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About Tibet Train: There are 10 Misconceptions that Should be Corrected

Last Update: July 20, 2023

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway spans the Roof of the World and is not only a mode of transportation but also a major attraction itself. It stretches 1,956 kilometers from Xining to Lhasa, passing through remarkable places such as Qinghai Lake, Chaka Salt Lake, Kunlun Mountains, and Nagqu Grassland, showcasing the unique landscapes of the Tibetan Plateau.

However, there are misconceptions surrounding train travel on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, causing doubts and concerns among tourists. In this article, we will debunk 10 common misconceptions, provide accurate information, and offer practical advice to help you better understand and enjoy the wonders of the Tibet train journey.

Misconception 1: Tibet Train Tickets Can be Purchased Online Anytime without Advance Booking.

Well, this is totally wrong! Although 12306 and other travel websites like Ctrip have ticket booking channels, the Tibet train tickets often face high demand and limited supply during peak seasons (April to October).

Especially in summer (China's summer vacation) and during the National Day holiday, even with the use of AI-powered ticketing software, it is difficult to successfully secure a sleeper berth ticket. Furthermore, with the increase in group bookings by travel agencies during peak season, individual travelers find it even harder to obtain train tickets to Tibet.

Tibet train tripOur clients arrive at Lhasa Railway Station after the train trip.

To address the challenge of ticket availability, we offer the "train ticket + Tibet tour package" services, ensuring the successful purchase of Tibet train tickets, and providing excellent service to make your Qinghai-Tibet Railway journey an unforgettable experience. It is recommended to contact us at least 30 days in advance during the peak season to ensure a smooth train journey to Tibet.

Misconception 2: Soft Sleeper Tickets Can be Easily Bought as long as You Can Afford the High Price.

This is totally wrong! The Tibet train can accommodate 936 passengers per train. On each train, there are only two soft sleeper carriages (with four passengers in each enclosed cabin), accommodating a total of 64 passengers. While there are 8 hard sleeper carriages (with six passengers in each open compartment), providing 480 seats. The rest are hard seat carriages, offering 392 seats.

The Tibet train soft sleepersThe Tibet train soft sleeper berth is the most popular choice among tourists.

Among these options, the soft sleeper berth is the most popular choice among tourists, as it is the most comfortable and enjoyable way to travel on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It consists of quiet and private four-person cabins, with spacious and comfortable beds, and onboard service provided by train attendants.

However, due to the limited number of soft sleeper seats (only 64 per train), especially during the peak tourist season, securing soft sleeper tickets can be challenging. Once all 64 soft sleeper seats are sold out, it is not possible to purchase them even by paying additional fees. Therefore, early booking is the only way to obtain soft sleeper tickets.

Misconception 3: Hard Seats Can Suffice for a Comfortable Train Experience to Lhasa.

It is not recommended to take the hard seat on the Tibet Train. The hard seat carriage has a seating layout of three people per row, with seat backs, but the aisle is crowded with people and luggage. For short trips (up to 10 hours), traveling in a hard seat can be relatively comfortable.

However, for long-distance journeys from cities like Xining, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou to Lhasa, it takes at least 24 hours, and it could even reach 35-55 hours on the Qinghai-Tibet train.

Tibet train hard seatThe hard seat is not suggested for the long train journey to Lhasa.

Sitting for a long time can lead to physical fatigue, decreased sleep quality, and inadequate rest for the brain. Once entering the plateau area, insufficient oxygen supply can further burden the body, and symptoms of altitude sickness may become more pronounced.

For tourists, it is important to maintain good health and a pleasant mood while enjoying the scenery on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. Therefore, it is advised not to choose a hard seat for the train journey to Tibet. Instead, you can opt for a hard sleeper berth. If the budget allows, consider choosing a soft sleeper berth for a more private space, a quieter environment, and a more comfortable experience.

Misconception 4: Scenic Views along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Are Guaranteed Regardless of the Departure City.

Not entirely correct! While there are many trains departing from various cities in mainland China to Lhasa, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi'an, and Xining, it is important to note that the true starting point of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is Xining, the capital city of Qinghai Province.

The railway can be divided into two sections based on construction. The first section is from Xining to Golmud, spanning 756 kilometers, and features remarkable landscapes such as the Qinghai Lake, Gobi Desert, and salt flats.

The Tibet train traverses the Kunlun MountainsThe Tibet train traverses the Kunlun Mountains.

The second section is from Golmud to Lhasa, covering a distance of 1,142 kilometers. In this part, the train enters the Tibetan Plateau and traverses the Kunlun Mountains, showcasing snow-capped mountains, grasslands, and lakes. This section is considered the most scenic part of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Many tourists mistakenly believe that they can enjoy breathtaking views by simply traveling on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. However, the actual experience varies due to different train departure times and the timing of entering the Tibetan Plateau.

If you happen to take a train passing through Golmud at dawn, you will have a 12-hour daylight viewing experience, not missing out on the stunning scenery along the way. However, if luck is not on your side and you take a train passing through Golmud at a later time, your scenic journey through the Tibetan Plateau may be affected to some extent.

Therefore, when booking the train tickets, it is advisable to confirm whether the train passes through Golmud Station at the early morning hours. Two recommended trains for the most beautiful journey to Tibet are the Z6811 train from Xining to Lhasa and the Z165 train from Shanghai to Lhasa.

Misconception 5: One Can Enjoy Better Rail Experience by Taking the Tibet Train from Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou.

Not entirely correct! Unless it is for economic considerations or if you personally enjoy spending time on trains, we do not recommend taking a train from Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou to Lhasa.

This is because every train from mainland China to the Qinghai-Tibet plateau requires a transfer in Xining. Travelers have to carry their luggage and switch from a regular train to a specially equipped high-altitude oxygen-supplied train.

In simple terms, the journey from Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou to Xining and from Xining to Lhasa are two separate train journeys. If you have limited time, you can choose to take a flight directly to Xining and then transfer to a train to Lhasa.

Tibet Train experienceIt is recommended to fly to Xining and then take the train to Lhasa for better experience.

Of course, if you wish to avoid the hassle of transferring between Xining Airport and the train station, you can still choose to take a train from Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou to Tibet.

However, it is important to note that this will be a considerably long journey, approximately 40-55 hours, requiring two days and two nights on the train. The prolonged train journey can be exhausting for those without much experience in long-distance train travel and may result in a less enjoyable experience.

Misconception 6: One Can Get off the Tibet Train to Visit Attractions along the Way and then Catch the Next Train.

Completely wrong! While there are many attractions along the Tibet train route, it doesn't mean that tourists can make unscheduled stops to get off and visit, and then catch the next train to Lhasa.

In fact, the number of stops for the Tibet train is extremely limited, with only four intermediate stations: Delingha, Golmud, Amdo, and Nagqu. The typical duration of each stop is only a few minutes. Therefore, it is challenging for tourists to get off and explore the attractions within such a short period of time.

Tibet train stationOne can only get off the train to explore the station within a few minutes.

Additionally, it's important to note that the Tibet train is primarily designed for transporting goods and passengers, not specifically for tourist sightseeing. If you want to explore the attractions along the Tibet train route in-depth, it is recommended to choose alternative modes of transportation or participate in specialized sightseeing tours.

Misconception 7: Taking the Train to Tibet Can Alleviate or Prevent Altitude Sickness Owing to the Onboard Oxygen Supply.

Not entirely correct! Indeed, the Tibet train provides onboard oxygen supply once it enters areas above 3,000 meters in altitude. This can alleviate the potential discomfort caused by altitude sickness to some extent and aid in adapting to the high-altitude environment.

However, it should be made clear that the oxygen supply can only provide a certain concentration of oxygen and cannot fully compensate for the lack of oxygen in high-altitude regions. It also cannot guarantee complete relief or avoidance of altitude sickness.

Tibet train oxygen supplyPassenger is using the oxygen supply tube onboard Tibet train.

Altitude sickness is a series of symptoms caused by insufficient oxygen supply to the body in high-altitude environments, such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. While the onboard oxygen supply can provide a certain concentration of oxygen, it still cannot match the oxygen levels at sea level.

Additionally, individuals vary in their sensitivity and adaptation to altitude sickness. Some people may gradually adapt and experience reduced symptoms during the train journey, while others may still feel uncomfortable. Therefore, it cannot be generalized that taking the train to Tibet completely relieves or prevents altitude sickness.

To alleviate altitude sickness, it is recommended to rest appropriately during the train journey, avoid vigorous exercise, and seek medical assistance when necessary (Tibet trains have doctors and basic medical equipment on board).

Furthermore, engaging in prior altitude acclimatization training and taking other preventive measures such as staying hydrated, adjusting your diet accordingly, and avoiding excessive fatigue are effective methods to prevent or reduce altitude sickness.

Misconception 8: The Tibet Train is the Most Convenient Way to Get to Tibet.

Not entirely correct! While the Tibet train offers a unique travel experience, allowing you to enjoy the scenery along the way and gradually acclimate to the high altitude, it may not necessarily be the most convenient way to reach Tibet. The choice of ways to get to Tibet should be based on individual circumstances and preferences, taking into account various factors.

The train journey provides a comfortable and leisurely travel experience. For tourists traveling from major cities in mainland China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc., taking the train to Tibet would require two days and two nights, or one day and one night from the nearest city, Xining. However, for those with limited vacation time, taking a flight is often a quicker and more time-efficient option.

Tibet train journeyThe Tibet train offers a unique travel experience to reach Tibet.

Furthermore, the Tibet train route spans multiple provinces and regions with significant changes in altitude. It involves train transfers and the process of acclimatizing to high altitudes. For travelers with specific time constraints and requirements for bodily adaptation, choosing a direct flight to Tibet may be more convenient and comfortable.

Misconception 9: The Tibet Train is the Most Economical Way to Get to Tibet.

Not entirely correct! While it is true that in most cases the ticket price for the Tibet train is lower than that of a flight, it is important to consider the time cost of train travel and the expenses for meals during the train journey, especially if you choose a soft sleeper berth, which can be more expensive.

In particular, during the peak season of Tibet tour, it can be challenging to book train tickets to Tibet. It may require booking Tibet tour packages through travel agencies or purchasing train tickets through third-party ticketing agencies, which may incur additional service fees. As a result, the cost of train travel could be higher than that of taking a flight.

On the other hand, air travel offers more options, including economy class and discounted airfares, and sometimes flight tickets can be more cost-effective. Therefore, when choosing the mode of transportation to enter Tibet, it is necessary to weigh various factors and select the option that best suits your needs and budget.

Misconception 10: No Extra Preparation is Needed Since Train Facilities are Fully Equipped.

Not entirely correct! Many tourists who are unfamiliar with the Chinese situation often mistakenly believe that a top-tier tourist train traversing the "Roof of the World" would provide all the luxurious services and various amenities needed.

However, that is not the case. "Top-tier" here refers to the high-altitude nature of the train route, not top-tier luxury and services. Like other trains running in mainland China, the Tibet train only provides basic dining and drinking services, as well as beds and bedding for passengers. The toilet and washing areas are shared among passengers in a carriage.

Tibet train washing areaThe Tibet train is provided with a washing area.

Therefore, it is necessary for you to prepare essential personal items such as medications, cleaning supplies, food, and water in advance according to the length of your journey to cope with potential inconveniences or emergencies.

Additionally, you may also need to bring along books, movies, or entertainment items to kill time as the journey on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway can be quite long.


When deciding to take a train journey to Tibet, we suggest focusing more on the experience it brings to your life rather than getting caught up in altitude sickness, facilities and amenities, ticketing methods, or cost-effectiveness. After all, everything is worth it for the marvelous scenery outside the train window.

If you are planning to embark on a journey along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, feel free to contact us. We can provide you with free consultation services for train ticket bookings and Tibet tour itineraries.

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