Golmud – Lhasa Trains

Hardly do people know the place – Golmud, if you are not planning the overland trip to Tibet by train. Golmud is the second biggest city in Qinghai province en route Xining to Lhasa. Golmud, built for mining natural sources such as salt, magnesium etc, has nothing to offer except dry desert. Though less popular and small, Golmud is the nearest city where tourists can take trains to Lhasa from inland China, with only 1,142 km and approximately 12 hours train journey.

All trains bound for Lhasa via Golmud makes a 20-minute stop here in the morning, then beginnings to climb up to Tibet Plateau from 2780m to the highest point 5200m. In other words, Golmud is the real start points of the high altitude train journey.


Train No. Destinations Depart Arrival Run Time Distance Frequency
Z264/Z265 Guangzhou to Lhasa 04:46 (17:43) 1142km 12h 57m Every Other Day
Z917 Lanzhou to Golmud (23:48) (13:39) 1142km 13h 51m Every Other Day
Z21 Beijing to Lhasa (00:35) (14:30) 1142 km 13h 55m Every Day
Z9801 Xining to Lhasa (23:48) (13:39) 1142km 13h51m Every Other Day
Z164 Shanghai to Lhasa (05:11) (18:57) 1142km 13h51m Every Day
T22 Chengdu to Lhasa 02:04 15:28 1142km 13h24m Every Other Day

Important Notice

To make sure the train you choose from Golmud to Lhasa is traveling almost during the daytime, the scenery is stunning from Golmud. If you choose the wrong train you will miss a big part of the sightseeing. However the proper train sometimes is not easy to book in Summer, as the trains are always overbooked from Shanghai, Guangzhou, and there is no enough vacancy for short distance Gulmod-Lhasa transfer.

How to get to Gulmud

By Plane: Golmud Airport operates flights to and from Xining and Xian.

By Train: Golmud station (Qinghai Huochezhan) is on Jiangyuan Road. Situated to the south of the city, the station is a modern building, completed in 1979, and is convenient for travellers coming from the city to get to. Taxis from downtown to the station only cost the initial rate, and there are a few local buses that pass by the station.

While all the trains stop at Golmud – and there are 17 trains that pass through each day – passengers to Lhasa may not get off there and catch a later train. If the city is not the arrival city listed on your ticket, you will not be allowed to leave the station, so if you want to visit, you need to get a ticket direct to Golmud. It has direct connections with the following major cities:
Beijing (34 hours), Chengdu, (28 hours), Chongqing (28 hours), Guangzhou (46 hours), Lanzhou (16-17 hours), Lhasa (14 hours), Shanghai (37 hours) and Xining (14-16 hours), Xi’an (20-22 hours)

Sightseeing nearby Golmud

Just 60km to the northeast of the city lies Qarhan Salt Lake, the largest inland salt lake in the world, with an area of 5,856 square kilometres, and to the east lies Qinghai Lake. The area is rich in wildlife, and an ideal place to enjoy the landscape of the region. The Kunlun Mountains lie to the south, their snow-capped peaks clearly visible from the city, and the Kekexili National Nature Reserve is to the southwest.

The reserve covers an area of around 45,000 square km and is set to become the newest UNESCO world heritage site in 2017. It encompasses China’s largest area of uninhabited land and has an average elevation of 4,600 meters. This remote nature reserve is home to over 200 species of wild animals, many of which are now endangered species, such as the Tibetan antelope. While this remote, uninhabited area is barren and harsh, it is one of the most amazing landscapes in the world.

Golmud Connects Silk Road and Tibet

Though Golmud is a very small and remote city in the dry desert of north-west China, it is a vital hub connecting Silk Road Travel with Tibet Travel. A 530km bus ride connects Dunhuang (famous of Mogao Cave) with Golmud. There are buses running between these two cities every day, starting at 8 am in Golmud and ending in Dunhuang at 5 pm. Price is around 20 USD.

What sort of window view do we expect to see?

Just like the road trip by car, one could enjoy the scenery on both sides of the road. The stunning scenery along the Tibet railway line will never let you down. As the train passes Xining and enters the Golmud region, the breathtaking view appears one after another. Be sure to capture the memorable experience with your camera. Major attractions are Qarhan Salt Lake, Yuzhu Peak, Kekexili Nature Reserve, Tuotuo He River, Tangula pass, Tsonag Lake, Qiangtang prairie, Namtso, etc.

Having a ride on Qinghai-Tibet train route is definitely the experience of a lifetime. Besides, the long-distance and pressurized train tailor-made for acclimatization of extreme altitude make the ride different from another train journey. Following tips are suggested for tourists to better enjoy the Views on Tibet train. See more: the detailed introduction of the scenery of Qinghai-Tibet railway.

Railway Rules and Regulations You Should Know

China railway rules and regulations are different from any other country in the world. Getting familiar with these rules will make your rail travel in China more successful and happy!

Carry-on Luggage Rules:

  • Inflammable and explosive dangerous goods, animal and pet are not allowed to take on board the train.
  • Weight requirement for carry-on luggage: maximum weight of carry-on luggage is 10kg for a child passenger, the maximum weight for carry-on luggage is 20kg for an adult passenger.
  • Size requirment for carry-on luggage: total length of your carry-on luggage ( length+width+height) should be under 200cm.

Requirements for Child Tickets

Instead of age, China railway has special requirements on height to buy child ticket. Summary of child ticket requirements:

  • Children with a height under 120cm can enjoy free rail travel and don’t need to pay to travel by train.
  • Children with the height of 120cm and 150cm have rights to buy discounted train tickets. Price for a sleeper ticket for a child is about 70% of that of an adult ticket.
  • Children with the height above 150cm should buy fully-priced train tickets no matter how old they are.
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