Flying to Lhasa is the most common way of getting to Tibet. This post will explain what flights are available and how you can book a flight to Tibet. More info at: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Fly to Tibet
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There are three main ways to reach Tibet: overland journey by vehicle from either Nepal or Mainland China, train from Mainland China or by flight. For many, taking a flight from Chengdu to Lhasa or a flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa is the easiest way to get to Tibet. This post will explain the flights to Tibet and how to easily book them.
Flight from Chengdu to Lhasa
With over 20 direct flights per day during the high season months from May through October, it makes sense why taking the flight from Chengdu to Lhasa is the most popular choice for getting to Tibet. Even the low season months offer 10 to 12 daily direct flights between these two cities. Chengdu is a large city in southwest China’s Sichuan province and has always been the main starting point for reaching Tibet. Chengdu can be reached from all major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an, etc. It can also be reached directly from many international cities such as San Francisco, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, along with a few others.
The flight time from Chengdu to Lhasa is about 2 hours 15 minutes with the full price air ticket costing about 1680 RMB ($252 USD). Discounts between 10% and 40% are common, especially during low season (January, February, November and December). Numerous airline companies offer the flight from Chengdu to Lhasa including Air China, Tibet Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.
Though it is a useful website to book other discounted fare flights within China, the site C-Trip normally will not allow foreign travelers to book flights to Lhasa. You can try looking at sites like Travelocity or Expedia for flights, but you can also ask the travel agency you are using in Tibet to book it for you. Most will do it either for free or for a very low booking surcharge.
Flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa
Lhasa is connected internationally by direct flight to only one city and that is with Kathmandu, Nepal (Note: As Tibet is technically part of China, flights from Mainland China to Lhasa are considered domestic and not international). There are no other direct international flights to Lhasa, contrary to popular belief. During the high season months from May through October, the flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa is offered once per day. The rest of the year, the flight is usually offered 3 times per week. Two airlines offer this flight, Air China and Sichuan Airlines. The flight time is between 1 hour and 1 hour 15 minutes long. Try to get a seat on the right side of the plane for good views of the Himalaya Mountains. The one way flight can cost as much as $375 USD in the high season and as little as $225 USD in the low season. I often times find the lowest price for this flight on Travelocity.com.
Flight from Chengdu to Nyingtri
Many travelers to Tibet have not heard of Nyingtri (Nyingchi). It is a small city in Tibet located 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Lhasa and lies at a much lower altitude than Lhasa. As it lies at 2950 meters high (9680 feet), it is about 1600 meters lower than Lhasa. Flying into Nyingtri and then taking 2 or 3 days to reach Lhasa will help you to acclimatize better to Tibet’s high altitude.
From Chengdu, there are 3 to 6 direct flights per day from Chengdu to Nyingtri. The flight time is just over 2 hours. Air China, Tibet Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines all operate this flight. The full price fare for this direct flight is 1480 RMB ($224 USD) with discounts of 10% to 20% being common. The best way to book this flight is to have the travel agency you are using in Tibet book it for you.
Flight from Xining to Lhasa
For those who want to acclimatize to high altitude before arriving to Lhasa, flying to Tibet from the city of Xining is a great option. Xining, located on the northeast Tibetan Plateau in the province of Qinghai, sits at an altitude of 2300 meters (7500 feet). Staying here for 2 or 3 nights before flying to Lhasa will certainly help your body adjust to the higher altitude of Tibet.
Two airlines operate this flight, Tibet Airlines and Sichuan Airlines. In the high season (June thru October) there are normally 2 direct flights per day from Xining to Lhasa. The full priced ticket is 1680 RMB ($252 USD), but discounts of 10% to 20% are common. In the low season months (November thru May) there is normally only 1 flight per day and discounts of 20% to 50% are common. The flight time is between 2 hours 10 minutes and 2 hours 25 minutes. Contact the travel agency you are using for their help in getting you discounted air tickets from Xining to Lhasa.
Flight from Beijing to Lhasa
For flights to Tibet, another option is the flight from Beijing to Lhasa. During the high season, there are 2 daily direct flights per day and just one flight per day in the low season. The flight takes around 4½ hours to complete. Air China, Tibet Airlines and Shandong Airlines all operate this flight (usually a code share). The full fare one-way ticket costs around 3000 RMB ($450 USD). Discounts on this ticket price are rare.
Flight from Xi’an to Lhasa
In the high season, there are 4 to 6 daily direct flights from Xi’an to Lhasa. In the low season there are 2 to 3 flights per day. The flights are offered on Tibet Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Air China and China Eastern with the flight taking about 3 hours 30 minutes. The full priced one-way flight costs 2250 RMB ($340 USD).
Flight from Chongqing to Lhasa
Chongqing is one of the largest cities in China. In the high season, there are usually 10 direct flights per day from Chongqing to Lhasa and at least 4 per day in the low season. The flight normally takes 2 hours 45 minutes to complete. The full fare ticket costs around 1750 RMB ($265 USD), though in high season discounts between 10% and 20% are common. In low season, discounts as much as 60% are possible. Tibet Airlines, Air China, Shandong Airlines and China Southern Airlines all offer this flight. As Chongqing is not a very popular travel place for foreign tourists, relatively few foreigners take this flight. This is a very popular flight for Chinese domestic tourists.
Flight from Kunming to Lhasa
Kunming is a beautiful city located in southwest China’s Yunnan province. Because of its beauty, close proximity to the mountains, ethnic diversity and easily reached from other parts of Asia, Kunming is a very popular travel destination among foreign travelers. Kunming is conveniently connected by direct international flights from Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Kolkata, Chiang Mai, Sydney, Dubai and several other key cities in Asia.
Kunming also has 1 or 2 direct flights per day to Lhasa as well as Nyingtri. As Kunming lies at an elevation of 1900 meters (6200 feet), it is another good place in Mainland China to spend a few days acclimatizing to high altitude before flying into Lhasa or Nyingtri. Air China, China Eastern and Shandong Airlines all offer flights from Kunming to Lhasa and Nyingtri. The 3 hour full cost flight to Lhasa is around 2300 RMB ($350 USD) with frequent discounts of 10% to 25%. Contact the travel agency you are using in Tibet for their help in getting tickets for these flights.
Flight from Lijiang to Lhasa
Lijiang, located in northwest Yunnan province, is one of China’s most popular travel destinations. Lijiang has 1 or 2 daily direct flights to Lhasa, lasting about 2 hours long. Sichuan Airlines offer this flight and the full fare costs 1480 RMB ($225 USD). During low season (November thru April), discounts of up to 50% are possible.
Flight from Shangri La/Deqen to Lhasa
Another flight option from northwest Yunnan province is from the region of Shangri La/Deqen. As this area sits at nearly 3300 meters (10,825 feet), staying here for a few nights will help acclimatize you to the higher elevation of Lhasa. The flight from Shangri La to Lhasa is 2 hours 15 minutes long with the full fare flight costing 1750 RMB ($265 USD). In the high season (May thru October) there are normally 2 flights per day along this route. In the low season (November thru April) there is usually 3 or 4 flights per week. China Eastern and Tibet Airlines offer this flight.
Seasonal Flights to Lhasa
During the peak high season months from June thru early October, several small cities across the Tibetan Plateau offer seasonal direct flights to Lhasa. These small cities are on the Tibetan Plateau, but are not located in Tibet. Yushu (Jyekundo), Labrang (Xiahe) and Kangding (Dartsedo) all have direct flights to Lhasa during the peak tourism season. Contact the travel agency you are using in Tibet for info on how to book these flights to Tibet.
Flights within Tibet
Over the past 10 years, several new airports have opened in Tibet. From the capital city of Lhasa, there are now flights to several other towns and regions of Tibet. From Lhasa, there are now daily flights to the following towns and regions of Tibet:
- Nyingtri (450 kilometers east of Lhasa)
- Ngari (1300 kilometers west of Lhasa)
- Chamdo (currently closed to all foreign travelers)
- Shigatse (no flights to/from Lhasa, but there is 1 flight per day from Shigatse to Chengdu)
Summary: Flights to Tibet
- The most popular way to get to Tibet is by taking the flight from Chengdu to Lhasa
- Lhasa is only connected internationally by flight to Kathmandu, Nepal
- Flying to Nyingtri instead of Lhasa will help you to acclimatize better to the high altitude
- Flying from Xining or Shangri La to Lhasa will also help with altitude acclimatization
- Flights to Tibet are 10% to 50% cheaper during the low season months
- The travel agency you use in Lhasa can help you get a discounted flight to Tibet
If you have any questions about flights to Tibet, tours to Tibet or any other travel-related question, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org