A complete guide for Qinghai-Tibet Railway
Taking Qinghai-Tibet trains has become travelers’ great choice since its opening in 2006, as the trains are punctual and cost-efficient, in addition, the route along Qinghai Tibet Railway offers travelers remarkable memories filled with splendid scenery.
Renowned as the world's highest railway, Qinghai Tibet Railway is a landmark achievement in Chinese construction and engineering. The highest point on the line is 5,072 m. (16,640 ft.) above sea level. The railway covers 960 km. (597 mi.) at an altitude of more than 4,000 m. (13,123 ft.), over 550 km. (341 mi.) within the "frozen earth" area.
Qinghai-Tibet Railway brief information
Opening date: July 1st, 2006
Starting Point: Xining, Qinghai Province
Terminal Point: Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region
Length: 1,956 KM
Duration: about 21-22 hours
Major Railway Stops: Xining, Delingha, Golmud, Amdo, Nagqu, Damxung, Lhasa
Top Speed: Xining-Golmud (814 KM): 140 km/h; Golmud-Lhasa (1142 KM): 100 km/h
Characteristics: World’s highest railway, the world's longest railroad built atop a plateau
At present, Xining, Beijing, and Shanghai have direct trains to Lhasa every day, while the direct trains from Lanzhou, Guangzhou, Chongqing, and Chengdu depart every other day, among them, many trains pass over some other major cities in China such as Nanjing, Zhengzhou, and Xi'an, etc. However, due to the popularity of Tibet trains, we strongly recommend our clients to pick these seven cities as their starting points when they travel to Tibet.
Xining, the capital city of Qinghai Province, serves as the starting point for the Qinghai-Tibet railway. It is also the most important transfer hub for train travel to Tibet, all the trains departing from the other cities to Tibet will meet at Xining and all the passengers are required to switch to the special trains designed with oxygen supply at Xining railway station upon arrival.
Qinghai-Tibet train schedule
Below is the schedule of the Qinghai-Tibet railway train schedule for reference, including the trains departing from the other cities but passing over Xining.
|Xining to Lhasa|
|Train No.||Dep. Time||Arr. Time||Total Hours||Frequency departure|
|Z6801||14:01||11:20+1day||21h29m||Every other day|
|Z917||14:01||11:20+1day||21h29m||Every other day|
|Z265||19:31||16:45+1day||21h14m||Every other day|
|Lhasa to Xining|
|Train No.||Dep. Time||Arr. Time||Total Hours||Frequency departure|
|Z918||09:00||06:43+1day||21h43m||Every other day|
|Z6802||09:00||06:43+1day||21h43m||Every other day|
|Z266||12:55||10:35+1day||21h40m||Every other day|
Qinghai-Tibet train tickets types
There are 3 types of train tickets on the Qinghai-Tibet trains: 1st class soft sleeper, 2nd class hard sleeper, hard seat. In order to get a more comfortable and better sleep, we would highly recommend travelers to take a soft sleeper, as the berths are softer, furthermore, the compartment is more spacious. Alongside this, each soft sleeper compartment has a private door facing the aisle, making it quieter and privacy. Below are the differences between the soft sleeper and hard sleeper for better understanding.
Regarding the ticket’s price, the soft sleeper is about 781-808 RMB or 115-119 USD per person and about 495-521 RMB or 73-77 USD per person for the hard sleeper, the actual cost depends on which berths you can obtain. The hard seat costs about 224 RMB or 33 USD per person. An important tip you should know is that the ticket price is generally higher (by adding the high commission to the tickets dealers) than the official price due to the high demand.
|Types||Soft Sleeper||Hard Sleeper|
|Privacy||Private compartments with lockable doors||Open compartments without doors, less privacy|
|Berth amount||4 berths (2 lower berths and 2 upper berths) in a compartment||6 berths (2 lower berths, 2 middle berths, and 2 upper berths) in a compartment|
|Berth condition||All passengers can sit up on their berths||Passengers in the middle or upper berths cannot sit straight|
|Luggage storage||Luggage closet above the door inside the compartment||Luggage rack above the aisle outside the compartment|
|Toilets||Both western-style and squat toilets||Squat toilets|
|Power Supply||One socket in each compartment||A few sockets in each carriage|
|Cost||50% more expensive than a hard sleeper berth||The cheapest among all sleepers|
Facilities on Qinghai-Tibet trains
|Oxygen Supply and Air Conditioning||As the trains on Qinghai-Tibet Railway face the conditions of high elevation, low temperature, lack of oxygen, harsh climate, etc., in order to ensure the passengers’ safety, there is a "dispersion-mode" oxygen supply system specially designed on those trains. Besides, to make the train journey more comfortable, there is an air-conditioning system to create a comfortable temperature|
|Food and drink||In the middle of the train, a dining carriage offers some Chinese food and cuisines like rice, vegetables, meats, soups, and some snacks. Besides, you can buy packed food from Food Trolleys. It provides 24-hour hot water, however, you should bear in mind that the water received from the washing area is not drinkable.|
|Toilet and Washing||There are a Western-style toilet and a squat toilet set in each soft sleeper carriage. While there is only one squat toilet equipped in each hard sleeper carriage or hard seat carriage, the trains don’t provide toilet paper, you should bring toilet paper on your own. At each side of the carriages, there is a simple washbasin providing undrinkable and cold water.|
|Luggage storage||For those taking soft sleepers, their luggage or suitcases can be placed on the luggage closet above the door in each Soft Sleeper Carriage, which is about 16 inches (40cm) high and 20 inches (50cm) wide. While for those taking hard sleepers, their luggage or suitcases can be put on the luggage racks above the window by the side of the aisle. The luggage racks on the hard seat carriages are suited above both windows.|
Qinghai-Tibet train tickets booking facts
No matter taking a train from Xining to Lhasa or Lhasa to Xining is a great experience. However, due to the popularity and limited availability of Tibet trains, it is usually not easy to obtain the train tickets especially soft sleepers from April to October. Hence, during this period, we would recommend taking the train route from Lhasa to Xining, as the chance to get a sleeper ticket from Lhasa to Xining is bigger. For travel groups with seniors and children, it’s better to take the train from Xining to Lhasa, as you can spend one or two days pre-acclimatizing to the high altitude of Qinghai Tibet Plateau before heading to Lhasa.
For those who prefer to take a train to Tibet from Xining, especially soft sleepers, it is highly recommended to book the train tickets as soon as possible, because there are only 2 carriages with up to 64 soft sleeper berths on each train. Currently, the train tickets are officially opened to purchase online 30 days in advance. We’d love to help you with Tibet train tickets booking, and you could also check the availability at Trip.com.
Please check the below image to find out how to read the train ticket.
What documents are needed to board a train to Tibet
As an overseas traveler to travel to Tibet by train from Xining, you need to hold a Tibet Travel Permit (Tibet Entry Permit) which is issued only by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. When you check-in at Xining railway station, you can present the color-printed permit, but for those departing from Lanzhou, Chongqing, and Xi’an, it is required to show the original Tibet permit. During the train ride to Lhasa, the staff might check your Tibet permit occasionally. Besides, it’s required to show Tibet Tourism Permit if you book train tickets to Tibet at the railway stations or their branch offices.
The Tibet Travel Permit application usually takes about 15-20 days and it can only be applied by a local travel agency on behalf of travelers. Moreover, except for Tibet permits, for foreigners traveling to Tibet, they need to pre-organize a tour with a licensed tour guide, and a private vehicle with a driver. As a reliable local travel agency with over 13-year professional experience, we, WindhorseTour, have helped thousands of our clients to make their Tibet train tour happen every year, would be very pleased to assist you as well, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment or email (email@example.com).