Yushu is in the traditional Kham Area. It is a multi-ethnic town. The inhabitants are mostly Tibetan 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 Tibetan, albeit increasingly flooded with Chinese incomers.
In the morning of 14 April 2010, the town was struck by 7.1 magnitude Earthquake. Around 2,000 people died.
As of end of June 2015, the majority of the city has been rebuilt and city life returned to normal. Some construction works is still on going, but this should not be any problem for your visit.
A few buses depart daily from Xining and Yushu. Fare is ¥207. As of February 2012, the bus station for buses to and from Xining is about 10 km East of Yushu Town on the G214, too far away to be walkable. This will be the case until the new bus station is built in Yushu Town.
Entering Yushu, it is very possible that the bus will drop you off a bit further than the bus station, maybe as close to town as the Mani Temple. Taxis into town will cost anywhere between one to twenty yuans depending on your destination, your negociating skills and the number of people already inside.
Buses going further South in Qinghai, to Zadoi or Nangqen for instance, pass by Yushu Town on their way.
From Ganzi buses are available in summer only, and the station is allegedly at the midpoint between the Xining bus station and town, around 5 km outside the latter, on the G214.
The Yushu Batang Airport (YUS) is serving Yushu County since August 2009. It is 18 kilometers to the south of Yushu. There is one daily flight to and from Xining at a cost of $249. A bus is available into town as well as negotiable taxi services.
Walking is the easiest way around town, 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.
Generally there are more and more muslim and han-chinese places. But you can still find tibetan food if you search for it. (July 2015)
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 (3 Yuan a bottle in 2005) in many shops around town, and also in many restaurants. 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.
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.
Regular collective minivans to Nanqen leave from Shengli Rd (G214) about 500 meters south of the T junction. The trip takes three to four hours for the 170 kilometers and costs Y50 (2012).
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 (2012). As of 2015 the trip to Dege takes about 12 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)