lhasa to kathmandu overland trip

The overland trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu is the best way to discover this beautiful part of the world.

At present, independent travel is not permitted in Tibet. The only way you can travel here is to join a small group tour to explore this magnificent land. There are several companies to choose from that all offer a similar itinerary.

We recommend this 14 Day small-group adventure with GAdventures for an incredible experience here.

Do you need a Visa?

As Tibet is an autonomous region of China, you will require a valid Chinese tourist visa in addition to a travel permit for Tibet. You’ll need to obtain your Chinese visa before you travel, from your nearest Chinese embassy.

The tour operator will organise your permit for Tibet, which will most likely be sent to your hotel address in China.

Make sure you allow a few days to receive this (popular places will include Chengdu, Xian, Xining and Beijing). Find some great deals on accommodation in China on Booking.com.

Do you have a few extra days in China before your trip begins? Our post about how to avoid common tourist scams in China will be helpful to ensure you have the best time here.

How to Get to Tibet

Your tour operator will offer you two choices for starting your trip to Lhasa.

Option 1: Overnight sleeper train – NOTE: Trains sell out quickly and are only available for purchase within 30 days of departure.  They cannot be purchased directly from the Chinese railway, so you can use the agency you are booking your trip with or use this website.

PROS: This gives you time to acclimatise gradually.  The train is very comfortable and new, a real engineering marvel as it travels through the peaks of 5000 m above sea level.  You can book either a soft sleeper or hard sleeper, or just a seat.  The journey starts from multiple cities – paying for at least a hard sleeper is recommended. See the difference here.

CONS: The train is quite expensive (it costs more than the flight).

It’s long, taking anywhere from 24 – 36 hours, depending on where you start.

Option 2: Fly from China to Lhasa.  Multiple flights connect major cities in China with Lhasa (please note that there are no international flights apart from Kathmandu – KTM). Direct one-way flights include the same as above.

Skyscanner offers the best flight deals online, so we recommend them.

PROS: Quick, easy and quite affordable. We took the flight from Xian – The total cost was USD 135 pp

CONS: Lhasa is 3656m above sea level—altitude sickness.

With both options, any tour operator will recommend that you take it easy on arrival in Lhasa so your body avoids altitude sickness. (more about that below)

lhasa to kathmandu overland trip
The old town in Lhasa

What is High Altitude Sickness?

Physical distress from difficulty adjusting to lower oxygen pressure at high altitudes.

Common Symptoms of High Altitude Sickness:

Most cases of altitude sickness are mild, but some may be life-threatening. Symptoms tend to occur within hours after arrival at high altitude, including headache, nausea, shortness of breath, and inability to exercise.

Mild cases may resolve in one to three days. Severe cases may require oxygen, medications, and moving to a lower altitude.

How to Avoid High-Altitude Sickness?

Before Arriving in Tibet, take the below precautions:

  • Keep physically and mentally healthy. Keep relaxing in mind.
  • Take a physical examination and consult your doctor for advice on preparing AMS medication.
  • Get a great night’s sleep the night before taking your flight/train to Tibet.
  • Prevent having a cold and respiratory disease before taking your flight/train to Tibet.

Best Time to Travel

The best time to go to Tibet is in Summer when temperatures are warm, from June – to August.

You can expect warm days (t-shirt weather), but the nights are still cool.

lhasa to kathmandu overland trip
Views in Tibet

Things to Know Before You Go

Currency – You will use the Chinese Yuan. Check the most current exchange rates here.

Language – Tibetan and Mandarin- It’s recommended to learn a few phrases of Tibetan once you have arrived or ask your guide for some handy words.

You’ll need a VPN for wifi! – Download one before you arrive; you’ll need it. We use and recommend Surfshark VPN.

It’s surprising how many small restaurants and coffee places in Tibet offer free wifi. It’s super helpful but only works if you get the VPN.

Do’s and don’ts

Understand Tibet – Educate yourself about this region of China, why Tibet is not free, the Dalai Lama, the religion, etc.

We’d recommend reading these books before you arrive.

Best Books to read:

The Book of Joy

Seven Years in Tibet

The Itinerary & Map of our 7-Day Lhasa to Kathmandu trip. 

lhasa to kathmandu

Our trip to Tibet was incredible. We saw so many beautiful landscapes, and the drives each day were stunning.

Border Crossing into Nepal

  • A passport photo is needed in advance for the visa. Make sure you have one.
  • USD 25 on arrival at the border (max 15-day stay). It’s USD 40 for a 30-day stay. Pay in cash only.
  • Your tour operator will allow you to take a private jeep transfer once you arrive on the Nepalese side. The cost depends on how many other travellers cross the border that day.

We paid USD 50 for a seat in the jeep (4 pax max). We highly recommend arranging this option in advance as there aren’t no transport options, except for big trucks, once you’ve crossed into Nepal.

There are multiple bag checks and security checkpoints once you’ve crossed into Nepal, too, and your Nepalese driver will make this quick and easy for you.

The journey is 150km to Kathmandu; however, the roads are terrible. The journey takes approximately 8-10 hours, so be prepared. Your driver will probably stop along the way so you can have a meal and some fresh tea at a local eatery.

There are many beautiful views on the way. It is a good idea to have a hotel booked in Kathmandu for the evening you arrive, you will be tired.

Where to Stay in Kathmandu

There are thousands of hotels to choose from in Kathmandu; however, the area that we and most other travellers stay in is Thamel. It’s the location that is close to the action, markets and best cafes and restaurants. These are our recommendations for the best value hotels below:

Budget Accommodation: Sara’s Backpacker Hostel– A bed in a 4-bed dorm from USD 2 per person, or a twin room is $5 total. This place is great value for money, has fab reviews, and feels like a warm homestay. A good place to meet other travellers.

Mid-Range Accommodation: Hotel Dream City – Rooms from USD 22 per night, including a great breakfast. A fantastic location, wifi, clean, comfortable and fabulous reviews.

High-End Accommodation: Hotel Jampa – Rooms from USD 44 per night, includes a fantastic buffet breakfast. This hotel has superb reviews for its great location, excellent rooms and facilities.

View ALL Accommodation in Kathmandu.

What to do in Nepal?

lhasa to kathmandu

Nepal is a popular destination for some incredible treks in this region. This country is stunning! There is a range of treks/hikes to choose from, depending on your experience and fitness level.

Many tour companies offer different itineraries; however, we recommend G Adventures.

What we love most is that they are firm believers in responsible travel, are affordable, and use local guides.

Travel Tips

You may also enjoy reading our recommendations on the best travel websites to save money and our 12 essential tips for safe travel.

Are you game enough to try these 10 most Bizarre Chinese foods? Maybe our Food Map of Asia will inspire you to embark on a food adventure around Asia.

For our best travel advice and tips to travel the world, head to our Travel Resources Page.