Can I Travel to Tibet Alone?
Traveling to Tibet Autonomous Region is often the journey of a lifetime for most people, and the allure of the high Himalayan Mountains, the lush green valleys, and the shimmering holy lakes can be overwhelming. However, unlike most countries in Asia, where you can go wherever you like without many restrictions, Tourists need to travel Tibet with a local guide and driver.
That does not mean you cannot travel to Tibet on your own, just not alone. With the restrictions on travel in the region, foreign tourists are required to book a Tibet tour with a registered and recognized tour operator like us in order to obtain the Tibet Travel permit needed to enter the region. Other permits are also required for travel to areas of Tibet outside Lhasa, and these can only be obtained by the tour operator, either before you travel or once you are in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. All tours must have a private vehicle, driver, and tour guide, even for those people traveling solo, and attempting to enter Tibet without a booked tour or the correct permits can mean serious trouble.
You Should Travel with a Local Guide and Driver
Booking the tour with a tour operator is not the only restriction on traveling into and around Tibet. Rules on foreign travel in the region require all tourists to have a private guide, driver, and private vehicle while traveling in Tibet, and these normally come as part of the tour.
Tour operators make all the arrangements for the permits you need to get into and travel around Tibet, and also provide their private vehicle and driver for the entire tour. Foreign travelers are not permitted to use the public transport in Tibet. In order to travel from one place to another, a private vehicle is required, and it must be driven by a local driver, since foreign tourists are not permitted to drive in the People’s Republic of China, despite the information some websites give on how to hire cars in places like Chengdu. The only public transportation allowed for tourists in Tibet is the train from mainland China to Lhasa.
A local guide is also required as part of the regulations surrounding tourism in Tibet. However, your guide is not your guardian or nanny, and will not be with you 24 hours a day. In cities like Lhasa, you can wander around the city without your guide, as long as you do not enter any scenic spots or tourist attractions, such as Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple. Staff at these places will turn you away if you try to enter without your guide, and doing so can cause trouble for both you and your tour guide.
Tour guides in Tibet are trained in a variety of areas, including emergency first-aid, and are licensed and registered by the government. Once outside Lhasa, your tour guide will be with you all the time, except when you stop for the day, and just want to wander around the locality. They are also a good source of information about their homeland, which you can use to make sure you do not make any religious or cultural mishaps. They can also tell you more about the religion, culture, and lifestyle of the people of Tibet, as well as the landscape and the history.
Ensuring your tour guide and driver are professional people with a regard for your welfare and personal space largely depends on your choice of tour operator, and you should research the tour operators available before booking your trip. As a reliable local Tibet Travel Agency, we have a great team of professional tour guides and drivers with many years experience, and that can be trusted to make sure your tour is the best possible, and are always happy to answer all your questions and guide you in the right direction when it comes to Tibetan customs and culture.
Travel in a Private Tour or Join in a Group Tour
Tours to Tibet come in tow main options, either an individual tour just for yourself, or a group tour, where you join with other people touring the same places, and with the same interests. Both options have their up and down sides, and which you choose can depend on how you are traveling. Some people will prefer to have a customized private tour, where they have the guide to themselves, and can learn more about the region and its people and culture without having others interrupting. Conversely, some people dislike traveling alone, and want to travel with other people, but do not have friends that they can take with them. Group tours were designed just for that reason, giving solo travelers the chance to travel to Tibet with other people.
Small Group Tours
For a many solo travelers, the group tour in Tibet is the best choice, since you will have other people to tour with, and you can make new friends along the way. Traveling in a group has many other benefits as well, and for the solo traveler to Tibet, where a booked tour, guide, and private vehicle with driver are compulsory, it can really make a difference to your trip.
A solo traveler taking a private tour will also pay more, since they will have to foot the cost of the driver, vehicle, and guide on their own. Private tours can be very expensive, as you will have the vehicle to yourself, and a personal guide for all the activities. However, unless you are used to traveling alone, it can be a lonely experience, and somewhere as amazing as Tibet should be visited with others, so that you can share the experience, and make it richer and more exciting.
When traveling with a group tour in Tibet, the cost of certain items, such as the guide, the driver, the vehicle, the gasoline or diesel, and even hotel rooms can be shared between the members of the group. For someone traveling to Tibet, hotel rooms have a single occupancy supplement, which is often the amount of another person sharing, which you will have to pay for to get the room to yourself. By being prepared to share a room with another member of your group, not only do you save money on the single room supplement, but you will also have the chance to get to know your roommate better, which can end with a lifelong friendship you would not otherwise have had.
With the guide, driver, vehicle, and gasoline, the cost can be shared between all the members of the group, reducing the overall cost of your tour dramatically, as these are quite high expenses. Tipping is also part of the expenses of the tour, and the average expected tip for the driver and guide is around seven dollars per day each. For a ten-day tour, that is an extra 140 dollars, which can be shared between all the members as well.
Customized Private tours
For those traveling as a family or a private group of friends, taking a group tour can mean your little group has outsiders in it, which can make things awkward sometimes. A private tour for your own group or family can be a good way to spend some bonding time with friends and family members that you would not always have with a group tour.
For families, a private tour is often preferable, since having other members of a tour group with you can detract from the whole family adventure idea. Families love to travel together, and quite often want to spend time with each other rather than other people, so that parents and children can bond and have that family time, and grandparents can spend time with their grandchildren that they might not be able to do very often. And while a private tour for a family can be an expensive options, there are ways that it can be reduced in price if budget is an issue, such as touring in the low season, and choosing the cheaper hotel options and discounts that are available in low seasons.
Groups of friends also tend to want to travel together, and a private tour for your own group of friends is perfect for this. Not only does it mean you can all have that special bonding time that can be hard to come by at home, but you can also share the cost of the tour between your group, making it more affordable for everyone concerned.
Having other people in the tour that are from outside your circle of friends may leave them feeling left out, and can sometimes cause problems on a tour, and that is the last thing anyone wants. The private tour lets your group of friends spend time together, enjoying the sublime Tibetan landscapes and each other’s company, giving you the perfect Tibetan experience that will remain with you all forever.