How to Get to Tibet from UK
Traveling to Tibet from the United Kingdom is the trip of a lifetime for British nationals, and is one of the most exciting adventures you can have in Asia. Lying on its high-altitude plateau, Tibet is one of the most stunning destinations in the world, and is the best place from which to get the best views of the world’s highest mountain. And there are main two options for getting to Tibet from the United Kingdom.
Option 1: Getting to Tibet from UK via Mainland China
The first, and most popular option for tourists traveling to Tibet from the UK is to travel via mainland China, and then get a connecting flight or a train up to the high Tibetan plateau.
UK to Mainland China
A journey of more than 7,000 miles, travelers from the UK can get direct flights into mainland China to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, departing from London Heathrow Airport daily. On average, flights to mainland China take around 13 hours, or you can fly into Hong Kong and enter mainland China from there.
Mainland China to Tibet
Once you have arrived in mainland China, you can then take the journey to Tibet by flight or by train. Flights depart from around two dozen cities across China to Tibet daily, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xian, Kunming, Shangri-La, Xining, Nanjing, or Xiamen. On average, flights to Tibet from mainland China can take from two to six hours. The most popular departure locations are from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Xi’an, all of which have daily direct flights to Lhasa.
Flights to Tibet will land at Lhasa Gonggar Airport.
You also have the option of taking the train to Tibet from one of seven gateway cities to the Tibetan plateau. Trains depart daily or every other day from Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, and Xining, and take from 22 hours to around 53 hours to reach Tibet. All the amazing trains from mainland China to Tibet pass through Xining in Qinghai Province, the closest departure station to Lhasa and the start of the record-breaking Qinghai Tibet Railway.
Taking the train to Tibet is a good way to choose for tourists.
Costs for the tickets do vary from station to station, depending on the distance and time of travel, as well as the choice of seat or sleeper cabin classes you choose. Soft sleeper cabins are the costliest for trains to Tibet, but are always a lot cheaper than a flight from the same departure city. Hard sleeper cabins are just as comfortable, but do not have a lockable door, and the hard seats, which are not actually hard, are the cheapest option for tickets on the Tibet trains.
For most tourists to Tibet from the UK, the soft or hard sleeper cabins are the better option, as you can rest properly on the long journey and arrive in Lhasa well rested and ready for your Tibetan adventure.
Travel Documents Required via Mainland China
The first thing you will need is the Chinese Entry Visa, which can be obtained by application at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in London. However, all visa applications by British nationals are required to be applied for through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center (CVASC), which can be found at 12 Old Jewry, London. Alternatively, you can make your application with the CVASC by post, using Royal Mail registered mail only. Applications for a Chinese Entry Visa normally take up to five working days through the CVASC.
Alien's Travel Permit will be needed when you visit Mount Everest region.
You will also need certain permits in order to enter Tibet and travel around the region, depending on where your tour is headed. For those only traveling to Lhasa for a few days, you will only need the Tibet Travel Permit, which allows entry to Tibet and travel in Lhasa only. For those traveling further around the region, you will also need the Alien’s Travel Permit, required for travel to the unopened areas of Tibet such as Shigatse and Mount Everest, the Restricted Areas Permit, sometimes known as the Military Permit and required for travel to military restricted areas such as Mount Kailash in Ngari Prefecture, and the Frontier Pass, which is required for all tourists traveling in the areas of the Chinese borders with India, Nepal, and Bhutan.
While this may sound complex to arrange, all the permits for Tibet travel are normally applied for by us on your behalf once you have booked your tour. Independent travel is not permitted in Tibet, so you will need to book a pre-arranged tour with us, and we will handle the whole tour for you, including providing the guide, driver, and private vehicle etc.
Option 2: Getting to Tibet from UK via Nepal
The other option for travel to Tibet is to fly into Nepal, and then travel to Lhasa from there. Nepal is the only international location that has direct flights and access to Tibet, which makes it a popular departure location for travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
UK to Nepal
Flights to Kathmandu depart from London Heathrow International Airport daily, but do not fly direct to the Nepali capital airport. Instead, travelers heading to Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport will make stopovers in either Istanbul in Turkey or New Delhi in India before connecting to Kathmandu. The flights take around 11 hours to as long as 19 hours, depending on the connections in Istanbul and New Delhi.
Nepal to Tibet
Once in Kathmandu, you have a choice of getting to Lhasa, by direct flight to the Lhasa Gonggar International Airport or by overland travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa.
Flights to Lhasa from Kathmandu run several times a day in the peak season from June to October, with only 1-2 daily flights in the low season. The flights depart daily from Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport, and take around 90 minutes to reach Lhasa Gonggar International Airport in Lhoka Prefecture, around 60 kilometers from the capital. The flights run directly over the summit of Mount Everest, and if you get a seat on the right-hand side of the plane, you get a great view of the mountain’s high peak as you pass over.
You will be greeted by your guide and driver in Gyirong port.
The alternative to flying to Lhasa is to take an awesome overland tour to the Tibetan capital, crossing the border between Nepal and China at the ultra-modern Gyirong Port. Overland tours from Kathmandu to Lhasa are a popular way to travel to Tibet from Nepal, and take around 8-9 days to travel across the vast plateau. The overland trip starts in Kathmandu, and heads first to Syabrubesi, where you will stop for the night before crossing the border the following morning. On the Chinese side of the border, you will be greeted by your guide and driver, who will transfer you to Gyirong Town for the night, before continuing the trip to Lhasa.
The route to Lhasa from Gyirong takes you first to the famous Everest Base Camp.
The route to Lhasa from Gyirong takes you first to the famous Everest Base Camp (EBC), where you will get to view the peak of this massive mountain, and stop off to visit the Rongbuk Monastery, the official highest Buddhist monastery in Tibet. Then you will travel to Shigatse and Gyantse, to visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery and the famous Gyantse Kumbum Stupa, the only one of its kind in Tibet. Then you will arrive in Lhasa, and spend the last few days enjoying the sights, including the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple, and the surrounding monasteries.
Travel Documents Required via Nepal
Travel documents for entry from Nepal are a little different than for entry from mainland China, and you do not need to apply for the Chinese Entry Visa yourself. Instead, we will make the application for the Chinese Group Visa on your behalf when you arrive in Kathmandu. The visa is applied for at the embassy in the Nepali capital, and can only be applied for by your travel agency, once you have a pre-arranged tour fully booked and paid for. Processing of the visa takes around three working days, so it is essential that you arrive in Kathmandu at least five days before your expected departure date.
We will also make the applications on your behalf for the permits and passes you will need to travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Whether you are traveling overland or taking a flight, all the required documetns must be completed before you travel, including the Tibet Travel Permit, the Alien’s Travel Permit, and the Frontier Pass. You will not need the Military Permit unless you are choosing a tour that takes you to Mount Kailash as well.
Getting to Tibet from the United Kingdom is not as hard as it looks, with a good number of direct flights to mainland China and several options for flights to Kathmandu. You can also choose to enter Tibet from either side, which gives you a wide choice of how to travel to Tibet from both Nepal and mainland China. And while the planning may appear to be complicated, we will make most of the applications for permits and things on your behalf, as well as arranging the entire tour, from itinerary to guide and driver. So, all you need to do once you have booked the trip is to sit back and enjoy your lifetime tour of the roof of the World.