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Which City is Better to Start the Tibet Train Journey? Check These Picks

Last Update: February 26, 2024

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway connects mainland China with Tibet, traversing magnificent plateau landscapes and breathtaking natural scenery. Currently, there are 7 train routes leading to Tibet, starting from Chengdu, Chongqing, Xining, Xi'an, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, passing through Xining before entering Tibet. Choosing the right departure city for your train journey to Tibet is crucial for your travel plans, as it will impact your travel time and the experience of sightseeing along the way.

All Tibet Trains to Lhasa from Mainland of China

Currently, there are 7 cities in mainland China with trains departing for Tibet: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi'an, and Xining. Check the following table about the schedules and fares of each train route.

Starting CityTrain No.DurationHard Seat PriceHard Sleeper PriceSoft Sleeper Price
Beijing Z21 39h 42min 360 RMB 720 RMB 1144 RMB
Shanghai Z164 44h 32min 402.5 RMB 793.5 RMB 1262.5 RMB
Guangzhou Z264 53h 2min 447 RMB 865 RMB 1468 RMB
Chengdu Z322 34h 30min 302.5 RMB 627.5 RMB 997.5 RMB
Chongqing Z223 33h 45min 302.5 RMB 627.5 RMB 997.5 RMB
Xi'an Z917 34h 45min 293.5 RMB 611.5 RMB 969.5 RMB
Xining Z6811 21h 30min 224 RMB 495 RMB 781 RMB

Note: All the ticket prices are the net price, and are just for reference.

No. 1 City to Take Tibet Train: Xining - The Starting Point of Qinghai-Tibet Railway

Xining is one of the best starting cities for a train journey to Tibet, being one of the closest cities to Lhasa and the starting point of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. As the starting point of the railway, Xining provides convenient transportation connections and a variety of travel options.

Departing from Xining, you'll have the opportunity to experience the magnificent plateau scenery, enjoying the spectacular mountains and serene lakes of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The train passes through famous attractions such as Qinghai Lake, Kunlun Mountains, and Tanggula Mountains, allowing you to witness the magical beauty of nature during your journey.

Kunlun MountainsThe Qinghai-Tibet Railway passes Kunlun Mountains.

Additionally, with an altitude of around 2500 meters, Xining allows you to spend a day or two exploring attractions like the Ta'er Monastery and Qinghai Lake before departure, helping you gradually acclimate to the high-altitude environment. This arrangement can assist in adapting to the plateau gradually and reducing the possibility of altitude sickness.

Apart from acclimating to the high altitude, Xining itself is a city with a rich history and a strong cultural atmosphere. You can stroll through the streets of Xining, appreciate traditional architectural styles, savor local specialties, and experience the blending of diverse cultures, including Tibetan and Hui cultures.

Moreover, trains departing from other cities to Tibet all pass through Xining, providing more flexible options for your journey. With different departure times available, you can select a train that aligns with your schedule, making your trip more convenient and flexible.

No. 2 City to Take Tibet Train: Chengdu & Chongqing - Taste the Delicious Sichuan Cuisine

Chengdu and Chongqing are also popular starting cities for travelers to take the Tibet train. Trains departing from these two cities are scheduled on alternate days. The train arrives in Golmud on the second night. The section from Golmud to the Kunlun Mountains may be during the night, and the scenery might not be fully visible. However, upon reaching Nagqu after dawn, you can enjoy the views of the Nagqu high-altitude grassland and the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains.

Choosing Chengdu or Chongqing as the starting city for the Tibet train not only provides the opportunity to appreciate the scenery along the Qinghai-Tibet route but also allows you to taste the unique and spicy cuisine of the Sichuan and Chongqing regions.

Chengdu Hot PotYou can taste delicious Hot Pot in Chengdu.

Chengdu, as the capital of Sichuan Province, is renowned for its rich Sichuan cuisine. Before departing from Chengdu, you can taste authentic Sichuan dishes such as hot pot, twice-cooked pork, kung pao chicken, and mapo tofu. The spicy and flavorful taste will satisfy your taste buds. Additionally, Chengdu offers numerous snacks and night markets, including ma la tang (spicy hot pot) and chuan chuan xiang (skewers), allowing you to enjoy a culinary journey before your train travels.

Chongqing is also a famous food city in China, known for its unique hot pot. In Chongqing, you can taste authentic Chongqing hot pot, which is spicy without being dry, and numbing without being greasy, allowing you to experience the charm of hot pot culture. Besides, Chongqing has many local specialties such as spicy chicken, douhua noodles, and grilled fish, providing different stimulations for your taste buds.

No. 3 City to Take Tibet Train: Xi’an - Experience the Charm of the Ancient Chinese Capital

Xi'an, as one of most celebrated ancient capitals in China, is another ideal starting point for a train journey to Tibet. Choosing Xi'an allows you not only to enjoy the magnificent natural scenery but also to experience the unique charm of this historic city.

In Xi'an, you can explore the world-famous Terracotta Army, stroll on the ancient city wall, feel the weight of history, and trace the prosperity of the ancient Silk Road. Taking the train from Xi'an to Tibet, you will pass through the stunning Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, witnessing the breathtaking natural landscapes. Passing through Qinghai Lake, Kunlun Mountains, and Tanggula Mountains, you will witness the grandeur of nature.

Xi'an Terracotta ArmyThe Terracotta Army is a must-see in Xi’an.

No. 4 City to Take Tibet Train: Beijing - Discover Both Ancient and Modern China

Choosing Beijing as the starting city for the Tibet train journey will allow you to traverse ancient and modern China, experiencing the richness of history and the vibrancy of the present. As Beijing has the most international flights, it is more convenient and time-saving for overseas travelers to fly directly to Beijing.

As the capital of China, Beijing boasts world-class historical relics and cultural landmarks. You can visit the Great Wall, experience the grandeur of this ancient defense project, tour the Forbidden City to appreciate the exquisite and magnificent royal architecture of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and stand on Tiananmen Square to feel the long history of modern China.

Beijing Forbidden CityVisiting the Forbidden City to experience the ancient China

In addition to historical relics, Beijing is also a modern metropolis with spectacular architecture, such as the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube. You can witness the speed and innovation of modernization in China. Walking through the hutongs (narrow alleys) of Beijing, tasting traditional Old Beijing cuisine, and interacting with local residents, you can feel the collision and integration of ancient and modern in this city.

Subsequently, taking the train from Beijing to Tibet, you will cross the majestic Yellow River multiple times, passing through diverse landscapes from vast plains and Loess Plateau to the magnificent snowy plateau. The changing scenery along the way adds endless charm to the journey.

No. 5 City to Take Tibet Train: Shanghai - Experience China’s Diverse Landscapes of East to West

As one of China's most prosperous cities, Shanghai is also an ideal starting point for taking the train to Tibet. Choosing Shanghai for your train journey to Tibet allows you to traverse the entire east-west span of China, experiencing the diverse and changing landscapes of the country.

Departing from Shanghai, you will gradually cross China's vast lands by train, appreciating the diversity and magnificence of the country's geographical landscapes. From the bustling city of Shanghai, you will enter the picturesque water towns of Jiangnan, enjoying the beautiful scenery of southern China. Later, the train will traverse the central plains of China, showcasing extensive farmlands and scenic rivers. Subsequently, you will enter regions like Shaanxi and Gansu, gradually approaching the snowy plateau of Tibet.

Shanghai Tibet train viewTrain from Shanghai to Lhasa passes scenic landscapes on the way.

This east-to-west train journey will take you through the history and culture of China, allowing you to feel the diverse terrains and breathtaking landscapes. Whether it's the prosperity of the city or the tranquility of the countryside, it will leave a deep impression on you. On the train, you can admire the beauty of nature through the window, experiencing the geographical diversity and uniqueness of China.

No. 6 City to Take Tibet Train: Guangzhou - Cross the Yangtze River and Yellow River

The train journey from Guangzhou to Lhasa is currently the longest among the routes to Tibet, taking 54.5 hours in total. This trip will take you from south to north, crossing the Yangtze River and the Yellow River, passing through various terrains and landscapes, allowing you to experience the magnificent scenery of China's vast land. If you have enough time and want to explore the charm of China by train, starting your journey from Guangzhou to Tibet could be an excellent choice.

Yangtze RiverThe Guangzhou-Lhasa train passes the Yangtze River on its way north.

Firstly, the train will traverse the Yangtze River Basin, the longest river in China, witnessing the history and civilization of the Chinese nation. You will appreciate the beautiful scenery along both sides of the Yangtze, passing through prosperous cities and pleasant countryside, feeling the prosperity and vitality of the Yangtze River Basin. Later, the train will continue northward, crossing the Yellow River. You will witness the magnificent spectacle of the Yellow River and feel the grandeur of the Yellow River Basin.

Although the train journey from Guangzhou to Lhasa takes a longer time, choosing a comfortable soft sleeper ticket can make the entire journey pleasant. The diverse landscapes along the way, from subtropical regions to frigid areas, allow you to witness the transition from summer to autumn and then to winter in just two days, providing a rare travel experience.

Consider These Factors When Selecting the Departure City for Your Tibet Train Journey

When planning to take the Tibet train to Lhasa, choosing the right starting city is crucial.

(1) The transportation convenience of the departure city

Different cities have varying degrees of developed transportation networks and multiple train stations, providing rich travel options and easy access for domestic and international travelers. Major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are well-connected and offer numerous train options.

(2) The itinerary planning and sightseeing opportunities

Each city with trains departing for Tibet has unique attractions and tourism resources. For example, Beijing, as the capital, boasts famous landmarks like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Xi'an, as an ancient capital, has rich historical and cultural heritage. Chengdu is famous for its cuisine and giant pandas. Depending on personal preferences and interests, choosing a destination that suits your preferences will make the Tibet train journey more exciting.

(3) Your travel budget

When considering the starting city for the Tibet train, the budget is a crucial factor. Train ticket prices from different cities may vary, and different seat classes also have different prices. Therefore, when planning a train journey to Tibet, you can choose a starting city based on your budget.

(4) The duration of the train journey

The duration of the train journey to Lhasa from different cities may vary, ranging from several tens of hours to several days. For example, the train journey from Guangzhou to Lhasa takes 54.5 hours, while trains from Xining, Chengdu, Chongqing, and other cities take relatively less time, approximately 22-36 hours. If you are sensitive to travel time or have time constraints, choosing a city with a shorter train journey may be preferable.

(5) Train ticket availability

Some cities may have fewer trains departing for Lhasa, and especially during peak tourist seasons, train tickets may be in high demand. Therefore, choosing Xining, which has more train options, is the best choice.


Regardless of the chosen city, taking the train to Tibet will open a memorable Tibet tour! Whether you choose a major city like Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, or opt for Xi'an, Chengdu, or Chongqing, each city provides a unique perspective and experience. Prepare your luggage and embark on the train journey to Tibet, starting this fascinating and dreamlike adventure!

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