High-Altitude Xining-Lhasa Rail Line Opens in Tibet

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The tourism industry in Tibet continues to grow, along with more travel options for tourists. According to Lhasa Express official website chinatibettrain.com, the Xining-Lhasa rail line opened, marking the first rail connection between Tibet and the Chinese mainland.

The tourism industry in Tibet continues to grow, along with more travel options for tourists. According to Lhasa Express official website chinatibettrain.com, the Xining-Lhasa rail line opened, marking the first rail connection between Tibet and the Chinese mainland.

Renowned as the “highest train in the world,” 86% of the line is at an elevation above 4,000 meters. The highest point is 5,072 meters at the Tangu-la Pass, where the train passes into Central Tibet. Over 550 kilometers of track lies over permafrost, and specially-engineered cooling pipes are installed to keep the ground frozen below the tracks during spring thaw. Some parts of the track cross elevated pylons to maintain migration corridors for plateau wildlife.

The 1,972 kilometer line runs from Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Connecting trains can be caught in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shanghai, Lanzhou, Xi’an and Guangzhou. With a top speed of 120 kilometers per hour, the entire Tibet trip takes about 24 hours. The train is scheduled to run through scenic areas during daylight hours, with stops for tourists to disembark and take photographs.

Explore Tibet team, a Lhasa-based Tibet travel agency, offers some tips for foreigners wishing to travel to Tibet by rail:

  •     A Tibet Travel Permit is needed for all foreigners to buy a ticket and to board the train.
  •     Tickets can only purchased from the city of origin, 10 days in advance. Most tourists prefer to use a tour agency to secure permits and tickets on their behalf. During tourist season and Chinese holidays tickets sell out quickly.
  •     Like all Chinese trains, there are three kinds of tickets with corresponding prices: hard seat, hard sleeper, and soft sleeper. Due to the length of the trip most foreign travelers prefer a sleeper berth.
  •     The train is pressurized, but the high altitude can still damage electronics like laptops and MP3 players. Take this into consideration when packing for the journey.

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Sonam Jamphel