Taking Qinghai Tibet train travel is probably once a lifetime experience for westerners. Since its completion in early 2006, the railway has become an increasingly popular Tibet tour option that offers stunning views of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Those looking for in depth cultural experiences will love taking the train; it provides opportunities to meet people from all over Tibet and China! Tibetan and Chinese are among the friendliest of people and they will be just as excited to meet travelers on the train as travelers will be to meet them.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, as the only railway that links Lhasa railway station to the existing rail network of mainland China, is always busy throughout the year. On one hand, the scenery along the railway deserves our time. On the other hand, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway itself is a man-made world wonder.

The journey all the way from Beijing takes just under 48 hours, costing ¥389 in the cheapest hard seat class and ¥1262 for a soft sleeper. Direct trains to Lhasa originate in Beijing, Xining, Lanzhou, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu. For a mid-range sleeper from Chengdu with 6 bunks in each room, they are ¥692. Be warned that these trains are not for the faint-hearted and the less adventurous type: they do not have Western-styled toilets and bunks are relatively cramped although both are clean. The main advantage for this mode of transportation is the fact that you could slowly adapt to high altitude conditions instead of a sudden shift if you were to take a plane, reducing the high altitude sickness by 80%

Tangula runs roughly weekly luxury trains (Apr-Dec only) from Beijing to Lhasa and back. The 4-day journey costs USD 55,500 (twin sharing), including all meals, drinks and excursions. However, as of January 2010, the Tangula still has no official launch date and are not accepting reservations until Summer 2011, due to economic hardships.

With the completion of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway that is known as the highest railway on earth and the first railway to Tibet, Tibet’s history without a railway was finally ended. At present, there are several trains to and out of Tibet each day. The train has become the major way to get to Tibet for travelers. Since the railway was built in an area with an altitude over 4,000m, low oxygen content and harsh climate, the trains to Tibet were tailor-made. In order to make passengers travel comfortably on board, the train is equipped with air-conditioning, oxygen supply system and anti-radiation sightseeing windows.

Oxygen Supply System

The oxygen supply system is one of the most significant designs. It ensures passengers’ comfort and safety when the train arrives in the area over 4,000 meters above sea level, which easily causes high altitude sickness. Each train is provided with two oxygen-supply systems. Both of the oxygen supply systems are working when the trains are running in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Zone. One is used for increasing the oxygen level in the train, by temperature and air pressure controlling systems once the train enters into the plateau zone from Golmud to Lhasa. When the oxygen supply systems are working, no smoking is allowed in all the cars. The other is directly used by passengers through an independent port. There are oxygen supply tubes and masks in each cabin for emergencies. Private oxygen masks are provided to every passenger, whatever ticket they have.

Sightseeing windows on the Qinghai Tibet Railway Train

As the air on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau is quite thin, the solar radiation is very strong. In order to help passengers enjoy the scenery along the railway at most, every train is installed with sealed sightseeing windows that are covered by anti-ultraviolet film so as to protect passengers from the wind, sand and ultraviolet radiation. All the windows are provided with double-layered vacuum glass. The outer layer is covered by anti-ultraviolet film. Apart from that, there are two layers of curtain in the cars for preventing ultraviolet radiation.

Different train carriages of the Qinghai Tibet Railway Train

In order to meet different demands from different passengers taking Tibet train, the carriages of the train to Tibet are classified into three classes, soft sleeper, hard sleeper and hard seat.

(1) The first class – Soft Sleeper

Of course, soft sleeper is the first-class carriage, and also the most comfortable and expensive. At first, soft sleeper class gives you access to a separate waiting area and priority boarding. There are twelve compartments with private doors in a carriage; four berths in each compartment, two upper and two lower, with a small table next to the window, between the two lower bunks. There is enough private room in the soft sleeper compartments.

(2) The second class – Hard Sleeper

Hard Sleeper is the second class car. Do not be misled by the name. The hard sleeper berth is not a hard-board like its name. It is still comfortable and soft but less spacious and private. There are eighteen compartments without doors in a carriage; six berths per compartment forming 2 triple bunk beds, two upper, two middle and two lower.

(3) The third class – Hard Seat

Hard seat on the train is also not hard chair like its name. It is soft and comfortable for a short journey. There are usually 4 hard-seat cars in each train from or to Tibet, which can totally contend 392 people. Different as a standard hard-seats car, which totally content 108 seats, one hard-seating car just offers 98 seats in a Tibet train. Since travel to Tibet by train is quite a long journey, it is not recommended for you to take hard seat to Tibet.

How to pick up the Tibet train tickets after booking

Normally travelers need to find a travel agency to book a train to or from Lhasa, Tibet. Most China train ticketing online booking platforms do not provide English booking assistance. Another reason is that, to travel to Tibet, you all foreign travelers need Tibet travel permits. So to book Tibet train tickets is normally by travel agencies. Most travel agencies can have one-stop shop for Tibet tour and train ticketing services. Here let “Visit Tibet travel service” explain to you how to pick up the train tickets after booking.

Foreign travelers need to provide physical passports, train booking confirmation codes and Tibet travel permits photo copies to get paper tickets printed out from any major railway station in major cities in China. Travel agencies can reconfirm to you where you can pick up.

Services on Tibet train

(1) Attendants

All the attendants on Tibet train take training sessions before working on the train: simple Tibetan language and ethnic traditions, crash courses in English. Each train has a doctor attending the medical emergencies of the passengers suffering from altitude sickness.

(2) Meals

The dining car offers fast combination meals throughout most of the day for sale, although choices are quite limited. For example, passengers can purchase a western breakfast for approx $4 consisting of eggs, bread, butter, jam, milk, tea. Traditional Chinese or Tibetan meals are always available, with rice, noodles and meat-vegetable combinations. Beer, water, soft drinks are also available for sale in the dining car.

(3) Drinks and Snacks

There is a dispenser in the sink area which provides hot water 24 hours a day so you can make your own tea, coffee, hot chocolate or instant noodles which you can purchase easily in any market. Each compartment has a thermos so that you can bring the hot water back to your room. You will need to bring your own mug and utensils as well. You may want to bring your own bottled water for drinking, as it will be less expensive than buying bottles on the train. We recommend you buy snacks in a market or supermarket, ahead of time as the dining room meals may not suit your taste.

Qinghai Tibet Train Travel Schedule and Fare 2019

Beijing-Lhasa Train

No. Departure Arrival Travel Time Ticket Price (CNY)
Soft Sleeper Hard Sleeper
Z21 20:10 13:55 the 3rd day 41h 45 m 1,186 763

Although the travel time is as long as about 42 hours, passengers can leisurely enjoy the scenery along the way. Also, it gives you a chance to gradually adopt to the plateau climate. The stopovers along the way include Shijiazhuang North, Taiyuan, Zhongwei, Lanzhou, Xining, Delhi, Golmud, and Nakchu.

Shanghai-Lhasa Train

No. Departure Arrival Travel Time Ticket Price (CNY)
Soft Sleeper Hard Sleeper
Z164 19:16 17:55 the 3rd day 46h42m 1,310.5 841.5

Along the way, it will stop in Wuxi, Nanjing, Bengbu, Xuzhou, Zhengzhou, Xian, Lanzhou, Xining, Golmud, and Nakchu. The total running length is 2,717 miles (4,373 kilometers).

Xian-Lhasa

No. Departure Arrival Travel Time Ticket Price (CNY)
Soft Sleeper Hard Sleeper
Z265 09:45 17:30 the second day 31h 45 m 1,000.5 647.5
Z165 11:24 19:50 the second day 32h 26 m

They start from Guangzhou (Z264) and Shanghai (Z164) respectively and Xian is just an intermediate station stopping for 10 minutes. Passengers should move quickly to get on/off. Along the rest of the route, they also stop in Lanzhou, Xining, Golmud, and Nakchu.

Guangzhou-Lhasa

No. Departure Arrival Travel Time Ticket Price (CNY)
Soft Sleeper Hard Sleeper
Z264 11:45 17:30 the 3rd day 53h45m 1,526 919

It will stop intermediately in Chenzhou, Changsha, Wuhan, Zhengzhou, Xian, Lanzhou, Xining, Delhi, Golmud, and Nakchu.

Chengdu-Lhasa

No. Departure Arrival Travel Time Ticket Price (CNY)
Soft Sleeper Hard Sleeper
Z322 14:48 09:55 the 3rd day 43h7m 1,101 709

Z 322 is available every other day. Along the way, it will make short stops at Guangyuan, Baoji, Lanzhou, Xining, Golmud, and Nakchu.

Chongqing-Lhasa

No. Departure Arrival Travel Time Ticket Price (CNY)
Soft Sleeper Hard Sleeper
Z223 15:42 09:55 the 3rd day 42h13m 1,120 720

Z223 is also available every other day. The stopovers along the way include Nanchong North, Guangyuan, Baoji, Lanzhou, Xining, Delhi, Golmud, and Nakchu.

Lanzhou-Lhasa Train Travel

No. Departure Arrival Travel Time Ticket Price (CNY)
Soft Sleeper Hard Sleeper
Z223/323 09:13 09:55 the second day 24h42m 852 550
Z917* 11:16 12:00 the second day 24h44m
Z21 12:33 12:30 the second day 23h57m
Z265 16:55 17:30 the second day 24h35m
Z165 18:32 19:44 the second day 25h12m

Z917 departs every other day from Lanzhou Railway Station. The others are available every day but Lanzhou is just an intermediate station.

Xining-Lhasa

No. Departure Arrival Travel Time Ticket Price (CNY)
Soft Sleeper Hard Sleeper
Z223/323 12:14 09:55 the second day 21h41m 815 530
Z917* 14:05 12:00 the second day 21h55m
Z6801* 14:05 12:00 the second day 21h55m
Z21 15:20 12:30 the second day 21h10m
Z265 19:51 17:30 the second day 21h39m
Z165 21:35 19:44 the second day 22h9m

Among them, only Z6801 originates from Xining. The others just stop there for a few minutes for passengers to get onboard. The major stops along the way include Delhi, Golmud, Amdo, Nakchu, and Damxung. “*” indicates Z917 and Z6801 is available other day.