Tibet Travel Permit: Tibet Visa
The foreign tourists must apply for a Tibet travel permit before entering to Lhasa by either train, overland or flight, and traveling around Tibet. Other permits like the Alien’s Travel Permit and the Military Permit are required to travel outside Lhasa if you are planning to visit the unopened areas, like Mt. Everest, Mt.Kailash, etc, which need to be approved by several government departments.
How to get into Tibet
There are five main highways in Tibet, namely:
Sichuan-Tibet Highway – it runs between Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province, and Lhasa.
Qinghai-Tibet Highway – it runs between Xining, the capital city of Qinghai, to Lhasa.
Yunnan-Tibet Highway – it runs between Yunnan province and Tibet.
Xinjiang-Tibet Highway – it runs across boundless deserts, lofty and steep peaks.
Flying to Lhasa always requires a stopover in either China or Nepal. Lhasa Gonggar Airport is located about 98 kilometers (about 61 miles) to the south of Lhasa City. The only international flight to and from Tibet is between Lhasa and Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.
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The Gormo to Lhasa railway stretches for 1,142 kilometers (710 miles) and serves as a link between mainland China and Tibet
Custom and Airport formalities
All baggage must be declared and cleared through the customs on arrival at the entry. Personal effects are permitted free entry. It is important to remember NOT to carry any material relating to free Tibet like for instance Dalai Lama books or flags, masks etc carrying such slogans
When to visit
Spring in Tibet occurs around April and May. Due to melted snow and gentler temperatures, this is the most ideal season, but also the busiest time to visit. Tibet is usually closed to visitors in March, due to Tibetan New Year and the government’s fears of political occurrences. Winter falls in December and January. It is cold, but the skies are typically clear, and fewer tourists are seen.
From the moment you land in Lhasa, a city which stands 3,650 meters above sea level, many travelers will start experiencing mild symptoms of altitude sickness, including headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath. Your tour guide will ensure you climb gradually to the higher altitudes, so that by the time you reach Everest Base Camp at 5,150 meters you should be reasonably acclimatized.
Altitude sickness is something to take extremely seriously. Fitness is not a factor. Even the toughest mountaineers can die if they climb too high without giving their bodies time to adjust. Stay well hydrated, give yourself time to adjust to the altitude before embarking on any major hikes. Report any symptoms to your tour guide, and know what you’re getting into Tibet is the roof of the world, and the air is thin!
In most of the cities and towns in Tibet hotels and guest houses are available. Lhasa boasts of accommodation ranging from simple guest houses to four-star hotels. Shigatse, Gyantse, and Tsedang offer up to three-star hotels. While other smaller or remote areas, accommodation is available mainly in guest houses.
Forex and Banking
The unit of currency is Chinese Yuan. The Bank of China can exchange all foreign currencies. The banks in Tibet/China are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Travelers Cheques and credit cards are very difficult to be cashed outside the banks especially outside Lhasa. ATM facilities are easily available in Lhasa and Shigatse; however, it may be difficult to find one in other smaller towns or in remote places.
China Mobile coverage is available in some areas of Tibet, but there is no coverage in villages or remote places. Therefore, cell phones are not a reliable mode of communication. You can use telephones found in the post office, hotels, street booths, and shops.
However, with the exception of the major cities like Lhasa, Xigatse, Gyantse, Lhatse and Tsedang, communication facilities including telephone and postal services are absent in other parts of Tibet.
Internet cafes are available in Lhasa. Hotels in Lhasa like the Xigatse hotel also provides internet facility to its customers.
Popular Places in Tibet
Located at an altitude of 3,490 meters (11,450 ft), Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world. It was the historical capital of Tibet since 7th century after King Songtsen Gampo unified Tibet. World monuments of Potala Palace, Norbulingka Palace, Jokhang temple and Barkhor square. are the major attractions of Lhasa. It is the historical capital as well as the center of Tibet, every year thousands of local pilgrims visit Lhasa for its holy monasteries and temples.
100 kilometers South West of Lhasa, you’ll encounter one of Tibet’s three sacred lakes. Yamdrok Lake stretches across 638 square kilometers. The water reflects the blue of the sky, made more vivid by the thin, mountain air. Snow Capped mountains frame your view, and you can wander amongst the many cool, fresh streams that flow into the lake from miles above.
Historically, Tibet’s third city after Lhasa and Shigatse, Gyantse is a common stop on tours to Everest Base Camp. There you’ll find the Palcho Monastery, notable for the ancient Dzong fort, 108 (count them) chapels, and a gallery of ancient Buddhist art and artifacts.
This is Tibet’s second city, much of which resembles a classic Chinese city. However, there is still a lot of Tibet left among the traffic and overpasses. While here, I enjoyed sipping on the rich, salty Yak Butter Tea in small local tea houses. As with everywhere in Tibet, you need only lift your eyes to enjoy spectacular mountain views.
Just North of Mount Everest Base Camp, the Rongbuk Monastery sits at an astonishing 4,980 meters in altitude. It is often described by tour guides as the highest monastery in the world. The winds are brutal, and at this height, even the short staircase can sap your breath, adding to the heady, mysterious atmosphere of the place.
Everest Base Camp
For many travelers, this is what you came for. The world’s tallest mountain, the highest peak on planet Earth. It’s a lot to get your head around. The basecamp sits at 5150 meters, meaning walking itself is an effort. If you stay overnight in one of the Yaks hair tents, you may wake yourself up panting for breath, as if you’ve just run a marathon. Tours here range in duration and intensity, depending on whether you want to trek or view the mountain peaks from afar. If you’re planning a trip to Everest via Nepal, check our Nepal guide
Like a jagged, snow-capped stone reaching 6,638 m high, Mt Kailash is not Tibet’s largest mountain, but it is the most spiritually significant. Known to Buddhist believers as Mount Meru, the surrounding area is rich in sites of worship and pilgrimage. Every year, thousands of the devout attempt to circumnavigate the mountain, the hardiest of whom make the 52 kilometers, high altitude trek in barely 15 hours!