We have compiled a few of the questions that we are commonly asked and trust that the answers are useful in helping you to understand the Group Tibet Tour experience and how best to arrange your time with us.
Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions you don't find answered.
Where is Tibet?
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas. Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 meters (16,000 ft).
Is Tibet a safe place to travel?
Yes, Tibet is very safe, even for solo and female travelers. Tibetans are quite hospitable. Dangers in Tibet stem mainly from natural disasters, accidents and sometimes from encounters with animals.
What is Tibet Travel Permit?
Tibet Travel Permit (it is also named “TTB”) is the official travel document that allows foreign tourists to enter Tibet. It is granted by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Every foreign traveler should get it before entering in Tibet. It will be commonly checked in Tibet, for example, when check in at the airport or the hotels.
Is it easy to get the Tibet Travel Permit?
Travelers can get the Tibet Travel Permit easily through a travel agency except they are diplomats, journalists, and government officials who should travel to Tibet under the arrangement by the Foreign Affairs Office of Tibet local government.
Shall I get a single entry or double entry Chinese visa if I travel through mainland China to Tibet?
No, all you need is a single entry visa. Tibet is a part of China. There is no Immigration or Customs crossing when going from mainland China to Tibet. If you enter Tibet from cities in mainland China, and after your Tibet tour, go back to cities in mainland China, a single Chinese visa is enough. An exception is Hong Kong. If you come to mainland China from Hong Kong, after staying in China, go back to Hong Kong, and then if you want to go to China for the second time, you will need a double entry or multi-entry visa.
I have a business (F) visa. Can I get travel permits for the TAR?
Yes, you can, but you will have to have a letter from your inviting company that states your full name, nationality, passport number and position at the company. The letter should be written in Chinese on official letterhead and needs to be dated and stamped with your company’s official seal. This letter then needs to be scanned and emailed to the travel agency you are using and they will turn it in to the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Your expert certificate or work invitation letter copy could also work in the meanwhile.
I have a resident visa (either student visa or work permit) for China. Can I get travel permits for Tibet?
Yes, you can, but you will have to have a letter from your university or workplace that states your full name, nationality, passport number and position at the company. The letter should be written on official letterhead and needs to be dated and stamped with your school’s/company’s official seal. This letter then needs to be scanned and emailed to us and we will turn it in to the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Also your expert certificate/ Student ID copy/ company or School invitation letter copy should also work.
If I travel through Nepal to Tibet, are there any special restrictions on Chinese visa?
If you entry Tibet from Kathmandu, Nepal, you are required to obtain a Chinese visa in the consulate of P.R China in Kathmandu no matter whether you have got your Chinese visa in your home country, the opening time for the Consulate of P.R China in Kathmandu is only available between 9:30AM and 11:00AM on each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is regulated by the border treaty signed between Nepal and China. A new China visa must be applied in Katmandu, and the old one automatically expires.
The Chinese visa you get in Kathmandu is a "group visa". A "group visa" is not entered in travelers' passports but is a separate sheet of paper issued in duplicate by the Chinese consulate in Katmandu, listing all members of the group. It usually allows a stay of 15 or 20 days.
What's the procedure to get China visa in Katmandu?
1. After you book the tour with us, provide us with the copies of your passports and other required information.
2. We will apply for the 'Visa Invitation Letter' from Tibet Tourism Bureau, thereafter, the TTB will fax the 'Visa Invitation Letter' to Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. Meantime, we will fax it to our Nepal partner before your arrival in Katmandu.
3. Upon your arrival in Katmandu, our Nepal partner will meet you in your hotel or airport, and then go to the Chinese Embassy together to apply for the China Visa. With the 'Visa Invitation Letter', you can get your Chinese Visa easily.
How can you send the Tibet permit to me, or how can I receive it?
For the entry of Tibet by train, normally just a copy of the Tibet Travel Permit is available for checking in at the train station. If you fly into Tibet, we must deliver the Tibet Entry Permit to the hotel you will stay or your home/company address before arrival in Tibet. When you change for the boarding passes at the airport, you're required to show both your passports and the Tibet Travel Permit or Tibet Entry Permit.
Which areas of Tibet require an organized tour?
All areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region require all foreign travelers to be part of an organized tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide and a private vehicle with a driver (no private vehicle needed if you are just staying in Lhasa). The Tibetan prefectures found in Qinghai, northern Sichuan, western Sichuan, southwest Gansu and northwest Yunnan are (usually) open and do not require travel permits or a tour guide.
Do I really need to have a tour guide if I am only going to Lhasa?
Yes, absolutely. Before the events of March 2008, foreigners did not need a tour guide if they were in Lhasa or traveled along the route connecting Lhasa to Mt. Everest Base Camp and the Nepal border. Since March 2008, major changes have happened regarding travel regulations for foreigners in the TAR. Now, everyone MUST have a tour guide each day, even when in Lhasa especially for the visit to the monasteries & temples. And yes you can stroll around the streets, do some shopping & have a cup of tea at the local teahouse on your own.
Can I stay in Tibet after my tour is finished?
No, your travel permit is only valid for the duration of your tour. Once your tour is completed, you have to leave. Normally, the travel agency that you use will either book your flight/train ticket departing Lhasa or will ask for you to show your outgoing ticket. If you decide to stay longer in the TAR after your tour is over, you could cause the agency you used to get in huge trouble. They could even lose their business license forcing everyone out of work.
When is the rainy season?
The rainy season in Tibet begins in early June and last until early to mid-September. The rainy season in Tibet is not nearly as wet as south and Southeast Asia, but it does rain and there are quite a bit of clouds. If you are coming to Tibet to get good views of the Himalaya’s or other big peaks, it is recommend waiting until after the rainy season to go. You can trek during this time, but be sure to bring clothes suitable for wet weather.
What’s the difference between a private tour and a group tour?
A private tour means that you never tour with strangers. It is a tour designed specifically for you, your friends, or your family. Each tour includes your own private tour guide and a private vehicle with, licensed driver. Meanwhile, we also have group tours ranging from 4 days to 8 days; you can choose any of them according to your availability. You’ll share vehicle and guide, of course, the price of the group tour is much cheaper compared with that of private tour.
Do you recommend travelers insurance when traveling in Tibet?
Absolutely! Having a traveler’s insurance policy that protects you against cancelled tours, cancelled/delayed flights and any unplanned medical emergency is highly recommended. A reputable travel agency should refund you most of the tour cost, but it is still good to have a policy that covers you as well. Also, hospitals in Tibet are generally well below Western standards. Having a medical policy that would transport you to a high quality hospital in Hong Kong, Singapore or Thailand is important.
Do I need a sleeping bag in Tibet?
Unless you plan on trekking and camping, there is no need to bring a sleeping bag or tent to Tibet. Every guesthouse and hotel will offer clean sheets and plenty of thick blankets.
What kind of vehicles is used in Tibet?
Generally, the most common vehicles used in Tibet are 4WD and full-sized vans. The past 5 years many of the roads in Tibet have improved dramatically, most of the roads in the Yarlung Valley as well as the Friendship Highway are now entirely paved. Even the road to Mt. Kailash is now paved over 85% of the way. Many areas can now be accessed using a van.
When is the best time to go to Tibet?
Tibet can be visited any time of year, though some times are better than others. The best time for your Tibet trip is from April to November, avoiding the cold and dry weather from December to February.
I have heard others say to NOT list Tibet on my Chinese visa application. What do you think I should do?
We do not recommend listing Tibet on your visa application. There is a good chance that your Chinese visa application will be denied. You are recommended to list a couple of major cities that you will be going to such as Beijing or Chengdu. Once your Chinese visa is issued, you are free to travel to places not listed on your visa application, including Tibet.
Does my guide have to be with me all day, every day?
Your guide does have to be with you each day while you are in the TAR, but the guide does not necessarily have to be with you all day long. In Lhasa, some of the more famous temples and monasteries will require your guide to be with you in order to enter. Shopping, dinners, bars, you can go on your own. Get the contact no from your guide, if you would like to visit the sightseeing places (such as the temples/ monasteries), call your guide to come along. Sometimes, when there is a serious threat of instability in Lhasa, the government will require the guide to be with you at all times, but this is not common.
Is English spoken widely across Tibet?
No, besides the popular hotels and restaurants in Lhasa, English is rarely understood in Tibet. Most of Tibet is very remote and undeveloped and few people are able to speak English. Chinese is widely spoken by Tibetans who live in Lhasa, Shigatse, and a few other larger towns in Tibet. In remote regions, Tibetan remains the only language that is understood. Don’t let this stop you from traveling the region though. Tibetans are extremely hospitable, friendly and helpful and will do their best to communicate with you despite the language barrier.
What currency do I have to use in Tibet?
The legal tender in Tibet is Renminbi (RMB). Foreign currencies cannot be used directly. Foreign currencies may be converted into RMB at all banks, bank branches or hotels at the exchange rate quoted on the foreign exchange marker on the day. The Bank of China in Tibet is the bank which specializes in handing money exchange.
Is it easy to find an ATM in Tibet?
You won't have any problems finding an ATM in Lhasa and Shigatse, although you probably won't be able to find one in remote areas or the smaller towns. However, this situation is changing, and ATMs are gradually spreading out across the land.
What credit cards are accepted in Tibet?
Actually it is often accepted in big cities in Tibet, like Lhasa and Shigatse. Most of the internationally accepted credit cards are usable in Lhasa. They include: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diner's club, and the JCB card of Japan. Credit cards are accepted only in large shopping stores. Credit card symbols are displayed in the visible place in shops and hotels indicating credit cards are accepted.
What are the hotels like in Tibet?
In Lhasa, lodging ranges from guest houses to 5-star hotels. Other cities like Shigatse and Tsedang have 4-star hotels; however, 3-star hotels are most common. They usually have private western toilet and 24-hour hot water running. But the accommodation options in some remote areas like the Mt Everest Base Camp and Ngari prefecture are quite few, only simple guesthouse and tent hostel are available.
Does the hotel room have access to internet in Tibet?
Most of hotels above 3-star standard have internet access or Wi-Fi, and some youth hostels in Lhasa have computer in the lobby where you can use internet service.
What can I eat in Tibet?
You can choose Chinese food, Tibetan food, and Nepali food in big cities. And Western food options are easy to find in Lhasa. But in remote towns, food options are limited, then Chinese food and Sichuan cuisine is a good choice.
Can I see a sky burial in Tibet?
To respect customs, unless you are invited by local Tibetan families, you have no chance to view sky burials or take photos of the practice, or do anything that is blasphemous around.
Is it difficult to arrange/get train tickets to Lhasa?
The popularity of train travel to Tibet has resulted in the huge demand for train tickets among visitors. It’s very difficult for individual travelers to get a ticket on their own. Reliable travel agencies cannot guarantee successful booking during the high season. If your schedule allows you, it is a little easier to fly to Lhasa and then take the train leaving Lhasa. Train tickets departing Lhasa are still difficult to get, but not as difficult as going to Lhasa.
Where can I take a train to Lhasa?
Trains to Lhasa originate in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou and Xining. Xi’an is one popular choice for tourists; however, there are actually no trains to Lhasa that originate in Xi’an. The trains from Xi’an to Lhasa actually originate in the mega cities of Shanghai, Chongqing and Guangzhou. They just pass through Xi’an. The railway station does keep a select number of tickets to Lhasa for travelers in Xi’an, but the number of tickets is relatively small. By the time the train to Lhasa reaches Xi’an or any other smaller Chinese city, the train has passed through hundreds of millions of people and there are few tickets remaining. It is best to take the train to Lhasa from a city in which the train originates.
Which city do you recommend taking the train from?
I recommend taking the train from Xining for 2 main reasons. Xining, capital of Qinghai province and the largest city on the Tibetan Plateau, is the actual starting point of the Tibetan Railway. It lies at an elevation of 2275m and is a good place to spend a couple of nights at in order to acclimatize to the higher elevation of Lhasa. Spending a couple of nights in Xining will reduce (but NOT eliminate) the chances of getting serious altitude sickness. Another reason why I recommend taking the train to Lhasa from Xining is that it is generally easier to get train tickets in Xining. Unlike the other cities that have trains originating to Lhasa, Xining is a small city by Chinese standards. The smaller population means that fewer people are trying to get tickets on the coveted Lhasa Train. It can still be difficult to get train tickets to Lhasa from Xining during the peak high season, but not as difficult as Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai or any other larger city.
What documents are required for riding the train to Lhasa?
Tibet travel permit issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau is a must for foreigners entering Tibet. The permit copy is fine for you to board on the train nowadays. You are suggested to take at least 3 copies, just in case, they will keep the copy at the check points. (The requirements can be changed frequently at a certain time, so do ask the agency the latest one when you are coming.) Besides, passport is also a must document for your Tibet train tour. You are required to present them when boarding the train to Lhasa. So do forget to have a good preparation of the documents. Any carelessness will spoil your train trip to Lhasa.
Do the trains to Lhasa depart daily?
At present, there are daily trains to Lhasa from Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an and Xining. The trains from Chengdu, Chongqing and Guangzhou depart every other day.
How long it takes for the train ride to Lhasa?
It takes more than 44 hours from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing and Guangzhou to Lhasa by train, and you’ll have 2 overnights on the train. If you take the train from Xining, it takes only around 24 hours with 1 overnight on the train, which makes Xining one of the most popular starting points to Lhasa. For details of the train schedule, please check more on our train info.
Is there private bath room on the train to Lhasa?
There is no private bath room no matter which cabin you take (soft sleeper or hard sleeper), that means dozens of passengers will share them. And there is no toilet paper provided there, no place to shower. The only thing might comfort you is the 24-hour hot water (for drinking) supply on the train.
Is there internet access on the Train?
There is no internet access on the train.