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Altitude Sickness in Tibet: Will I Suffer from Altitude Sickness When Tour Tibet

Last Update: June 30, 2020

Tibet is located on the plateau with a very high altitude. Altitude sickness is the inevitable stress reaction of human beings after entering the plateau. No matter if you go to highland before, you may get it.

But you don’t need to worry too much, as effective preventive measures can be taken to reduces the altitude sickness symptoms. Also, our team will take good care of you during your tour in Tibet.

Altitude Sickness is Possible in Tibet

What is the Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is common at high elevations over 3000 meters; relevant factors are the rate of ascent, elevation, living periods, and individual susceptibility. A sharp rise in height is the major risk factor. It is linked to lower atmospheric pressure.

Altitude sickness in Tibet Everest Base CampAltitude sickness is common at high elevations

Those who travel up to Everest Base Camp, for instance, reach an altitude where atmospheric pressure is about half of that at sea level. It occurs because less oxygen reaches the muscles and the brain at high altitude, requiring the heart and lungs to compensate by working harder.

This is the reason why we get altitude sickness. People need time to take care to acclimatize slowly and take things easy for the first couple of days to acclimatize the high altitude.

Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

Lack of oxygen at high altitudes (over 2500m) affects most people to some extent. The effect may be mild or severe.

Mild symptoms of altitude sickness are very common in travelers visiting high altitudes and usually develop during the first 24 hours at altitude. Most visitors to Tibet will suffer from some symptoms; these will generally disappear through acclimatization in several hours to several days.

Visit Potala Palace in LhasaStay in Lhasa for a few days to acclimatize to the high altitude

Symptoms tend to be worse at night and include headache, dizziness, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea, breathlessness, and irritability. Difficulty sleeping is another common symptom, and many travelers have trouble for the first few days after arriving in Lhasa. Altitude sickness may become more serious without warning and can be fatal.

Severe symptoms of altitude sickness are caused by the accumulation of fluid in the lungs and brain and include breathlessness at rest, a dry irritative cough (which may progress to the production of pink, frothy sputum), severe headache, lack of coordination (typically leading to a ‘drunken walk’), confusion, irrational behavior, vomiting and eventually unconsciousness.

Altitude sickness symptoms, however mild, are a warning; be sure to take them seriously! Trekkers should keep an eye on each other as those experiencing symptoms, especially severe symptoms, may not be in a position to recognize them.

One thing to note is that while the symptoms of mild Altitude sickness often precede those of severe Altitude sickness, this is not always the case. Severe Altitude sickness can strike with little or no warning.

Altitudes of Major Tourists Sites in Tibet

The average altitude of Tibet Plateau is over 4000 meters, which is generally higher in the northwest and lower in the southeast. Here is an altitude list of major tourist sites:

Lhasa 3650m Lake Namtso 4718m
Shigatse 3850m Everest Base Camp 5200m
Gyantse Town 4010m Lake Manasarovar 4588m
Ganden Monastery 3800m Mt. Kailash 6656m
Lake Yamdrok 4441m Ranwu Lake (Nyingchi) 3807m
Karola Glacier 5560m Basumtso Lake (Nyingchi) 3700m

How to Avoid Altitude Sickness in Tibet?

Before Go to Tibet

First, do a physical examination. If you have problems with heart, cerebral vessels, or lungs, etc., going to Tibet is too risky. It’s better to follow the advice of your doctor.

Second, do some adaptive training, like long-distance running and physical endurance sports, etc. It will strengthen your body to adapt to some plateau reactions. Third, keep relaxing is very important to avoid altitude sickness.

Medicine for Altitude SicknessPrepare medicine for preventing altitude sickness before go to Tibet

Fourth, take some drugs to prevent it. The drug acetazolamide (Diamox) is recommended for the prevention of altitude sickness - take 125mg twice a day as a preventive dose. Be aware that even when you are on Diamox, you should not ignore any symptoms of altitude sickness.

In China, there is a Tibetan herbal medicine recommended by locals for easing the symptoms of mild altitude sickness. The medicine is known as “solomano” in Tibetan and “hongjingtian” in Chinese, though locals also recommend “gaoyuanning” and “gaoyuankang”.

Note: before considering taking any medicine, you should consult your own personal physician to ensure that there will be no detrimental side effects of the drugs.

On the Way to Tibet

The best way of preventing altitude sickness is to avoid rapid ascents to high altitudes. This is why we recommend the train journey as your first choice.

If you fly into Lhasa, relax for at least three days; this is enough for most travelers to get over any initial symptoms. At this point, you might step up your program by visiting Lhasa around. Within a week you should be ready for something a bit more adventurous, but do not push yourself to do anything that you are not comfortable with.

Get to Lhasa by Qinghai-Tibet RailwayGet to Lhasa by Qinghai-Tibet Train to adapt to the altitude gradually

If you travel to Tibet by train, acclimatization to high altitude may have happened gradually en route and all the trains to Lhasa are equipped with oxygen supply systems. But it’s still suggested to take the first day off to have a good rest at the hotel and acclimatize to high altitude.

If you are driving up from Kathmandu to Tibet, you will experience rapid altitude gain. Luckily, one shared big oxygen tank is installed in the car provided by us.

Tips on Altitude Sickness Prevention During Your Stay in Tibet

1) Take a good rest and keep relax.
2) Ascend slowly. Have frequent rest days, spending two to three nights at each rise of 1000m. If you reach a high altitude by trekking, acclimatization takes place gradually and you are less likely to be affected than if you fly directly to high altitude.
3) Drink extra fluids. Tibet’s mountain air is cold and dry, and moisture is lost as you breathe. Evaporation of sweat may occur unnoticed and result in dehydration.
4) Eat light, high-carbohydrate meals to keep up energy.
5) Avoid alcohol as it may increase the risk of dehydration, and don’t smoke.
6) Avoid sedatives.
7) Don’t take shower at the first day when you arrive in Tibet, and try to avoid catching a cold.

Tips on Altitude Sickness Prevention for Trekking in Tibet

1) Trekkers should bear in mind the climber’s adage of ‘climb high, sleep low’. It is always wise to sleep at a lower altitude than the greatest height that’s reached during the day. High day climbs followed by a descent back to lower altitudes for the night is very good preparation for high-altitude trekking.

Rongbuk hotel in TibetRest at low altitudes at night when do trekking in Tibet

Also, once above 3000m, care should be taken not to increase the sleeping altitude by more than 400m per day. If the terrain won’t allow for less than 400m of elevation gain, be ready to take an extra day off before tackling the climb.

2) When trekking, take a day off to rest and acclimatize if feeling overtired. If you or anyone else in your party is having a tough time, make allowances for unscheduled stops.

3) Don’t push yourself when climbing up to passes; rather, take plenty of breaks. You can usually get over the pass as easily tomorrow as you can today. Try to plan your itinerary so that long ascents can be divided into two or more days.

Given the complexity and unknown variables involved with Altitude sickness and acclimatization, trekkers should always err on the side of caution and ascend mountains slowly.

How to Treat if I Suffer from Altitude Sickness

Altitude Sickness treatment varies directly with symptoms. Treatment for mild altitude sickness is resting at the same altitude until recovery, usually a day or two. Take paracetamol or acetaminophen for headaches. If symptoms persist or become worse, however, immediate descent is necessary. Even 500m can help.

The most effective treatment for severe altitude sickness is to get down to a lower altitude as quickly as possible. In less severe cases the victim will be able to stagger down with some support; in other cases, they may need to be carried down. Whatever the case, any delay could be fatal.

Note: Altitude sickness victims may need to be flown out of Tibet as quickly as possible, so make sure you have adequate travel insurance.

How About the Altitude Sickness for Kids?

The most common symptoms of altitude sickness in babies are headache, poor sleep, loss of appetite, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Severe altitude sickness like high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) would also appear.

Foreign Kids in TibetKids travelling to Tibet need to special care to prevent from the altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness treatment for kids include:
1) Ascend slowly and set aside time to rest.
2) Descend to a lower altitude to help them acclimatize gradually.
3) Change diets and offer plenty of liquids.
4) Check with doctors to give them a proper dose of altitude sickness medication.

Generally speaking, it’s practical and safe to travel Tibet with kids. Due to years of Tibet tour operation experience and professional skills, we have successfully organized many family tours to Tibet. Please contact us to tailor a Tibet tour for your family.


Any traveler who flies or drives into Tibet is likely to experience some symptoms of altitude sickness. One can choose the train to get more time for acclimation on the way. Take care to acclimatize slowly and take things easy for the first couple of days after your arrival.

Indeed, if you take necessary precautions in the proper way, you will get over the altitude sickness. For better experience, it is recommended to book your tibet tour with us, so that we can take care of you all the way during your journey.

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