We were just discussing our never ending bucket list. Tibet was always on there and we heard stories about the highest train ride in the world which apparently lasts nearly 24 hours but offers stunning views of the mountains. Does anybody have experience with this one? Is it easy to travel from China to Tibet given the political situation? Your input is appreciated.
My partner and I worked in China for 3 years and we always wanted to visit Tibet but at that time it seemed like a risky situation for us since we were *working* in China and US travelers were not allowed into Tibet without an official tour group. I did try reaching out to some groups and people who have successfuly gone solo, but the solo ones are incredibly risky because of the strict control over who enters. I think the best way is honestly to book through a tour group and you could possibly get the train as part of the package (but I do think it's costly!). Sorry I couldn't offer you more, the bit of research I did do gave me a headache trying to figure out logisitics. Best of luck!
@vmrjah, thanks a lot for the info. As you mention it, I remember that I read somewhere about the necessity of going with a tour group. I can imagine that this option would be expensive, similar to Bhutan. Surely a great way to limit the number of visitors and control where they are going. And safety is always very important for us, although we took our fair share of chances during our travels in some Latin American countries when they were not exactly very stable, politically and otherwise. Politics might play a role in Tibet (wild guess :-))...so it will remain on our bucket list, maybe the situation changes some day?
I just checked Baidu.com. The train from Beijing to Lhasa takes 40.5 hours and it is not a high speed train. The cost is ~CNY360 for a coach seat or ~CNY 763 for a bunker bed (one-way). The round-trip flight cost CNY 3000 - 4000 and takes ~5 hours each way. I have been to China many times but never been to Tibet. I would take the flight instead. You may need a Chinese Visa and a Tibet Permit to vist Lhasa.
@ker_wei, thanks for checking out prices. You are right, it is a very long trip on the train (even longer than expected). I am usually not a train person but this ride is supposed to be spectacular. Maybe upgrade to first class (if it exists) and do it one way only. From Lhasa you could fly back or to a different destination (if that is allowed). Definitely needs a lot of homework.
If you need extra ambition for a trip to Tibet you should read Lost on Planet China. In general, it was a great book to read before going to China and specifically it talks about how fast changes in China are happening...it might make you push Tibet up your bucket list a bit! (I haven't been there yet, but I know a lot of people who have been and it sounds amazing!)
@teebeetoo, I will definitely check out the book you recommended! Sound like my kind of thing...yep, it is a pity so many places change so quickly. Since everything is available with a click, remote places got so much more crowded. And that's not counting the millions of Chinese who have a tremendous pent up demand...And we are complaining that there is a lack of nonstop flights to whatever we choose, occasionally I could punch myself for that. I was checking flight schedules to Sri Lanka today, what a nightmare to get there (we don't live near a hub, which already requires one stop within the U.S.)