For anyone traveling to Tibet and Nepal together, there is a world of excitement and adventure waiting for them. From the high-altitude plateau of Tibet, with its gompas and mountains, to the diverse country of Nepal, filled with hiking trails, mountain views, and sub-tropical forests, a combined trip to Nepal and Tibet is the adventure of a lifetime. Travelers can ride the train from China to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, where they can see the amazing sights of the Potala Palace and the famous Jokhang Temple. Then travel across the region, visiting small Tibetan villages, crystal clear lakes, high mountains, alpine prairies, and countless monasteries and stop off at the northern Everest Base Camp before crossing the border to descend into Nepal.
There they can tour around Kathmandu, the capital city and one of the most exotic cities in Asia, visit the stunning national parks to see crocodiles, rhinos, and hopefully the endangered Bengal tiger. Alternatively, they can take one of the hundreds of hiking trails around the mountains and valleys in the country, from Annapurna to Manaslu to Everest. Or, if you like, you can do it the other way round, from Nepal to Tibet, and then on to China.
Travel from Nepal to Tibet
Getting from Nepal to Tibet requires certain permits and visas, on top of the normal visa to get into Nepal. The requirement for visas is different when coming from Nepal instead of China, but the rest of the permits are all the same.
Tibet Group Visa
The Tibet Group Tourist Visa is a special kind of single entry visa for Tibet that is issued by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. Unlike traveling from China, where you have a visa to enter China first, the Group Tourist Visa replaces the standard Chinese Entry Visa for travelers to Tibet from Nepal.
The Group Tourist Visa is valid for 30 days in Tibet and China, and while it is called a “Group” Tourist Visa, you do not need to be part of a group to use it, and it can be used by individuals. However, individual tourists cannot make personal applications for the visa, and has to be applied for by a registered tour operator, such as Tibet Tour.
Group Tourist Visa
If you are traveling as part of a group, then all the members of the group will be listed on the visa, including names, nationalities, birth dates, and passport numbers, and each of you will get your own copies. However, it should be noted that all members listed on a Group Tourist Visa must enter and exit Tibet at the same time and through the same exit point. If you are intending to leave Tibet through a different exit point to the rest of your group, then it is advisable to apply your own Group Tourist Visa.
In order to obtain the Group Tourist Visa, you need to provide your original passport, the visa fee, and other supporting documents to the representative of your tour operator once you get to Nepal. They will then make the application for the visa through the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. The supporting documents required are the Invitation Letter and itinerary form the tour operator and the Tibet Travel Permit, which is also obtained through the tour operator.
You first apply for the Grout Tourist Visa through the tour operator. First, you need to find a tour operator, such as Tibet Tour, discuss the options on the tour you want for Tibet, and book Tibet tour. They will then make your application for the Tibet Travel Permit.
Once the permit has been returned, they will require you to submit your original passport to them in Kathmandu, so you need to be in Nepal at least four to five days before the expected date of departure of your tour. They will then use that and the supporting documents to make the application for the visa from the Chinese Embassy. The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China is situated in the Baluwatar District of Kathmandu, and is normally open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm, only on weekdays. Embassy staff do not work at weekends. Visa applications and collections times run from 9:45am to 11:00am Monday through Friday.
Visa applications are only accepted from Monday to Friday, and the same goes for collections. It normally takes three days to process the application, Which means if your application is submitted on Monday before 11:00 am, your visa will be available for collection on Wednesday afternoon. Once your visa is ready, your tour operator will collect it and bring it to your hotel in Kathmandu. It should be noted that the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu does not have an “urgent visa” process, and will not accept applications for rush visas.
Costs for the Group Tourist Visa vary, depending on your country of origin. For U.S. citizens, the cost is US$ 140, and for citizens of other countries, the costs are:
Canadian Citizen US$ 120
Romanian Citizen US$ 80
Montenegro Citizen US$ 41
Serbian Citizen US$ 15
Pakistan Citizen US$ 17
Albania Citizen US$ 17
Maldives Citizen US$ 17
Bosnia Citizen US$ 17
Herzegovina Citizen US$ 17
Other Citizen US$ 50
Tibet Travel Permit
The Tibet Travel Permit is the permit issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) for travelers who are planning to visit Tibet. It should be noted that the Tibet Travel Permit does not allow access to all the various areas of Tibet, and certain areas require additional permits to gain access.
In order to obtain the Tibet Travel Permit, one simply needs to book the tour through a recognized, professional tour operator, such as Tibet Tour, and they will do the rest. All you need to send them is the scanned (color) copy of your passport, showing the main page with your photo and details. You should make sure that the scan is clear, and that the details can be read easily.
Tibet Travel Permit
They will then make the application for your Tibet Travel Permit to the Tibet Tourism bureau, in Lhasa, and will give you the permit along with the Group Tourist Visa when you reach Kathmandu. Permits to enter Tibet are issued free by the TTB for visiting tourists, although there is normally a handling and application fee with some tour operators of between US$100 and US$200. However, Tibet Tour includes your Tibet Travel Permit, and all other permits, in the quoted cost of your tour.
Nepal makes things relatively easy for tourists to get into the country. If you did not get your Nepal Entry Visa from the Nepali Embassy in your home country before leaving, you can always get one at the entry point into Nepal. While most visitors heading for Tibet travel by plane into Nepal, some do come in across the land borders from India, their only other neighbor. All the border crossings that allow foreign tourists into Nepal can process the visa on arrival, and you can do the same at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.
To obtain a visa-on-arrival, you just need to fill out the visa application form at the immigration desk, and provide them with your passport and one passport-sized photograph with a light background. The fee to pay depends on the length of visa required, and is US$ 25 for a 15-day visa, US$ 40 for 30 days, and US$100 for 90 days. And if you want to stay longer, you can extend the visa for up to 150 days in a calendar year at the Department of Immigration, Kalikasthan, Kathmandu.
Visa fees can be paid in a number of different currencies on arrival, although US dollars is the preferred payment method. You can also use the Euro, Swiss Franc, Pounds Sterling, Australian Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Hong Kong Dollars, Singaporean Dollars, and Japanese Yen. Credit cards, Indian Rupees, and Nepali Rupees are not accepted as payment for the entry visa.
Travel from Tibet to Nepal
Unlike many countries in the world, China does not offer a visa-on-arrival service. All visas must be applied for through the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in your home country, or the country you are currently traveling in. Application requires you to submit your application in person, as there is no online application process, although you can download a .pdf format application form from the Embassy website at to make it more convenient. You can also fill out the form inside the document and save it completed before printing. You need to provide the following items for the visa application:
Original Passport with at least six-month’s validity
Completed Visa Application Form
One passport-sized photo
Proof of legal stay or residence (if applying from outside your home country)
Photocopies of any previous Chinese Entry Visas
Documents showing an itinerary including the booking record of your round-trip flight and proof of your hotel reservation
Processing time for a Chinese Entry Visa is normally around 4 business days for their regular service, and you will be provided with a Pick-up Slip at the time of your application with a specific date. Single entry visas cost US$ 140 for a US citizen and US$ 30 for a non-US citizen, and can be paid on collection of your visa using certain credit cards, money orders, cashier’s check, or company check. Cash, personal checks, and online payments are not accepted, nor are cards other than Visa or MasterCard. Double entry and multiple entry visas are the same cost for US citizens, but more expensive for non-US citizens.
Tibet Travel Permit
Obtaining a Tibet travel Permit in China is very similar to getting one in Nepal. Even in China, personal applications are not permitted, and one has to apply using a recognized tour operator such as Tibet Tour. Applying uses the same process, with the exception of needing your original passport, since a scanned (color) copy is sufficient.
Once you have discussed the arrangements, planned the itinerary, and booked the tour, your tour operator will apply for your Tibet Travel Permit from the TTB. On average, it takes around 10 days to process the permit, and it is normally delivered to your hotel room in China once you arrive, ready for your trip to Tibet.
In the same way that you can get a Nepali visa on arrival when entering Nepal from another country, it is also available for those entering Nepal from Tibet. The visa-on-arrival can be applied at the Tribhuvan International Airport, or at the land border crossing at Gyirong port. All of the same requirements apply, including the fees.
What other visas or permits are required for a Nepal and Tibet tour?
Aliens’ Travel Permit
The Alien’s Travel Permit is required for travel to certain areas of Tibet outside the city of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, such as Gyantse, Shigatse, Rongbuk, Everest, etc. Again, this cannot be provided without being on a recognized tour, and is normally obtained once you reach Lhasa by your guide. However, if you are traveling overland from Nepal to Tibet, this will be applied and obtained for you before you enter Tibet from Nepal. The cost is around 50 CNY, although this is covered in the cost of your tour with Tibet Tour.
Military Area Entry Permit
Certain areas of Tibet are regarded as being “military sensitive” areas, and to travel in these places you need the Military Area Entry Permit (commonly known as the Military Permit). This is also normally obtained in Lhasa, and costs 100 CNY per person, which is again included in a Tibet tour. Since this permit is needed for travel to Ngari Prefecture, where Mt. Kailash is located, it will be sourced prior to entry if you are entering from Nepal.
Trekkers Information Management Systems (TIMS) Card for trekking in Nepal
Trekking in Nepal is an amazing adventure, and to make sure it is safer for everyone involved, there is the Trekker’s Information Management System card, or TIMS card. The TIMS card was introduced to ensure the safety and security of trekkers in Nepal, and can be applied for in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Namche Bazaar (for the Everest Base Camp trek only).
The TIMS collects trekkers data and enters it onto the system to help manage the trekking routes in Nepal, help carry out search and rescue operations in case of natural calamities, and in the case of accidents that may require airlifting.
You can obtain the card by applying for it yourself at one of the approved application centers using a photocopy of your passport and two passport-sized photos. The cards cost the equivalent of US$ 20 in Nepali currency for the green card used for Free individual trekkers, and the equivalent of US$ 10 per person for group trek, who get blue cards.