Yushu is in the traditional Kham Area. It is a multi-ethnic town. The inhabitants are mostly Tibetan Chinese while most merchants are Han Chinese. The area has a population of over 250,000. Although it is outside the Tibet Autonomous Region, it is traditionally Tibetan, albeit increasingly populated by incomers from other parts of China.
In the morning of 14 April 2010, the town was struck by 7.1 magnitude Earthquake. More than 2,000 people died.
As of 2017, the city has been rebuilt and city life has returned to normal. There are still some minor construction works but these should not be of any problem to your visit.
A few buses depart daily between Xining and Yushu. Fare is ¥207. As of June 2017, the bus station for buses to and from Xining and other towns/cities is in the centre of the town. A taxi from anywhere to the bus station should be no more than ¥10.
If you arrive in a minivan from Sichuan it is possible you will dropped somewhere random outside of the centre. A taxi into town will cost anywhere between 5 to 20 Yuan depending on your destination, your negotiating skills and the number of people already inside.
The Yushu Batang Airport (YUS) opened in 2009 and is a small, clean airport. It is 18 KMs to the South of Yushu Town. There are multiple daily flights to and from Xining which cost between $90 and $250. There is an airport bus in town as well as taxis. Fare for a taxi will be between 50 and 100 yuan depending on your negotiating skills.
All buses from Xining going further South in Qinghai, to Zadoi or Nangqen for instance, pass by Yushu Town on their way.
Walking is the easiest way around town although there are also countless taxis and multiple bus routes. A taxi to anywhere you can walk up the hill to the Jiegu monastery. The Mani Stone Temple is a 30-40min walk to the east on the main road. Or it's convenient to take bus no.1 or 2(Y1). A taxi to the Temple of Princess Wencheng cost around Y50. Try to negotiate with a driver to see both sites as they are both outside of town in different directions.
Do not bother to have a sheepskin jacket made up unless you are prepared to leave it behind;it will start to stink once you bring it back to low altitude. However, leather cowboy hats are fine, also fox fur brocade hat. Apart from malas (tibetan rosary beads), prayer flags and other religious acoutrements, there is not a lot to buy although there are some beautiful rugs to be found on the market. However, it is almost impossible to persuade the merchant to part with one, as for reasons never fathomed, they are sold in pairs. You can also buy Caterpillar fungus in Yak Square during the summer, a famous traditional medicine.
There's many ATMs in the centre of town where you can use foreign cards ie. Mastercard, Visa.
There is a a mix of Tibetan, Hui, and Han restaurants.
Yak milk yoghurt sold by the nomad women on the corner of Yak Square is very strong but very creamy. Steer clear of yak butter; it always tastes rancid even when fresh.
You can buy many types of lager beer including Budweiser and Corona in a few locations. Also, available is Baijiu, a rice wine which has a very strong taste.
There are a few drinking establishments often referred to as "Tea Houses", but do not expect a pub atmosphere. There are also a couple of night clubs, which are worth going to just to experience young people in a disco all lining up and doing traditional dances which they all seem to know. There is also often traditional Tibetan folk singing in these clubs which is also worth seeing. The tradition is to reward the singer with a silk scarf (called a Khata) for their song. Many people will approach them during their song to place Khata on their neck.
There is a relatively cheap hotel down the alley/street which runs alongside the extremely large and expensive Yushu Hotel. There is often a Hui kebab stall near the entrance. Clean double rooms with private bathroom. 100 ¥ as of June 2017 although they will ask for more. Definitely the best option for foreigners in Yushu at this time.
At the T junction (of G214 and S308) go north the small street to the police station. 100m right of it (east) is a small hostel for 130¥ for a double room, shared bathroom with hot shower. (july 2015) 30m straight (north) is a guesthouse for 80 ¥ with a double bed. Shared bathroom no shower. (july 2015) 250m to the left (west) behind yushu hotel is a hostel for 150-180¥ clean, with own bathroom and hot shower. (july 2015) Bargaining seems difficult
Since the earthquake, most hotels were rebuilt as temporary corrugated-iron boxes, some of them unexpectedly dirty, and extremely cold in winter. Many of them can be found on the G214 to the East of the T junction. Expect to pay around Y50 for a bed (winter price) in a dirty one without electricity.
About 250 meters east of the T junction, there is an easy to find L-shaped and green-coloured budget hotel that survived the earthquake. The price is Y35 for a bed in a double room (winter price), it has electric blankets but no heating. Toilets are outside the building. Because of the wide windows in the common area, the hotel is surprisingly warm in winter. Ask the restaurants around to point you the tent where the reception is located.
As of end of October 2012, the Yushu Hotel is no longer in existence. It is a huge building site from what I could understand. The only place to stay was the San Jiang Yuan International Hotel (180Y for a common room, 240Y for a standard and 280Y for a single). This hotel is made of single-story and double-story prefabricated rooms with some heating. It is on the main road into town just before all the new apartment blocks. Mainly construction workers, government officials and police officials were staying here at the time of my trip. I only found this hotel with the help of a kind Tibetan couple who phoned and drove around until we found a room for me.
A little east, less than half a kilometer, from the centre of town T junction is a brand new hotel and restaurant in the upper storey of a Tibetan "arcade". There are a couple of "slick" western style shops both sides of the inconspicuous entrence. On the north side of the road just east of where all the minibuses park. Find the approximate position and ask anyone "binguan" and they will point. Staff are very helpful and a little English is spoken. Cheapest room is ¥268 (March 2013) for a double bed, bathroom, TV and heater. Water and power is sporadic but you will be given a candle. The big restaurant next door is popular with the locals and a fun place to be. Can be accessed from the hotel or from a red carpeted exterior stairs around the corner.
There are four daily buses to Xining, two seated and two sleepers. The trip can take anywhere from 12 to 20 hours (the seated bus is faster than the sleeper). Buses leaving before 3pm are likely to arrive in the middle of the night in Xining. On the route to Xining there are fantastic views of plains so vast they disappear into the horizon.
There is also a sleeper bus a few times a week to Chengdu in summer, which takes 32-36 hours. On the route to Chengdu the scenery is fantastically dramatic with vast mountains and river gorges. Be prepared for delays due to small avalanches temporarily blocking the roads on the way to Chengdu.
There is a sleeper bus from Yushu to Golmud once every three days. The ride takes 16 hours and costs 198 yuan. The bus departs in the early morning from the Xihang Bus Station (xīháng qìchēzhàn/西杭汽车站）. Contact the Chinese-speaking-bus driver by cell phone (13709799151) to find out on what day the buses depart for Golmud.
Regular collective minivans to Nanqen leave from outside the bus station. The trip takes three to four hours for the 170 kilometers and costs Y50 (2017).
Collective taxis to Ganzi and Dege wait for passengers on the G214 about 250 meters East of the T junction. Price per person to Ganzi is RMB 200 in a minivan or RMB 180 in a smaller car. As of 2016 the trip to Dege takes about 10 hours and the price is about is about RMB 200 in a minivan. You might have to wait a long time for the taxi to be full, and that may include spending one more night in Yushu. More convinent might be to go there one day in advance and talk with the driver. The drivers ususlly prefer to leave early (3-5 am)