Tibet Travel Tips
All non-Chinese passport holders need a Tibet Travel Permit to visit Tibet, and the only way to enter Tibet is to travel in groups. Non individual travelers are allowed to travel to Tibet at the moment. All tours must be booked in advance by a Chinese travel agency. Your whole tour in Tibet must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide.
Permits and Documentation
A Tibet Permit is required for any foreigners to enter Tibet, and the entry city to Tibet must agree with the city shown on the permit that has been issued. Differences in any detail will result in non-allowance of entry to Tibet. According to Chinese government regulations, Tibet Travel Permit is not to be applied by the travelers, but has to be applied through a reputed Chinese travel agency, with which the travelers have booked a Tibet tour. China Highlights will arrange the Tibet Travel Permit for our customers who book their Tibet tours with us.
Your travel agency will need to submit your information to Tibet Tourism Bureau who will strictly review before issuing the permits. We need your passport details at least two weeks ahead of your arrival time so as to process the formalities and delivery. All the members in a group are required to provide the following information (all must be true and same as shown on your passport) to their travel agency before applying for the Tibet permit:
a) a copy of China Visa
b) a copy of your passport including photo page (must be very clear and high-definition);
c) full names as in passport
d) your birthday
e) your current profession
f) your nationality
g) your gender.
Your whole tour in Tibet must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide. Do bring the permit with you when in Tibet. The government will ask you to show your permit at any moment, especially at airports, trains stations, bus stations or tourist spots. The absence of permit will result in unnecessary trouble.
Foreign tourists who travel from Zhangmu in Tibet to Kathmandu in Nepal, or travel to Mt. Everest by land should apply for Nepal visa upon arrival at the border. Two passport photos and visa fees are required. Visa fees depend on nationalities and types, ranging from USD 30-100 (cash only). (China Highlights will take care of application for Nepal visa for customers who book their Nepal tours with us). It is a good idea to change your currency to Nepal Rupee at the border as you may need it for porters or taxi.
Tour and Hotel Booking
All Tibet tours must be booked at least 20 days in advance. It normally takes 2-3 days to confirm the hotel bookings and about 10 days for the Tibet Tourism Bureau to issue the Tibet Travel Permit. It would be wise to leave enough time to prepare for the trip in advance.
Hotels must be booked in advance in peak season from May to October. Tibet sees increasing number of travelers recently, in peak season in particular. The result is that hotel demand is huge and travelers who do not have their hotel booked in advance have difficulty to find a decent hotel. Not all hotels in Lhasa have the right permits to allow foreign travelers. All hotel reservations must be made at hotels that officially allow foreigners. Search and book Lhasa Hotels.
Climate and Altitude
Large parts of Tibet are covered by snow and ice most of the year due to the high altitude. Weather there is changeable even within one day. Climate also varies in different areas. The best time to travel to tibet is from May to October when the weather is more comfortable and humid. Travel to tibet in other time of the year is possible as long as you are prepared for the chilliest weather. Read more information on Tibet weather.
Solar radiation is very strong because of Tibet's high altitude and thin air. You are recommended to bring sunglasses to protect your eyes, sunscreen cream and lip protection. In addition, the increased solar radiation makes it worth considering taking a camera with an ultraviolet filter to ensure the high quality of pictures taken.
In Tibet, you need to pay attention to your physical condition, giving time to acclimatize to the altitude to avoid altitude sickness. Do not run or do strenuous exercise, and take effective measures to prevent sunburn, drink lots of water and rest well especially on the first day of arrival. See Altitude Sickness. Traveling to Tibet with chronic sickness, hypertension or if you have heart disease is unwise. If you have a cold or fever, it is not advisable to go to Tibet, as they can easily turn into pneumonia, which can be fatal in low-oxygen highland areas.
Local Conditions and Facilities
Hotel: 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-rating 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.
Road conditions: Speed limits of 40 km/h, 60 km/h or 80 km/h are in place on the way from Lhasa to some attractions or cities around, such as Yamdrok Lake, Gyangtze, Namtso and Nyingchi. There will be policemen monitoring speed on the way. Therefore the journey will be slower than in other places. If going to remote areas, be prepared for bumpy roads. In winter from November, the roads to Lake Namtso or Mt. Everest are usually closed due to snow or bad weather. It is suggested that tourists visit in some other time, or check with our travel advisors about the latest situation
Eating: In Lhasa City, eating is very convenient because many restaurants have English menus. Western restaurants are also available there. In places outside of Lhasa you are suggested to lower your expectations. China Highlights usually arranges all the meals for tours to remote areas to ensure that our customers get clean and most passable food. However, you should also understand that attractions in remote areas are far away from each other and take up a long time on road transportation. Restaurants along the way are usually very simple. It is suggested that you bring some snacks and food with you.
Respect Local Customs
Tibetan people are among the easiest to get along with in China. However, visitors should respect local customs and traditions. Besides, tourists should avoid any political issues when traveling in Tibet. You can also read more about Chinese Etiquette.
- Do not talk about sensitive topics like politics when in Tibet.
- Do not try to talk with some lamas about their lives and religions.
- Walk clockwise around the Barkhor Street, especially during the rush hour of pilgrimage from 9 am to 6 pm.
- Taking photos of Buddha statues are 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 ok to give them a little gift.
- Do not enter monasteries without permission. Smoking is not allowed when visiting monasteries. Dress properly, not in shorts or sunglasses.
- It is suggested that you prepare about 20 bills of 1 yuan to give to beggars when encountered.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do not buy anything made from wild animals' skin or bones, as it may cause problems when you try to leave the area.
- During religious festivals, many pilgrims come to monasteries to pay religious homage. At some monasteries, there are special passages for visitors. Do not join into the crowd or queue of pilgrims.
Tibet Train Tickets
Traveling on rail to Tibet is very popular and relatively cheaper compared to flights, therefore Tibet train tickets are hard to get, particulary during peak season from May to October. The service charge of train ticket booking is unbelievably high. China Highlights takes care of the train tickets for our customers who book tours with us. We will try our best to obtain the requested train tickets but cannot 100% guarantee. If such case happens, we will suggest alternatives to ensure a smooth journey. See our China Train Tour Packages.
It is forbidden for non-passengers to meet tourists inside the railway station. So, when the train arrives at Lhasa Railway Station, tourists need to walk out to the square in front of the railway station to meet their tour guides.
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