Can I Travel to Tibet? Check the 20 common Questions You May also Have before Your Tibet Tour

Last updated: October,25 2018

Many people ask us questions about their Tibet tour, whether they can go, if they can travel independently, if they can get to Tibet from Nepal, how to get there from India, etc. Our professional and helpful staff are always ready to answer your question, and confirm your ideas, and we have listed down the twenty most asked question from our tour advisors to give you a better understanding of the things you might want to ask before you travel to Tibet.

Of course, we will also answer all of these questions personally, if you wish to know more details.

1. Can I travel to Tibet independently?

Simply put, no. There is no possibility of traveling to Tibet without the use of a registered tour operator and a pre-booked tour. All tourists to Tibet are required to have this pre-booked tour, which includes a private guide, driver, and vehicle, for the entirety of your Tibet tour. Tibet is a region of China that has strict controls on tourism, partly in order to maintain an environmentally friendly tourist industry to preserve the unique landscape and culture of the Tibetan plateau.

2. Can I travel to Tibet alone without join in any group?

Yes, you can travel to Tibet without joining a group tour. We can offer you a wide range of private tours to all of the different places in Tibet that you might wish to visit. Our tour advisors can also help you to arrange a customized tour, for yourself or for your friends and family that does not include other people joining in your tour. You will also receive a private tour guide as well as a driver and private vehicle to take you to your various destinations within Tibet. However, this option is more expensive, and if you are on a budget, then a private tour will not be suitable.

3. Can I travel Tibet without a guide?

Unfortunately, there is no option to travel around in Tibet without a guide to accompany you. All tourists to Tibet are required to be accompanied by a registered tour guide at all times, except when just wandering around in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. All attractions also require that your tour guide be with you, and you will not be permitted to enter without him/her. Since we are the ones that will purchase the tickets to the attractions as part of the cost of your tour, your guide will be the one holding the tickets until you get to the attraction for entry.

4. Can I travel to Tibet with a Chinese Visa?

Yes, you need to get your Chinese Visa to visit Tibet. If you plan to enter Tibet from Nepal, you need to apply for a special Group Tourists Visa from Chinese Embassy at Kathmandu. In addition, you need apply for Tibet Travel Permit, which is an important travel documents for all foreign tourists entering Tibet. There are also some other permits required for your Everest Base Camp Tour, Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar tour and trips to some other remote area in Tibet.

5. What travel documents do I need to travel to Tibet?

Firstly, you will need to have a valid passport with at least six month’s validity remaining and your Chinese Entry Visa. This is easily arranged at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in your home country, and normally takes just 3 days to process.

You will also need the Tibet Travel Permit (TTP), which is obtained by us once you have booked your tour, using scanned copies of your passport and Visa. The TTP takes around 15-20 days to process and will be forwarded to your hotel in mainland China in time for your flight or train to Tibet. You may also need the Alien’s Travel permit, the Military Permit, and the Frontier Pass, depending on where you are traveling in Tibet during your tour.

Tibet Travel PermitTibet Travel Permit is needed to travel to Tibet.

The Alien’s Travel Permit, for travel outside Lhasa, is obtained by your guide once you are in the Tibetan capital using your original passport and TTP, while the Military Permit is obtained by us prior to your trip, in the same way as the TTP is applied for, as it takes longer to process. The Frontier Pass, which is needed for travel in the region of the borders areas with Nepal and India, is also obtained in Lhasa or Shigatse by your guide and requires your original passport and TTP.

6. Can I travel to Tibet from Nepal?

Yes, there is a way to get from Nepal to Tibet, through the border checkpoint at Rasuwagadhi Fort/Gyirong Port. This is the new overland crossing point for international tourists, which was opened in August 2017 to replace the previous crossing point at Zhangmu/Kodari, which was closed following the devastating earthquake in 2015.

Overland tours are available for tourists wishing to travel overland from Kathmandu to Lhasa, the reverse of the normal tour route, or you can take a flight direct to Lhasa Gonggar International Airport from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. Tribhuvan is the only international airport with flights to Tibet.

Getting to Tibet from Nepal means that you do not need the Chinese Entry Visa, as we arrange a Group Tourist Visa once you arrive in Kathmandu. This is done using your original passport, TTP, and letter of invitation from the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa. Processing takes around 3 working days, so it is advisable to be in Kathmandu at least 5 working days before your expected date of travel.

7. Can I travel to Tibet from India?

While India is one of China’s neighbors, there is no direct route to Tibet from India. All tourists traveling to Tibet from India must travel through either Nepal or mainland China in order to get to Tibet. Regular flights run from all over India to both Kathmandu and a selection of airports across China. From there, you can get to Tibet very easily.

8. Can I travel from Bhutan to Tibet?

Bhutan shares its northern border with Tibet, and while they are very close neighbors, there is no direct flight to Tibet from Bhutan’s only airport, Paro International Airport. All tourists traveling from Bhutan to Tibet must first fly to either Kathmandu in Nepal or one of the airports in China first. Bhutan has only two airlines that are permitted to fly into the kingdom, which only fly to Nepal, Thailand, India, and Singapore. Getting to Tibet requires a connection through Nepal or a connecting flight from one of the other destinations to mainland China.

9. How can I travel to Tibet from China?

There are three ways to travel from mainland China to Tibet: by car; by flight; and by train. Flights to Tibet leave from several airports across China daily, including Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Lanzhou, and Xining, to name a few. Flight costs vary depending on the departure location and take from two to eight hours to get to Lhasa.

Traveling by train is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to get to Tibet and there are seven gateway cities with trains to Tibet that leave almost daily from across China. Prices do vary from around 76 US dollars to as much as 228 US dollars, depending on your departure station and ticket class. The trains are also longer than taking a flight, with travel times being from around 22 hours from Xining to as much as 55 hours from Guangzhou, the longest train route to Lhasa. However, this is much cheaper than taking the flights, and the scenery along the route of the Qinghai Tibet Railway to Lhasa is stupendous.

Tibet Train to LhasaTravelling to Tibet by train is one of popular ways to get to Tibet from China.

Traveling overland to Tibet can be done from Chengdu or from Qinghai, and the journey covers around 2,000 kilometers on each route. Traveling does take several days to complete this awesome trip, and the scenery along the routes are some of the best in the world. However, this option is not currently available to international tourists.

10. How can I get to Tibet?

You can get to Tibet from either Kathmandu in Nepal or from any of more than a dozen cities across China. The advantages of traveling through Nepal are mainly the convenience of not having to obtain the Chinese Entry Visa before traveling, as the Group Tourist Visa is provided, and the opportunity to travel overland to the plateau, which is an amazing adventure. You also have the choice of flying into Lhasa from the only international airport with a flight to Tibet.

From China, you have the option of taking the Tibet train or flying to Lhasa, and both have their pros and cons. The train is fast becoming the popular choice, due to the lower price and the opportunity to view the stunning landscapes of the Tibetan plateau as you ride the rails from Golmud to Lhasa. Flying is much faster, but also much costlier, though it does have the advantage of being able to travel from locations in China that the train does not depart from and there are more tickets available for flights in the peak months.

11. Can I go trekking in Tibet?

Tibet has some of the loveliest trekking routes in the world, and trekking in the high altitudes of Tibet is a popular pastime for tourists with our tours. You can travel to Tibet with a tour as normal and take in the trekking areas that are available as part of that tour, yet still get to visit some of the wondrous places that exist on the roof of the world, such as the Jokhang Temple and Potala Palace.

The most popular trek is the one to Everest Base Camp (EBC) from Old Tingri on the G318 Friendship highway. Covering 70 kilometers, it is an adventurous trek over varied terrain, ending with the stunning sight of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest.

Everest Base Camp TrekkingOne can choose the popular route from Old Tingri to Everest Base Camp to do trekking in Tibet.

For those that are new to high-altitude trekking, there is the option of shorter treks around the Lhasa area, and even around Lake Namtso, one of the great Three Holy Lakes of Tibet. These shorter treks are easier and less arduous, and suitable for almost every level of trekker, including complete novices. You can also take a single day trek around some of the ancient hermitage sites around Lhasa and explore more of the Tibetan Buddhist culture of the region.

12. Can I drive to Tibet myself?

Only if you are a natural Chinese citizen with a local driving license. Foreign tourists are not permitted to drive in China, as international driving licenses are not recognized. Foreign nationals living in China are also prohibited from driving themselves to Tibet, as they are not permitted to travel to Tibet without a pre-booked tour.

13. Can foreign tourist enter Tibet through highways?

While there are five different highways to Tibet, only one can be used by foreign tourists to get to Tibet at this time. The route from Kathmandu to Lhasa is one of the most popular tours for those wishing to travel from Nepal to Tibet, and the overland route is one of stunning landscapes and tremendous scenery.

14. How can I buy the Tibet train ticket myself?

Train tickets to Lhasa from mainland China can be bought in one of two ways. You can go to the ticket office of the railway station yourself, and purchase the ticket over the counter, or you can book and pay for the ticket online through the Chinese railway website.

Booking tickets at train stations can be done at any railway station across China, for any of the trains to Tibet. You will need your passport, visa, and Tibet Travel Permit in order to make the booking, and it is advisable to get there very early, as ticket offices in Chinese railway stations are always very busy with long queues. However, apart from the Beijing West Railway station, which has counter 16 as an English-speaking counter, there are almost no other stations that have English-speaking staff, so you would need to know Chinese or have a Chinese-speaking friends with you.

Alternatively, you can let us book your ticket for you to save all the troubles, and we will make sure your ticket is waiting for you at your departure station on the day you travel, or even beforehand if required.

15. What kind of weather can I expect in Tibet?

The weather in Tibet can vary from area to area across the region, mainly due to the massive difference in altitude from east to west. In the east of Tibet, the weather is milder in the winter and shoulder seasons, and hotter in the summer with a little more rain during the monsoon. In the west, the weather is a lot colder, even in the summer, though the bright sunshine does make it feel more comfortable during the day. Winters in the west of the region can be extremely cold, with average daytime temperatures of around freezing, and nighttime temperature getting as low as minus 20 degrees in some areas.

16. What to wear when I travel to Tibet?

While Tibet can be warm in the summer months, it can still get cold at night, no matter what area you are visiting. It is best to pack for colder weather, with plenty of warm shirts and sweaters to keep out the cold. Warm pants can help to keep the cold out as well, and shorts are not really appropriate in this culture, for both men and women. Get some sturdy walking boots to wear around the sites you will visit, as even the courtyards of some of the monasteries can be rough and rugged ground, and most of the outlying areas are rough terrain. Make sure you bring a hat and sunglasses as well, to keep the strong sun from hurting your eyes and causing heatstroke.

17. What kind of accommodation can I choose in Tibet?

Tibet has a wide range of accommodation in the cities, from Five-star hotels to the simplest guesthouses. However, as you venture out to the more outlying areas of the region, there is less chance of finding a western-style hotel, and most of the accommodation ranges from guesthouses and lodges to Tibetan tent guesthouses where everyone sleeps in the same tent. Facilities at these remote areas are often basic, with no hot running water and very little in the way of heating.

Rooms of Tibet Gang-gyan Lhasa HotelHotels in Tibet offer various choices for tourists.

18. Can I stay in a local monastery?

There are a number of monasteries in Tibet, especially in the remote areas and where people go for trekking, that offer basic accommodation while you are in the area. Rongbuk Monastery has its own guesthouse for those visiting Mount Everest, and if you are planning to trek in places such as sacred Mount Kailash, Lake Yamdrok, and Lake Namtso, the monasteries there also offer basic accommodation.

19. Can I take my children or senior parents to visit Tibet?

Anyone can visit Tibet, and it is not limited to those that are fit and active. Although it is not recommended to take children under five years old, there are many parents that take their kids to Tibet, and the children have a great time while they are there. As for the seniors, there are hundreds of older people that travel to Tibet every year with us, and we cater to them in the same way we cater to everyone, with care and excellent service. One of our oldest clients was 84 years old and traveled to Mount Everest Base Camp at 5,200 meters above sea level with her 60-year-old daughter.

20. What can I do to avoid high altitude sickness while in Tibet?

The first thing to do when arriving in Tibet is to rest and drink plenty of water as a preliminary measure to try and prevent altitude sickness. Avoid any strenuous activity for the first few days as your body adjusts to the high altitude. This is known as acclimatization and is important when ascending to high altitudes to reduce the risk of suffering from altitude sickness while traveling around Tibet. Avoid things like alcohol and smoking while in high altitudes, as it can increase the risk of altitude sickness. Eating good healthy vegetables and high-protein foods can also help to reduce the risk of altitude sickness.

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