The mysterious allure of Tibet

Published on: December 26, 2023
Tibet Potala Palace

Tibet, an autonomous region which lies to the north of the Himalayas. It is often referred to as “the roof of the world” due to its high elevation. Tibet shares Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, with Nepal. The capital city of Tibet is Lhasa, which is renowned for its iconic landmarks.

One of the prominent attractions in Lhasa is the Potala Palace, situated atop a hill. It served as the winter residence of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. The palace is an architectural marvel and holds significant historical and cultural importance. Another notable site is the Jokhang Temple, which holds a central place in Tibetan Buddhism. The temple houses a revered golden statue of the young Buddha and is considered the spiritual heart of Tibet.

Tibet’s unique geography, cultural heritage, and spiritual significance make it a captivating destination for travelers seeking a deeper understanding of Tibetan Buddhism and an awe-inspiring experience in the midst of breathtaking landscapes.

Tibet Tour

Actually there is only two entry point for Tibet one is from main-land China and the other one is from Nepal. However, you will be needing permits and Chinese visa from any place you want to enter Tibet with. The travel permit and visa are two different things. You can fly in or drive in if you do Tibet tour from Nepal. Tour to Tibet begins on the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu. Starting from Kathmandu takes you to scenic landscapes, high passes and amazing ancient monasteries. Route from Nepal passes through village such as Gyangtse, Shigatse, Tingri, Rongbuk, Everest base camp (EBC), Gaura pass, Yamdrok lake and many other villages accompanied by amazing landscapes. The tour duration generally is around 11 days. However, this totally depends on the choice of place you decide to visit and the way you want to enjoy your tour.

The best about Tibet is you can drive overland to Lhasa you own vehicle and also do some motorcycle tour in Tibet and enjoy the amazing adventure of your lifetime. In order to do so you need to have a valid driver license which will be translated into Chinese language. You do need to provide every tiny details of your vehicle too as well as the registrations papers and if some modification are done, then that too.

In order to obtain a Tibet visa/permit, you will need to fulfill certain documentation requirements. Here are the necessary documents:

  • Clear scan copy of your passport: Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry into Tibet. A clear scan copy of your passport is required for the visa/permit application.
  • Chinese visa copy (for entry from mainland China): If you are entering Tibet from mainland China, you will need to provide a copy of your Chinese visa. It is required to have Tibet travel permit and Chinese visa before entering the Tibet.
  • Form the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu: If you are traveling from Nepal, you will need to fill out a form at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. This form usually requires a recent passport-sized photograph. If you are booking through Nepal, with Global Holidays Adventure, then we will assist you with this process.
  • Tibet Travel Permit processing time: It is important to note that the Tibet Tourism Bureau typically takes around 15 days to approve the travel permit. However, there may be instances where the processing time exceeds 15 days. To ensure a smooth process, it is advisable to apply for your Tibet permit at least 15 days in advance. You need to have approved Tibet travel permit before applying for a Chinese visa. In order to get the travel permit approved you need 4 working days in Kathmandu.
  • Special cases: Diplomats passport holders, journalists, professional media photographers, and government officials have special requirements for obtaining their Tibet Travel permit. They may need to arrange their permits through the relevant foreign affairs authorities instead of regular travel agencies.

It is recommended to consult with your travel agency or the Chinese Embassy/Consulate for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding the documentation requirements for obtaining a Tibet visa/permit.

Tibet Permit and Visa Fees:

American citizens:: USD 215 per person
Romanian citizens: USD 155 per person
Canadian citizens: USD 195 per person
Brazilian citizens : USD 205 per person
Argentina citizens: US$ 215 per person
Other citizens: USD 125 per person

Some essential to pack for Tibet tour
It is essential to have the right clothing and gear that align with the specific time of year you plan to travel. Lhasa’s climate can vary significantly between seasons, so it’s important to be prepared. Here is a basic guide to help make your tour as comfortable as possible:

Clothing: Pack some thermal as you need to have layers of clothes because of fluctuating temperatures. Despite of the season, it’s advisable to pack lightweight, breathable clothes for daytime, such as t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and comfortable pants or trousers. Additionally, bring a warm jacket or sweater for cooler evenings or higher altitudes. For colder months, pack thermal wear, a down jacket, and warm hats and gloves.

Footwear: Comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots are essential for exploring Lhasa’s attractions and navigating uneven terrains. It’s also recommended to bring a pair of sandals or flip-flops for relaxation and ventilation.

Protection against the sun: Lhasa receives intense sunlight, so packing sun protection essentials is crucial. Bring a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses with UV protection, and a high SPF sunscreen to shield yourself from the strong rays.

For Altitude sickness remedies: As Lhasa is located at a high elevation, it’s important to come prepared for altitude sickness. Consult with your doctor and consider bringing altitude sickness medication, such as Diamox, if advised. Additionally, carrying a portable oxygen canister or using supplemental oxygen may be beneficial for some travelers.

Other essentials: Don’t forget to pack essential items such as a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated, a backpack for day trips, travel adapter for charging electronic devices, a camera to capture the stunning landscapes, and any necessary medications or personal items.

Cash and cards
China has well known for its cash free payments, but in Tibet they expect you to pay in cash as system of cash free payment is not frequently used. They expect you to pay in local currency known as Chinese Renminbi (RMB) also known as Yuan. You can exchange dollars in Chinese recognized banks or bank of China. Many hotels do provide in house money exchange facilities as well.

Credit cards are accepted in hotels but the markets looks for cash. Having local currency will make your trip hassle free in terms of cash or payments. They do accept credit cards and debit cards but the do add 4 % extra in the amount you pay. Nevertheless, Bank of China charge 3% and accept all types of visa, master and almost all sort of credit and debit card. The question may arise, carrying cash for entire trip would be safe enough or not? The answer is yes it is pretty safe in order to have cash on you while in Tibet.

Lastly, remember to check the weather forecast for your travel dates and consult with your tour operator or travel agency for any specific recommendations or requirements. Being well-prepared with appropriate clothing and gear will ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable experience during your tour of Lhasa.

Additional information

Well there are many things we need to take in consideration in order to travel Tibet. Some stuffs like drone, long range camera, anything related monks, books related to Dalai Lama etc. must be avoided while traveling Tibet. Walking on local villages, interaction with locals can be troublesome in most of the cases. There are cases having picture of any monks in you mobile phone could also be intimidating to the local governmental authority and strong action can be taken to this. It is better to safe than sorry. Another important thing is carrying Tibetan flag is strongly prohibited for foreigners. There are many cases when the local governmental authority checking gallery of your mobile phone so make sure you don’t have any picture unapproachable towards the police and checkpoints. We are not trying to threaten you guys just making aware about the cases we have faced while traveling to Tibet. You can click picture in Tibet, plenty of them but some case are different. Personal drones, long-range cameras you cannot take them you need to have proper permit regarding film making, photography or any related activity.
The Everest base camp we visit from Tibetan side is not exactly the base camp but is the last place any vehicle can reach. You will have to catch an electric bus, and must have climbing permits of Everest which is given by Chinese government in order to reach the actual base camp. The base camp every one visits have monastery which is appealing as well.

Accommodation and foods

While in Tibet, you can enjoy a diverse culinary experience that includes both Tibetan and Chinese cuisine. Some popular Tibetan dishes you can savor include:

Noodles: Tibetan noodles, known as thukpa or thenthuk, are a staple and can be enjoyed in various forms with different types of meat, vegetables, and spices.

Momos: These are traditional Tibetan dumplings filled with meat or vegetables and are often served steamed or fried. Momos are a popular and delicious snack or meal option.

Yak Meat: As yaks are native to Tibet, yak meat is commonly consumed in the region. It is prepared in different ways, such as yak stew or yak meat stir-fry, and is known for its rich flavor.

Pork Belly: Pork dishes, particularly pork belly, are also prevalent in Tibetan cuisine. This succulent and flavorful dish is often marinated and slow-cooked to perfection.

Kung Pao Chicken with Rice: While Tibetan cuisine is prominent, you can also find Chinese dishes in Tibet. Kung Pao Chicken, a popular Chinese dish with spicy stir-fried chicken, peanuts, and vegetables, is often served with rice.

Furthermore, in Lhasa and other tourist areas, there are restaurants catering to Western tastes. These establishments offer a variety of Western cuisine options, including international dishes and familiar comfort foods.

When visiting Lhasa, you will find a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. From hostels to luxury five-star hotels, there are choices available to cater to various needs. In the city of Lhasa itself, you can expect a diverse selection of lodging establishments. While in Nepal you will have three star accommodation readily available in every section that you travel in order to get to Tibet.

However, it’s important to note that outside of Lhasa, especially in remote areas like Everest Base Camp (EBC), the accommodation options are more limited. Accommodation places like Rongbuk monastery you will typically find basic guest houses that provide essential facilities which do not include attached bath. These guest houses may have limited amenities due to the remote and rugged nature of the surroundings. You can always come back to Tingri if comfort is important to you.
It’s always advisable to plan your accommodation in advance and be aware of the available options in each location you plan to visit. This will help you manage your expectations and ensure that you have suitable lodging arrangements throughout your trip to Tibet.

Some information regarding altitude sickness
Tibet, often referred to as the roof of the world, is situated at a high altitude, and as a result, altitude sickness is a common concern for visitors who are not familiar to such elevations. Here are some important points to consider:

Symptoms of altitude sickness: Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), can cause minor symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms typically occur as the body adjusts to the high altitude conditions.

Gradual acclimatization: To lessen the effects of altitude sickness, it is advisable to acclimatize gradually. Take your time to adjust to the altitude by spending a few days in lower-altitude areas before ascending to higher regions.

Prior physical preparation: Being in good health and physical condition prior to your trip can help reduce the risk of altitude sickness. Engage in regular exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle leading up to your visit to Tibet.

Consultation with a physician: It is recommended to consult with a physician before your trip, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. Your doctor can provide guidance on AMS medication and offer personalized advice based on your health status.

Walking slowly and deep breathing: While in Tibet, it is important to walk at a slow pace. Take deep breaths to ensure adequate oxygen intake. Allow your body to adapt gradually to the higher altitude conditions. You can constantly check your oxygen level with ox meter too.

Seek advice from a tour guide: While in Tibet it is important to listen to local tour guides as they are experienced in handling altitude-related issues and can provide valuable advice and support. They can offer guidance on dealing with altitude sickness and help you make informed decisions during your trip.

Lastly, remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoid alcohol or strenuous activities during the initial days of your visit. By taking necessary precautions, being mindful of your body’s signals, and seeking assistance when needed, you can minimize the impact of altitude sickness and enjoy your time in Tibet.

For emergency cases
There are small oxygen cylinders available in hotel rooms in order to tackle the emergency scenarios. You will have to pay if you use the cylinder of the room. There won’t be any helicopter evacuation in cases of emergency, however the ambulance services are available readily. If you think your body is facing any problems it is better to seek consultation from the local doctors and plan you rest of the trip accordingly.

Other similar Blogs

Blogs and Articles for travel advice and info on destinations and sightseeing for travelers.