Tibet Altitude Sickness: How to Prevent Altitude Sickness Naturally While Visiting Tibet?

Last updated: March,23 2024

Tibet, the ‘Roof of the World’, is located at an average elevation of 4,380 meters. The Tibet Plateau is the highest region in the world and home to many of the tallest mountains. Despite its remoteness, thousands of people go to Tibet every year to see how it feels to stand on top of the world, experience a new culture, and see landscapes and scenery that can’t be found anywhere else. Dealing with the cold weather is one thing, but altitude sickness is a real risk for travelers to Tibet. Here, we talk about natural solutions to prevent altitude sickness.

What is Altitude Sickness? Will I Suffer From Altitude Sickness in Tibet?

Altitude sickness is a natural reaction of your body to high-altitude regions. Also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), one of the main causes is the decreased oxygen levels at higher altitudes. People can begin to experience symptoms in places higher than 3,000m, an elevation well below the average in Tibet. Some common symptoms of AMS are nausea, headaches, dizziness, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, loss of sleep, and fatigue.

 Tibet Altitude sicknessAltitude sickness is a natural reaction of your body to high-altitude regions.

No. 1 Way to Prevent Altitude Sickness: Prepare Yourself Before Arrival

The first step in preparing is to talk with a doctor before you arrive in Tibet. Discuss your overall health condition and any risk factors that might make you more susceptible to AMS. Your doctor can tell you what symptoms to look out for and what medicine you can prepare in case of the worst.

Talk about an emergency response plan so you know when to seek out medical help and what to do if symptoms become severe. Your doctor can also give guidance on proper hydration and nutrition for high-altitude travel.

No. 2 Way to Prevent Altitude Sickness: Stay in Lhasa for Altitude Acclimatization

Ascending gradually to give your body a chance to acclimatize is the single best way to prevent altitude sickness. Lhasa, at 3,650 meters, is high, but not too high. As an arrival point in Tibet, it is a good place to stay for a few days to acclimatize. Lhasa is the home of some of Tibet’s most iconic sites, like Potala Palace and Drepung Monastery, so your time there adjusting the elevation will not be wasted.

Potala PalaceAs an arrival point in Tibet, Lhasa is a good place to stay for a few days to acclimatize.

It is even better if you can arrive in Lhasa by train. People who fly to Lhasa are most likely to get altitude sickness because of the sudden change in altitude. You are literally just flying from the plains and landing in one of the highest regions in the world. While flying, our body does not have enough time to adapt to the high altitude. While traveling by Tibet train, you move much more slowly and ascend gradually across the different altitudes. Even if you feel symptoms of altitude sickness like shortness of breath, there are oxygen outlets on the train that you can help yourself with. The only disadvantage of going by train is that it is time-consuming, but the scenery along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is worth taking the time to see.

  Tibet train  Taking a Tibet train to Lhasa helps to avoid altitude sickness.

No. 3 Way to Prevent Altitude Sickness: Stay Hydrated & Eat Properly

Be careful what you eat and drink during your Tibet tour. It is best to avoid drinking alcohol, caffeine, and smoking at high altitudes. Drink lots of water, at least 2-3 liters per day. The air is dry, and dehydration only increases the chances of experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness. In the cold weather, you might not feel thirsty, but remind yourself to consume water at regular intervals. Hydration is the key to avoiding a host of symptoms like headache, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. Butter Tea is a good local remedy for altitude sickness; drink some butter tea as soon as you land in Lhasa.

Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in carbohydrates. Eat energy bars and healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruit. Have soup and energy drinks every day. Eat small but frequent meals. Avoid eating in food from street vendors as it might not suit your stomach. Foods like bread and grains should be part of your daily intake. Just walking at higher altitudes burns more energy than you might expect. Calorie-rich, healthy foods will help keep you energized and lower the risk of altitude sickness.

Tibetan foodEat lots of fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in carbohydrates lowers the risk of altitude sickness.

No. 4 Way to Prevent Altitude Sickness: Climb High and Sleep Low

Climb high and sleep low is a simple mantra for staying safe. The idea is to ascend to higher altitudes during the day and then descend to sleep at night. This exposes the body to high elevations gradually and helps with acclimatization. Try to sleep at the same altitude for at least two days, and never ascend when experiencing altitude sickness symptoms. If you start to feel any discomfort, descend immediately.

No. 5 Way to Prevent Altitude Sickness: Avoid Catching a Cold

Besides the discomfort of being sick, catching a cold in higher altitude regions brings some additional complications. Respiratory infections often accompany colds, and your respiratory system will already be under strain with the lower oxygen levels in the region.

The compromised immune system associated with a cold puts you at increased risk of altitude-related illnesses and creates more challenges for staying hydrated. Cold symptoms also overlap with AMS symptoms, which can make it more difficult to receive the correct treatment.

 Tibet Altitude sicknessKeep warm to avoid catching a cold in Tibet.

Take preventative steps to avoid getting sick. Stay warm and practice good hygiene, such as hand washing and avoiding close contact with sick individuals.

No. 6 Way to Prevent Altitude Sickness: Take Proper Medication

One common medicine for altitude sickness is acetazolamide (Diamox) avai, available with a prescription. It helps by increasing the respiratory rate and reducing the risk of fluid retention. Acetazolamide is often proscribed for anyone ascending over 2,400 meters.

It is typically taken starting a day or two before reaching high altitude. The usual dosage is 125-250mg twice a day, with continued use until a few days after reaching the highest points of your journey. It is considered a safe medicine with few side effects, but with the right preventative steps, you won’t need to use it.

No. 7 Way to Prevent Altitude Sickness: Don’t Be Too Nervous

While the thought of experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness can be scary and uncomfortable, don’t sweat too much over it. In most cases, the symptoms you experience will subside in a couple of days. In the worst cases, hospitals in Tibet have lots of experience treating people for altitude sickness and can help you recover swiftly.

Altitude sickness also has nothing to do with age, gender, or physical fitness. While it is advisable to get yourself in shape before traveling to Tibet, your fitness factor has nothing to do with altitude sickness. Inform your guide if you are not feeling well, get some local herbs that help with the symptoms, carry portable small oxygen tanks with you at all times, and be prepared. At the most altitude sickness will only be a minor setback in your trip. After some rest, you’ll be able to continue.


With some knowledge and preparation, it’s possible to keep the risk of high-altitude sickness to a minimum. Eating well, resting well, and ascending gradually are the three simplest and best things you can do to stay healthy on your Tibet trip. If you do start to experience AMS symptoms, tell your guide right away, and don’t panic. It’s common and treatable and won’t be the end of your trip.

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