To optimize your trip to Tibet, we offer these 12 important travel tips for you.
- 1. Book 20+ Days Before Departure
- 2. Get You Tibet Entry Permits
- 3. Find the Best Time to Visit Tibet
- 4. Know What to Pack/Carry/Wear
- 5. Keep Healthy
- 6. Fly into Tibet and Take a Train Out
Tibet Travel Tips
1. Plan to book at least 20 days before your departure.
All Tibet tours must be booked at least 20 days in advance. It normally takes 2–3 days to confirm hotel bookings, then 10 days or so for the Tibet Tourism Bureau to issue a Tibet Entry Permit, and finally (if flying) the original Permit needs to be delived by mail to the flight departure city in China.
Also, you should make sure you secure an Entry Permit, especially if new restrictions are brought in, before you apply for a China visa and make the final preparations for your trip, unless you are willing to consider alternatives to Tibet once you arrive in China.
2. You need a Tibet Entry Permit to enter Tibet.
All non-China-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.
COVID-19 restrictions [June 2021] When traveling from Tibet to China's mainland, quarantine is not needed. See the latest on 9 Important Tibet Travel Restrictions You Must Know.
3. Choose the Best Time for You to Go
You may consider visiting Tibet in the low season to enjoy a less crowded trip and various discounts. 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.
Read more climatic and seasonal travel tips on Tibet Weather.
February and March Closed
Tibet is usually closed for most of February and March for the politically sensitive time of Tibetan New Year. So we suggest you plan a Tibet tour from April 10th onwards to be on the safe side. This varies from year to year.
Usually, it takes about 10 working days to apply for the permits, so the earliest dates you are suggested to enter Tibet after the Tibetan New Year closure is from:
- April 10th by train (Use permit scans we send you.)
- April 15th by flight (Extra time is needed for mail delivery because original permits must be checked.)
The ideal time for you to visit Tibet may be in time to attend one of the Tibet festivals and events.
4. Know what you need to pack/carry/wear.
Anti-diarrhea medicine: Tibetan food is probably very different from what your body is used to, and it may not agree with your digestive system.
5. Keep healthy — high altitude means 30% less oxygen.
Try to keep healthy and not catch even 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.
If you don't feel well before you depart for Tibet you are not suggested to go to Tibet. Even a cold can make altitude sickness feel a lot worse.
- 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 lip cream to protect your lips.
- Comfortable walking shoes: Almost all monasteries have steep steps to climb. Bring hiking boots if doing long walks.
- Snacks: If your tour includes long road trips, and in case you don’t like the local food, snacks are handy.
- Altitude sickness medicine: Taking such medicine one day before arriving at a high altitude increases effectiveness.
- Motion sickness medicine: Bring this if you may get motion sickness on long mountain road journeys.
6. Fly into Tibet and take a train out.
The quickest and most convenient way to visit Tibet is to fly in and fly out. But if you want to experience the Qinghai-Tibet Railway train trip, and see amazing Qinghai-Tibet Plateau views, taking a train out is better than taking one into Tibet.
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 altitude acclimatization. Because of high demand and limited supply, train tickets to Tibet are harder to get.
Contact us to inquire about Qinghai-Tibet Trains.
Recommended train tour: 7-Days Tibet Tours by Train from Xining
7. Don't miss the must-see attractions.
Recommended duration for a Tibet trip: If your travel will be limited to areas around Lhasa, 4 days is enough for the must-see attractions there. If you want to go to Mt. Everest, you will need at least a week.
Read more on How to Plan a Tibet Tour.
- Jokhang Temple: the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims. You can see lots of pilgrims kowtowing in front of Jokhang Temple.
- The Potala Palace: the highest ancient palace in the world. Its spectacular physical structure and importance in Tibetan history make it one of the wonders of the world.
- Drepung Monastery: the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Many people come here to see the Thangka Unveiling at the Shoton Festival.
- Lake Yamdrok: The turquoise water will take your breath away.
- Mt. Everest: the tallest mountain in the world.
- Trek to the Everest Camp: Consider walking and camping on the roof of the world to see more of the Himalayan scenery.
8. Respect the Tibetan people and avoid trouble.
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 area. 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 respectfully, not in shorts, revealing clothes, 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 them to beggars when encountered.
9. Know the local conditions and lower your expectations.
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 and guesthouses in small cities and towns outside Lhasa only have very basic facilities. Some don’t even have a heating system in the freezing winter. In some remote areas, you can’t even find a private room.
Consider bringing your own sleeping bag if you plan to stay overnight outside Lhasa, such as staying overnight in the Everest Base Camp area. While we can provide sleeping bags, you may at least want your own sleeping bag liner.
10. What to eat in Tibet: butter tea, yak meat, yogurt, and more.
You should try Tibetan cuisine when visiting the region. Tibetan dishes may be viewed as less sophisticated due to the limited variety of food resources available on the roof of the world, but over generations of experience, they have been developed to suit the nutritional needs of people living on the Tibetan Plateau. Local foods may therefore boost your energy levels and help you to overcome altitude sickness more than imported menus.
Momo with Yak meat
Besides Tibetan cuisine, it is possible to find restaurants offering Western, Indian, and Nepalese food in large cities, such as Lhasa and Shigatse.
However, in remote areas, it may not be easy to find what you want to eat. You may want to take some snacks with you in case you cannot adjust to local food.
Tell us your food requirements, and we will tailor-make your trip to Tibet to include food options that suit you.
11. Safety — you typically don't need to worry about this.
Is it safe to travel to Tibet? The answer is yes.
Most Tibetans have devoted Buddhists who are gentle and kind, with stealing and killing being taboo. The security situation in Tibet is even better than in some larger cities in China. It is almost impossible to encounter theft.
One thing you should take care of is the animals that have been raised by locals, such as Tibetan mastiffs (a kind of large lion-like dog). Try not to get too close to them. Other animals raised by nomads, such as yaks and goats, generally won’t attack you unless you provoke them.
The roads and other facilities in large cities and major attractions are well constructed and maintained. However, in remote areas, rainfall occasionally causes landslides and mudslides. Don’t worry, your guide in Tibet will adapt wisely to the weather conditions and will give you helpful advice.
Also read Things You Should Know in Tibet and for COVID-19 info etc. read 9 Important Tibet Travel Restrictions You Must Know.
Contact us if you have very specific questions about the situation in Tibet.
12. How much does it cost to visit Tibet? 779 USD per person for the major attractions.
Excluding the flights and train journeys to and from Tibet, a 4-day tour covering all the famous attractions in Lhasa only costs about 779 USD per person.
If you have at least one more day, a 5-day journey to visit Lhasa and holy Yamdrok Lake costs about 1,000 USD per person.
Or you can contact us to customize a Tibet tour according to your interests. We will help you get a Tibet Entry Permit if you book your tour with us.