The Top 10 Tibet Travel FAQs
1) What documents are necessary for going to Tibet?
For most people, to travel to Tibet, you'll need:
- Passport — valid for 6 months.
- Chinese Visa — you can apply for one from a Chinese Embassy or through China Highlights.
- Tibet Entry Permit — It is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau and is a must for foreigners entering Tibet.
Some people who wish to travel to certain areas in Tibet must also obtain:
- Travel Permit — It is required when you are planning to travel to closed areas in Tibet. These are issued after you arrive in Tibet.
- Military Permit — It is obtained to travel to some militarily sensitive areas.
Note that there are details concerning business, tourist, and student visa requirements, additional required information depending on point of entry and country of origin, and processing time that change sometimes. We can help you with that.
2) Is it possible to travel individually, or must people be part of a tour group?
All tourists must tour with a tour group. You may apply for a group visa from us (minimum of two people in a group and you must leave China with this person unless you can change the visa inside China). For more information, read "Latest FAQs about the China Visa."
Also read "Planning a Tibet Tour in 2013".
3) When is a good travel time?
Weatherwise, spring, summer, and fall are the best seasons to travel since it is warmer and sunnier.
But winter travel has its advantages for travel to Lhasa and other lower altitude destinations. Prices are lower, and the high altitude sunny weather and low precipitation makes it feel comfortable during the day and much warmer than it is.
Winter is also the time to see the great Tibetan winter festivals such as the Tibetan New Year Festival.
Times to avoid: March is a politically sensitive month, and there are usually travel and visit restrictions, so it is better to avoid it. From October 1 to 7, huge numbers of Chinese travelers swarm into Tibet during this period.
4) Is altitude sickness a big problem?
In general, most healthy people will experience altitude sickness for at least two days. High altitude sickness is also called mountain sickness. It can occur when people who are not acclimated travel above about 2,400 meters (8,000 feet). Lhasa sits at a heady 3,650 meters (11,500 feet), and it is one of the lower altitude destinations in Tibet.
You might feel sick and get headaches until you are acclimated. We advise that before the trip you do aerobic exercise such as jogging. Get into shape and eat well before you go. Also, consult a physician.
At China Highlights we aim to make your tour as enjoyable as possible. Tell us any medical concerns you have and we will do our best to advise and accommodate your needs on a tour.
You may find it helpful to read one of our staff's personal mountain sickness experience, which also recounts the various altitude reactions of her tour group.
5) Which parts of Tibet are closed areas that require special travel permits?
At present you have to apply for a Travel Permit if you are planning to visit the following places:
- Tsetang: Samye Monastery, Tomb of Tibetan King, Changdruk Temple, Yumbulakhang
- Shigatse: Sakya Monastery, Mt. Everest, Rongbuk Monastery
- Gyangtse: Pelkor Chode Monastery & Kubum Stupa
- Nqari Region
- Basumtso lake in Nyingchi Region
- Chamdo Region
The Lhasa and Nagqu regions are open to foreign travelers and don't require a special Travel Permit.
Military Permit: Some areas of Ngari, Nyingchi, and Nagqu are regarded as military sensitive areas and require a special Military Permit. It normally takes 1–2 working days, and the cost is 100 yuan/person.
Please contact us for the latest policy information, or share the latest news with us.
6) Where are the best places to go?
The Potala Palace is the number one attraction and probably a place you've seen in movies. It is a symbol of Tibet. The majestic white and red building complex is set against grey and green mountains and blue sky. It is an iconic image of the Roof of the World.
It is a huge treasure house of materials and articles from Tibetan history, religion, culture, and art. It the must-see attraction which is included on almost all Tibet tour itineraries.
Jokhang Temple is the most sacred temple for Tibetan people. Pilgrims travel from all over Tibet to their spiritual focal point. No Lhasa tour is complete without visiting Jokhang Temple.
Barkhor Street is Lhasa’s pilgrimage circuit around Jokhang Temple. For tourists, it is their favorite market street for souvenirs.
We have a variety of tours to choose from to tour these and see other favorite tourists sights:
Tibet tour best sellers:
- 4-Day Essence Tour of Lhasa — the Potala, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Sera Monastery
- 8-Day Everest Base Camp Tour — the above + Yamdrok Lake, Everest, and Tashilunpo Monastery
- 6-Day Tibetan Discovery Tour — the above without Everest
China Highlights can help you customize a Tibet tour and provide help to choose and go see the places you'd really like. See Lhasa with our best selling Tibet tour. We will help you get a Tibet Entry Permit.
7) Is the politics a problem?
Most tourists who stay with their tour and avoid getting involved in the politics of the country, will not experience problems.
8) What to pack, carry, and wear?
- Clothes: Warm clothes are needed even in summer as the day-night temperature drop is big. A thick coat is essential if you go to the Everest.
- Sunglasses are really important.
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Altitude sickness medicine
- A good camera
Also see our Top 10 Tibet Travel Tips.
9) Things to do, not do?
- Walk clockwise around Barkhor Street, especially during the rush hour of pilgrimage from 9 am to 6 pm.
- Taking photos of Buddha statues is not allowed in the majority of Tibetan monasteries. In some monasteries, such as Tashilhunpo Monastery, tourists can take pictures of the Buddha statues after paying some money.
- Ask permission first before taking pictures of other people in the Barkhor areas. Sometimes they will ask you for money, but most of time it is fine to give them a little gift.
- Do not enter monasteries without permission. Smoking is not allowed when visiting monasteries.
10) Is there an Everest tour trip?
I updated this article on September 24, 2013
See all my travel articles