Tibet Travel FAQs

update:2009-03-10

Tibet is a popular destination for both foreign and home tourists. The recent railway services have added the volume of tourists to the place. There are many 'do and don't' advice for tourists as Tibet is not a common destination. Most places in Tibet are over 4000metres high and cares must be taken under this environment. Here are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQ) for those who wish to travel to Tibet..  

1. General Information

Question: When is the best time to go to Tibet?
Answer: It is recommended that one visits Tibet around May to July, and September to October. Lhasa, Tsetang and Shigatse are suitable for sightseeing tours all-year round. The harsh climate makes it unsuitable to visit the Everest Base Camp area from October to April. During winter, roads might be blocked by heavy snow in east Tibet and Ngari. While in August, heavy rainfall makes travel in those areas very difficult.

Question: What should I bring when traveling to Tibet?
Answer: We suggest you bring some fresh fruit for your consumption as upon arrival, you might lose your appetite and this might be the only food you would like to eat.

Question: I'm planning to visit Lhasa, could you give me some information on flights that operate in and out of Lhasa?
Answer: Not all cities have direct flights to Lhasa. The cities that connect to Lhasa are Chendu, Beijing, Xining, Xian, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Katmandu. Apple Travel provides all real time information on flights that go to Lhasa from these cities.

Question: Can you tell me how frequent are your tours in Tibet?
Answer: You may start anytime at your convenience if you choose our private tours as long as the flight schedule matches your plan. Please contact us if you want to join our group tours.

Question: What is the best way to visit Tibet? Join a pre-packaged tour or do-it-yourself?
Answer: Independent travel is prohibited in Tibet. To travel in Tibet you have to join an organized group or have a private tour arranged by a travel agency.

Question: What currencies can be used in Tibet? Can I use credit card and ATM cards?
Answer: Besides Chinese Yuan, only US dollars can be accepted. Also shops that accept American currency are very limited and you might not be able to get a good deal for an exchange rate. Credit cards can only be used at some hotels. The Bank of China also accepts credit cards. ATM is not widely available. Exchanging your money to Chinese currency will be the best option for you, which can be done at the Bank of China. 

 

2. Tibet Travel Permit

Question: Can you arrange a Tibet permit for us before the tour begins?
Answer: Yes. For those who book tours with Apple Travel, we will arrange for the Tibet Travel Permit. The travel permit is checked and issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) and is usually issued two weeks prior to your entry to Tibet.

Question: Do I need to bring photos when applying for a Tibet Travel Permit? If yes, in what size?
Answer: Your photos are not necessary when applying for a travel permit. However, you must provide us some of your personal details and documents prior to your applications for a permit. You must give us your name (as appears on your passport), nationality, age, sex, occupation passport number as well as the photocopies of your passport and visa.

Question: Can we fly freely to Lhasa without a Tibet Permit?
Answer: No, you cannot. Without the Tibet Travel Permit, your flight tickets cannot be issued.

Question: Can I have my permit arranged by your agency? But, I will arrange my own tour in Tibet.
Answer: We do not offer a permit-only service. Foreign travelers must be on an organized tour, either a private tour or a group tour to visit Tibet. Independent travel is prohibited in Tibet.

Question: I'm a resident of Hong Kong and I have a Chinese Passport. Do I need Tibet Permit to travel to Tibet?
Answer: No. Chinese Passport Holders do not need Tibet Permit to go/travel to Tibet. According to the rules and regulations of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), foreign passport holders (including the Taiwanes and Non-Chinese ID card holders need to have Tibet Travel Permit to visit Tibet. People who hold Hong Kong SAR passports and Macau SAR passports do not need Tibet Travel Permits.

 

3. Enter Tibet from Other Countries

Question: Can I fly into Lhasa from Kathmandu?
Answer: Yes, you can. However, the flight flying between Kathmandu and Lhasa is not available daily. Also, you need to consider the following information before you opt to fly from Kathmandu.

You need to secure a Travel Confirmation Letter and a Tibet Travel Permit from a reliable Chinese travel agency that arranges Tibet tours.

You need a reliable travel agency in Kathmandu who will apply for a China Visa for you.

The Consular Section of Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu is only open for visa application in the morning of every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, except holidays. You are advised to arrive 3 days before your departure to Tibet.

If you have been issued a China Visa prior to your arrival in Kathmandu, the visa will be cancelled and will be replaced with a visa granted by the Consular Section of the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. This will be a paper-visa instead of a visa attached to a page on your passport.

NOTE: if the people in your group will leave China separately, it will be a better option to apply for an individual visa rather than a group visa.

Question: How do I get to Lhasa from Bangkok or other international cities?
Answer: At present there is no flight operating between foreign cities and Lhasa other than Kathmandu. People can not go to Lhasa from Bangkok. They will need to go to a certain city in mainland China, like Chengdu, Beijing and Guangzhou or go to Kathmandu to take a flight to Lhasa.  

4. Safety and Mountain Sickness

Question: Is it safe to travel in winter time, especially from Tibet to Kathmandu (my port of exit)?
Answer: The Chinese-Nepal Highway is often blocked by heavy snow during winter. Therefore, it is not safe to travel along this route.

Question: Is it advisable for me to bring a sleeping bag because the sheets/blankets in the hotels may not be clean?
Answer: In 3- or 4-star hotels in cities and towns like Lhasa, Tsetang, Shigatse and Gyangtse, you do not need to worry about sanitation. Though, it is a fact that the travel to Tibet is a bit hard. But if you are going to remote areas like the Everest, it is best to bring a sleeping bag to ensure that you have a nice sleep en route.

Question: Are the streets in Tibet safe?
Answer: Generally, it is quiet safe in Tibet. Almost all Tibetans are devout Buddhists who believe good deeds will accumulate merit in their next lives; crimes are rare. But tourists need pay attention to dogs that are free to move everywhere.

Question: What medicines should I bring?
Answer: Medicine is a must for travelers to Tibet. We suggest that you take some pain-killer pills with you and enough medicine for colds, diarrhea, nausea and fever. Some nasal ointment and throat-moistening pills will greatly be of help for those who are sensitive to chilly or freezing weather conditions. Please consult your doctor prior to your travel to Tibet.

Question: I have a cold, but my trip to Lhasa starts tomorrow. Can I join the trip as scheduled?
Answer: We suggest that you postpone your trip and not take such a risk. People with respiratory problems will have great difficulties to recover from cold. The chilly weather might cause pulmonary edema or even death. People who are suffering from colds, heart/cardiac illnesses, severe respiratory problems, hypertension, liver or kidney problems, anemia and other serious health problems are advised not to travel to Tibetan plateaus. The traveler suffering from such illness might have a hard time to adapt to the Tibetan environment which might cause the worsening of their illness.

Question: What could I do to avoid mountain sickness?
Answer: Some travelers will get mountain sickness when on the Tibetan plateau. We have some tips for you:

Before you go to Tibet

Seek advice from people who have similar experiences. The most important thing is that you should never be nervous or worried about your trip. Regard the trip to Tibet like a trip to any other cities. You should always be optimistic.

If you have respiratory problems, we advise you to postpone your trip till you are fully recovered.

A thorough physical examination is necessary. If you have problems like anemia or hypertension, or suffer from heart problems and other illness of lungs, liver or kidney, you should not go to Tibet.

You need to bring enough water or drinks and fruits. Snacks with high caloric content, like chocolate, will come in handy.

When you are in Tibet

Rest right after your arrival. You should not do anything strenuous on the first day. Brisk walking and running are not advised. We suggest that you do not smoke nor drink alcohol too. Do not eat too much for dinner.

It quite often happens that people feel short of breath. If it is not serious, please do not rely on oxygen equipment all the time so that you can acclimate yourself to the high altitude as early as possible.

Do not take showers or bathes too frequently especially on your first night in Tibet. This will help you avoid catching severe colds.

If you feel chilly or feel very uncomfortable, you need to tell your guide about this. You guide could send you to the best hospital available in the area.

Question: Since we are traveling with kids (around 2-3 years old and we have been hearing a lot about the high altitude adjustment problems for travelers to Lhasa, do you think we would have any difficulty?
Answer: Age has nothing to do with the occurrence of mountain sickness. Anxiety is the common cause of mountain sickness. You may refer to our information on avoiding mountain sickness on our travel health page. Always remember that if you have any problems or feel uncomfortable, you need to tell the guide about this immediately.