The Tibet Train journey from major Tibet-entry cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xining, Guangzhou, Xi’an is a pleasure. The services on the train which accompanies delicious food and lively locals are sure to keep you smiling. Not to forget the beautiful scenery of the mountains, rivers, and lakes while traveling a distance. You’ll not feel the long journey thanks to the comfort of the train.
It’s always good to be prepared, and so here are a few things to prepare for before traveling on the Tibet Train.
Book your Tibet tour with a Tibet Travel Agency and Get Tibet Permit
According to the policy of Tibet Tourism Bureau, independent travel is not available for international tourists in Tibet. Thus you need to find a reliable Tibet travel agency which will guide you in getting the Tibet Permit to enter Tibet.
Tibet Travel Agency like Tibet Vista will help you throughout the planning process. You might be confused on what type of package will suit you, however, with an experienced team, your Tibet tour operator will guide you in the right kind of journey according to the number of people you prefer traveling with and what your interests are.
After your tour is decided upon, the second most important step is applying for the Tibet Travel Permit. Only a Tibetan travel agency can apply it on your behalf. You need to email the photo image of your passport and Chinese visa page and your photo to apply for Tibet Travel Permit.
Do remember: The Tibet Travel Permit is compulsory as it is an entry pass and permission to enable you to board the Tibet train bound for Tibet.
Find Your Favourite Tibet-entry city by Tibet train
There are seven central train stations throughout China that run Tibet trians to Tibet’s capital city, Lhasa. These seven are -Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xining, and Lanzhou. You can opt for any of the seven depending on your tour plan, and what you prefer doing while on holiday.
Beijing: Perfect for tourists who want to explore the rush of China. It’s the capital city so watch how the city lives, and eat what the locals eat. Marvel at the beautiful buildings.
If you prefer calmness don’t opt for Beijing’s crowd. However, the incredible ancient palaces and fortress like the Great Wall and Forbidden City, are worth the visit. Besides, the highly developed air hub in Beijing also makes Beijing a popular gateway to Lhasa by Tibet train.
Shanghai: It’s an exciting city with diverse cultural heritage in China. As a vital economic pulse in the world, Shanghai is also a hot place for Tibet. It takes a total of 3 days or 47 hours to reach Lhasa, so it’s not for the impatient.
Guangzhou: Guangzhou is the place to travel from if you want to experience views of mountains, rivers, lakes, cities, towns, and villages from the train. It is the longest route, and so you will get to enjoy viewing all parts of China. People coming from Hong Kong should opt for traveling from Guangzhou for cheaper travel, as it’s the closest train station from Hong Kong.
It takes more than 53 hours to travel and is not for the people who don’t have many days off from work.
Chengdu: Chengdu is home to the cuddly Giant Pandas. If you want to witness the Giant Pandas in their own environment, take a stroll down to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.
Trains from Chengdu leave once every other day and is a total of 36 hours to reach Lhasa.
Chongqing: If you love to explore history and culture, Chongqing is ideal for you. It will take you on a visit through time with age-old history being unraveled such as the Dazu Rock Carvings.The rapidly developing city of Chongqing is sure to keep you wandering around too. Don’t forget to partake in the Yangtze River cruise trip.
The train going from Chongqing to Lhasa travels every other day and takes 42 hours to reach and might be too long.
Xining: Xining is for the religiously inclined tourists. The Dongguan Mosque and Ta’er Monastery portray the different religions existent in China. It’s the closest station to Tibet and takes less than a day to reach. A total of 21 hours with a distance of 1972 km.
It’s a quiet city and so if you are looking for crowds don’t opt for this option.
Lanzhou: Fascinated by rivers? Lanzhou is home to the Yellow River and a significant point on the ancient Silk Road. The plus side is it takes only a day, which is 24 hours to reach Lhasa.
However, if you are one to get bored in a day, and want to keep exploring other places this station will be an issue as a train departs to Lhasa every other day.
Choose Soft Sleeper Ticket or Hard Sleeper Ticket
For most of the tourists, you have two options for Tibet train tickets:
Soft Sleeper: The Soft sleeper is comfortable and is ideal for the long travels. It is very private thanks to the door. A senior should opt for a soft sleeper to ensure that the body is not troubled as the journey can be long and tiring. Families can take a soft sleeper compartment of their own with their own dining table to have a family bonding.
The best part is the trash cans in the compartment, which keeps people who love tidiness happy. Don’t worry about your luggage as the soft sleeper has plenty of space for your heavy and big baggage.
It is a pricey ticket and can range from 700 CNY to 1,300 CNY depending on which station you board.
Hard Sleeper: The hard sleeper is not very uncomfortable but can get irritating when traveling long distances such as the Beijing or Shanghai station to Lhasa. If you are okay with sharing your carriage with many people and not worried so much about privacy, then the hard sleeper is ideal.
The hard sleeper is for the backpack traveler and individual who would instead save the money and spend it to have some good food in Tibet.
If you do choose the hard sleeper book well in advance as it is cheap, it costs between 4390 CNY to 900 CNY depending on the station.
How to board the Tibet train
Traveling on the Tibet train is entirely different and so following the below steps will ensure you are well prepared and ready to board and disembark quickly with no hassles.
1) Keep your documents such as the passport, Tibet Travel Permit and train ticket handy. Your travel agent will help you book the train ticket, and will have it emailed to you if needed. However, make sure you book the train ticket at least a month in advance due to large bookings.
Best is to keep a file or pouch with all three documents so that they are safe and easy to remove when needed. Keep the original copy of all three when traveling by train.
2) Get to the Right Station. Get to the right train station at least an hour earlier. Make sure you travel to the right train station given that most of the cities such as Bejing and Shangai have more than 2 train stations. Check on the details properly with your travel agency so that there is no confusion in the last minute.
3) Security Check. Before entering the main railway station, you will have to get your bags, and yourself monitored through the X-ray machine. Make sure prohibited items are not carried otherwise the security personnel will confiscate the item. Find out what the prohibited items are from your travel agency beforehand.
4) The Waiting Room. Once you enter the railway station check the big electronic board which will show details of the train. Check the gate number and proceed to that gate. It is similar to the routine while traveling by airports. If you are confused or lost ask around, the staff will be happy to guide you.
5) Check in. 30 minutes before the departure time, the check-in will begin, and so you will have to queue up. Try to reach 5 minutes before the departure time as that will be the last call.
6) Boarding. After checking in, you will walk towards your car according to the ticket. Once you get on the car of the train, find the seat or berth depending on the ticket. The conductor will check your ticket once the train departs. The train conductor will check it, take the ticket away and give you a ticket exchanging card which you have to keep safely just in case.
7) Leave the Station. There will be only one last stop when traveling on the Tibet train from the 7 Chinese cities. Once you leave the trains station, there will be taxis outside for you to go to the hotel. If you opted for a train pickup, the tour guide will hold your name on a placard and will safely take you to the bus which will take you to the hotel.
Other Tips for Acclimatizing to the life aboard Tibet train
Acclimatizing to the altitude is when your body gets used to the level of oxygen available. The train from China to Tibet can become suddenly less of oxygen in the path from Golmud to Lhasa. The key here is to ascend slowly. However, you are not in control, and so the train will be going at a speed which is quite fast.
Don’t fret there is sufficient oxygen being pumped into the carriages when arriving at Golmud city as it is 2815 meters above sea level. However, if you do suffer mild symptoms of Altitude sickness do take help from the train staff for oxygen supply.
Symptoms will include:
Shortness of breath
Loss of appetite
You may ask the conductor or other train staff for a nasal cannula which is a plastic tubing to fit into the oxygen outlets.
There are individual oxygen outlets under your seat or above your sleeper. Getting access to is easy.
Keep an eye on the altimeters in the train car. It shows the climb of the train so that you can better be prepared for oxygen intake.
Altimeters are also installed on each train car, the figure on meters changes according to the altitude the train climbs.
It is best to prevent the symptoms by drinking enough water and staying hydrated. You should also ensure you get enough rest before boarding the train and while on the train. Rest will help the oxygen supply in your body be sufficient enough.
Remember a journey well prepared for, is always the best. You will have no worries about the travel which makes the journey memorable!