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Tibet Travel Guide 2022/2023

Written by Carol WangUpdated Jan. 24, 2022
Tibet Travel Guide 2022/2023

Tibet is now open to foreign tourists after its closure of over a year due to COVID-19 precautions. China expats with a Tibet Permit can now easily visit Tibet without any limitation or quarantine. It is very safe to travel to Tibet (pandemic-wise) as it has been the least affected region in China.

If you are an inbound traveler, you are still subject to China’s entry restrictions prior to traveling to Tibet, which includes obtaining a new China visa and a 14-day quarantine.

Commonly referred to as the “roof on the world”, Tibet has the world’s highest “castle” — the Potala Palace and the world’s tallest peak — Mount Everest (altitude 8,848 meters). Tibetan Buddhism dominates the cultural landscape, and there are many Buddhist monasteries scattered across Tibet.

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1. Current Travel Restrictions for COVID-19

Tibet is open to China expats. If you are living in China, it is easy for you to travel to Tibet from most major cities in China. You just need to prepare a green health code and negative nucleic acid test results.

Please remember, independent travel is not allowed: you will need to go on an organized tour provided by a certified travel agent who will also provide your Tibet Permit. After you travel to Tibet, you can return to the city where you live without the need to quarantine!

green codeGreen Healthy code and Itinerary Code are needed for traveling in China

Travelers who are outside of China will be unable to travel to Tibet in 2021, as it requires you to obtain a new China Visa first, then goes through the 14-day quarantine upon arrival, followed by another 3 months staying in China before you can travel to Tibet.

Optimistically, China may open its borders in May or June 2022, with vaccinations in China reaching required levels and a decline in COVID-19 cases worldwide.

The upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be an indication of China’s openness to foreign travelers. Don't give up on planning a Tibet tour for (late) 2022. Most travel agents (including ourselves) always provide early bird offers.

Join our Facebook group to get our latest information and send us your inquiry if you would like some provisional help with planning. To ease your concerns, we provide a free cancellation policy.

2. How to Get a Tibet Permit

Applying for a Tibet permit is a different process from getting your China visa. Application from individuals is not accepted: it must be done through a travel agency.

Fortunately, it is easy for us to handle all the procedures and we can 99% guarantee your Tibet permit success. With our step-by-step guidance, applications are almost always successful. The procedure is as follows:

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Step 1

Get a China Tourist Visa
If you are from a Visa-free country, just disregard this step.

Step 2

Confirm a tour package with a travel agent
No matter whether it is a group tour or a private tour.

Step 3

Send us copies of your passport and China visa
If you are from Visa-free countries, just send your passport to us.

Step 4

Send us copies of your passport and China visa
Normally it will be posted by express mail to your pre-Tibet stop.

Tibet PermitTibet Permit

Except for L (Visitor/Tourist) Visa holders, you are also required to provide proof of a place at your company/school.

China expats, you will need to provide a recent city-of-residence green health code copy and a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test result (within 7 days), as well as a work/study certificate.

Don’t worry: your travel agency (we) will give you guidance in preparing all the items.

Submit inquiry to apply for Tibet Permit online 

3. It is Safe to Visit Tibet?

Family Trip in TibetFamily tour in Tibet

As far as personal security goes, Tibet is a safe place with a low crime rate. Even if you walk around Tibet alone in your free time, your personal security is not expected to be threatened.

When walking in the streets of Lhasa you will find lots of police stations, and armed policemen can be seen everywhere in the streets. They are normally on duty 24/7.

As a pure land with devoted Buddhist people, wherever you go a wide smile will be there to greet you.  

With an average elevation of 4,500 meters (15,000 feet) above sea level, probably your biggest concern is altitude sickness in Tibet.

It is perfectly okay for ordinary people to travel to Tibet, including seniors or kids, however, it is suggested that you consult a doctor before traveling if you have a heart problem or high blood pressure.

Oxygen cylinders will be available in the vehicle for every China Highlights customer during your stay in Tibet.

You may want to read more about staying healthy in Tibet.

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4. Things Not to Do When Planning a Tibet Trip

  • Don't book your tour any later than 10 days before departure to ensure we have (your travel agency has) plenty of time to apply for Tibet permits.
  • Don't book flights before the Tibet permit is issued, especially during this COVID-19-affected period. You might find that a Tibet Permit is required to confirm a flight booking, but your permit cannot be obtained until 2–7 days before your tour! It is better to ask a travel agent (us) to organize your flight tickets as it is easy for them (us) to handle all these problems, as well as canceling flight tickets if there is any travel ban due to COVID-19, etc.
  • Don’t plan your Tibet trip for March. Tibet will be closed to foreign travelers during the Tibetan New year period, which is usually in February/March and is based on the Tibetan calendar. During this period, it is worth considering other Tibetan regions such as QinghaiSichuan, and Yunnan, which have many of the cultural and scenic attractions that Tibet does without access restrictions.
  • Don't arrange a tight schedule in Tibet to sure your tour arrangement is as flexible as possible. You may need more time to let your body get used to the high altitude.
  • Don't make changes to your itinerary (such as pre-Lhasa city or travel destinations in Tibet) once your Tibet Entry Permit is issued, otherwise, you will need to apply for a new one! Please do tell your travel agency (us) in advance if you want to make any changes to your Tibet plan.

5. Tibet Weather — Best Times to Travel to Tibet

Tibet has distinct dry and wet seasons. Generally speaking, the dry season is from October to April and the rainy season lasts from May to September.

The weather in Tibet is largely affected by altitude. Therefore, even in the same month, the temperature in southern (low altitude) and northern (high altitude) Tibet can be very different.

So, when is the best time to travel to Tibet? This question is always asked by many travelers. Well, there is no best month to visit Tibet for every activity or traveler: every season has its advantages and characteristics.

Aside from the weather factor, there are many reasons for you to explore Tibet in different months, which can show you different scenery and cultural activities for different travel experiences. 

Below we cover the weather and recommended attractions for each season in Tibet.

Spring: March-May

City/ Attraction Avg. Altitude (m) March (°C) April (°C) May (°C)
Lhasa
 (Potala Palace)
Low      3,500 -4 0 4
High      3,800 6 9 14
Shigatse
(Lake Yamdrok)
Low      3,800 -2 0 5
High      4,000 10 11 17
Dingri
 (Everest Base Camp)
Low      4,300 -10 -5 0
High      5,200 8 8 14
Nagqu
(Lake Namsto)
Low      4,500 -8 -5 0
High      4,500 4 5 10
Ngari
(Mount Kailash)
Low      4,500 -8 -4 1
High      6,500 3 5 11
Nyingchi
(Ranwu Lake)
Low      3,000 2 3 3
High      3,800 13 14 14

Strictly speaking, travel to Tibet in spring is only from April to May, as Tibet closes to foreign travelers in March due to the political sensitivity of Tibetan New Year.

During this period, it is warm in the daytime and with a lot of sunlight, but cold in the evening. This is not the peak tourist season for Tibet tourism, so you can enjoy a lack of crowding a shoulder season’s rate of hotels.

If you plan to travel to Tibet in early or mid-April, the peach blossom in Nyingchi is really worth seeing, which is about 400 km (250 miles) from Lhasa.

You can spend your initial 3 days in Lhasa to see its highlights, such as the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, then drive to Nyingchi. One the way, the green Rawok Lake and breathtaking view of Namjagbarwa Peak are amazing. 

You could tour Nyingchi for about 3 days, and leave Tibet from Nyingchi Airport. The airport has direct flights to Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi'an, Lanzhou.

Recommended Tibet Tours:

Summer: June–August

City/ Attraction Avg. Altitude (m) June (°C) July (°C) August (°C)
Lhasa
(Potala Palace)
Low 3,500 9 8 9
High 3,800 21 18 18
Shigatse 
(Lake Yamdrok)
Low   3,800 9 9 9
High 4,000 21 18 17
Dingri
 (Everest Base Camp)
Low 4,300 6 7 6
High   5,200 19 17 17
Nagqu
 (Lake Namsto)
Low  4,500 3 5 6
High    4,500 14 16 15
Ngari 
(Mount Kailash)
Low 4,500 6 8 7
High 6,500 16 17 18
Nyingchi 
(Ranwu Lake)
Low   3,000 8 12 12
High   3,800 18 21 20

The weather is warmer, and the air’s oxygen content is higher during summer. Although it is the rainy season in Tibet, it will not rain all day and it will generally have no impact on your daily itinerary.

It is peak season in July and August due to school vacations, so it's more crowded than other months, and there are higher costs due to the higher demand for flights, trains, and hotels.

Summer is the best chance to see more of Tibet. You can enjoy most of the sights in Tibet when nature is at its most vibrant.

You can get an excellent view of mountain peaks and lakes, such as at Everest Base Camp, Lake Yamdrok, and Lake Namsto (as long as it’s not too cloudy). It’s also a good time to go trekking.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing to do in Tibet in summer is to have a camping experience in Galai Village — a beautiful Tibetan nomad village about 4 hours from Lhasa by car.  

Local people make their living by growing barley and raising yaks there every summer. You can take part in the work of local Tibetans. In the evening, you can cook and enjoy dinner with a local Tibetan family.

Sleep in your tent right by the nomad's tent. Check out our 7-Day Tibet Camping Tour for more details.

July and August are a "sea of festivals", with Shoton Festival, Tibetan Bathing Festival, Horse Racing Festival, Ganden Thangka Festival, and more.

During these festivals, you can have a view of Buddhist activities such as Thangka unveiling, horse racing, and archery contests, as well as Tibetan opera, music, and dancing.

Send us an inquiry to celebrate a festival with Tibetans.

Recommended Tibet Tours:

Autumn: September–November

City/ Attraction Avg. Altitude (m) Sep. (°C) Oct. (°C) Nov. (°C)
Lhasa
(Potala Palace)
Low      3,500 6 2 -3
High      3,800 16 15 7
Shigatse 
(Lake Yamdrok)
Low      3,800 5 0 -7
High      4,000 16 14 12
Dingri
(Everest Base Camp)
Low      4,300 3 0 -6
High      5,200 15 14 10
Nagqu 
(Lake Namsto)
Low      4,500 3 -1 -6
High      4,500 12 11 6
Ngari 
(Mount Kailash)
Low      4,500 6 0 -8
High      6,500 16 11 4
Nyingchi
 (Ranwu Lake)
Low      3,000 9 6 0
High      3,800 19 17 12

Fall is the second busiest season for travel to travel to Tibet due to its comfortable weather, and Lhasa may be crowded, especially during the first week of October with China’s public holiday tourists.

You can travel to every place in Tibet during autumn, which provides the year’s best weather for hiking. The most popular trekking trails by far are the Everest Base Camp Trek and the Mount Kailash (Yatra) Trek — a famous pilgrimage route.

Both September and October are the best months to admire the breathtaking snow-capped Mount Everest when the sky is particularly blue, the air is clean and dry, and there are few clouds. You can enjoy a clear view of the summit of Mount Everest from Rongbuk Monastery

See our tour packages for a starting place for your own EBC Camp Trek and Mount Kalaish (Yatra) Trek.

11-Day Tibet Tour with Everest Base Camp Trek

In Winter: December–February

City/ Attraction Avg. Altitude (m) Dec. (°C) Jan. (°C) Feb. (°C)  
Lhasa 
(Potala Palace)
Low      3,500 -3 -9 -8
High      3,800 7 5 3
Shigatse 
(Lake Yamdrok)
Low      3,800 -7 -10 -8
High      4,000 12 7 6
Dingri
 (Everest Base Camp)
Low      4,300 -6 -13 -12
High      5,200 10 7 4
Nagqu 
(Lake Namsto)
Low      4,500 -6 -17 -14
High      4,500 6 0 0
Ngari 
(Mount Kailash)
Low      4,500 -8 -11 -11
High      6,500 4 2 2
Nyingchi
 (Ranwu Lake)
Low      3,000 0 -1 -1
High      3,800 12 9 11

Probably you have this question — will Tibet be very cold in winter? Tibet’s winter (November to February) does not feel cold in the daytime! Especially in Lhasa, although the average daily high temperature is around 5°C (41°F), it is usually sunny, dry, and comfortable outside during the day.

Winter is Tibetan people’s leisure time and many of them choose to make a pilgrimage trip to Lhasa from their various Tibet regions. Small religious activities can be found in many corners of Lhasa.

Walk on Barkhor Street, and you will find devout Tibetans prostrating themselves on the ground after every few steps in worship.

Lakes remain frozen till mid-April. Lake Namtso and Lake Yamdrok do not seem such good ideas during this period.

In winter, blue glaciers are an unusual and striking feature of Tibet, with ice cracks and bubbles all over the frozen lakes, the huge ice blocks appear to be a charming blue color.

In January and February, you can walk across frozen Rawok Lake to get close to the glacier tongue.

See our Laigu Glacier winter tour package.

Traveling to Tibet in winter is a great money-saver, as hotel and flight/train ticket prices will be at their most reasonable. Some tourist attractions have a winter entrance fee which is much cheaper than usual.

It is also easier to obtain train tickets for you to experience the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which also means you spend less on booking fees.

6. Budgeting for a Trip to Tibet

Many people are curious about how much a trip to Tibet is. We can definitely say Tibet is not a budget-friendly travel destination.

Comparing private tour packages for Beijing and Tibet: our 4-day Beijing city tour costs around US$580/per person, while our 4-day Lhasa city tour is about US$780/per person (based on a group of 2 people).

How Much is a Typical Trip to Tibet?

Well, it depends on where, when, how many people, how many days, hotel class, private or group tour, transport, and other requirements you may have.

Generally speaking, a standard tour of Tibet is around 8 days, during which you can see the main highlights, represented by the Potala Palace, Lake Yamdrok, and Everest Base Camp.

If your holiday is longer, you can extend your trip to other areas of Tibet, such as Lake Namtso, or even spend a night on the Qinghai-Tibet train, however, it is best to stay no less than 5 days in Tibet to at least enjoy all the best views and attractions around Lhasa.

To give you an overall idea about how much it is for a tour of Tibet, let’s work through a rough price for a Christmas Holiday trip from Shanghai to Tibet in 2021.  

Item Price/p.p Details
Tibet Entry Permits US$0 Included in the tour package
One-way flight from Shanghai to Lhasa US$250 Based on the winter rate
Accommodating fee per night US$80 3-star hotel
US$100 4-star hotel
US$200 5-star hotel
Each meal US$15 Price is based on our previous customers' experience
Service costs for an 8-day tour including Mount Everest Base Camp US$1,800 Guiding, vehicles, admission fees to scenic spots, and arrangement fees for a private tour group of 2 people

To make the most of your budget, you are suggested to book a few months in advance to enjoy some early booking discounts or travel with more than four people to share private tour costs.

If you have a holiday in winter, travel to Tibet in December or January to enjoy the special winter rates including discounts on hotels, airfares, and entrance tickets.

If you travel alone, private tour costs are particularly expensive for private tour. It may be better for you to join one of our group tour.

7. Tips for Traveling with Seniors and Children

  • Make sure any seniors and children in your group are healthy enough to visit Tibet by consulting a doctor. Seniors with cardiovascular diseases or chronic respiratory ailments are not suggested to travel to Tibet.
  • Stay in Lhasa for 2 days for acclimation before touring any wider in Tibet.
  • Traveling with a wheelchair is not convenient in Tibet, as most of the attractions are located on hillsides without a chairlift or elevator, which means those in wheelchairs will miss the Potala Palace and monasteries. But it is fine to visit the places with flat roads in a wheelchair, such as Barkhor Street, Jokhang Temple, and Lake Yamdrok.
  • Children under 4 years old are not suggested to visit high altitude regions in Tibet, such as Everest Base Camp (5,200 m), Mount Kailash (4,700–5,600 m), or any place over 4,500 m. Lhasa (3,800 m), Lake Yamdrok (4,000 m), and Nyingchi (3,100 m) are perfect choices for them.
  • Be sure your children can well express how they are feeling to identify symptoms of altitude sickness.
  • Bring some snacks for your kids, as the foods in Tibet will probably not be to their liking — most of the dishes have a heavy flavor and will be quite strange to them. However, if your children are adventurous eaters, this could work out well.
  • If you are a family with 2 adults and 1 kid, your family can simply sleep in one bed if there is enough space or ask for an extra bed or cot. 
  • If your family has 2 adults and 2 children or more, it is better to book adjoining rooms (rooms are often connected by a door). This type of room is limited in availability and not provided in every hotel, please ask our travel advisor to choose hotels for you.

During our over 20 years of experience, we have organized Tibet tours for customers from 4 to 82 years old. Please do tell us about any special requests you have, and our professional travel advisor will solve any problems for you.

You may want to read more tips and suggestions on How to Deal with Altitude Sickness.

Tibet trip
Price from CNY5,100/USD789 p/p view more

8. Tibet Travel Insurance

It is wise to get travel insurance when you travel to Tibet. Here is what you need to consider when selecting your policy:

1. It is better to get "cancellation for any reason" insurance in case of a sudden closure of Tibet (although this is not frequent, it could happen at any time).

2. Check if it covers an emergency medical evacuation, which could help you quickly descend or leave Tibet if you suffer severe altitude sickness.

3. If you plan to trek in Tibet, check if your policy covers trekking in Tibet.

4. Check if your travel insurance includes medical expenses for your trip to Tibet in case you need medical services in a hospital there (due to altitude sickness).

5. Other typical air travel issues should be covered, for example, a snowstorm closing down your airport before you can board your flight to Tibet, or arriving only to find your luggage is on its way to another city…

Based on what we know from our previous customers, the most popular insurance companies are InsureMyTrip and World Nomads.

9. How to Get to Tibet? — Easiest from China

Broadly speaking, there are two ways you can enter Tibet: from China's cities or from Nepal, but the easiest way by far is from the China side.

Travel from China’s cities

There are direct flights from China’s major cities to Lhasa in Tibet, such as from BeijingShanghaiChengdu, and Chongqing. The most frequent and reliable flights to Tibet are from Chengdu, with about eight flights per day.

Trains to Tibet depart from these cities: Beijing, Shanghai, GuangzhouXi'anChongqingLanzhou, and Xining.

Xining is the best place to start the train journey, as it is the beginning point of the most beautiful section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway with the shortest train journey to Lhasa (20–22 hours), compared to around 30–50 hours for further departure points. 

See more details on How to Get to Tibet.

Example: the Best Way to Travel to Tibet from the U.S.

1. Book a flight from a USA city to a China city: Beijing, Shanghai, etc.

2. Spend a couple of days in your China arrival city to get over jet lag.

3. Take a flight to Chengdu, which is the best city for connecting flights to Lhasa (almost all flights to Tibet stopover in Chengdu). You could happily stay a night in Chengdu — home to China's giant pandas — and spend a day sightseeing in the city before going to Tibet.

A wonderful panda volunteer keeper program experience would be worth a day there.

4. Take a morning flight from Chengdu to Lhasa (2½ hours) so that you can have plenty of time for acclimation in the afternoon before you sleep to avoid altitude sickness effects as much as possible.

On your return journey, you could experience the Qinghai-Tibet Railway from Lhasa to Xining with beautiful scenery along the way, and then take a flight from Xining to a large city in China for the flight home.

Traveling out of Tibet by train will help you successfully get train tickets. Lhasa-Xining train tickets are five times easier to buy than Xining - Lhasa tickets! This also means you can save a lot on the ticket booking fee.

Book your Tibet train ticket with our highly rated English service. 

Tips: Taking a flight into Tibet is better than a train because a good sleep in a hotel in Lhasa is much more helpful to altitude acclimation than spending a night on the train.

Most passengers find it more difficult to fall asleep on the train, and tiredness makes altitude sickness more uncomfortable.

You may need information about How to deal with altitude sickness in Tibet

Travel from the Nepal Side

There are two ways into Tibet from Nepal: by flight and by road.

You should first consider issues of a China visa and Tibet Entry Permit, no matter whether you’ll go by flight or road. Procedures are different from traveling from a Mainland China city to Tibet.

You must apply for a China visa and Tibet permits in Nepal via a travel agent. Any China visa issued in your resident country will be invalid for Tibet travel. You will need to stay in Kathmandu for at least 3 working days to wait for the visa and permit.

See more on how to get a China visa and Tibet permit in Nepal.

Flights between Lhasa Gongga Airport and Kathmandu Tribhuvan Airport are limited to one flight per day each way. They have all been stopped in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Please contact us for a free consultation or join our Facebook group to get our latest flight information.

By road, you can travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa via the Gyirong border (possibly with a convenient side tour to Mount Everest). The distance from Kathmandu to Gyirong Port is approximately 8–9 hours by car.

For more, see How to Travel from Nepal to Tibet.

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