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Kathmandu to Lhasa Train: Can I Travel from Nepal to Tibet By Train?

Last Update: April 9, 2024

Many tourists dream of exploring the Himalayan landscapes and cultures by traveling from Kathmandu, Nepal, to Lhasa, Tibet. While overland and air routes are common, some wonder if a train journey is possible. Here in this article we will offer some best ways to travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa by train based on the current situation.

Is There a Train from Kathmandu to Lhasa? No Direct Route Currently

The China-Nepal Railway isn't operating yet, so there's no direct train from Kathmandu to Lhasa currently. But once it's done, this railway will connect Lhasa in Tibet to Kathmandu in Nepal, making travel much easier in the region. The newest part of the railway, the Lhasa to Shigatse route, opened in 2014. Two pairs of trains run every day, covering the 248 km between the two cities, and it's become a popular way to travel.

Lhasa to Shigatse high-speed trainThe high-speed train from Lhasa to Shigatse has opened as part of the China-Nepal Railway project.

Construction for the Shigatse to Gyirong segment will start soon. This will add 628 km to the railway, going all the way to the Nepal border.

The Most Recommended Way is to Travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa by Road and Then Take the Tibet Train Outbound

Even though there isn't a direct train route, there are still great ways to include train travel in your Nepal-Tibet tour. The most recommended option is to travel overland from Kathmandu to Lhasa and then take the train to one of the gateway cities in mainland China.

Firstly, Overland from Kathmandu to Lhasa

The overland journey begins in Kathmandu with a scenic six-hour drive through the breathtaking Langtang National Park in the northern foothills of Nepal. It's typical to spend the night at Rasuwa Gadhi on the Nepal side.

Once you've crossed into Tibet, the next destination is Everest Base Camp, nestled beneath the towering peak of Mount Everest. Then, the route continues along the China-Nepal highway, passing through mountains like the Gyatsola Pass at 5,280 meters, and journeying through Shigatse en route to Lhasa.

Then, Take a Tibet train from Lhasa to one of the mainland cities in China

From Lhasa, you can choose to take a direct train to cities in mainland China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou, and Xining. The train journey often lasts from 20 to 53 hours, depending on your destination.

The first part of the journey from Lhasa to Xining is the famous Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It is an engineering marvel and offers the unique landscapes of the Tibetan Plateau. By taking the Tibet train to mainland China, you can continue to visit popular tourist sites around China or find a connecting flight outbound.

Qinghai-Tibet Railway sceneryThe Tibet train from Lhasa runs along the scenic Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

The Alternative Way to Travel from Nepal to Tibet By Train: Overland to EBC and Then Take the Lhasa to Shigatse Train

If you find the Qinghai-Tibet train ride too long of a journey, or if you do not plan to visit mainland China, you can also choose to take the Shigatse-Lhasa train, which follows a beautiful route within Tibet.

First, overland from Kathmandu to Tibet EBC

The first part of the trip is the Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp. This usually takes a few days, leaving time to acclimatize to the altitude in Gyirong and spend a night seeing the peak of Mount Everest against the backdrop of the Milky Way. Then, it’s east through Mount Qomolangma National Park, and the high-altitude passes to Shigatse.

Tibet Everest Base Camp Night ViewAfter overlanding from Kathmandu to Tibet EBC, one can spend a night observing the peak of Mount Everest.

Then take the train from Shigatse to Lhasa

The train from Shigatse to Lhasa travels along the Yarlung Zangbo River. It only takes about 2 hours to get to Lhasa. There are two trains each day, in the morning and afternoon. You’ll have a great view of the scenery from the train window and a comfortable and convenient ride to Lhasa.

Another Way to Travel from Nepal to Tibet By Train: Transfer via Mainland China

For a deep train experience, you can also take a train into Tibet from cities in mainland China. Nonstop flights from Kathmandu to major cities in China make getting to a convenient train departure point easy. Then, a direct train to Lhasa will include the amazing Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Fly from Kathmandu to Chengdu and Take the Chengdu to Lhasa Train

Chengdu is a popular starting point for Tibet trains to Lhasa. Daily direct flights from Kathmandu to Chengdu are flown by Air China and Sichuan Airlines. The flight takes around 2 hours and 50 minutes and lands early enough to leave time to transfer from Tianfu International Airport to Chengdu West Railway Station and catch the train to Lhasa.

Chengdu PandaOne can first fly from Kathmandu to Chengdu and then take a Tibet train to Lhasa.

The train Z322 departs every other day at 21:11 and takes 34.5 hours to get to Lhasa. With a soft sleeper berth, you’ll arrive in the morning well-rested and ready to start your tour of Lhasa.

Fly from Kathmandu to Guangzhou and Take the Guangzhou to Lhasa Train

Taking the train to Lhasa from Guangzhou is a way to see large parts of China’s countryside on the journey. China Southern flies direct from Kathmandu to Guangzhou every day on a 4-hour, 50-minute flight. Baiyun International Airport is only around 30 minutes away from Guangzhou Railway Station by car, but you might want to plan to stay overnight in Guangzhou as there is only a little over two hours to catch the train on the same day.

The train from Guangzhou to Lhasa leaves at 9:15 and takes 53 hours to travel the 4,980 kilometers to Lhasa. It is a good idea to get a soft sleeper ticket for the long journey that arrives in the afternoon.

Permits Required for Traveling from Kathmandu to Lhasa

All international travelers to Tibet need a Tibet Travel Permit. The Chinese Tourist Visa and Tibet Travel Permit process is different depending on whether you enter Tibet from Nepal or from within China.

Tourists entering Tibet from Nepal must obtain a Chinese Group Visa from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. It usually takes 3-4 working days to process the visa and the Tibet Travel Permit issued at the same time.

Tibet Travel PermitTibet Travel Permit is needed for a journey from Kathmandu to Lhasa.

Additional permits, such as the Alien’s Travel Permit and Frontier Pass are needed to visit the border region and areas like Everest Base Camp. Our staff will apply for the Group Tour Visa and all necessary permits on your behalf. Please be aware that on obtaining the Chinese Group Visa and other Chinese visas are cancelled.

When entering Tibet from mainland China, tourists not from one of the visa-exempt countries need to first obtain a Chinese Tourist Visa from the nearest consulate or embassy. Then, we will apply for the Tibet Travel Permit on your behalf. Our staff will also help to apply for any additional permits needed to visit other areas of Tibet.


If you're considering a journey from Nepal to Tibet and wish to include a train ride as part of your adventure, there are ways to make it possible, even without a direct train route. Use this guide to decide how you want to travel or contact us to learn more about the different options available. Our experienced staff on the ground in Tibet and Nepal are happy to answer all of your questions.

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