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Which City is Most Recommended to Take Flight to Tibet?

Last Update: January 6, 2020

For those wishing to fly to Tibet, instead of taking the train or an overland tour, there are currently more than two dozen locations in mainland China and Nepal that have daily and direct flights to the Lhasa Gonggar International Airport. From Beijing and Shanghai to Xi’an and Changsha, there are a multitude of routes you can take to fly to Tibet. And this is great for anyone traveling around China before heading to Tibet, as there is normally an airport that has flights to Tibet somewhere nearby.

Some of these routes are, obviously, more popular and frequently traveled than others. And some are more often recommended as being the ideal departure locations for travel to Lhasa. And for those that want to fly across the Himalayas to get to Tibet, you can also get flights direct to Lhasa from Nepal. Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport is the only airport in the world with international flights to Lhasa. So take your pick of the whole gamut of airports, or try out our main recommended departure locations for the best flights to the Roof of the World.

Our client arrive at Lhasa Gongga AirportOur client arrived at Lhasa Gongga Airport.

The Most Frequent: Flights to Tibet from Chengdu

Of all the many airports in China that have flights to Lhasa, Chengdu’s Shuangliu International Airport is the most popular of all. Located in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, just outside the provincial capital of Chengdu, around 14 flights depart daily for the Tibetan capital in the low season and more than 17 in the peak season. Covering a distance of around 1,286 kilometers (768 miles), the flights to Lhasa from Chengdu take around 2 hours 20 minutes, and depart throughout the day, from 550 am to around 9:55 pm.

Chengdu to Lhasa Flight MapChengdu operates the most frequent daily non-stop flights to Lhasa.

On average, a flight from Chengdu to Lhasa, one way, will cost from around US$ 155 per person, depending on the season and the airline. Flights are normally offered by Air China, Chengdu Airlines, China Eastern, Lucky Air, Sichuan Airlines, and Tibet Airlines.

The large number of flights throughout the day means that passengers heading for Lhasa can enjoy a lot more flexibility in their travel itineraries, and can choose from a wider range of options than at most airports in China. One of the major hubs for travel in China, and the main hub in the Southwest, Chengdu is an ideal departure location for travel to Lhasa.

Chengdu is also favorable for travelers from around the world, with inbound flights from several cities across the United States, as well as certain cities in Europe. As well as flights direct to Chengdu from New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, you can also get direct flights from Holland, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Russia, Finland, Italy, South Africa, the Middle East, and many other places around the world.

With so many inbound flights from across the globe, Chengdu is the perfect departure location for many travelers to Tibet. Small wonder that there are so many direct flights to Lhasa from this busy Southwest China airport.

The Most Convenient: Flights to Tibet from Beijing or Shanghai

For convenience, Shanghai and Beijing are two departure locations for Lhasa that can be very useful for those traveling to China’s capital of its largest city. Both located in eastern China, on the coast of the East Chinese Sea, they are major destinations from around the world and popular and simple departure locations for Tibet.

Beijing

In Beijing, the direct flights to Tibet depart from the Beijing Capital International Airport, located around 32 kilometers to the northeast of the city center of the Chinese capital. The main international airport serving Beijing, this huge airport actually only offers two daily direct flights to Lhasa, despite being the national capital and one of the busiest airports in Asia.

Beijing Lhasa Flight MapTraveling to Tibet from Beijing by air.

Flights to Lhasa from Beijing depart at 7:35am and 8:15am daily, and take 4 hours 30 minutes and 6 hours 50 minutes respectively to reach Tibet’s Lhasa Gonggar International Airport. Both flights are offered by Air China, the Chinese flagship airline, and while they are technically both “direct” flights, the later flight stops briefly in Chengdu en route to Tibet.

The advantage of flying from Beijing to Lhasa is the convenience. A huge number of flights from around the globe terminate at Beijing’s Capital International Airport, including flights from the United States, Russia, Canada, the United Kingdom, several countries across mainland Europe, Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, Eire, and a whole host of other locations.

The flights to Lhasa usually cost from around US$ 450 to US$ 520 per person for a one-way economy flight, depending on the season you are traveling in. While it is not the cheapest way to get to Tibet, it is one of the easiest, if you are arriving in China at the capital.

Shanghai

For those traveling to China that are coming in to Shanghai, there is an option for flights to Tibet, though it is severely limited and only really recommended for those with no other options available. Shanghai has one daily “direct” flight to Lhasa from Pudong International Airport, which actually stops briefly in Xi’an for a spell before continuing on to the plateau capital airport. In total, the flight takes around eight hours to reach Lhasa, an hour of which is the stopover in Xi’an. On average, the flight from Shanghai costs from around US$ 426 per person for an economy one-way ticket, depending on the season.

Shanghai Lhasa Flight MapThe regular Shanghai-Lhasa flight usually makes a stopover in Chengdu or Xi'an.

The main flight is offered by Chinese Eastern Airlines, but if you are unable to get the flight of your choice, you do have several options for indirect flights that transfer through Chengdu, Chongqing, and Kunming airports to get to Tibet. For many travelers coming in to Shanghai from around the planet, flights are often taken to other destinations in China prior to traveling to Tibet, including Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, and Chongqing, to name a few.

Shanghai is a very convenient departure location for Tibet, though not one that is as popular as Chengdu, or even Beijing for that matter. However, with hundreds of flights from all across the globe arriving at Shanghai’s two airports, this massive hub of Chinese domestic and international travel is the busiest airport in China. Flights to Pudong Airport arrive from 210 locations around the world.

The airport, known as the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, is located in the Pudong New District of the city, around 30 kilometers from the downtown area of Shanghai center. Served by both bus routes and the Metro lines, this is an easy airport to get to.

The shortest: flights to Tibet from Kathmandu

If you are looking for the shortest flights to Tibet from anywhere, then you need to fly in to Lhasa from Kathmandu in Nepal. Nepal is the only country with international access to Tibet, both by flights and over a land border. All flights to Lhasa’s Gonggar International Airport depart from the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, located in the Kathmandu Valley around five kilometers from the city center. Tribhuvan is the only international airport in Nepal, and has only one international terminal, which serves as the hub for several Nepalese airlines as well as over 30 airlines from Asia and the Middle East.

Map of Flights from Kathmandu to TibetKathmandu is the only city in the world with international flights directly to Tibet.

Flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa very depending on the season, and there are normally 2-3 flights per day in the peak season for Tibetan tourism. Air China, the Chinese flagship airline, offer daily flights to Lhasa in the peak season, and 4 flights per week in the low season. Flights depart at around 12:10pm daily, and take just 90 minutes to reach the Tibetan capital airport. Sichuan Airlines, the other major carrier for flights to Lhasa, only offer flights on Monday Wednesday, and Friday throughout the year, which depart at 11:10pm, arriving in Lhasa at around 2:50pm local time.

Tibet Airlines does offer flights to Lhasa, but these are not terminal flights, and continue on to Chengdu. Only available since 2017, Tibet Airlines currently only has two flights a week from Kathmandu to Chengdu that stopover in Lhasa.

Kathmandu is advantageous in more ways than just the shorter flight. While there are no international flights from outside Asia that arrive in Nepal, there are plenty of connecting flights to Kathmandu. And it is easy to get flights to Nepal from the United States and Europe, connecting through more than 30 Asian countries that do have direct flights to Kathmandu. With the simple one-stop flights in their hundreds each week, travel to Lhasa via Kathmandu is one of the more preferable options for international tourists.

Another advantage for international tourists traveling through Nepal to get to Tibet is the lack of need to apply for the Chinese Entry Visa yourself. Entry to Tibet from Nepal does not use the standard Chinese Entry Visa, and a Chinese Group Visa is issued when you arrive in Nepal. While it does take three working days to apply (in which time you can get in some great sightseeing in the Kathmandu Valley), it is applied for by the travel agency on your behalf, so you only have to fill out the form and pay the fee. Your travel agency does the rest. Much easier than applying in person at the Chinese Embassy in your home country.

Conclusion

Travel to Tibet can be done from more than two dozen cities across mainland China, as well as from Kathmandu in Nepal, the only country with international access to Tibet. If you are planning a trip to Tibet, and will be flying to Lhasa, then your best options are to choose the flights from Beijing, Chengdu, or Kathmandu. These airports are the best options for all flights to Tibet, and offer the most convenient, shortest, or largest number of flights of all the many airports you can choose from.

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