Tibet Travel Tips
Don’t Forget Your Tibet Entry Permit
Other than Chinese passport holders need a Tibet Entry Permit to visit Tibet, and the only way to enter Tibet is to travel in groups. No individual travelers are allowed to travel to Tibet at the moment. All tours must be booked in advance by a valid travel agency. Your whole tour in Tibet must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide.
Dates to Avoid
March: this politically sensitive month may bring Tibet permit problems, so it is better to avoid it.
China’s National Holiday from October 1 to 7: Huge numbers of Chinese travelers swarm into Tibet during this period.
Best Times to Visit
In general, the best time to visit Tibet is from May to October when the weather is pleasant. This is also Tibet’s golden travel seasons.
Consider flying into Tibet and Taking a Train out
The quickest and most convenient way is to fly in and fly out. But if you want to experience the train trip, and see amazing mountain plateau views Fly in and take a train out., as train tickets to Tibet are extremely hard to buy.
Plan Your Tour Far Enough in Advance
All Tibet tours must be booked at least 20 days in advance. It normally takes 2-3 days to confirm hotel bookings and about a further 10 days for the Tibet Tourism Bureau to issue the Tibet Entry Permit.
You should make sure you secure an Entry Permit, especially if new restrictions are brought in, before you apply for a visa and make the final preparations for your trip, unless you are willing to consider alternatives to Tibet once you arrive in China.
Recommended Duration for a Tibet Trip If your travel will be limited to areas around Lhasa, 4 days is enough; if you want to go to Mt. Everest, you need at least one week.
What to Pack/Carry/Wear
- Clothes: Warm clothes, such as sweaters and fleeces are needed even in summer as the day-night temperature drop is big. A thick down coat is essential if you go to the Everest. If you go in the low season bring mountain winter clothes.
- Lip cream: It is very dry so bring a lip cream to protect your lips.
- Sunscreen cream
- Comfortable walking shoes: Almost all monasteries have steep steps to climb.
- Snacks if your tour includes long road trips
- Altitude sickness medicine: Taking the medicine one day before arriving at high altitude increases effectiveness.
- Motion sickness medicine if you have motion sickness on long mountain road journeys.
- Anti-diarrhea medicine: Tibetan food is very different from what you are probably used to, and it may not agree with your digestive system.
- A good camera
- Don’t Miss the Must-See Attractions
- The Potala Palace
- Jokhang Temple
- Monk Debates at Sera Monastery
- Drepung Monastery
- Lake Yamdrok
- Tashilunpo Monastery
Try to keep healthy and not catch a cold before entering and while in Tibet, as illness makes any altitude sickness feel worse. Take it easy and rest well, keep warm, drink a lot of water, and eat simply the first two days in Tibet to reduce any altitude sickness symptoms.
Respect the Tibetan People and Avoid Trouble
- Do not talk about sensitive topics like politics when in Tibet.
- Do not try to talk with lamas about their lives and religions.
- Walk clockwise around Barkhor Street, especially during the rush hour of pilgrimage from 9 am to 6 pm.
- Taking photos of Buddha statues is not allowed in the majority of Tibetan monasteries. In some monasteries, such as Tashilhunpo Monastery, tourists can take pictures of the Buddha statues after paying some money.
- Ask permission first before taking pictures of other people in the Barkhor areas. Sometimes they will ask you for money, but most of time it is ok to give them a little gift.
- Do not enter monasteries without permission. Smoking is not allowed when visiting monasteries. Dress properly, not in shorts or sunglasses.
- It is suggested that you prepare about 20 easily accessible 1 yuan bills if you want to give to beggars when encountered.
- If you have a chance to visit a local family, let the oldest people go first when you walk together with them. Do not step on the threshold when entering a tent or house. Do not touch the heads of people with your hands.
- If you have a chance to have dinner with Tibetans, do not eat with your mouth overfull, and do not chew or drink noisily. When the host/hostess hands you something, for example a cup of tea, take it with both hands to show your respect and appreciation.
- Do not buy anything made from wild animals’ skin or bones, as it may cause problems when you try to leave the area.
- During religious festivals, many pilgrims come to monasteries to pay religious homage. At some monasteries there are special passages for tourists. Do not join with the pilgrim crowds or queues.
Know the Local Conditions and Lower Your Expectations
- Keep in mind that you travel to Tibet for its old culture and scenery, but not comfort. Visiting a Tibetan house will probably be a big culture shock.
- The facilities and service standard of hotels in Tibet is not what you would expect from a hotel with the same rating in Beijing or Shanghai.
- Hotels in Lhasa are relatively comfortable with heating systems and hot water in winter. Some star-rated hotels have in-house doctors to take care of minor discomforts.
- Hotels in small cities and towns outside Lhasa only have very basic facilities, some even without a heating system and hot water in the freezing winter.