Transportation In Lhasa
Most foreign travelers arrive in Tibet
by plane. From China, Chengdu is the easiest and most popular
starting point. Daily flights carry tourists to Lhasa in about 2
hours and cost RMB1200. Chongqing, a neighboring city, also has
flights to Tibet. However, there are only two flights every week. It
is also possible to go from Beijing and Xi'an (only one flight every
week). Luckily, Flights from Shanghai are new, operating on
Wednesdays and Sundays. Travelers in Nepal may also fly from
Kathmandu. Click here to see Lhasa flight timetable.
Gonggar Airport is 98 km south of Lhasa
city. Airport buses take tourists to the city soon after they
arrive. The drive costs foreigners RMB40 and takes about two hours.
Taking a taxi costs RMB250 to RMB300. Minibuses from Shigatse to
Lhasa also stop outside the airport to make extra money.
The new Qinghai-Tibet Railway is the
highest in the world. It climbs to 3,641m at Lhasa, but its highest
point is 5072m (16,640 feet) above sea level, at Tanggula Pass. Due
to the changing altitude during the trip, the train's carriages are
pressurised and oxygen is available to passengers that need it.
As of the 1st July 2006, trains to
Lhasa run from Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou and Xining.
Trains from Shanghai and Guangzhou should also be available soon.
Click here for the train timetable.
There are also direct trains to/ from
Lhasa from Lanzhou and Xining, and all the above routes also stop in
both Lanzhou and Xining.
The only overland way out of Lhasa is
to Golmud in Qinghai Province. The journey takes between 30 to 50
hours, depending on road conditions. Tickets for Golmud can be
bought at the main bus station, south of the Lhasa Hotel. Prices are
RMB424 for a Japanese sleeper bus or RMB244 for a clapped-out
Chinese bus. It is also possible to continue the journey all the way
to Xining, the capital of Qinhai Province. Long-distance buses also
go to other places in Tibet, such as Shigatse, Tsetang, Chamdo and
Bayi, although this can be difficult and expensive for western
The bus station in Lhasa is located
southwest of Barkhor Square and has departures to Medro, and Gungkar
to visit Drigung Til Monastery and Lhundrub to visit Talung
Thanks to the increasing number of
tourists, minibus, as mentioned above, has become a booming industry
in Tibet. The area south of Barkhor Square is where minibuses set
off for Tsurphu Monastery and Deprung Monastery. Another place to
look for a minibus is in front of the Kirey Hotel, where there are
daily minibuses to Naqu, Samye and Shigatse.
Many foreigners have realized the
convenience and comfort of travelling in Tibet by rented vehicle.
The most popular route is from Lhasa to the Nepalese border, Zhongmu,
past Yamdrok-tso, Gyantse, Shigatse, Sakya, Everest Base Camp and
Tingri. Other good ideal destinations include Mt Kailash and Nam-tso.
Since traveling by Land Cruiser is more expensive than by bus, it is
advisable to talk to other travelers to get the latest information
on which agencies are offering good deals and which are ripping
Land cruisers have the capacity for up
to five travelers, along with the mandatory guide who will do
nothing of the sort, and the driver, who will appear to be doing his
best to run both you and all other vehicles off the road. The land
cruisers cost Y1000 per day, so it is of course most economical to
travel in a group of five. An itinerary must be decided upon and
submitted to the PSB for approval before travelers are allowed to
leave Lhasa. Usually the PSB will approve any route along
established tourist sites. However, once the route is fixed and
stamped, there is to be no deviating from it. If in doubt whether to
include something in your tour, include it. The agony of leaving
Tibet, and feeling that one did not see or do enough is far worse
than the subsequent hole in one's pocket.
Getting around the city:
The best way to travel from one place
of interest to another is by minibus (fare: RMB2). Taxis in Lhasa
are not equipped with a meter, and tourists are generally charged
RMB10 when they want to go within the city. For a destination out of
the city, they should first negotiate with the driver. Pedicabs can
serve two travelers at a time for between RMB4 to RMB7. Most hotels
also rent bikes to travelers (RMB2 per hour or RMB20 per day for
ordinary bikes and RMB3 per hour, RMB30 per day per day for mountain