How to Travel from Nepal to China

Nepal and China are two neighboring countries with convenient flight and car transportation options for reaching each side. Meanwhile, a railway construction plan is in the works which will connect Lhasa and Kathmandu together. The railway is expected to be completed by 2022. In this article, you’ll find detailed information on how to travel from Nepal to China by several different methods.

Travel from Nepal to China by Air

Kathmandu Tribhuvan Airport is the only airport in Nepal which has flight routes to China. Presently, there are flights going from Kathmandu to 6 cities in China, including Lhasa, Chengdu, Kunming, Guangzhou, Xi’an and Hong Kong. The same as Nepal, situated at Himalayan Ranges, Tibet is the nearest destination with about 1.5 hours of flying from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Below you can find the flight details from Nepal to China:

Nepal to China Flight Schedule
Departure Arrival Flight No. Air Company Airport & Time Duration & Stopover

Kathmandu

Lhasa 3U8720 Sichuan Airlines KTM(11:30)-LXA(15:05) 1h20m / Nonstop
CA408 Air China KTM(12:10)-LXA(16:00) 1h35m / Nonstop
Chengdu CA438 Air China KTM(10:40)-CTU(15:10) 3h15m / Nonstop
3U8720 Sichuan Airlines KTM(11:30)-CTU(19:00) 5h15m / Lhasa
Kunming MU2594 China Eastern Airlines KTM(16:25)-KMG(22:05) 3h25m / Nonstop
MU758 China Eastern Airlines KTM(17:25)-KMG(23:05) 3h25m / Nonstop
Guangzhou CZ6068 China Southern Airlines KTM(12:15)-CAN(18:55) 4h25m / Nonstop
CZ3068 China Southern Airlines KTM(22:40)-CAN(05:10)
+ 1 day
4h15m / Nonstop
Xi’an TV6020 Tibet Airlines KTM(16:45)-XIY(23:20) 4h20m / Nonstop
Hong Kong RA409 Nepal Airlines KTM(11:00)-HKG(17:45) 4h30m / Nonstop
KA103 Cathay Dragon Airlines KTM(22:45)-HKG(05:40)
+ 1 day
4h40m / Nonstop

Please note:
1. The departure time and arrival time are set to the local time. Nepal is 2 hours and 15 minutes behind China.
2. Due to the seasonal difference, the flight schedules above are for reference only. Please contact us for the latest details.

Travel from Nepal to China by Land

If you have a more flexible schedule, then taking an overland tour from Nepal to China via the Friendship Highway throughout Tibet will be a wonderful experience. You’ll start from Kathmandu, cross the Nepal-China border, and then drive eastward amid the spectacular Himalayan landscapes utill you reach Lhasa. The total length of this famous highway is about 1,120 kilometers and the suggested travel time is between 3 to 7 days, depending on what sights you'll want to see along the way.

There are three borders going from Nepal to China. These borders include the Zhangmu border, Gyirong border and Purang border in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The Zhangmu border was destroyed during the Earthquake of 2015, and now it is only accessible to companies that are transporting goods. Unfortunately, it is still not open to tourists yet. The Gyirong border is the most commonly used border for tourists nowadays, while the Purang border is closer for anyone traveling to the holy Mount Kailash.

Sightseeing During the Overland Trip

Mount Kailash: It is located in one of the coldest regions of Tibet. For this reason, between December and March, it is usually not advisable for tourists to visit Mount Kailash either for sightseeing or trekking. The months of May, June, September and October are the peak months for trekking Mount Kailash because the days are clear during those months. They have the least rain and wind out of any other time of the year. When you want to travel to Mount Kaialash, you will need more time to obtain the necessary travel permits for foreign tourists. It is recommended that you book an organized Mount Kailash tour about two months ahead of time in order to guarantee its availability to you.

Tibet side Everest Base Camp: If you hope to have a clear panoramic view of the summit, try to avoid the rainy season of July, August, and possibly September. This is a time when the rain, fog, and mist may shield your view and prevent you from seeing the sights clearly. The other negative factor is the heavy winds that last from November until the following May. During this time, February and March have the strongest winds. Thus, late April, May, October and November are the four most suitable months to go sightseeing at Mount Everest.

Tibet side Everest Base Camp
Tibet side Everest Base Camp

Shigatse-the Home of Panchen Lama: Same as Lhasa, the second-largest city, Shigatse is another culturally abundant town with a long history. The Tashilhunpo Monastery has been the residence of Panchen Lama for many generations and also the tomb of the past Panchen Lamas.

Yamdrok Lake: Unlike Namtso Lake, Yamdrok Lake never gets completely frozen even all year round. It only gets partially frozen in December, January and February. Located on the way from Gyantse to Lhasa, it is always included in an overland tour from Nepal to Tibet. Normally, we will drive along the lake for a while and you can enjoy the lake view from different section. The color of the lake varies with the change of the sunlight, from the deep azure blue to a fantastic turquoise. 

Lhasa-the Holy City: Lhasa is suitable to visit all year round, even in the winter. Located in the flat valley of Lhasa River, with an altitude of 3,650 meters, Lhasa is relatively friendly for newcomers who need to acclimatize to the high altitude. Undoubtedly, it is the spiritual center of Tibet and a place where all Tibetans had dispersed into other regions of China and overseas. Even in the cold winter, the daytime sunlight generously warms up the visitors and the residents on the land. Sunbathing in a square of Lhasa has become a lovely tradition of many tourists. It can be a relaxing break after spending hours taking culture trip to Potala Palace or Johkang Temple. To observing the pilgrims doing their prostration, invocation, and praying. It can be the inspiration for your meditation and retrospection.

Potala Palace in Lhasa
Potala Palace in Lhasa

Continue the Trip to the Rest of China

There are dozens of flights and trains departing from Lhasa to the rest of China, so you can easily continue traveling around the whole country. The transportion network starts from the major gateway cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu and links to many other smaller cities like Shangri-La, Lijiang, Xining, etc. Furthermore, you could also extend your overland trip to Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan.

Travel from Nepal to China by Train in the Future

Travel from Nepal to China has been very easy nowadays because there are daily flights and overland road trip options available. Unfortunately, the train option from Nepal to China is still not accessible. The railway to link China and Nepal is now in the process of construction, with the joint effort of both countries.

China to Nepal Railway will be comprised of a section in Tibet, China and Nepal. It will start from Shigatse, Tibet, and extend to Gyirong, Tibet, which is the border town between Tibet, China and Nepal. and extend to Nepal. The length of the railway from Shigatse to Gyirong is 540 kilometers, and it will hopefully be completed by 2022. As indicated by the Chinese media, the blueprint of the China Nepal Railway is to further connect Kathmandu and the Nepali tourist city Pokhara, and Buddha's birthplace, Lumbini City.

It’s said that the maximum speed of the train to run through China Nepal Railway will be 120km/h, which is limited and set according to the special geographical landscape. When the construction of China Nepal Railway is completed, it will be the highest railway in the world. It will even replace the current No. 1, the Qinghai Tibet Highway.

China-Nepal Railway Map
China-Nepal Railway Map

Visa & Permit Issuance for Traveling from Nepal to China through the Tibet Autonomous Region

If you plan to travel from Nepal to China through the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), then you need to get a Chinese Group Visa which is much different than a regular visa. This special visa is required to board flights to TAR or pass through the Nepal-China border. All foreign travelers (Nepalese included) have to apply for the Chinese Group Visa in Kathmandu, Nepal, and all the procedures are usually processed through an agency. So, please make sure to keep in touch with them before you arrive in Kathmandu, and make sure they can get your original passport ready in time.

Tourists from Singapore, Japan, Brunei, Serbia etc need no Chinese Visa to enter China if they stay less than 15 days but when they fly or travel overland to China via Tibet, they also need to apply for a Chinese Group Visa in Kathmandu. But Tourists from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan etc. cannot get the group visa in Kathmandu. They are suggested to get their Chinese Visa in their home country and enter Tibet from another city.

Another situation is if you already have a valid Chinese visa, then we would suggest that you first visit some cities of inland China and make your Tibet tour come after them. The reason is that your original Chinese Visa will only be applicable if you travel from inland China, but it will NOT be allowed if you go to Tibet from Nepal at the customs office.

Read more information on the visa issue at: Travel to Tibet from Nepal

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