Transportation in Tibet


Situated high on the Qinghai - Tibet Plateau, Tibet is not easily accessible. Due to historical and geographic challenges, Tibet had no highways until 1951. With the economic support of the Chinese government and the efforts of Tibetans in the past years, Tibet now owns three airports and several highways that link it with other parts of China. On July 1, 2006, the entire Qinghai - Tibet railway was put into service, which brings Tibet closer to the world and provides much convenience for tourists.

By Air
The three airports in Tibet are: Lhasa Gonggar, Chamdo Bamda and Nyingchi.
Lhasa Gonggar Airport is located 100 km south of Lhasa City. Presently, it serves 12 routes, one of which is international, between Lhasa and Katmandu, the capital city of the Kingdom of Nepal. Airplanes shuttle along the domestic routes between Lhasa and Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chongqing, Xian, Xining, Kunming, Chamdo and Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture where the picturesque Shangri-La County lies. Tourists can start from any of these cities to travel to Tibet. Among these routes, flights between Lhasa and Chengdu are the most frequent. Detailed information is available on Flight Schedules. (HTTP)

Gonggar Airport is equipped with first-class facilities. Tourists can get necessary luggage service and passenger service at any time. Moreover, when leaving Tibet, in this airport tourists can buy in advance tickets for flights from Chengdu. From the airport, tourists can take either a bus or taxi to Lhasa City. The 1-hour-long bus trip costs about CNY 25, while a taxi costs more than CNY 100.

Chamdo Bamda Airport is a civil airport that has one of the longest runways in the world as well as being the highest airport. There are ten flights every week from Bangda Airport to Lhasa and Chengdu. However, Bamda Airport is located far from cities and is not easy to get to. Because of bad weather conditions, flights are frequently delayed, which is very inconvenient.

Nyingchi, the third airport in Tibet, began operation on September 1st, 2006. At present, a roundtrip flight operates every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning between Nyingchi and Chengdu. In 2007, another three aircrafts will be increased and the flights will be raised to five shifts from the late March.  Nyingchi Airport may become many people's first stop in Tibet as it is less than 3,000 meters high, allowing people to prepare themselves gradually for higher altitudes. Meanwhile, the flight makes it possible to enjoy firstly the fantastic scenery of southeastern Tibet prior to the Lhasa tour.

By Road
To get to Tibet, there are five main highways: Sichuan-Tibet Highway, Qinghai - Tibet Highway, Yunnan - Tibet Highway, Xinjiang - Tibet Highway and China - Nepal Highway.

Sichuan-Tibet Highway runs between Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province, and Lhasa. Sichuan-Tibet Highway is probably the most dangerous highway in the world. Branching into the North Route of about 2,400 km long and the South Route of about 2,100 km, it runs across a variety of rivers and mountains with the highest point over 5,000 meters  above sea level. Landslides are frequent, trapping tourists for days. However, it is meanwhile the most attractive route to Tibet. Surging rivers, snow-capped peaks, deep valleys and vast grassland are common along the road. It crosses as well the southeast Tibet, which is famous for its unique scenery. This route is a good choice for adventurers and devoted photographers.

Qinghai - Tibet Highway is Tibet's longest asphalt-paved road. People call it 'The Suez Canal on the Roof of the World'. It stretches from Xining, the capital city of Qinghai, to Lhasa. Though it is high, it has few steep slopes and most of the road is of high quality, so generally speaking it is the safest road to Tibet. It runs across grassland, deserts, the Gobi desert, mountains, and saline plains. Scenery along the road is rather appealing.

Traveling along the Yunnan - Tibet Highway, one has the chance to appreciate the culture of ethnic groups in Yunnan Province, and to visit Erhai Lake, Mt. Cangshan, and Shangri-La. The best time to travel along this road is from August to October. Most sections of Xinjiang - Tibet Highway run across boundless deserts and lofty and precipitous peaks. May to October is the best time to travel along this road. The Sino - Nepal Highway is the only international highway in Tibet.

No matter which road you choose, remember that the condition of most of these roads is bad. It is advisable to make careful preparation before departure. Take enough clothes, medicines for mountain sickness, and enough food, as food along these roads is often bland and sometimes unavailable. To avoid mountain sickness, do not undertake too many activities.

For railway information, please click Tibet Railway .

Transportation inside Tibet has also developed considerably. Road conditions have been upgraded, and there are regular buses between big cities. 

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