tibet. It is also an advantage if you are intending to tour around the Lake Mansarovar area, and walk the kora of Mt. Kailash. There are 13 day tours that run from Lhasa to Kathmandu, taking in Gyantse, Shigatse, Mt. Kailash, Lake Mansarovar, and many other sights on the way.
Kathmandu to Lhasa by Air
Obviously, the fastest way to get to Lhasa from Nepal is by air, from Kathmandu. There are two airlines that ruin flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa; Sichuan Airlines and Air China. Air China runs flights daily, both ways, while Sichuan Airlines flights run every other day, again in both directions. Flight departure details can be read on the Tribhuvan International Airport website.The distance from Kathmandu to Lhasa is around 600km, and the flights take around an hour.
Tribhuvan International Airport is situated around six kilometers from Kathmandu city center, on the Kathmandu Ring Road. As Nepal’s only international airport, your flight from your home country would land here. Your connecting flight to Tibet will depart from TIA through the international flight departure area. The flight takes around three and a half hours, and your will be in Lhasa by mid-afternoon. Direct flights can cost between US$280-US$300, plus airport taxes and transfers.
Kathmandu is not high enough to really allow proper acclimatization to the higher altitudes of Tibet, so it would be a good idea to rest for a day, at least, on your arrival in Lhasa, to reduce the risk of altitude sickness.
Kathmandu to Lhasa by Train
As of this time, there is no overland railway linking Nepal with Tibet. The Lhasa to Shigatse extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was opened in August 2014, and the Chinese government has plans of further extending the line into Nepal, for better travel between Nepal and Tibet. Once completed, the railway line from Kathmandu to Lhasa will cover a total distance of almost 1,000 kilometers, and will take less than one day to traverse.
Kathmandu to Lhasa by Road
While there are roads from Kathmandu to Lhasa, at the moment the border between Nepal and Tibet is closed.
In 2015, a devastating earthquake shook Nepal and Tibet, and was felt in parts of India. The 8.1 magnitude earthquake caused extensive damage to the border at Zhangmu. Due to the damage, the Sino-Nepal border crossing was closed while extensive repair and restructuring work was undertaken. This work is still ongoing, and as yet there is no word when the border that follows the Friendship bridge will reopen. Previous information had stated that it could be 2-3 years before the road is ready for use again.
To compensate for this, the Chinese and Nepalese governments agreed to open the border crossing at Gyirong Port for international travel. Previously, this route was only used by local travelers, for trade between the regions. Although it was a six hour drive to get to Gyirong Port from Kathmandu, it meant that cross-border relations could continue, and tourists could still access Tibet overland.
In the monsoon season of 2016, severe rains caused flooding and landslides in the area of Gyirong Port, which forced the closure of this border crossing as well. While the repair work has been underway since just after the end of the monsoon season, there is still no clear date as to when the border here will reopen. As of the latest information received on January 17, 2017, the border crossing was still closed.
Tibetan Cycling Tours
One great way to tour Tibet is by bicycle. A cycling tour in Tibet is challenging, both physically and psychologically, but it is more rewarding as you get to see more of the unique scenery of this beautiful region. Every year more people choose to tour the region by mountain bike, touring the region with a guide to get the best out of the trip.
You can take your own bike, or you can buy or hire them in Lhasa. It is a good idea, if you are traveling in a group, to all use the same type of bike, as this will make it easier to share spare parts you may need along the route. The average cost of buying a mountain bike in Lhasa is around $75, or they can be hired for around $9 per day. If you wish to bring your own bike, it can be shipped by air or you can take it on the train.
Packing list for cycling tours
Some of the things you will need are additional to what a normal tour in Tibet requires. A good, waterproof tent is a must, as is a warm sleeping bag. Always carry a basic first-aid kit, for emergencies, and plenty of food. You will be able to get the basics of Tibetan food, such as tsampa or beef, but many other foods will be scarce outside Lhasa. As you are required to have a guide with you during your visit, they will be able to show you some of the routes you can try, but a map is still a good idea, so you can plan your own route, with your guide.
Tibetan climate is harsh, and you will need warm clothes for when it is cold, and waterproofs for rain. In summer, cycling gear is fine, as long as you have warm clothes for when you stop, or at night, as the night-time temperature can drop below freezing even in the summer. And it is important to remember to warm up before you start the day, and stretch after the day is over, to reduce the chance of muscle cramps, which can occur more in the higher altitude.
Travel Tips: While the border at Gyirong Port is still closed, any tour can not include a route to Kathmandu. However, there are many other routes available for you to visit, and you can customize where you want to go with your tour operator.
Travel Documents Needed
Before you can travel from Nepal to Tibet, you need to get your Group Tourist Visa and Tibet Travel Permit. Tourist travel in Tibet is not allowed without a proper visa, travel permit, driver, and private vehicle. Our tour operator can help you apply for your visa, and will send you the relevant paperwork needed in Kathmandu. It takes around 5-7 working days to receive the travel permit, and around two working days to receive the visa for travel into Tibet.
For those wishing to travel overland into Tibet, it is recommended that your international flight culminates at one of the major airports in China, such as Beijing or Chengdu, where you can take the train from any of seven cities that run direct to Lhasa.