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China to Tibet by train !

Travel Forums Asia China to Tibet by train !

1. Posted by leong1 (Full Member 89 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Im off to Oz in the next few months and was looking to mabey take a slow return to england accross some of china, depending on how much money i have left. So i had a few questions on china and the entrance to tibet if anyone knows much about it.

How hard would it be for me, from the UK, to secure a chinese Visa while in Australia ? ( As im not to sure if i'll have the funds on the way back i dont see the point of going thru all the hassle before i leave. )

Whats the cheepest route to get out of Australia and into china ? ( Ie sydney to Shanghai mabey ?? )

Has anyone used the new train into tibet ? If so how bad would you say that altitude effects people and is it worth flying into lhasa, getting used to the altitude, then training into china ?

Just how safe is it to travel china and tibet alone ?

I know that no direct flights go into europe from tibet so i'll have to go back into china so thats not to much of an issue. Thanks for any light that people can shed on these questions and i look forward to seeing the replies.

2. Posted by Paul3879 (Respected Member 212 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Hi, well I can only...maybe... answer a few of your questions.
To start with, getting a Chinese visa in Aus is easy! Just DON'T say on the application for that you will be visiting Tibet, this is very importiant just put local scenic spots in China. Once you enter the country you can go wherever you like but be aware you need an additional visa to enter Tibet your Chinese visa won't get you there!

As for the "Quinghai-Tibet train a bite of useful info below

The "Sky Train", "Lhasa Express", "Rocket to the rooftop of the world", "World's highest railway"; regardless of what its called, This qinghai tibet train is truly an engineering wonder.

The train is equipped with 2 Oxygen sources, 1) released throughout the cabins when reaching Golmund and heading into Tibet and 2) Personal Oxygen Canisters in case you feel light headed and only available from
Tibet to Golmund or from Golmund to Tibet.

Between Xining and Golmud the tracks pass by Qinghai Lake - China's largest. But it's the Golmud-to-Lhasa sector which offers the most breath-taking scenery. That segment also offers the record-breakers: the world's highest passenger railroad (at Tanggula Pass - elevation: 16,640 ft.; 5072m) and the world's highest railroad tunnel (Fenghuoshan - elevation: 16,093 ft.; 4905m). Over 80% of the journey is at altitudes above 13,000 feet; fully half the track on this sector was laid atop permafrost.

Much of the travel involves crossing a massive plateau nicknamed "The Rooftop of the World." Special diesel engines capable of operating efficiently at 3-mile-high altitudes were designed; an internal garbage disposal system was employed to reduce pollution along the route.

Major attractions along the Tibet by Train route include:

  • Xining: Xinging, a city of just over one million inhabitants, is situated in a remote valley on the eastern edge of Qinghai Province - occupying China's rugged, cold-weather northern "frontier." The city is best known for the Kumbum Monastery (Ta'er Temple), one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist sites in China. The Gelugpa sect was founded here by Tsongkhapa, and the hillside monastery was erected in 1560 in his honor. Up to 2,000 monks can gather to chant sutras in the Great Hall of Meditation, whose roof is supported by carpet-wrapped pillars. The Hall of Butter Sculpture includes colorfully-painted yak butter scutptures depicting important events in Buddhist history. Once home to over 3,000 monks, Kumbum Monastery now houses 600.
  • Qinghai Lake: The lake is about the size of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, though Qinghai Lake is not nearly as salty. Its waters support a variety of fish which, in turn, support a variety of birds - many of which call on Qinghai Lake during their bi-annual migrations. Commorants, gesse, cranes and swans are plentiful here. The summer months bring herds of yak. Over twenty rivers and streams flow into the lake but there's no outflow; evaporation maintains its level.
  • Golmud: The city's economic mainstays are its burgeoning mineral, oil and chemical industries. But to the visitor Golmud's main function is "transportation hub." Through here funnels traffic from China's eastern and northern cities to the lone highway (and now, the lone railroad) leading southwest to Lhasa. To many visitors passing through, Golmud's surrounding landscape presents an almost lunar look; at an almost 10,000-foot elevation, the region is virtually treeless.


As for travelling China and Tibet alone... It's the same as almost any country in the world just use common sence and you will be fine

3. Posted by loubylou (Respected Member 664 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

My boyfriend and I were in China a month or so ago and researched the train to Tibet. We ended up skipping Tibet altogether costs combined with travellers trip reports.

To enter Tibet, in addition to your Chinese visa, you will need a permit, this is US$42 per person, the train, for a hard sleeper berth is 832 Yuan ($104) per person and then the flights out of Tibet to somewhere like Shangri-La, Lijiang or Kunming will cost $260. Coming out of Tibet by land to the south west is particularly difficult and involves an expensive 5 day 4x4 trip. The train from Chengdu is 48 hours, from Beijing it is around 72 hours.

As for the Chinese visa, as Paul said do not mention you are going to Tibet the embassies can be very touchy about this. Also it may be better to get it in Australia as from the day it is issued it's only valid for 3 months, so you have to enter China within 3 months of the visa being issued.


4. Posted by leong1 (Full Member 89 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Thanks alot for the replies, They have helped alot.

I suppose i have to work out if its worth the money for me. I have to admit that the first time i saw the information on this section of track it became a dream of mine to use it... I sound like a train buff but i just think that train travel is one of the best ways to get around. You see the area your traveling through while talking to the local people and other travelers like yourself. 72 hours is a long time and i may have to split the journey into two parts getting off somewhere and having a good look arond for a few days.

5. Posted by mesica (First Time Poster 1 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

There are two documents required for foreign tourists who want to travel in Tibet. One is the Chinese Visa, which you can apply for in Chinese Embassy in your place. Another is the Alien's Travel Permit issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau.

Non-Chinese passport holders (including those of Taiwan, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and other countries) must have an Alien's Travel Permit as well as a valid passport and a visa (Travelers from countries having visa exemption agreement with Hong Kong do not need a visa) to visit Tibet. Visa can be obtained from the local China consulate in your country. Since the government encourages group tours to Tibet the permit is issued only to tour groups traveling with a Chinese tour operator. Your travel agency will represent you to facilitate the application process. A Tibet permit usually costs around RMB 200 yuan.

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

6. Posted by Lavafalls (Travel Guru 155 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Also Keep in mind that the rules change constantly when dealing with the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). Remember there are lots of areas around China that are Tibetan that are not in the TAR. These places require no permits and are easy to get too, well some are easy. Many of them are more Tibetan then the places in went to in in the TAR.

If you want a nice little taste of Tibet go to Lanzhou, then take a bus to Xiahe (great Tibetan temple). Then bus to Tongren in Qinghai where you can buy some of the best Tibetan scroll paintings and then take the bus to Xining. In Xining you can see the famous temple were the Dali Lama lived before going to Lhasa. From Xining you can take the train back to Beijing. If that is not enough Tibet for you go down south in Qinghai and see Yushu. Yushu is a great Tibetan town and lots of fun. Don't forget the Tibetan disco!


7. Posted by leong1 (Full Member 89 posts) 10y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for the information so far. Its given me alot to think about.

I've done abit more reading about it all and it does seem like its not going to be all that easy. So what michael suggested does sound like its well worth looking into.

The other thing that i've read abit about is the Altitude sickness. This may seem like a really silly question but, after reading that you can get altitude sickness anything above 2500m ( 8000 feet ) and the average altitude of tibet is 14000 feet. Is there ample facilities to treat forigners if bad came to worse ?

I also read that its a good idea to spend a while in and around tibet before using the Train into china to give your body a chance to get used to the altitude. The train does reach hights of over 5000m ( around 18000 feet i think ). Seeing China and tibet is something i've always wanted to do but once i saw this train journey it sold it even more to me. As i said in my first post im not a train nerd that takes down engine numbers but i have always enjoyed this mode of transport over any other.

Any help would be very nice, even if it is telling me im being stupid !