How to get to Tibet from Kathmandu in Nepal
Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, one of the most popular travel destinations for international tourists, is near enough to reach the remote regions of the Himalayas and the mysterious Roof of the World - Tibet. As one of the gateway cities to Tibet, starting your Tibet tour from Kathmandu is definitely a good choice for tourists who want to get a taste of both sides of the Himalaya. Kathmandu is also the best city to start the Tibet tour for Indians due to its convenient flights' connections.
In this article, we would like to focus on:
- How to Travel to Tibet from Kathmandu?
- What is the travel policy when you enter Tibet from Nepal?
Currently, there are two ways to get to Tibet from Kathmandu: by flight and by overland.
Travel to Tibet from Kathmandu by Flight
Kathmandu is the only city outside of China with direct international flights to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. The flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa are operated by Sichuan Airline and Air China, and it takes only about 1.5 hours, which is the shortest flight to Tibet.
|3U 8720||11:30 - 15:15||Every Mon. /Wed. /Fri. /Sun.||Operated by Sichuan Airlines|
|CA 408||12:10 - 16:00||Every Tue. /Thu. / Sun.||
Operated by Air China Airlines
The cost of the flight varies depending on the traveling season, on average, a single economy flight ticket from Kathmandu to Lhasa is ranging from 2,000 - 3,000 CNY/about 290 - 440 USD per person. The month of July to September is considered as the peak season while the other months are the shoulder seasons.
Special tips when you take the flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa:
- Please ask for a window seat on the left side of the plane when you get your boarding pass at Kathmandu airport, so you will be able to enjoy the jaw-dropping God’s-eye view of the summit of Mt. Everest and the amazing Himalaya Mountain Ranges.
- Due to the huge ascent from Kathmandu Valley (1,340m) to Lhasa (3,650m), we would advise tourists to have at least 2-3 days in Lhasa for good acclimatization, before heading further.
- You are required to show your 'Group China Visa' sheet at Kathmandu airport, which is proof that you are taking an organized tour for Tibet. Once you arrive at Lhasa airport, your guide will meet you at the customs of Lhasa airport with the necessary Tibet permit.
Overland Travel from Nepal to Tibet
The China-Nepal Highway (also called Friendship Highway) connecting Lhasa and the Chinese/Nepalese border is regarded as one of the best overland journeys in Asia, rewarding you with breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders on the Tibetan Plateau. It is about 800km (467miles) in length and the westernmost portion of China National Highway 318. The landscapes along this part of the highway feature some important Tibetan cultural towns/monasteries, the upper valley of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, the vast grasslands and the mountain vistas including some highest peaks in the world: Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Makalu, Mt. Cho Oyu, and Mt. Shishapangma.
The overland travel from Nepal to Tibet is available, generally, we don’t recommend this overland travel as the altitude gain is simply too rapid to be considered safe, you will be put at high risk of serious and deadly altitude sickness. Instead, we would recommend you a safer option, that is doing this route in the opposite direction going from Lhasa to Nepal, which allows you to acclimatize for a week or more before heading to the highest point - Mount Everest Base Camp at 5200m and then traveling down to the border and continuing to the Kathmandu valley in Nepal. This is one of the most popular overland travel routes in Tibet.
The overland travel from Tibet to Nepal starts from Lhasa - the historic capital of Tibet. It brings you not only the historic palaces and operating monasteries, but also lines of breath-taking natural sceneries, such as turquoise Yamdrok Tso Lake, mighty Nyenchen Kangsar Karola glacier, the great peaks of Himalayas, and the world summit Mt. Everest Base Camp, before gradually descends to the beautiful Gyirong border town (2,600m). The border town in Nepal is called Rasuwa, where you can catch a public bus or take a private/shared Jeep further to Kathmandu. You may check our 8-days Lhasa to Kathmandu tour for a more detailed itinerary.
We only recommend you take the overland travel from Nepal to Tibet after you have done Everest Base Camp trek at Nepal side or other high elevation trekking, your body might already be adjusted to the high altitude, then you will most likely be fine to go on the overland trip from Nepal to Tibet.
We know that there are a lot of Hindu pilgrims and trekking fans with limited time, choose to travel from Kathmandu to Mount Kailash by an overland route via Gyirong Port, without the detour to Lhasa. However as mentioned above, we really don't recommend this overland route unless you have adapted the high elevation well in Nepal. You may check our 11-days Kathmandu Mount Kailash overland tour for a more detailed itinerary.
The road between the border Gyirong to Kathmandu is tough, partly unpaved, narrow and bumpy. It will take about 8-9 hours, even though it's only about 140KM. If you are planning to travel in July or August during the Monsoon season, we suggest you plan to have 1 or 2 days back up, in case the road is blocked by a landslide. The helicopter service from Kathmandu to Gyirong is available in summer months, it costs about 1,600 USD and which can be shared by a maximum of 4 people.
China Visa and Tibet Permit - Travel to Tibet from Nepal
No matter if you go to Tibet from Nepal or from mainland China, you will need to take an organized tour and obtain both the China Visa and Tibet Permit to travel in Tibet. However, the visa regulation of going to Tibet from Nepal is different from going from mainland China. When you travel to Tibet from Nepal, you don't need to apply for an individual Chinese tourist visa in advance, the travel agency (like WindhorseTour) who arranges your Tibet tour will assist you to apply for a Group China Visa at the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu upon your arrival. It normally takes about 3-4 working days to get the China Group Visa, please plan to have some days in Kathmandu before you travel to Tibet.
Below is the detailed procedure applied to the ones who travel to Tibet from Nepal:
1. Send us the passport copies by email upon your tour booking. We will apply for the China Visa invitation and necessary Tibet permit in the Tibet Tourism Bureau office in advance. We suggest you confirm your booking at least 1 month in advance so that we have enough time to arrange all the necessary documents.
2. Upon your arrival in Kathmandu, contact our travel agency in Kathmandu and our staff will meet you and walk you through the procedure, fill in the application form and leave your passport with them. You are requested to pay the application fee at that moment. Stay in Nepal at least 3/4 working days, to wait for the China group visa to be issued. The application fee of the China Group visa varies based on nationality. Below is the fee for your reference.
|NATIONALITY||TIMES OF ENTRY||ORDINARY
|URGENT (US$)||TOP URGENT (US$)||EXTRA AGENCY SURCHARGE (US$)|
- Ordinary visa processing time: minimum of 4 working days
- Urgent visa processing time: minimum of 3 working days
- Top urgent visa processing time: minimum of 2 working days
- Top urgent processing is only for exceptional cases.
3. Our Kathmandu staff will return your passport together with your China group visa. You only need the China group visa to board your flight to Lhasa or cross Nepal-China border, your local Tibetan guide (together with your original Tibet permits) will meet you at Lhasa airport / Gyirong border upon your arrival.
- The Group China Visa is normally valid for a maximum of 30 days, with exceptional cases to be valid for a maximum of 60 days. It can not be extended like a normal Chinese Tourist visa. If you wish to stay in China for more than 30 days, we suggest that you travel to Tibet from mainland China.
- Instead of a visa stick on your passport, the Group China Visa is a sheet of paper with the data of your travel and group name list. It is requested that the group enter and exit China through the same Chinese customs port together at the same exact time.
- If you have already obtained your Chinese Tourist Visa or any other type of individual visa before, it would be canceled when applying for the Group China Visa in Kathmandu.