To optimize your time in Tibet, we offer these 10 important travel tips.
All non-Chinese passport holders need a Tibet Entry Permit to visit Tibet, and the only way to enter Tibet is to travel in groups. No individual travelers are allowed to travel to Tibet at the moment. All tours must be booked in advance by a Chinese travel agency, like us. Your whole tour in Tibet must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide.
The Tibet Entry Permit is very important. It will be checked at the train station/airport, when you enter attractions in Tibet, and even when you check in to a hotel. So take care of it.
All Tibet tours must be booked at least 20 days in advance. It normally takes 2–3 days to confirm hotel bookings, and about a further 10 days for the Tibet Tourism Bureau to issue the Tibet Entry Permit.
You should make sure you secure an Entry Permit, especially if new restrictions are brought in, before you apply for a visa and make the final preparations for your trip, unless you are willing to consider alternatives to Tibet once you arrive in China.
Recommended duration for a Tibet trip: If your travel will be limited to areas around Lhasa, 4 days is enough; if you want to go to Mt. Everest, you need at least a week.
Try to keep healthy and not catch even a cold before entering and while in Tibet, as illness makes any altitude sickness feel worse. Take it easy and rest well, keep warm, drink a lot of water, and eat simply the first two days in Tibet to reduce any altitude sickness symptoms.
Tibet is usually closed for most of February and March for the politically sensitive time of Tibetan New Year. So we suggest you to plan a Tibet tour from April 15th onwards to be on the safe side.
In general, the best time to visit Tibet is from May to October when the weather is comfortable and oxygen content higher. This is Tibet’s high travel season.
You may consider visiting Tibet in the low season to enjoy a less-crowded trip and various discounts.
Read more on Tibet weather.
The quickest and most convenient way is to fly in and fly out. But if you want to experience the train trip, and see amazing mountain plateau views, you can take a train out.
We don’t suggest you take a train to Tibet as the long journey on the train may make you very tired, which is bad for high attitude acclimatization. And because of high demand for and limited supply of trains to Tibet, tickets are very hard to get.
Clothes: Warm clothes, such as sweaters and fleeces are needed even in summer as the day-night temperature drop is big. A thick down coat is essential if you go to Everest. If you go in the low season bring mountain winter clothes. Bring sunglasses and sunscreen to protect you from strong sunlight. Lip cream: It is very dry so bring a lip cream to protect your lips. Comfortable walking shoes: Almost all monasteries have steep steps to climb. Snacks if your tour includes long road trips, and in case you don’t like the local food. Altitude sickness medicine: Taking the medicine one day before arriving at high altitude increases effectiveness. Motion sickness medicine: if you may have motion sickness on long mountain road journeys. Anti-diarrhea medicine: Tibetan food is very different from what you are probably used to, and it may not agree with your digestive system.
Read more about what to pack for a Tibet tour.
Photography: 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 the time it is ok to give them a little gift.
Monasteries: Smoking is not allowed when visiting monasteries. Dress properly, not in shorts or sunglasses.
Visiting a local family: If you have a chance to visit a local family, let the oldest people go first when you walk together with them. Do not step on the threshold when entering a tent or house. Do not touch the heads of people with your hands.
Manners: If you have a chance to have dinner with Tibetans, do not eat with your mouth overfull, and do not chew or drink noisily. When the host/hostess hands you something, for example a cup of tea, take it with both hands to show your respect and appreciation.
Shopping: Do not buy anything made from wild animals' skin or bones, as it may cause problems when you try to leave the area.
Don’ts: Do not talk about sensitive topics like politics when in Tibet. Do not try to debate with lamas about their lives and religions. Do not enter monasteries without permission.
Walk clockwise around Barkhor Street, especially during the rush hour of pilgrimage from 9 am to 6 pm.
During religious festivals, many pilgrims come to monasteries to pay religious homage. At some monasteries there are special passages for tourists. Do not join with the pilgrim crowds or queues.
Beggars: It is suggested that you prepare about 20 easily accessible 1 yuan bills if you want to give to beggars when encountered.
Keep in mind that you travel to Tibet for its old culture and scenery, but not comfort. Visiting a Tibetan house will probably be a big culture shock.
The facilities and service standard of hotels in Tibet is not what you would expect from a hotel with the same rating in Beijing or Shanghai. Hotels in Lhasa are relatively comfortable with heating systems and hot water in winter. Some star-rated hotels have in-house doctors to take care of minor discomforts.
Hotels in small cities and towns outside Lhasa only have very basic facilities, some even without a heating system and hot water in the freezing winter.
If you are planning a Tibet tour, please see our popular 5-Day Lhasa and Yomdrok Lake Tour for inspiration. Or you can Contact us to tailor-make a Tibet tour according to your interests. We will help you get a Tibet Entry Permit if you book your tour with us.