1. Don’t Forget Your Tibet Entry Permit
All non-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 Chinese travel agency. Your whole tour in Tibet must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide.
2. Best Times to Visit
In general, the best time to visit Tibet is from May to October when the weather is pleasant. It is also regarded as Tibet’s golden travel seasons.
3. 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 then you should fly in and take a train out.
4. Plan Your Tour Far Enough in Advance
All Tibet Tours must be booked at least 20 days in advance. Usually it takes 2-3 days to confirm hotel bookings and almost 10 days more 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. If your travel is limited to areas around Lhasa, 4 days is enough whereas if you want to go to Mt. Everest, you are recommended at least one week duration for your Tibet visit.
5. 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
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.
7. Must-See Attractions
- The Potala Palace
- Jokhang Temple
- Sera Monastery
- Drepung Monastery
- Yamdrok-Tso Lake
- Tashilunpo Monastery
- Mt. Everest
8. Keep Healthy
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.
9. Respect the Tibetan People and Avoid Trouble
Do not talk about sensitive topics like politics when in Tibet. Taking photos of Buddha statues is not allowed in the majority of Tibetan monasteries. In some monasteries, such as Tashilhunpo Monastery, you can take pictures of the Buddha statues after paying some money. Ask permission first before taking pictures of other people in Tibet. Sometimes they will even ask you for money. Do not enter monasteries without permission. Smoking is not allowed when visiting monasteries. Dress properly, not in shorts or sunglasses.
10. 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 elsewhere. 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. Whereas 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.