Tibet is now open for traveling. A Tibet Travel Permit (Tibet Entry Permit), is an entry license needed for all foreign nationals to enter Tibet, which is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Some travelers call it Tibet Visa, which is not exactly correct. Tibet is a part of China, thus no extra Visa is needed for traveling there.
Tibet Travel Permits must be handled by a travel agency in China and independent applications are not accepted. The application procedure is very simple: the only required documents are travelers' passports and China visa copies.
- 1. What Does a Tibet Permit Look Like?
- 2. Who Needs a Tibet Permit?
- 3. Get a Tibet Permit If You're Living in China Now
- 4. Get a Tibet Permit If You're Outside China
- 5. Get a Tibet Permit When Entering from Nepal
A Tibet Travel Permit is a sheet of paper that lists all the names of the people in a Tibet tour group along with travel dates and travel destinations in Tibet.
Different from a China visa, a Tibet Travel Permit is returned to the Tibet Tourism Bureau when a Tibet tour ends. It cannot be used for a second trip to Tibet.
Apart from a Tibet Travel Permit, an Alien's Travel Permit and Military Area Travel Permit may be needed when traveling beyond Lhasa, for example to Shigatse (Mount Everest), Ngari (Mount Kailash), Tsedang (Samye Monastery), or Nyingchi (Basum Tso).
Don't worry! A travel agency will handle all of these permits for you without any extra service fee. All you would need to do is to supply your passport and visa copies. Contact us if you have any question.
2. Who Needs a Tibet Travel Permit?
The table shows which document holders need a Tibet Travel Permit and which don't.
|Document Holders Needing a Tibet Permit||Document Holders not Needing a Tibet Permit|
|Non-Chinese passport||Chinese identity card|
|Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents||Chinese passport|
|Visa-free-China-access passport||HK Home Return Permit|
|Macau Home Return Permit|
a.) Non-Chinese passport holders: All foreign residents (non-Chinese passport holders), including expats living in China, need a Tibet Entry Permit to enter Tibet.
If you are a journalist visa or diplomat visa holder, your Tibet Entry Permit must be approved by the China Foreign Affairs Office, and you must travel accompanied by a foreign affairs officer.
b.) Special note for Indians: Indian nationals who wish to travel to the Ngari region (Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar) need to apply for a Tibet Entry Permit through the Tibet-India Pilgrim Reception Center, which is a non-governmental organization in India.
You are suggested to contact an Indian travel agency for more details. China travel agencies are unable to facilitate trips for Indian passport holders to Ngari, no matter whether for a pilgrimage or any other visit.
If you are not heading to Ngari, the application procedure for a Tibet Travel Permit is the same as for other international tourists.
c.) Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents (MTP) holders: Residents of Taiwan need a Tibet Entry Permit, including MTP holders.
d.) Visa-free passport holders: Travelers from countries with visa-free access to Chinese mainland, nevertheless need a Tibet Entry Permit.
For example, citizens of Singapore or Japan can enjoy a visa-free stay of no more than 15 days in Chinese mainland, but they still need to apply for a Tibet Entry Permit using their passports to enter Tibet.
e.) China passport / China ID cardholders: Some people living outside of China have both a China passport and a China identity card. Many ask us which should be used to travel to Tibet.
We say… Please travel to Tibet using your China identity card so that you can visit every region in Tibet.
It is not suggested to use your China passport to visit Tibet, as you can only visit Lhasa and its nearby areas (such as Lake Yamdrok), but you will not be allowed to visit other regions including Mount Everest or Mount Kailash.
f.) HK/Macau Return Home Permit Holders: Residents of Hong Kong and Macau can travel to Tibet without a Tibet Entry Permit if they hold an HK/Macau Home Return Permit. An HK/Macau SAR visa/passport is not accepted.
3. How to Apply for a Tibet Travel Permit If You're Living in China Now
Expats can easily travel to Tibet with a Tibet Permit and a Residence Permit. Here is an example of the Tibet permit procedure if you travel with us.
No matter whether it is a group tour or a private tour.
You can send it to us by e-mail or by WeChat.
We will forward you templates to help you prepare these documents. When you get all these ready, send them to us as soon as you can
We can post Tibet permits to your home/working address.
We at China Highlights are a China-based travel agency that can provide you with professional Tibet travel services. We have helped our many customers obtain Tibet Travel Permits with a success rate of 100%!
4. How to Apply for a Tibet Travel Permit If You're Outside China
Follow the steps below to get a Tibet Travel Permit.
In light of these uncertain times, we provide a free cancellation policy up to 24 hours before departure.
If you are from a visa-free country, disregard this step.
For Taiwan travelers, just send us your MTP copy. If you are from a visa-free-China-access country, just send us your passport copy.
We will post your Tibet permit to your hotels in the final city before you enter Lhasa.
For Non-Tourist (L) Visa Holders:
If you are not an L (Tourist) Visa holder, you are required to provide additional information to get a Tibet Permit apart from your passport and visa copies.
Don't worry: we will guide you step by step and forward you a template to help you with arranging the documents. Extra documents needed are as follows:
- Business (F) / Work (Z) / Crew (C ) / China Talent (R) visa holders: proof of employment — a letter from your company or employer with their official stamp
- Student (X) visa holders: a letter of recommendation from your school with the school stamp and a scanned copy of your student ID card
- Private (S-1, S-2) / Family (Q-1, Q-2) visa holders: an invitation letter from your relatives and inviter's passport information
- Journalist (J-1, J-2) / Diplomatic visa holders: Apply for Tibet permits through the Tibet Foreign Affairs Office, NOT through a travel agency.
Here we would provide a sample of employment proof so that you may have an idea about it.
5. How to Apply for Tibet Permit When Entering from Nepal — a Different Procedure
China's cities (excluding Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) and Nepal are the only entry points for Tibet. To get a Tibet permit from Nepal, the procedure is quite different from traveling from a city in Chinese mainland to Tibet.
First, you must apply for a China visa from the Chinese embassy in Nepal. A visa issued in any other country will not be valid for Tibet travel from Nepal.
… for example, us.
We will submit an application for your Tibet permit and send copies to our cooperating travel agency in Nepal when it is issued.
You can go to the China Immigration office to submit the visa application in person or through an agency.
Normally it requires 4–5 days. If you have used a travel agency service like ours, the visa will be delivered to you.
We will mail the Tibet permit to our local operators in Kathmandu and you will receive it from our guide.
The China visa issued in Kathmandu is a Group Visa that is not affixed in a passport but is a sheet of paper that lists all the names of the people in your group, members of your travel group must enter and exit China at the same time.
While waiting for the China visa to be issued, you are permitted to travel around Nepal with your passport photocopy. We are happy to help you with a tour of Nepal. Just send us an inquiry.
Read more on How to Travel from Nepal to Tibet.
The permit's price is actually zero: it is included in your Tibet tour package free of charge.
7. Can I Apply for a Tibet Permit without a Tour Package?
Many travelers ask us to provide them with a Tibet Permit only, but no travel agency can provide a separate Tibet permit application service.
Due to the travel policy in Tibet, a Tibet Travel Permit must be "sold" along with a tour package.
In addition, independent travel is not allowed in Tibet, and all who travel to Tibet must book a tour with a travel agent. When you are traveling in Tibet, you must be accompanied by a tour guide. See How Long to Spend in Tibet
8. When Will I Get My Tibet Entry Permit?
A Tibet Tourism Bureau Permit application takes 5–7 working days.
For travelers taking a flight to Lhasa, the original travel permit will be delivered to your guide or your hotel in the pre-Lhasa city. This takes another 3–5 days.
For travelers taking the train to Lhasa, only a copy of the Tibet permit will be checked at the train station. So, no delivery time is needed. Your travel agency will send you a copy as soon as the permit is issued.
9. Things Not to Do When Applying for a Tibet Entry Permit
- Don't make any change to the departure date from Tibet you have submitted on your Tibet Entry Permit application. Please work with your travel advisor to decide and settle on your itinerary before we apply for your Tibet Entry Permit. You can leave earlier than the Tibet departure date on your Tibet permit, but no later.
- Don't change your pre-Lhasa city and Tibet arrival date once the permit has been issued (applied for), otherwise, you'll need to apply for a new one. Please do tell your travel agent as early as possible if you want to make any changes to your Tibet tour plan.
- Don't submit an application later than 10 days before departure for Tibet to ensure we have time to apply for a Tibet permit.
- Don't book your flight tickets on your own before your Tibet permit is issued. You might find that a Tibet permit is required to confirm the booking, but the permit cannot be obtained until 2–7 days before the tour!
It is better to ask the travel agent to organize your flight tickets (which will be similar in price to the airlines' best deal), as it is easy for them to handle the problems.
- Don't apply for a China visa before arriving in Nepal, if you want to travel from Nepal to Tibet, as you must hold a visa issued in Kathmandu from its China immigration offices.
If you already have a China visa in your passport, it will be invalid for applying for a Tibet permit from Nepal (but will not be canceled).
You still need to get another China visa in Kathmandu, which, unusually, is a sheet of paper issued separately to your passport. N.B. the Nepal-China border is currently closed. See above.