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Can I Visit Tibet without Booking through a Tibetan Travel Agency?

Last Update: May 11, 2020

Simply put, there is no option for international tourists to visiting Tibet without first booking their tour through a Tibetan travel agency. Since this is needed for traveling around in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), as public transport is not available to foreign tourists. Also, only the Tibetan travel agencies can obtain the Tibet Travel Permit, which you will need to get into Tibet in the first place. However, you do have some options to choose from for your Tibet tour and choice of agencies. Read on for details.

You Should Visit Tibet through a Tibetan Travel Agency

The simplest reason you should use a Tibetan travel agency to get into and travel around the region is because it is the requirement of local authority. The region is a hugely popular tourist destination in Asia, and in order to maintain the stability of this delicate environment, tourism has been restricted only to those on organized tours.

Tibet Travel Permit Required

The Tibet Travel Permit has become one of the most famous travel documents in the world, and it is widely known that this is a requirement for anyone wanting to travel to Tibet. What is less well-known is the fact that the permit can only be obtained through a registered travel agency for Tibet. There are still those that ask if they can travel to Tibet without using a travel agency.

Tibet Travel Permit SampleGetting the Tibet Travel Permit is required for visiting Tibet.

The Tibet Travel Permit is required for all international tourists wishing to travel on the Tibetan plateau within the TAR, though it is simple to obtain. You just need to book a tour with a Tibetan travel agency, which is registered with the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa. When you book your tour with us, we will make the application for the permit on your behalf, using scanned copies of your Chinese Entry Visa and passport.

Normally, the application for the permit can take up to 15 days, especially in the peak season, though this is usually less in the low seasons. Once approved, you will receive the permit either by email, for those traveling to Lhasa by train, or at your hotel in mainland China by courier for those traveling by flight. The original copy of the permit is required to board the flights, while a photocopy will suffice for boarding the trains.

Travelling with Guide and Driver Required

One of the main requirements for travel in Tibet is that you are accompanied by a registered tour guide at all time, and have a private tour vehicle with a private driver. While you are not always required to have this constantly when in the city of Lhasa itself, once you travel outside the city limits, this rule applies at all times. Inside Lhasa, you can wander around and visit restaurants and teahouses without your guide present. However, you cannot visit any tourist attraction without your guide accompanying you.

Our Tibetan registered tour guideThroughout your tour in Tibet, you need to be accompanied by a local guide.

Outside Lhasa, the rules are very different. You are not permitted to travel or go anywhere without your guide accompanying you at all times. This includes going out of your hotel or guesthouse to eat at a restaurant. The rule also applies to your travel and transport. You are not permitted to use any form of public transport during your tour, outside Lhasa. As you travel across the plateau, you will be driven in a private tour vehicle by your personal driver, who will be available for your transport needs at all times.

What Kind of Tibetan Travel Agency to Choose?

Knowing which Tibetan travel agency to use can be a little confusing, as there are hundreds of websites advertising themselves as the best tour operator in Tibet. The truth is, few of these websites are actually tour operators. Most of those advertising tours of Tibet are travel agencies that use a third party to handle the actual tour. Very few agencies you can find online actually operate their own tours as well.

Group photos of our local Tibetan guidesSome of our local Tibetan gudies had a group photo at Potala Palace.

This is where we, as one of the oldest Tibet travel agencies, can excel. Not only can we offer the best tours available in Tibet, and help you decide on which tour to take and how to get to Tibet, but we will also be the ones handling your tour, with our own employed professional tour guides and drivers, with the best tour vehicles available.

Whomever you choose to handle your Tibet tour, you should be careful when booking your tour with the agency, and do some research before making your choice. TripAdvisor is the best travel ratings site on the internet, and is renowned for its honest reviews of companies around the world from real travellers. Checking out the reviews of a company on TripAdvisor is one of the best ways of finding out how good they are.

Options for Touring Tibet as Solo Travelers

If you are planning a trip to Tibet, but are traveling solo, then you have a number of options for your trip. You can plan the trip to Tibet based on your ideal tour, on the places you want to visit, or even base your trip on your available budget for the trip. The choice is all yours.

Join in a Private Tour – Customized Itinerary

When you join a private tour, you will get a customized itinerary based on your own choices of where to go and what to see. There are actually very few places in Tibet that you cannot visit, and the private tour option gives you the freedom to choose your destinations, the attractions you will visit, and how long you will spend traveling.

Private tour of TibetOne of our customers enjoyed a private tour to EBC with our guide.

Private tours also give you that more personal touch, with your own private guide, driver, and tour vehicle. You have the freedom to visit all the places you always dreamed of, and you can even make last-minute changes to your itinerary, if you find that you want to visit somewhere that you had not thought of before.

The private tour may be an ideal option for those who want their own itinerary, but it is also more expensive when it comes to tours in Tibet. On a private tour, you will pay for the entire cost of the trip, including the whole cost of your guide, driver, vehicle, and fuel, and you will pay any single-room supplements as well. A private tour is the perfect option to give you more freedom of travel in Tibet, but it is not always ideal for everyone traveling solo to the region.

Join in a Small Group Tour – Budget Price

The other option for solo travellers in Tibet is to join one of our famous Small Group Tours, to help reduce the overall cost for those traveling on a budget. Small Group Tours are the ideal option for budget travellers to Tibet, as you will share the cost of the guide, driver, and vehicle with all the other members of the tour group equally. You can also save on the single-room supplement by sharing with another traveller in the group (same gender only).

Tibet samll group tourJoining in the group to visit the Everest Base Camp.

The Small Group Tours are pre-arranged tours that have a set itinerary and depart on a set date for the tour in Tibet. Tours can include four-day tours of Lhasa, seven-day tours across the plateau to EBC and back, and even Lhasa to Kathmandu tours that take you from Tibet to Nepal.

And there are many more tours as well as these, which you can choose from. You may not be able to customize the tour to suit your desires, but we have tours that cover all of the major tourist attractions in Tibet, so you can visit Lake Namtso, trek around the world’s most sacred mountain at Mount Kailash, or even visit the cradle of Tibetan civilization in Tsedang. The choice is yours. And you can save money on all of the tours.

Conclusion

While it may have once been nice to travel around Tibet on your own, the dangers of the high-altitude plateau are very real, and you do not want to get lost or get altitude sickness without someone knowledgeable to guide you. And the tours are designed to give you the best Tibetan experience with the least impact to the environment and the traditional cultures of the Tibetan people. So if you are considering a trip to Tibet, taking a tour is the only way to go, as well as being the best.

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