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China - Qinghai - Alternative route from Golmud to Yushu

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China - Qinghai - Alternative route from Golmud to Yushu

Hi everybody!
This summer I crossed the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai, entering from Xinjiang, through Golmud, Yushu and exiting in Sichuan.
If you are interested in this route, be aware that South from Golmud (30-35km) there's a police checkpoint. Even if you are allowed to travel in Qinghai, since that road leads to Lhasa, the police can stop and not let you pass, even if you explain that you are heading to Yushu. There are reports of people that had to come back to Golmud as well as lucky guys who were able to convince the police.
If you don't feel so lucky and want to take a police-free route, there is another option that you can't see on google maps or OSM, and is more ore less the same length.
Instead of going South, from Golmud take East along the road to Xining (G109). After around 300km you will reach a town called Xiangride. It is before Dulan. There is an highway under constructions that from here passes the mountains (4400m) and then takes you to the G214 to Yushu, near the Donggei Cuona Lake. The junction in Xiangride wasn't finished yet in August 2015, so it's not so easy to find it, but you can ask local people. Just do not follow the old brown signs to Gouli, because it is the old, narrow, unpaved road. Anyway, coming from Golmud, the junction is just few hundreds meters before the bridge on the river.
The highway is perfectly paved except 4-5 km on top (as August 2015), but still in good conditions. It's about 150km to reach the G214, and there are no towns in the middle, only few houses. Almost no traffic at all.

Hope it may help you,


WS Member WS Member's picture
Hi Davide, Thanks so much for

Hi Davide,
Thanks so much for sharing this information - exactly what I need to know and I spotted your post totally by accident on the WS front page! I am in Urumqi planning the next stage of my cross China ride to Vietnam via Qinghai.
I am also hoping to renew my 30 day tourist visa in Golmud. Did you have any experience of renewing there?

My inclination is to try my luck on the south route with the police checkpoint and if I get turned back, so be it it's only a 70km detour to return to Golmud and then follow the alternative route that you describe (if I have understood you correctly?).

Thanks again and all the best,


WS Member WS Member's picture
Hi Dan, I don't have any idea

Hi Dan,
I don't have any idea about visa extensions in Golmud. But be aware that there it's impossible to find a cheap hotel (or hostel) that accepts foreigners: I had to stay in a very expensive one (35$ per night, if I remember well). Even the Youth International Hostel didn't accept me!

If you have enough time to risk 70km of round trip, I think yours is the best solution: the road between Golmud and Xiangride is not that nice (it sucks!), while the plateau at more than 4000m in the South is much better.

Have a nice and safe trip,

WS Member WS Member's picture
Golmud - hotels

Golmud - hotels
There are a few cheap hotels which take foreigners on Bayi E Road. They don't have the permission to host foreigners so you better arrive quite late in the evening. Doubles are 80-120Y and we got a triple for 150Y. Large, but basic rooms with shower, TV and toilet. The wifi was so and so. Great breakfast restaurants nearby. Baozi, hot soy milk etc.

Golmud - visa extensions
PSB is located on the north side of either Jianshe or Qaidamu Road (can't remember which). Perfect English spoken. Golmud is an autonomous area and the authority doesn't have to follow the general rules about visa regulations. I have gotten good extension in Golmud, even during the aftermath of the 2008 riots in Lhasa when extensions were close to impossible everywhere else in the country.

Alternative route to Yushu
If you like wilderness, rough roads and taking care of yourself you can take a right at Nuomuhong about 145km east of Golmud. The route is a combination of grassland motorcycle paths and dirt tracks (good and bad). In some parts you better ask the locals where to go as it's not always obvious. Water is plenty (rivers), but food is very scarce. Shop for ten to fourteen days before leaving 109.
There are many alternative routes to S308, but the one in the best condition will take you to a place in between Qumalai and Qumahe. That's about 310-325km from Yushu. A rough, but beautiful route.
Don't consider it if:
You love asphalt and long distances every day.
You hate river crossings.
You can't be without wifi, shops, a shower etc. every second day

WS Member WS Member's picture
Quick update: I sailed

Quick update: I sailed through the checkpoint south of Golmud without anyone so much as batting an eye!
I was all prepared with my map with the route to Yushu highlighted, magic letter in Chinese, ready to swear an oath that I wouldn't enter Tibet. But there was a massive queue of trucks & I just cycled up inside on the dirt shoulder, timed it so one of them was pulling away from the barrier just as I came up alongside. I was expecting someone to shout stop, but nothing happened so I just mosied on through & bought a coke in the petrol station immediately after. It was too easy!
Another cyclist I know has also recently passed through, although she was questioned a fair bit before being registered and allowed to continue to Yushu.

Unregistered anon_user's picture
Time of the year?

Hey guys, this post has been enormously helpful. I'm in Yushu now planning to set off tomorrow for Golmud (on the 308 route). Just curious if when you guys made this trip and what was the weather like? I've been cycling through western Sichuan and the snow had been pretty brutal for the last few days. Also, and on a very serious note: what were your experiences with stray dogs? I've been carrying a stick to beat some back when they chase me and the dogs seem to be getting bigger and more stray the further north and west I go.. Any tips or experience here?


WS Member WS Member's picture


I have been on this road four times and I'd say it doesn't really matter when you go - the weather is unstable and unpredictable regardless of the season. I got blasted by a blizzard in the middle of the summer in Qumahe, but on the other hand I was riding in shorts and T-shirt close to Yushu in October.
Expect fast changing weather. Snow, hail, rain, gales, but also calm, sun and T-shirt-weather. It can all be experienced during the same day :)

There are some hamlets with aggressive dogs along the way. Most of the time the Tibetans living there try to stop the dogs from attacking, but not always. I have sometimes been in situations when they've been laughing, encouraging the dogs to go for the biker. This has only happened on rare occasions and not on this stretch, but keep it in mind.
I usually have rocks handy and in really bad areas (Northern Kham for example) I have also carried a big stick.


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