Qinghai Tibet Railway Information and Tips

Qinghai Tibet Railway

Taking Qinghai Tibet train travel is probably once a lifetime experience for westerners. Since its completion in early 2006, the railway has become an increasingly popular Tibet tour option that offers stunning views of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Those looking for in depth cultural experiences will love taking the train; it provides opportunities to meet people from all over Tibet and China! Tibetan and Chinese will be excited to meet travelers on the train.

The scenery along the Qinghai Tibet railway is really wonderful. Tourists will have opportunities to have spectacular views of snow-capped peaks and glaciers, stunning lakes, endangered wildlife like Tibetan antelopes, wild horses and eagles, and lone nomad families dwelling in black tents and scattered villages. Below are some facts about Qinghai Tibet railway and travel, read more essentials on Qinghai Tibet train travel before you go.

Facts on Qinghai-Tibet Railway-Highest Railway in the World

  • Qinghai-Tibet Railway is the highest railway in the world and it is at least 200 meters higher than the Peruvian railway in the Andes, which was previously the world’s most elevated track. There are about 960 kilometers tracks located on 4,000 meters above sea level. 
  • The railway is the world’s longest railway on plateau. It is 1,956 kilometers between Xining (Qinghai Province) and Lhasa, Capital of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). 
  • There are 45 stations altogether along the railway.
  • Tanggula Railway Station, with an elevation of 5,068 meters, is the highest railway station in the world.
  • There are about 550 kilometers tracks running on frozen earth and this is the longest track in any of the world’s plateau railways.
  • Fenghuoshan Tunnel, with an elevation of 4,905 meters, is the world’s most elevated tunnel on frozen earth.
  • Kunlun Mountain Tunnel, running for 1,686 meters, is the world’s longest plateau tunnel built on frozen earth.
  • Construction of the Golmud-Lhasa section of the landmark railway commenced on June 29, 2001 and test runs were on July 1, 2006.
  • Speed limit: Max speed 100 km/h in the frozen earth areas and 120 km/h on non-frozen earth.

Facts on Qinghai Tibet Train travel ticketing and altitude sickness

  1. Trains run on fairly low altitude till Xining. Train from Beijing/Chengdu/Shanghai/Xi’an/Guangzhou to Lhasa is not a must.
  2. Xining to Lhasa one day train is fine and helpful for altitude acclimatization but it does not mean flying to Lhasa is a big problem on mountain sickness.
  3. In low tour seasons like April, November, December, January and February, it is good to take train to Lhasa because tickets normally 100% assured.
  4. In high tour seasons like May, June, July, August, September and early October, foreign tourists had better fly to Lhasa and take train down. This is because of busy ticketing situation and you cannot take the last minute chance of fighting for a soft or hard sleeper train ticket.
  5. Train Tickets are only on sales about 10 to 20 days in advance, and there are many complicated regulations in the markets, so you need to ask local Tibet travel agency to get the latest information. Think twice before you decide to take the train to Lhasa Tibet (many stories on this).