Tibet – Roof of the World
Tibet, known as the Roof of the World, is the highest region on earth with an average elevation of over 4000m. Located in the heart of Asia, Tibet is surrounded by the world’s highest mountains, including Mt. Everest. A Tibetan Plateau cover nearly a quarter of the land mass of China and is home to approximately 5.5 million Tibetan people. Along with the world’s highest mountains, many of Asia’s most important rivers have their headwaters on the Tibetan Plateau including the Yellow, Mekong, Yangtze, Salween and the Brahmaputra.
Tibet has a diverse geography. The northern areas are covered in high altitude grasslands home to yaks and nomadic herders. The eastern region is rugged with deep river valleys giving way to huge, snow-capped peaks. The western area is the most remote and is largely uninhabited, while the southern region is the most developed and most densely populated. The southern region has Tibet’s most famous and holiest temples and monasteries as well as the famous Himalayan mountain range.
Tibetan people are broken up into 3 main categories. The first are the nomads. Tibetan nomads live on the remote, high altitude grasslands of the north. The living conditions here are harsh with winter temperatures often dropping below -25C. Though remote, the nomadic areas are the best regions to travel to if you are interested in traditional Tibetan culture. The second main category that Tibetans fall in is the farmers. Tibetan farmers grow mainly high altitude barley, potatoes and wheat. Though they live lower than the nomads, they still live between 3000 meters and 4000 meters above sea level. The last category of Tibetans is those living in cities and towns. These Tibetans own businesses such as restaurants, guesthouses and small shops.
Tibet has some of the world’s most amazing scenery and has some of the most friendly people. We at Natraj Trekking would like to welcome you for exploring a trip to Tibet- the Roof of the World through us.
Tibet Travel information
About Tibet: – Its people, religion, culture & landscape
Tibet, known as ‘the Roof of the World’, is a jewel in the Himalayas and a place filled with hope and secrets. Its wild and overwhelming landscape will cause you to be weak in the knees. The big smile of Tibetan people will warm your heart, while their strong spiritual faith will touch your soul; the splendid and mysterious Tibetan culture will astound you. Come to Tibet to explore its charm in person!
When to Visit Tibet?
Tibet Weather and Climate
The topography, geographical location and high altitude create special climate of Tibet. In general, Tibet climate is a little harsh, with thin air, intense ultraviolet radiation, and distinct rainy season and dry season. But the climate is not as harsh as many people imagine it to be.
It is quite different from southeast to northwest and temperatures vary a lot within a day. Summer in Tibet is cool while winter is not very cold owing to the intense sunlight.
Most annual rainfall comes in the rainy season, staring from June to September, when the precipitation covers 90% of the whole year. Usually it rains at night in Lhasa, Shigatse, and Chamdo areas.
Tibet Visa & Permit
More about Tibet Visa & Permit
Why a permit needed for foreigners? Considering the special ethnic traditions, the cultural relics, the environmental protection and the transportation capacity of Tibet, when non-Chinese citizens, including foreign tourists, Taiwan tourists and overseas Chinese travel to China, you need not only a Chinese Visa but also Tibet permit.
Tibet Permits & Visa Categories
Please be noted that Chinese Visa and Tibet Permit are two things totally different. There are overall four documents required if you want to travel freely in Tibet.
Chinese Visa – you can apply for in Chinese Embassy in your country.
TTB (Tibet Entry Permit) – It is issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau and is a must for foreign tourists entering Tibet
PSB (Alien’s Travel Permit) – It is required when you are planning to travel to the closed areas in Tibet, which you can obtain it after you arrive in Tibet;
Military Permit – you have to obtain if you are planning to travel to some military sensitive areas.
Travel to Tibet from Nepal
If you enter Tibet from Kathmandu, Nepal, you are required to obtain a Chinese visa in the consulate of P.R China in Kathmandu; the opening time for the Consulate of P.R China in Kathmandu is only available between 9:30 A.M and 11:00 A.M on each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please note this visa application is compulsory despite you have already had a Chinese visa in your country or not since this is regulated by the border treaty signed between Nepal and China.
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. Obtaining a group visa requires at least two clear days in Katmandu.
Tips When Planning Your Trip to Tibet
It is not a good idea to mention that you plan to travel to Tibet on your Chinese visa application.
Do not plan to travel to Tibet in late February, through the month of March or the first week in April. This is a sensitive time when the Chinese government has closed access for the past 5 years.
Always discuss with the travel agency their cancellation policy should entrance to Tibet be restricted after you have made plans or paid deposits.
Even though you are required to hire a guide, you do not need to spend 24/7 with the guide. You can negotiate some free time for wandering or shopping but if you wander off to someplace that you aren’t supposed to go, your guide and the travel agency may get in trouble.
If you have a special interest, there is probably a company and a guide who can fulfill provide the services you want.
Important issues about Tibet Travel Permits
v You have to tell us your real occupation because journalists and people involving in political matters (such as diplomats and government officials) require more complicated procedures to be issued a permit.
v All kinds of people can get Tibet permit through a travel agency except diplomats, journalists, and government officials who need to contact the Foreign Affairs Office of Tibet Government to arrange a permit.
v It’s advisable to apply for your travel permits at least 10 days prior to your entry date.
v After you have got a TTB Permit, your travel agency can buy the air/train tickets for you. And only with the permit in hand can you pass the airport check-in counter.
v Beware that no travel agency can provide “permit-only” service according to the Tibet Government and Tibet Tourism Bureau. A MUST service includes vehicle and tour guide. So if you don’t book any tour from us, we cannot help you get any Tibet permits.
v It will cost us 3-5 working days to get the travel permits if you could supply the full necessary documents in time.
v We never SELL a permit. We only help you obtain a permit from local authorities.
v Only the tour guide could hold the TTB Permit after you establish yourself on Tibet land. You may not carry it by yourself or travel with it to anywhere in Tibet. PSB Permit is required for travel outside of Lhasa.
High Altitude Sickness in Tibet
What is High Altitude Sickness?
High altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), or altitude illness, is a pathological condition at high altitude which is caused by the combination of reduced air pressure and lack of oxygen.
An altitude above 8,000 ft is usually defined as high altitude, and most places in Tibet are higher than this level. Therefore, AMS is one of the biggest challenges when travelling in Tibet.
Most people will experience AMS during the acclimatization process. Adverse reactions may vary from person to person. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and will subside in several hours to several days as the body acclimatizes.
Mild Symptoms of AMS include:
-Shortness of breath with exertion
-Rapid pulse (heart rate)
-Nausea or vomiting
-Loss of appetite
-Dizziness or light-headedness
In some, adverse reactions may process to severe altitude sickness, even life-threatening one, such as high altitude pulmonary edema and high altitude cerebral edema. Therefore, tell your tour guide if you are feeling bad and don’t hesitate to go to hospital is your symptoms become worse and worse!
How to Avoid High Altitude Sickness?
Before you go:
Get as fit and healthy as possible, both physically and psychologically. Don’t be too nervous.
A medical examination is necessary if you’ve never been to plateaus.
Avoid catching cold or respiratory problems before entering Tibet.
Prepare AMS medication with your doctor’s advice.
Other things you need to pack for Tibet travel
After your arrival:
v Avoid brisk walking or running immediately after your arrival, especially if you arrive by air.
v Avoid strenuous activity or move higher during your first 24 hours in Tibet. But light activity during the daytime is better than sleeping because respiration decreases during sleeping, exacerbating the symptoms.
v Don’t take shower at the first day! Avoid catching cold!
v Drink plenty of fluids (3 to 4 liters daily).
v Eat high-carbohydrate food.
v Avoid tobacco, alcohol or depressant drugs, including barbiturates, tranquilizers, or sleeping pills.
v Better not to take oxygen if your AMS symptoms are mild. It helps you acclimatize faster. If your symptoms become worse and worse, please take oxygen and go to hospital.
v Take it easy and move to higher altitude gradually. Breathe deeply and take more rest than usual.
v Stop moving higher if you begin feeling ill. If symptoms increase, move to lower altitude!
It’s advisable to have a body check-up or have your doctor’s advice before visiting Tibet
What to Pack – Tibet Travel Equipment
You are advised to consider the following equipments as essentials while packing for the Tibet Tours. Please use this list as a guideline. Adjustments to the list can be done according to your needs, interests, duration of your trip, season of your trip, etc
Here is a thoughtful collection of the must-have items to ensure you a safe and comfortable Tibet tour.
v A large backpack and a smaller one. The smaller one can be used for daily activities and be put into the large backpack when necessary.
v A waist bag to put important documents and property.
v It’s advisable to dress in layers that can be easily added or removed as temperatures vary greatly within a day in Tibet.
v A windbreaker is advisable at any time of year.
v A pair of durable and comfortable shoes. Water-proof and warm-keeping climbing shoes are recommended.
v Waterproof clothing and raingear are highly recommended if you come to Tibet in July and August because it rains frequently during this period.
v You’d better dress in dark colored clothes as the road outside of Lhasa is very dusty and dirty.
v A down jacket (better with hat) together with other warm-keeping clothing is necessary if you want to travel into remote areas or to have a trekking tour.
v Women should avoid skirts or dresses.
v High SPF sunscreen cream, sun block, skin cream and lip balm to against intense sunlight and dry weather.
v Sunglasses and sunhat can protect you effectively from being exposed to the scorching sunlight.
Medicine to prevent and lessen High Altitude Sickness
Medicine for cold, headache, stomachache, diarrhea, nausea, insect bite, etc.
Band-aids or other wound dressings.
Nasal ointment and throat lozenges if you are sensitive to chilly or freezing weather conditions.
Please consult your doctor prior to your Tibet tour!
v A water bottle;
v A solar flashlight (in case of power cut);
v Oxygen canisters are easily available in Lhasa. You can buy them from hospitals, hotels, downtown markets, etc. if necessary.
v Trekking equipment (such as sleeping bag, compass and Tibet map) if you plan to have a hiking or camping tour in Tibet. Or you can buy in Lhasa.
Travel light! Heavy baggage will weaken you on the plateau. But the things mentioned above are essential since Tibet is on the roof of the world and most part of Tibet is remote area.
Do’s and Don’ts – Tibetan Etiquettes and Taboos
Tibetan people are friendly and easy to get along with. However, Tibetans have different ways of behavior in many aspects due to their unique culture and religion. Be sure to respect local their local culture and customs.
è Don’t take photos without permission. You’d better ask for permission before taking pictures of Tibetan people. Most Tibetan monasteries are not allowed to take pictures or you need to pay.
è Don’t enter a monastery without permission. Don’t smoke in monasteries. Don’t touch Buddha statues, religious objects or prayer flags.
è Walk around monasteries, temples, dagobas, Mongolian cairns (Mani piles) and other religious structures in clockwise order with the exception of the Bon sites.
è Don’t step on the threshold when entering a tent, house, or monastery.
è Don’t touch the head of a Tibetan. The head is considered as a sacred part of the body.
è Don’t drive away or hurt eagles. Eagles are considered holy birds in the hearts of Tibetan people.
è Don’t disturb or injure cows or sheep with red, green or yellow ribbons because they are Tibetan sacrifice to worship gods.
Tibetan people are getting more used to habits of foreigners and being more tolerant due to rapidly developing tourism in Tibet. However, we still hope you can show respect to Tibetan traditions and behave well since their unique lifestyle is part of the charm of Tibet.
If you are interested in Tibetan customs and etiquettes, here we provide more as follows:
v Tibetan people stretch out tongues to show respect and it is a courtesy to put their hands palm to palm in front of chest.
v Remember to cross your legs when you are asked to have a seat. Don’t stretch your legs with feet pointing to others.
v Accept and present gifts with both hands.
v Don’t kill any animals or insects in monasteries.
v Don’t whirl round prayer wheels in an anti-clockwise direction.
v Don’t spit or clap your palms behind Tibetan people.
v Don’t use a paper with Tibetan characters as tissue.
v Generally, Tibetan people don’t eat horse, dog, donkey, or fish.
Money Exchange and Credit Cards in Tibet
Ë In Tibet, the currency is still Chinese Yuan or known as Renminbi (RMB). Notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 Yuan and 1, 2, and 5 Jiao. 1 Yuan (or Kuai) = 10 Jiao (or Mao).
Ë Foreign currency cannot be used directly.
Ë Coins are not acceptable in Tibet.
Ë Foreign currency and traveler’s checque can be exchanged only at the Bank of China, which has one main office in Lhasa and a few sub-branches in Lhasa, Shigatse, Lhoka, and Nyingchi.
Ë Passports must be shown to exchange currency.
Ë Several up-market hotels in Lhasa offer currency exchange services, but only available for their guests.
Ë To change RMB back into your home banknotes, you must keep the exchange receipt given to you at the bank or money exchange counter.
Ë If you are traveling out of Lhasa, try to get your cash in small denominations (less than RMB 50).
Ë Banks are closed on Saturdays and Sundays in Tibet.
Ë Credit cards are not recommended as a way of payment in Tibet because they are only accepted by the Bank of China and few hotels in Lhasa.
Ë Only Tibet Branch of the Bank of China in Lhasa offers credit card advances.
Ë ATM is not widely available. Most of time, you couldn’t get cash by ATM from branches of the Bank of China. You need to go to the Tibet Branch of the Bank of China (the main office in Lhasa).
Tibet Travel FAQ
Is independent tour allowed in Tibet?
Independent tour is prohibited in Tibet. You should take part in an organized group or have the local travel operator to arrange for you.
When is the best time to visit Tibet?
It is said the suitable time for traveling to Tibet is from April to October while the golden time is August and September. However, if you can bear the cold weather a winter tour is dollar-saving and you can avoid the crowds.
If I travel via Nepal to Tibet, are there any special requirements on China visa?
If you want to enter Tibet via Kathmandu, you’d better get Chinese visa from Kathmandu as no matter you’ve already got the visa in your country or not, you must get a GROUP visa in Kathmandu, which is an official agreement between China and Nepal.
Which documents is essential, when foreign travelers travel to Tibet?
For Tibet tours, foreign travelers must have not only a standard Chinese visa but also a special travel permit which must be issued either in Lhasa, Chengdu, Kunming, Beijing, Xian or Xining. That means that a standard Chinese visa is not sufficient for Tibet tour, and individual travel for foreigners is not permitted within Tibet, in some special places, travelers must even have military permit also. Chinese visa are generally obtained from most Chinese embassies and consulates.
How to obtain the Alien’s Permit?
To obtain such permits, it is necessary to make your travel arrangements through a bona fide agency, providing details of full name, sex, nationality, date of birth, occupation, and passport number. Please note that it’s also impossible to obtain flights to Tibet without the Travel permit. The permits themselves specify every destination and town that you wish to visit and can not be changed once you have arrived in Tibet, therefore be certain to detail all possible destinations in your request as well as the route you wish to follow.
v How to Get in Tibet?
By air, there are several routes are available now: Beijing-Lhasa, Shanghai-Lhasa, Chengdu -Lhasa, Xi’an-Lhasa, Xining-Lhasa, Guangzhou-Lhasa, Chongqing-Lhasa, Kathmandu-Lhasa. By land, the possible routes are: Qinghai-Lhasa, Sichuan-Lhasa, Yunnan-Lhasa and Kathmandu-Lhasa. However, land transportation takes much longer time, and can be very tough, especially the Sichuan-Lhasa route.
What are some popular places in Tibet?
Lhasa, Tsedang, Gyantse, Shigatse, Tingri, Zhangmu etc. are the most popular places in Tibet, for both normal and trekking itineraries. For expedition, Mt. Everest and Mt. Kailash are the most exciting and accessible areas
What are the hotels like in Tibet?
Tourism is Tibet is in its infancy and hotel facilities and service standard may not be as you would expect from a hotel in other parts of the world. Staff will probably not speak much English. Hotels in small cities and the Everest Base camp are very basic. They will usually have a public bathroom with squat toilet.
Does the hotel room have access to internet?
Some hotel rooms, not all, in Lhasa have access to internet, so you should inquiry your travel advisor for accurate information before making decision. But some hotel has business center where you can use internet service.
Is there 24-hour hot water running?
Due to basic condition in Tibet, sometimes with the poor pressure, the water flow may small and water sometime is not hot but just warm. In remote area, the condition can be even worse.
What can I eat in Tibet?
In Lhasa, you can choose Chinese food, western food, Nepali food, Tibetan food as well as Nepalese food and Indian food. But in remote towns and areas, choice is limited.
Other than Chinese currency, what else currency is acceptable in Tibet?
USD is acceptable only in a very limited range, e.g. tips. However, for convenience, Chinese currency is the best choice. If you want to change USD to Chinese currency in Tibet, you can change in Lhasa Hotel or the Bank of China in Lhasa.
Can I draw cash from the local banks in Tibet?
Yes, but only the Bank of China in Lhasa has this function. However, the ATM there doesn’t always work properly. So we suggest you to bring some cash with you.
What should I keep in mind when I contact with the Tibetans?
Tibetan people are very kind and hospitable; you can feel free to talk with them. But there are some rulers you should go by:
ü Do not photo them without permission, please show the respect to them!
ü Do not talk about the sensitive topics like political or religious matters!
ü Do not eat dog, donkey or horse in Tibet!
What medicines should I bring for the high elevation?
Try to bring the following medicines that will be very useful during your travel: cold and flu tablets, throat lozenges, nasal decongestant, Aspirin, Multivitamins. Or you can ask your local doctor for suggestions.
What should I bring for the plateau weather?
Tibet’s high altitude and the atmosphere allow the sun’s solar radiation to strike the earth with unusual intensity. It’s very easy to get sun-burnt there. Sunscreen of high sun protection factor, quality sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are good means of protection. Calamine lotion is good for mild sun-burnt. Those with fair complexions should bring reflective sunscreen with them. Apply the sunscreen to your nose and lips as well.
v What vehicle do you use in Tibet?
If the tour is mainly around Lhasa, you are suggested to use minivan as the road condition around Lhasa is pretty good, and the minivan cost less as well. If the tour is covering some places with bad road condition and long distance to reach, we are offering 4WD off road vehicles.
By Anil Blon