Tibet Driving and Car Hire Info
Driving in Tibet
All areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region require foreigners to be part of an organized tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide and a private vehicle with a driver (though you don’t need a vehicle if you don’t plan to leave Lhasa).Some companies may let you do the driving but you will need a guide in the vehicle with you. The Tibetan regions of Qinghai, northern Sichuan, western Sichuan, southwest Gansu and northwest Yunnan don’t usually require travel permits or a tour guide though this can change, and these areas as well as TAR are often closed to foreigners from late February to April, which tends to be a sensitive time politically.
Due to an increase in road construction in recent years there are now 5 highways connecting Tibet with other parts of China: the Qinghai-Tibet Highway (Xining-Golmud-Lhasa), Sichuan-Tibet Highway (Chengdu-Lhasa), Yunnan-Tibet Highway (Xiaguan-Makam), Xining Highway (Yecheng-Burang), and Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway (Lhasa-Zhangmu Friendship Bridge-Kathmandu). Currently, only the Qinghai-Tibet Highway and Sino-Nepal Friendship Highway are open to foreigners at present.(May 2020).
Road conditions within Tibet are being improved all the time. This website provides up to date info on travel times and road conditions.
Recent years have seen major improvements to many roads within Tibet, hso that 4WD vehicles are now not needed in many areas. The Friendship Highway and many roads in the Yarlung Valley are now entirely paved. The road to Mt. Kailash is now paved for much of the way. The 100km of road from Baber to Everest Base Camp and the 75km from Everest Base Camp to Tingri are still gravel roads, as are many in the far west of Tibet and 4WD is preferable for these areas at most times of the year.in 2019, the world’s highest highway tunnel was opened at an altitude of over 4,750 meters above sea level. The tunnel is part of the 400-km highway linking Lhasa with Nyingchi in the southeast of Tibet.
Although many roads in Tibet are above 5000m, most are only rarely closed due to snow. The Friendship Highway which runs between Khatmandu and Lhasa rarely closes and roads most susceptible to closure are in the Kham regions of the TAR and western Sichuan.The only real exception is the road to Nam Tso which This road is often closed for weeks at a time during the winter.
Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.
Tibet Car Rental
Not surprisingly self drive car rental isn’t easy in Tibet. However there are companies who can arrange vehicles for you to drive in the country and also others who can arrange permits for travellers to take their own vehicles into Tibet. However, you will need to follow a pre arranged itinerary and have a local guide with you at all times.Please let me know if you’ve undertaken a self drive tour of Tibet, as I’d welcome hearing your experiences.