Disclaimer: Spinn Cafe aims to provide you the most up-to-date information, but you are still suggested to google for more information.
The information below was last updated on 5 May 2016. The situation in Tibet has been changing very fast throughout the past few months, the information given below should be used as a reference only.
- There's no restriction for the number of visitors in the group.
- So one person can also form a one-man group to come to Tibet.
- Mixed nationalities are allowed.
- It is now okay to go to Everest Base Camp and Ngari area.
- Permit application must be sent in at least 25 - 30 days before the trip date. No quick permit. But yes, if you have time, you can get the permit.
- Let me emphasize the point above, it really takes a much longer time to apply for the permit now, so please make sure you have enough time!
- Permits for the Chamdo Area is not available to foreigners.
- Permits for overland trip from Sichuan to Tibet, or Yunnan to Tibet, are not available to foreigners.
- Indian nationals require special permits to visit Tibet. If you are Indian-passport holders, make sure the tour agencies fully understand the special requirements for Indian nationals. (If they tell you Indian is treated the same as other foreigners, they don't know the rule, go and ask for another agent.)
You can also contact me (Pazu Kong) if you have any further question, but please read this FAQ first. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can we do for you?
Our goal is as simple as this homepage, we aim to provide a very straightforward and transparent tour for those who felt confused about the Tibet situation.
Please fill in the form at the bottom of this page and we will give you more details of your trip. Or just email us: email@example.com
Before joining tour organized by Spinn Cafe, please read some comments from our previous group members here.
Our tour service and cafe are recommended by the Lonely Planet Tibet (8th edition, 2011). The latest Lonely Planet China (13th edition, 2013) rated our service as "clear and transparent".
Is Tibet safe now?
Yes I think it is very safe now. Tourism was hugely affected by the unrest in March 2008 and the Olympics 2008, but I never felt any personal threat at anytime. Tourist number is rising now, though still far from normal. Travel costs have been reduced considerably because of the low season.
Will I be affected by attitude sickness?
It is one of the most frequently asked question. It can take a few pages to answer this question, I suggest you to read http://www.basecampmd.com/expguide/amsprev.shtml
How to enter Tibet?
You will need a Chinese visa first, then the new restriction is that all foreigners must get the Tibet Travel Permit (TTP), hire a tour guide and rent a land cruiser (if going out of Lhasa). The rule is strictly enforced now. Foreign tourists can choose two ways of transportation to go to Tibet, 1. Flying into Tibet. 2. Taking a train to Tibet. Theoretically you can rent a car from mainland China to Tibet, but there's a big transit area called Chamdo, where permit may not be issued, so overland from mainland China to Tibet is not possible at the moment. Foreigners are not allowed to take public buses outside Lhasa City.
I've read other information which said foreigners could go to Tibet without any permits, why?
The travel situation in Tibet has been changing vastly since March 2008, even after so many years, we can still feel the effect now. Any information written before March 2008 should be treated as a reference only. All the information and restrictions written here were written after March 2008.
Can I hire a tour guide via one tour agency, but hire my own transportation through other sources, e.g. another tour agency, or simply a taxi?
You can only hire a taxi within Lhasa City, roaming around in Lhasa City. If you go from Lhasa to other areas, you will have to arrange the transportation through the same tour agency which you applied for the Tibet permit.
A taxi in Lhasa could only take foreigners up to any places with a checkpoint. For example, there's a checkpoint near Lhasa River side, it's only 6km away from town centre, and no, you cannot hire a taxi and go beyond that point.
Can foreigners buy the train tickets by themselves without joining a tour?
Foreigners can buy train tickets by themselves, or ask a Chinese friend to buy one for them, but permits will be checked while boarding the train, on the train and sometimes on arrival at the train station in Lhasa.
If I ask a tour agency in Chengdu to buy the train tickets for me, do I need to show them my Tibet permit?
No, you don't need to show them anything to buy the train ticket, just give them the money, that's simple. If they ask you about the Tibet permit, tell them that you will get one from a tour agency in Lhasa. Your permit will be checked only when you board the train, on the train, or arrive at the train station in Lhasa.
Can foreigners ride their bicycles into Tibet?
Foreign cyclists are very rare, all were accompanied by a rented vehicle.
Road checks are extremely frequent, I think it's almost impossible for foreigners to avoid any road checks now, even if you cycle at 2am!
What will the tour guide do? Is it like a North-Korean-styled trip in Tibet?
Hiring a tour guide is one of the requirements for getting the permits through a tour agency, you cannot get a permit if you don't hire a guide.
Some internet reviews claim that it's possible to go without tour guides, it's wrong! One review said that, "if your travel agent tells you (that you need a tour guide for everyday), get another travel agent." This is completely wrong. You will actually need tour guide for every single day in Tibet, no matter what you do! It's clearly written on the permit and PSB registration. If your tour agent tells you otherwise, they are breaking the rule to save your cost. But it should not be allowed or recommended.
You will have to hire a tour guide on every single day while you are in Tibet.
However, you are actually still free to wander around Lhasa by yourself without your tour guide, you can ask your guide to stay at the hotel and wait for you. But a tour guide is compulsory if you want to enter the Potala Palace, Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery. The tour agency will be fined if you were found without a tour guide inside these premises.
Several Taiwanese tourists wanted to enter Drepung Monastery without a tour guide and the tour agency which helped them to get the TTP permits were asked to pay a penalty of RMB 1000. Please act responsibly.
You are okay to go to most other places in Lhasa without a tour guide, oh wait, does it mean that you have paid him for nothing? Yes, but that's the rule, ha, he'll actually give you back lots of freedom. Haha!
If you travel out of Lhasa, a tour guide is necessary to accompany you in the vehicle. Road checks will ask for the presence of your tour guide.
If I stay in Tibet for 10 days, should I hire the tour guide for every single day in Tibet?
Yes, unfortunately, however unfair it may seem, yes, you will need to hire a tour guide for every single day!
I'm planning to enter Tibet from China, is it okay for me to continue traveling if my Chinese visa expires but I have a longer Tibet permit?
You must have a valid Chinese visa to cover the whole period of your stay in Tibet, a Tibet permit is not a visa extension. If your Chinese visa expires, you will have to leave Tibet even if you still have some days left on the Tibet permit.
For example, if your Chinese visa expires on 1 August, your Tibet permit expires on 5 August, it means that your tour will end on 1 August (not 5 August).
Normally you are not allowed to get any permit that expires after your Chinese visa, sometimes the Tourism Bureau may give you a longer permit by mistake, but it doesn't imply any visa extension. In any case, even if you do get a Tibet permit longer than your Chinese visa, you will still have to finish the tour before the expiry date of your Chinese visa.
You should be responsible for making sure that you have a valid Chinese visa for the duration of your stay in Tibet.
Note that no visa extension will be allowed in Tibet for foreign tourists under any circumstances. I have to repeat it, no visa extension is allowed.
I know a Tibetan friend, can I get a Tibet permit or invitation letter from him? Or can I travel with him so I don't need a tour guide?
Unfortunately, this is also not possible. Even if you have a lot of Tibetan friends, you still need a Tibet permit, you still need to hire a tour guide for every single day in Tibet to get the permit, and yes, you can only get it through a tour agency.
I know a Tibetan friend, can I get a Tibet permit through a tour agency but STAY with him? Or can he be my tour guide?
You still need to get the permit through a tour agency and by the way, a tour guide means a tour guide with the right license, most Tibetan don't have this license except if they are real tour guides.
I know some friends from Hong Kong and they already had a driver, can I go traveling with them?
This is not possible, you will still have to arrange your tour with tour guide and driver first, then you can invite your friends from Hong Kong (or Macau or mainland China) to join this tour, but you are not allowed to join their tour.
People from Hong Kong, Macau or mainland China are free to join whatever for tours they like (even a group with foreigners), but not vice versa.
If I know some friends from Hong Kong, they already had a driver, can I just contact a tour agency, hire a tour guide, then go traveling with my friends' driver?
This is also not possible, you will have to arrange a driver and tour guide with a tour agency dealing with foreigners first, then you can ask your friends from Hong Kong to join this tour, not vice versa.
I love cycling or walking alone, can I cycle around Lhasa by myself without my tour guide?
There are three parts of the answers.
First, you will still have to hire a tour guide, you hire a tour guide to get your Tibet permit.
Second, you can sometimes ask your tour guide to let you freely roaming around Lhasa City without a tour guide accompanying you all the time, provided that you do not enter any religious sites (e.g. monasteries) or government venues (e.g. police stations).
Thirdly, you can cycle or walk or roam around to the area around 25km from Jokhang Monastery.
This 25-km boundary is not official, and you should ask your tour guide and tour agency to see how they interpret this boundary.
What time must I go back to my hotel?
Even if you need to hire a tour guide, he's not going to be your nanny. You can go back to sleep anytime, you can stay outside your hotel until 3am or 6am if you like, there's actually no limitation. In my cafe (serving alcohols, cocktails, cold beers!), we always meet some foreign travelers here until we close... sometimes we close at 2am and there are still some foreigners. (Now we usually close at 12am.)
There are also some discotheques in the western side of the city which open till dawn, they tend to be very noisy, I don't suggest you to go there.
Can we decide where to stay in Lhasa?
Definitely yes, and foreigners are also allowed to book the hotels by themselves, but it would be better to book the accommodations in Lhasa through your tour agency, you may have slightly more flexibility as your agency would probably have a better relationship to the specified hotel. It's always the travelers who have the final say about where to stay provided the places have the necessary license to accomodate foreigners.
Bear in mind that the hotel the travelers choose to stay must be able to accommodate foreigners, i.e. the hotel or guesthouse must have the Foreigners Accommodation License (外国人住宿许可证).
A twin room with private shower room usually costs around RMB 280 in low season or RMB 380 in high season (May to Sept).
A twin room with private shower room usually costs around RMB 180 in low season or RMB 380 in low season (Nov to Apr).
I love to experience a more local aspect of Tibetan life, can I stay at a local's home?
You can only stay at the designated hotels or hostels with foreigners accommodation licenses. It does NOT mean high-end hotels, some are more like youth hostels, but they are not local homes.
How can I know which hotels allow foreigners to stay?
Most guesthouses listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook have this permits to let foreigners to stay, but you should reserve the rooms in Lhasa through your tour agency.
Do I have to reserve the hotel rooms outside Lhasa as well?
No, you can choose your hotel outside Lhasa later, you only have to reserve the rooms in Lhasa first. It's actually better, you can see the hotels before paying, so you can also decide which hotel to stay, your tour guide and driver will take you there.
Can I get the latest edition of Lonely Planet Tibet in Lhasa?
No, as far as I know, there are no places to sell Lonely Planet.
Which area should I stay in Lhasa?
Definitely choose a hotel inside the old quarter of Lhasa. All important spots are within the old quarter. Choose hotels at Beijing East Road, Dosenge Road, Barkhor only. Hotels in the western side of the city is far away from almost everywhere.
Do you have some recommendations for guesthouses in Lhasa so I can check out their price and location?
All hotels listed below are in Lhasa old quarter, I think this is the best area to stay in Lhasa. All guesthouses listed below are popular and affordable, all equipped with the necessary license to accommodate foreigners.
1. Rama Kharpo Hotel (twin room)
This guesthouse near the Mosque in Barkhor is owned by Lobsang-la (aka Lobsangy on this forum). As a hotel owner, an academic and a scholar, he can probably tell you more interesting stories about Tibet than any other guidebooks. This is also the only place which lets you to reserve dormitory bed.
2. Phuntsok Khasang Youth Hostel, also called Lhasa Youth Hostel (twin room)
Popular hangout for independent travelers, used to be the definite hub for meeting foreign travelers before the unrest in March 2008. Around ten minutes away from almost all major tourist spots.
3. Gorkha Hotel (twin room)
Used to be the Nepali Consulate in Lhasa, centrally located.
My tour agency told me something very different, they said I must stay at their designated hotels, they said the hotels listed above did not have any license to let foreigners to stay legally, why??
Because the tour agencies are not honest, they may be able to get a better commission for some hotels, especially those in the western side of the city, they may tell you the hotels in the old quarter are old, dirty, unsafe or bad. Don't believe them, they simply couldn't get enough commission from the hotels in the old quarter of Lhasa. If the tour agency insists to put you in an expensive hotel, ignore them and choose another tour agency.
Can I design my itinerary?
You have lots of freedom to choose which places to go and how many days you want to spend there, provided that you hire a tour guide and rent a vehicle.
Most people would take a 4- or 5-day trip to the Everest Base Camp (and Samye), or 5-day trip to Nyingchi, or 2-day trip to Namtso, or 11- to 18-day to Ngari (Ali). But if you have the money and time, you can of course make it very flexible.
Can I go to Namtso Lake in the winter time?
Namtso is only open from April to late October, the road will be blocked by snow after November.
If I just want to spend a few days in Lhasa, nothing else, then do I still need a guide and driver?
If you stay in Lhasa only, you still need to hire a tour guide, but you DO NOT NEED to rent a vehicle (and no driver). You will need to rent a vehicle if you travel out of Lhasa. There are actually quite a lot of things to see in Lhasa, monasteries, tea houses, local homes, etc. And it would be quite a delightful experience to visit some schools and orphanages in Lhasa by your own, these places are all open to foreigners. (PS: All places are opened to foreigners, but you will need to be accompanied by a tour guide if you go to 3 spots: Potala Palace, Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery.)
When I apply for a Chinese visa, the application form asks me where I should go in China, should I write down Tibet?
The "itinerary" part on the Chinese visa application form is for reference only. Even if you didn't mention Tibet in the application form, you can still come to Tibet. I suggest you to write something simple, like "Spending 2 weeks in Kunming (Yunnan), 2 weeks in Lijiang (Yunnan)".
However, if you mention "Tibet" in your visa application form, your visa will probably be denied by the Chinese embassy.
DO NOT MENTION Tibet in your application, it will NOT jeopardize your trip in Tibet. It's also DEFINITELY legal to enter Tibet even if you didn't mention "Tibet" in your visa application.
Then how to obtain a permit?
There are two types of permits. Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) and Alien Travel Permit (ATP). To get into Tibet, you will need the TTP; to travel around Tibet, you'll need the ATP. In the past (before February 2009), some tour agencies were willing to sell you a permit without hiring a guide, but everything was changed, you MUST join a tour now, hire a tour guide and rent a car if you want to get the permit. The permit MUST be obtained through a travel agency, you are not allowed to apply one by yourself.
What are the steps of arranging the Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) through a Lhasa tour agency, via the internet?
As mentioned above, you need a Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) to enter Tibet.
This permit will take about 10 to 14 days to get. You will need to send the scanned copies of your Chinese visa and the information page of your passport to the tour agency which helped you to get the permit.
Note that even if your Chinese visa didn't have any entry stamp, you can still apply for the TTP permit.
To make it easier to understand, you should:
*: If you enter Tibet by train, a photocopy of the permit is required. If you enter Tibet by flight, a real copy of permit is required.
- Get a Chinese visa anywhere first. Do not mention "Tibet" in the visa application.
- Contact a tour agency in Lhasa.
- Send the scanned copy of your Chinese visa plus the information page of your passport to the agency.
- Enter China.
- The tour agency will send you either a photocopy or a real copy of the Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) by email or courier service.*
- Enter Tibet either by flight or train.
I'm working in China, would this make any difference when applying for the permits?
Depends on what type of Chinese visa you are holding, if you are using the tourist visa (type L), it's totally okay. For other types of visa, see below:
- Tourist (L) visa - no additional documents are rquired.
- Visiting (F) visa - a letter of recommendation from your company (with the official company seal).
- Business (Z) visa - a letter of recommendation from your company (with the official company seal) and a scanned copy of your work permit (issued by the government).
- Student (X) visa - a letter of recommendation from your school or university, with the school stamp (seal) and a scanned copy of the student ID card.
How to choose my tour agency?
A standard tour should include all the expenses, include:
1. Train/flight ticket in and out of Lhasa, double this price (in and out). The flight prices are fluctuating days and nights, e.g. the cheapest flight from Guangzhou to Lhasa costs around RMB 2700. The flight ticket of one-way from Chengdu - Lhasa = RMB 1700, including tax and fuel surcharge (Sept 2011).
Here's a reference of the train ticket prices (hard sleeper & soft sleeper, time):
Guangzhou to Lhasa (RMB 923 & RMB 1434, 56 hours).
Xining to Lhasa (RMB 523 & RMB 810, 25.5 hours).
Beijing to Lhasa (RMB 813 & RMB 1262, 46.5 hours).
Shanghai to Lhasa (RMB 845 & RMB 1314, 49 hours).
Chengdu to Lhasa (RMB 712 & RMB 1104, 45 hours).
But there is an unfair surcharge for booking the train ticket in high season, from June to October. It can be as much as RMB 1000 for a ticket! From my understanding, most tour agency didn't really make money out of this reservation as this fee will be handed directly to some corrupted staff at the train station... In July, August and Sept, I would strongly suggest you to take a flight into Lhasa instead.
2. Vehicle, you are allowed to travel in Tibet (except Lhasa Prefecture) only with a tour guide and a rented vehicle, either a Toyota 4500 land cruiser (for 4 people) or a Ruifeng Business Van (Ruifeng Shangwu). If you go to the Everest Base Camp, choose Toyota 4500 even if it's more expensive. Expect to pay around Y1800 - 2200 per day (depends on the season) for the whole Toyota land cruiser, this fare can be shared by 4 people in the car.
3. It's optional to include entrance tickets in the tour package, but the tour agency should list out all the entrance fees, they shouldn't make money on buying the tickets for you except for the Potala tickets, some agencies are charging around RMB 200 for the "reservation fee" (plus RMB 100 for the Potala Palace ticket). And you must be accompanied by a guide to visit the Potala Palace, Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery.
4. They should include the hotel price in Lhasa in the tour package, and you should check very carefully that they include hotel price for every night you stay, some tour companies tried to make the whole price looks cheaper by playing tricks, e.g. including the hotel price for the first night only. A hotel room should cost around RMB 280 - 380 per night per double room in most areas (e.g. Lhasa, Shigatse...), but it should cost only RMB 60 for a bed in a tent in Namtso Lake and Everest Base Camp.
5. The salary of driver is included in the cost of renting the vehicle. Tour guide should charge around RMB 300 per day. And you don't have to pay for their meals and accommodations, this should be included in the price of the tour package.
6. Permit price is hard to say, usually around Y400 － 1200. Some agency may charge you less for the permits, but charge ridiculous price for the vehicle, beware! If you only go to Lhasa and Everest Base Camp, expect to pay around Y1200 per person for the permits. Expect to pay Y1200 to Y1500 for all the permits to Ngari Prefecture (i.e. Kailash and Guge). Permit price will be much more expensive during difficult time as tour agencies will have to pay extra (well... under the table) to get the permit.
7. A very important point, the price given above is for reference only, you should make sure the tour package includes the items' prices listed above, it doesn't matter how much they charge for each single item, some may charge lesser for permits but charge ridiculous price for "service charges and tipping", so you should consider the value of the tour package based on the whole price.
8. Tipping is definitely not necessary in Tibet, sometimes the tour guide may expect a small amount of tips, if you really enjoy the service, paying around RMB 40 per day for the driver, RMB 30 per day for the tour guide. However, tipping is not compulsory.
When you compare prices offered by different companies, you should compare the prices based on the same ground, don't compare a Business Van with a Toyota land cruiser, don't compare train tickets with air tickets, don't compare a cheap guesthouse with a 4-star hotel. Make sure they offer the same levels of accommodations, entrance fees, meals etc. Remember, many tour agencies are trying to make the whole tour package looks cheaper by deducting some necessary items from the package, when you ask for a quote, you should ask them to include all the necessary items for comparison.
In your email, you should state very clearly the followings:
- Your choice of transportation, both inward and outward.
- Permit price.
- All entrance fees, ask them to list all. If you decide not to go to one single place, you should be able to get back the entrance fee you paid.
- Hotel price of each place and each single night of your stay in the bigger towns (e.g. Lhasa and Shigatse), or small places (e.g. Namtso Lake and Everest Base Camp).
- Type of rented vehicle (e.g. Ruifeng Business Van or Toyota 4500 land cruiser) for your itinerary.
- Salaries, accommodations and meals of driver and tour guide for the whole trip (not just for one single day).
- Transportation from / to the airport / train station and your hotel (first day and last day of your trip).
- Meals may or may not be included.
- Service and tippings.
- Ask them if it's a all-included package, are there anything missing, etc?
So what is the real permit price?
The permit price is actually zero, and on the permit it will state very clearly that the permit is free. But it's actually fair for the tour agency to charge some money for handling the permits. They need a lot of connection at the governmental departments to get you the permits. The tour agency need also a lot of insurance to arrange foreigners' permits, it's always about politics and security.
When you get into any trouble in Lhasa, the tour agency which helped you to get the permit will take full responsibility. Some "offense" committed by foreigners may seem to be very minor, but will still have big consequence to the tour agencies. e.g. if a foreigner is found to enter some monasteries without tour guides, the tour agency will be asked to pay a sort of penalty, sometimes around RMB 2000 or so.
The permit price I wrote here are totally for your reference only. At the very beginning I wrote RMB 800 in the FAQ, but some tour agencies contacted me and said they try to charge people cheaper on one item but more expensive on the permit, but even if their packages are overally cheaper than the others, some people may think they are still expensive. Some people even quoted my FAQ and use it to bargain with the tour agencies.
The price for each item is for your reference only, the budget should not cost more than this referenced price, but you should compare different packages based on the offerings and the total price, not just the price of each single item.
What is a typical tour package like?
Day 1: Take a flight from Chengdu / Chongqing to Lhasa. (or Xining to Lhasa by train)
Day 2: Stay in Lhasa for 3 days for acclimatization and sightseeings.
Day 3: Still in Lhasa for 3 days for acclimatization and sightseeings.
Day 4: Still in Lhasa for 3 days for acclimatization and sightseeings.
Day 5: Start to pay for a rented vehicle, from Lhasa to Shigatse, via Gyantse and Yamdro Lake.
Day 6: From Shigatse to Everest Base Camp.
Day 7: From Everest Base Camp back to Shigatse.
Day 8: From Shigatse to Namtso Lake.
Day 9: From Namtso Lake to Lhasa.
Day 10: Lhasa to Xining (Qinghai Province) by train, then tour ends in Xining. (or fly back to Chengdu, there are flights from Chengdu to Bangkok).
Are there any other example of a typical tour?
Day 1: Arrive in Lhasa.
Day 2: Visiting the Potala Palace and Jokhang Monastery
Day 3: Bike tour to Sera Monastery
Day 4: Lhasa to Namtso Lake
Day 5: Namtso to Shigatse
Day 6: Shigatse to Sakya
Day 7: Sakya to Everest Base Camp
Day 8: Everest Base Camp to the Nepali border.
Please give me another example of a tour?
This example of a simple itinerary was sent to me through email. The trip takes a total of ten days, while 8 days are in Lhasa, and 2 days to the Lhoka Prefecture (to visit Samye Monastery and Yumbu Lakang).
Day 1: Arrive in Lhasa by air.
Day 2: Staying in Lhasa, sightseeing in Lhasa, doing almost nothing, relaxing.
Day 3: Staying in Lhasa, visiting Drepung Monastery
Day 4: Staying in Lhasa, visiting Jokhang Monastery.
Day 5: Staying in Lhasa, visiting Sera Monastery.
Day 6: Staying in Lhasa, visiting Potala Palace.
Day 7: Lhasa to Tsedang Town (Lhoka Prefecture), visiting Samye Monastery and Yumbu Lakang.
Day 8: Tsedang back to Lhasa
Day 9: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 10: Lhasa - leaving Tibet by train.
This tour is actually quite good, you can have some very relaxing days in Lhasa. Some people said they didn't really like Lhasa because it was too "Chinese", but not really, it's still one of the most important Tibetan cultural centers, there are lots to do here.
What is the cheapest way to stay in Lhasa for 14 days?
Imagine if you don't want to go anywhere, just stay in Lhasa for 14 days, then how much you should pay?
Day 1: Arrive in Lhasa by air.
Day 2: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 3: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 4: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 5: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 6: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 7: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 8: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 9: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 10: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 11: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 12: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 13: Staying in Lhasa.
Day 14: Staying in Lhasa, leave by train
This tour gives you lots of free time to wander around Lhasa. It's not boring at all! The first time I came to Lhasa several years ago, I stayed in Lhasa for almost 2 months.
Is it possible to arrange a Tibet trip through some Nepali agencies?
It seems to be easier to arrange the trip from mainland China. There are many different tour agencies in Nepal which organize trips to Tibet for foreigners. However, all agencies in Nepal (or other parts of China outside Tibet) are actually cooperating with the tour agencies in Lhasa in order to get all the papers done, it would be much cheaper to contact tour agencies in Lhasa through the internet as there are fewer middlemen.
What are the situations of arranging a trip to Tibet from Nepal?
You can arrange a trip from Nepal to Tibet and then China, but the big problem is, you can only get a visa of around 21 days, it's not possible to extend this visa in China right now.
When you enter Tibet from Nepal, you can only get a so-called "group visa". A group visa is actually an A4-sized paper with a list of members' names. A group can be composed of one or two people only, and you have to enter and leave the country together with all the members on the list.
The group visa has a serious limitation, it's probably valid for only 21 days or even shorter, this visa is not possible to be extended anywhere in China, not in Kunming, Leshan, Chengdu or Xining. If you read somewhere else that this group visa was extendable, it was probably before 2008, I haven't seen anyone who can do it in the past several years (after 2008).
If you have any previous Chinese tourist visa in your passport, the Chinese Embassy in Nepal will cancel all your previous visas before issuing you a group visa.
With this group visa, you can spend some days in Tibet and the remaining days in China, e.g. 2 weeks in Tibet, one week in other parts of China.
There are some other alternatives.
And please also note that no matter which way you travel, you will still need all the requirements stated on my website to get the permits. i.e.
- Get a longer tourist visa (usually around 3 months) elsewhere, probably at your home country first. Then fly from Kathmandu to Chengdu (not Lhasa), then join a tour in Chengdu. But the flight from Kathmandu to Chengdu is usually quite expensive.
- Get a group visa and permits in Kathmandu, travel from Kathmandu to Tibet, then take a train to Guangzhou, exit at Hong Kong, and get another new Chinese visa in Hong Kong.
- Hiring a tour guide for every single day of your stay in the Tibet Autonomous Region. (Can be shared by other group members).
- Renting a vehicle, either Toyota 4WD or a van. (Can be shared by other group members).
- Staying at specific hotels (not a problem, they are very good and always prefered by tourists even if there are no special restrictions to ask foreigners stay there.)
What is a travel license for vehicle?
All private vehicles involving in the tourism industry in Tibet must have a travel license. It's easy to see if a car has this license or not, just check the car number plate.
All number plate in Tibet will be started with a Chinese word "Zang" (Tibet), followed by an alphabet assigned for each prefecture, e.g. A for Lhasa, B for Shigatse. A car with travel license will have one more letter "L" (lv-you, travel).
e.g. A car with a number plate of "Zang A L 12345" has a travel license. A car with number "Zang A T 54321" did not.
A car with travel license has insurance and is monitored by the Tourism Bureau. And most important, any tour agency who was caught with using unlicensed vehicle will be fined RMB 20,000 or above. If a tour agency risks arranging an unlicensed vehicle to tourists, you may want to ask why.
Can I extend my visa in Tibet?
For most cases, no, you can't extend your visa without a good reason. They will tell you something like you still have 5 days on your visa and it should be enough for you to fly out of China! If you really have only one single day left on your visa, the police may give you a temporary extension of a maximum of 5 days, for the price of a single visa (Y160 for most nationalities).
I haven't met any tourists who could extend their visa in Lhasa since 2010.
I've heard that a medicine called diamox is useful for prevention of attitude sickness, can I buy it in China?
Acetazolamide, sold under the trade name Diamox, is used to treat attitude sickness. While this medicine is effective, it cannot be found in China! If you want to take diamox, remember to bring enough from home, it is a prescription drug in many countries, consult a doctor for advice. In China, the most popular attitude sickness remedy is "hong-jing-tian", which is usually around RMB 30 per box with 20 tablets, depends on the ingredients and brand name.
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You can also contact me (Pazu Kong) if you have any further question, but please read this FAQ first. If you plan to join us and let us organize your tour, please fill in the form below and tell us your request, we will reply your emails in 24 hours.
Note that reply time will be a bit longer in March (only in March), expect to get a reply in 96 hours.
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