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30 Essential Things to Know before You Visit Tibet

Last Update: June 16, 2020

Taking a trip to Tibet is the lifelong dream of many people, and there is a way to make that dream come true. Lying on the high Qinghai Tibet Plateau in western China, the Tibet Autonomous Region is the highest land on the planet, is home to a huge number of high mountains including Mount Everest, and is renowned for its devout Buddhist people and unique Tibetan culture. For anyone planning a trip to Tibet, there are a number of things you will find it useful to know, which can make your trip easier to plan and much more enjoyable overall.

1. Find a Reliable Tibet Travel Agency Before Visiting Tibet.

The first thing to do is find a reputable travel agency that can handle your tour. Independent travel to Tibet is prohibited, and all tourists must be on a pre-arranged tour with a registered Tibetan travel agency. With more than 17 years of experience as Tibetan tour experts, handling tours for international tourists since 2002, we have a passion for ensuring your tour is the best possible, and our expert guides can give you their lifetime-worth of knowledge and experience of this beautiful land. What’s more, we offer the cheapest value-for-money tours online today. You can find us at https://www.tibettour.org.

Join our expert Tibet travel agencyJoin our expert Tibet travel agency to enjoy a lifetime trip.

2. Choose the Best Time to Visit Tibet – April to October.

Knowing when to go is an important factor when planning a trip to Tibet. The main season for travel to the region is from April to October, when the weather is at its best for trekking, sightseeing, and generally traveling around the plateau. Warmer temperatures and clear skies make this time of year the ideal time to view the high mountain peaks and enjoy the stunning landscape of the Roof of the World.

Visit Tibet in summerHad a visit to the Drepung Monastery during our Tibet tour in summer time.

3. How to Get to Tibet? Train or Flight or Overland?

You have the option of traveling to Tibet by flight, train or overland by car. Flights depart daily from several cities across mainland China, as well as from Kathmandu in Nepal, and take from 90 minutes to 4 hours to reach the Tibetan capital airport. Trains run daily and every-other-day from seven gateway cities in China. And for those that are starting in Nepal, you can start your tour just across the border at Gyirong Port, and travel overland to the Tibetan capital by tour vehicle with your guide and driver.

4. Can I Fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa?

Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal is actually the only international airport with direct flights to Tibet, and is a popular departure location for tourists heading to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Flights run daily from the Nepali capital airport, and take around 90 minutes to cross the mighty Himalayas, flying directly over the summit of Mount Everest on the way to Lhasa.

5. Which Tibet Train Should I Take?

With seven Tibet trains to choose from, you are spoilt for choice. The trains from Chengdu are the most popular, while the trains from Xining are the fastest and cheapest, taking just 22 hours to reach Lhasa. The best way to choose is to consider your itinerary in China (if you have one) and the best airport for your entry to China from your home country. With the seven gateway cities spread across China, there is one close by wherever you may be landing.

Get to Tibet by trainIt is a good choice to get to Tibet by train along scenic railway.

6. What Should I Pack for Tibet Weather?

What to pack depends on when you are coming to Tibet, and you should pack according to the weather of the time of year. In the spring and autumn, it can get a little cold at night, so you will need to bring some warm sweaters and jacket for the evenings. In winter it can get a lot colder, but not arctic, so regular warm sweaters, underwear, and jackets, with gloves and hat are perfect. In the summer months, the days are warm and comfortable, and you will only need a jumper in the evenings in some of the more remote areas.

Basic travel clothes for Tibet tourIt is necessary to pack basic travel clothes for Tibet tour.

7. You Need to Get the Chinese Group Visa When Entering Tibet from Nepal.

Instead of getting a regular Chinese Entry Visa, when you travel to Tibet from Nepal, you will be issued with a Chinese Group Visa once you arrive in Kathmandu. This allows you to travel in China for up to 30 days, and is applied for by us on your behalf when you arrive in Nepal.

8. Any Non-Chinese Travelers Need a Tibet Travel Permit.

The Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) is the main permit for entry to and travel in Tibet Autonomous Region. All tourists to Tibet that are not Chinese citizens are required to have the TTP, which can be obtained once you have booked your tour of the region with a registered travel agency. Only the agency can apply for the permit, which can take up to 15 days to process.

9. Can I Travel Independently in Tibet?

All tourists to Tibet that are not Chinese citizens are required to be on a pre-arranged tour of the region with a registered Tibetan travel agency. This actually has many benefits, as the agency will handle all of the permits required, your accommodation for the duration of the tour, the entry to all attractions, and many other things, making it easier for you to plan your trip to Tibet.

10. Do not Miss the Best Places During Your Tibet Tour.

Tibet is a vast land of awe and wonder, and has thousands of sights and attractions spread across the immense plateau. For those that are must-see in Tibet, you should always try to visit such iconic attractions as the Potala Palace, former seat of power in Tibet; the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple in Tibet; Drepung Monastery, the first monastery of the former ruling Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism; Lakes Namtso and Yamdrok, two of the most sacred lakes in Tibet that are within easy reach of Lhasa; and the famous Mount Everest, far out on the border with Nepal.

Sacred lakes Namtso toursPaid a visit to the sacred Namtso Lake.

11. How Many Days Do I Need to Tour Tibet?

How long you stay in Tibet mainly depends on where you want to visit and what you want to see and do. There are perfect short tours of Lhasa that run for four days, up to the long 15-day trips to Mount Kailash in the far west of Tibet, and many others in between. Talk to our friendly and professional advisors who will be able to help you decide which tour is best for your needs.

12. Can I Visit Tibet in Winter Season?

Contrary to what many people think, Tibet is not the icy wilderness it is reputed to be in winter. Much of the plateau is still easily accessible, and the temperatures are nowhere near the arctic temperatures of legend. Winter days in Lhasa can be warm and pleasant, with bright sunshine that makes it feel much warmer, and the winter scenery is a truly stunning sight. And if you are on a budget, winter can be a great time to save money.

Visit Tibet in winterHad a wonderful visit to Tibet during winter season.

13. Where to See the Mount Everest in Tibet?

Mount Everest lies on the border with Nepal in the western edge of Shigatse Prefecture, in western Tibet. Tours run to the mountain’s famous base camp, from where you can get the best view of the mountain from anywhere in the world. You can also stay at the Rongbuk Monastery guesthouse or in the authentic yak-hair nomad tents of the tent guesthouses, and visit the official world’s highest monastery while you are there. For that perfect initial view of the mountain, you can stop at the top of the Gawu La Pass, which gives a great panoramic view of Everest and the other highest mountains of the Himalayas.

View Mount Everest from Gawula PassBrilliant Mount Everest view from Gawula Pass

14. Is It Safe for the Elderly to Visit EBC in Tibet?

Traveling to EBC in Tibet is normally done by car, right up to the base camp at the foot of the mountain. The whole trip can be done on paved roads, so even the oldest person can easily get to EBC to see the mountain. For most people, even the elderly, as long as you have acclimatized properly in Lhasa before you depart, there should be no problems at the base camp’s altitude, and there have been people as old as in their 80s who have made the trip. Just get checked out by your doctor before booking the trip.

elderly to visit EBCOne of our elederly clinets made a visit to EBC at his 82.

15. Is It Possible for Family with Kids to Visit Tibet?

We have a number of families that come to Tibet with us on our tours, and bring their young kids with them. While it is not normally recommended to bring small babies to the plateau, children as young as four years old have been to the region, and thoroughly enjoyed their stay in the high-altitude environment of Tibet.

16. What are the Hotels Like in Tibet?

Accommodation in Tibet depends on where you are traveling to. In the major cities such as Lhasa and Shigatse, you have the option of choosing from all ranges of hotels, from small local hotels to five-star palaces of luxury. The further out from the cities you go, the lower the quality and fewer facilities in the hotels and guesthouses, and in some very remote areas, such as EBC, the facilities are very basic, with no running water and only a few amenities. You are only likely to stay in such places for one night though, and it is a great adventure to live at the Tibetans do in the remote areas.

Shangri-La Lhasa HotelShangri-La Lhasa Hotel

17. Is There 24-Hour Hot Running Water in the Hotels in Tibet?

Most of the major hotels in Lhasa and Shigatse have hot running water, with showers and bathtubs, so you can take a shower during your stay. In the smaller towns and villages, you will not find hot running water, and in the most remote areas, no running water at all, with all water coming from wells or the local streams.

18. Accommodation Condition at Everest Base Camp.

If your trip takes you to EBC in Tibet, then you should be prepared for the most basic accommodation you have ever experienced. The Rongbuk Guesthouse and tent guesthouses at the base camp have no electricity, no running water, and are heated by the stove in the center of the tent guesthouses, with no heating in the Rongbuk guesthouse. However, since you will only be staying for one night, roughing it in the basic accommodation can be fun, and is definitely a real Tibetan experience in the tent guesthouses.

19. There are Luxury Five-Star Hotels Available in Lhasa.

Lhasa is the capital of the region, and the largest city on the plateau. As such, the city does have a number of five-star hotels that are open for tourists to the plateau. With luxurious facilities and great locations, you can choose from such amazing international and local five-star hotels as the St. Regis Resort Hotel, the Lhasa Manasarovar Hotel, the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, the Lhasa Brahmaputra Hotel, and the Intercontinental Lhasa Paradise.

The St. Regis Resort LhasaThe St. Regis Resort Lhasa

20. What to Eat and Drink in Tibet?

Tibetan food is unique to the plateau, and there are several foods that are favorites with tourists in the region. Influenced by the environment, as well as Chinese and Nepali cuisines, you can try such delicious dishes as Tibetan momos, Tibetan blood sausages, local yak meat, mutton and beef, and the ever-present tsampa, made from locally-grown highland barley flour.

Tibetan Sweet TeaTibetan sweet tea is a quite popular drink.

Yogurt is a particular favorite of the Tibetan people, and there are a number of delicious noodle dishes with Sichuan influences that are great as lunches. And for drinks, you should try the Tibetan Sweet Tea and Butter Tea, which are the main beverages of the people, or the locally-brewed barley wine for the adults in the party.

21. You Can Find Nightlife Bars in Lhasa.

Tibet may be a remote region, but Lhasa has its own nightlife, and there are a number of bars that cater to both locals and tourists, where you can spend the evening eating, drinking, and making merry. Try out the famous Makye Ame, a landmark of Lhasa nightlife and a place of legend; the Ganglamedo Café and Bar, a symbol of the nightlife in Lhasa for local culture; the Nepal-themed Low House Music Bar, once the house of the 11th Dalai Lama; and the Dunya Restaurant Bar, a very typical western-styled bar run by Kristin from America and Jannette from Holland, which is a popular watering hole for international tourists.

Nightlife bars in LhasaNightlife bars in Lhasa

22. Ask Your Guide to Show You the Good Restaurant.

Lhasa has more restaurants than many people would think possible, and even when you travel outside of the capital, you can find many great places to eat while you are traveling across the plateau. For the best in local Tibetan dining, or the best restaurants for western or international cuisine, you can simply ask your guide, as he will know where to get the best food on the plateau.

Find a good restaurant with your guideFind a good restaurant with your guide.

23. Pay Attention to the Altitude Sickness in Tibet.

Altitude sickness is a common ailment when traveling to Tibet, and is normally recovered from after a couple of days of rest and acclimatization. The main symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, lack of appetite, and insomnia, among others. It is important that you rest once you arrive, to let your body get used to the altitude. It is also important to be aware of the symptoms should they occur again later in the tour, and inform your guide of how you are feeling.

24. Sun Protection is Also Important During your Stay in Tibet.

Tibet may not be at the temperature of the tropics, but you can get sunburn when traveling across the plateau, as the thinner atmosphere allows more UV radiation to pass through. Always make sure that you carry sun block and apply it to the uncovered areas daily, to prevent sunburn, even in the winter months.

25. What Medicines Should I Bring Before Coming to Tibet?

Ideally, the only medicines you should need for Tibet are those prescribed by your doctor as regular medication. However, you can bring some painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen for headaches caused by altitude sickness, and anti-nausea tablets to help counter the sick feelings. Altitude sickness medication is not recommended, and you should talk to your own physician before taking it.

26. Is It Safe to Visit Tibet?

Tibet is as safe a place as any, and can be considered much safer than many of the countries around the world. Tibetans are a friendly people, and major crime is not common in Tibet. A few minor incidents do occur, such as pickpockets and minor thefts, and you can find a few scams, which are generally easy to avoid. When traveling, you are always in the company of your guide and/or driver, so even single solo female travelers can feel safe when traveling in Tibet.

Tibet visit is very safelyIt is surely safe to visit Tibet.

27. What Currencies Can be Used in Tibet?

Tibet is a region of the People’s Republic of China, and the main currency of the region is the Chinese Yuan. Also known as the Rénmínbì (RMB), this is the only legal currency in Tibet. Get your home currency changed before you leave mainland China to get the best exchange rates.

28. Can I Withdraw Money from the Local Banks and ATMs in Tibet?

Tibet has three major banks, the Construction Bank of China, the Bank of China, and the Agriculture Bank of China, and you can withdraw from the bank or their ATMs using your credit or debit card with VISA or MasterCard. Lhasa and Shigatse have banks, but outside these cities, there are few ATMs that you can use, so make sure you take cash with you in remote areas.

29. Many Festivals in Tibet are Unique to the Region.

Tibet has a huge number of festivals throughout the year, and most of them are unique to the Tibetan plateau and culture of the region. From the amazing Losar (Tibetan New Year) and the delicious Shoton (Yogurt) Festival to the awesome Saga Dawa Festival at Mount Kailash and the wonders of the Thangka Unveiling festivals, there is a festival in every month of the year, so you can always find a good one to visit.

Saga Dawa Festival at Mount KailashIn Ngari, Saga Dawa Festival is done around the foot of Mount Kailash.

30. Learn some Basic Custom and Even Greetings Before You Arrive in Tibet.

If you really want to impress your Tibetan hosts, then you can learn a few of the basic customs and greetings before you travel. Tashi Delek is the traditional greeting for Tibetans, and the giving of the white silk “hada” scarves is a common custom. You can also get some great tips on dos and don’ts for the region, so that you can avoid any social and cultural faux pas while traveling in Tibet.

Local Tibetan greets customersNice welcome was presented with white hada to our clients from local Tibetans.

Conclusion

Planning a trip to Tibet can seem a little daunting, especially when you consider the permits you need and the requirements for travel. However, with all tourists being required to use a travel agency, we take the pressure of your planning, and you can relax and enjoy the tour much more. And with a few tips and hints for planning and traveling in Tibet, you can make this trip to the Roof of the World the most amazing journey of your life.

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