Going from Tibet to India

UPDATED NOV 2016: Read this post to understand how to travel from India to Tibet. For more information, please email me at: thelandofsnows@gmail.com

UPDATED NOVEMBER 2016

About every week, I receive an email asking if it is possible going from Tibet to India (or vice-versa). If you are wanting to travel overland, the answer is no. There are no border crossings between Tibet and India that are open to foreigners. There are a handful of passes through the Himalaya’s that connect Tibet with India, but these are only for use by Indians, Tibetans and Chinese who hold a special permit that allows them to do some small trade in specific areas. The main 3 passes between Tibet and India are:

1. Shipki La pass, located between Himachal Pradesh, India and Ngari prefecture, Tibet

2. Lipulekh pass, located between Uttarkhand, India and Ngari prefecture, Tibet

3. Nathu La pass, located between Sikkim, India and Shigatse prefecture, Tibet

Again, it is NOT possible for non Indians and non Chinese to cross from Tibet to India (or vice versa). The only way to go overland into Tibet from the sub-continent is through Nepal. However, since April 2015, the main overland border from Nepal to Tibet has been CLOSED due to an earthquake and landslides. It is impossible to say when the overland border from Nepal to Tibet will reopen. For now, the only way to go from Nepal to Tibet is to fly. There are 4 weekly flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa.

The Shipki La pass reopened in 1994, after being closed for nearly 32 years after the Sino-India War of 1962. With proper permits, locals from both sides of the border can sell certain items for a short period of time most years at the top of the pass. The Lipulekh pass, elevation 5334 meters, reopened in 1992. This pass can sometimes be used by Indian pilgrims who are on pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash in western Tibet, though each year the Chinese government determines if they will allow Indians to cross here or not.

The Nathu La pass, elevation 4310 meters, opened in 2006 for local traders. Traders from both sides of the border who have the correct permits can engage in trade for 3 or 4 days each week during the late spring and summer months. In 2015, the Nathu La opened to a very small number of Indians who were going on pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash. It is likely that the Nathu La will continue to open to a very small number of pilgrims (around 250 per year), but ONLY those holding an Indian passport. Foreigners are not allowed to cross this border.

Himalaya’s rising above Darjeeling, India

Mt. Kangchenjunga, the 3rd highest peak on earth, from near Darjeeling, India

With there being no overland routes directly between Tibet and India that are open to foreigners, how can someone get between these two places easily? There are a couple of options to choose from. If you are wanting to go overland, the only way is to first go to Nepal and the continue from there. It is quite easy to arrange travel from Tibet to Nepal along the Friendship Highway, which links Lhasa to Kathmandu. Read the following link for more details on the Friendship Highway:

Friendship Highway

UPDATE: The overland border from Tibet to Nepal has been closed since April 2015 due to the Nepal Earthquake. It is impossible to say when this border will reopen. For now, the only way to go from Tibet to Nepal (or vice versa) is to fly.

From Kathmandu, it is easy to continue on to India either by bus or flight. Keep in mind that most nationalities require an Indian visa in advance. This can be obtained in your home country or at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal. NOTE: It is also possible to go through western Tibet into Xinjiang province in far northwest China and from there cross into Pakistan and then into India. However, this route takes considerable time, especially if you are trying to get to Delhi, south India or northeast India. Also, the cost of the required organized tour through western Tibet to Xinjiang is quite high.

A nun in Lhasa reading Buddhist texts

Spinning a prayer wheel in Lhasa

Colorful mural at Drepung Monastery in Lhasa

Flights from India and Nepal to Tibet

There is only one international airport on the Tibetan Plateau and that is in Lhasa. Lhasa is connected internationally to Kathmandu, Nepal, with flights nearly everyday throughout the year.  From Nepal, it is easy and relatively cheap to fly to Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata.

There are no flights from Lhasa to anywhere in India or anywhere else internationally besides Kathmandu. There are several cities in Mainland China that have direct flights to India. Kunming is probably the best place to fly to India from as it is easy to reach from Lhasa and it is easy to reach from Xining and Chengdu, if you are coming from the Amdo and Kham areas. Kunming has a daily flight to Kolkata on China Eastern Airlines. From Kolkata, it is easy to fly to other major cities across India.

There are other cities in Mainland China, such as Beijing and Shanghai, that also offer flights to India, but these are quite far from the Tibetan Plateau. If you are going to be in Tibet and you are wanting to fly to India, the best place to go is Kunming.

Woman from eastern Tibet

Prayer flags through the fog in Gangtok, Sikkim

Monsk coming out of Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, India

If you have any questions about how to get from Tibet to India or any other Tibet travel related questions, go to my Facebook Page or feel free to contact me at:  thelandofsnows@gmail.com

29 thoughts on “Going from Tibet to India

  1. Helen

    I just finished reading a true story called “Across Many Mountains” about refugees that hiked from Tibet to India during the Chinese takeover in 1960.
    Excellent.

  2. Masum

    I am from bangladesh. I would like to travel to lhasa via India and Nepal. Please help me with any suggestions.
    Can I enter and re-enter India and Nepal as being from a saarc nation?
    Which type of Chinese Visa do I require?
    I’m also planning to return the same route. Thanks in advance for your valuable inputs

  3. sipra

    Hi i want to visit kailash mansarover i m an indian passport holder with my mum n dad what is the easiest and fastest way to go there

  4. Nabadeep Mitra

    Hi Lobsang,

    I had always thought of making a travel to Lhasa someday and since some years i am travelling places around India, Nepal, Bhutan. It would be so kind if you could guide me the perfect time and passage from India to Tibet,Lhasa. Please mail me at nabadeep86@gmail.com

  5. Bay

    Hello,

    I hold a UK passport and have an Indian overseas citizenship document. We re planning to travel to Ladakh next year and were hoping to visit Tibet but looks like there aren’t any open passages to cross over by road.
    Hmmm will need to rethink the plan…could you kindly forward details of a good tour agency for a tour/trek. My alternative route would possibly be via Nepal.
    Thanks -enjoyed reading through your site
    Bay

  6. Antony

    Nice article with great accompanying images! Such a shame that there still isn’t a border crossing from India into Tibet for foreigners, Nepal is fine but to reach such a place as Kailash from India would be a beautiful experience and a much more direct and easier way to do it I do believe than travelling there via Nepal.

    1. evelyn morgan

      I would like to do the same route as you suggest. Did you have any success from Lobsang re this question? Eve

  7. Shashank Awasthi

    I am from India and want to go to Lhasa, Tibet via road from India. Please let me know if it is possible and what are the possible routes and permits that are required apart from holding Indian passport.

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      I have sent you information by email. All foreign travelers MUST have an organized tour in order to go to Tibet. All foreigners, including Indians, must have a tour guide, private vehicle, driver and travel permits. Only a travel agency in Tibet can arrange this for you. There are ZERO exceptions.

      Lobsang

  8. Alex Foreever

    I am from India (with Indian passport) and want to go to Lhasa, Tibet via road from India. Let me know what all permits are needed. Also, what are the possible routes and expense range.

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Alex….To reach Tibet from India, you will need to go via Nepal. The price of a Tibet tour is going to depend on you….How long you are in Tibet, your travel route, how many people will be traveling with you, what class of hotel you stay in, etc. Once you know these things, you can then contact a travel agency to assist you as ALL travel to Tibet must be arranged by a travel agency.

      Lobsang

  9. Antara Boruah

    Hello,

    Could you please help me out in finding the best route to Lhasa from Bangalore/Kolkata/Delhi?
    I don’t prefer flying as I feel I would miss out on the scenic beuty enroute Lhasa 🙁

    I am looking for a 10 day trip most probably between July and August.

    Regards,
    Antara

  10. Thomas

    Hello, i am from belgium, and i want to travel by backpack from the border of Kazakhstan thru Tibet all the way to Nepal and end my adventure in India. Is it possible to travel thru Tibet to Nepal? Thank you verry much

    Thomas

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Thomas….your journey is possible from Kazakhstan, but will cost a small fortune. If you are a budget traveler, this section of Tibet would probably cost more than your entire travel budget for your journey. I recommend entering Tibet from a different direction than Tibet (via Nepal).

      Lobsang

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