10 Important Restrictions on Tibet Travel You Should Know
Before planing a Tibet trip, please note that Tibet is a special destination which is not easy and simple to go. You have to do a lot of homework before your trip, such as visa and Tibet permits, itinerary, packing, etc. Following are 9 important restrictions on your Tibet travel you have to know when planning your TIbet trip.
1. Independent Travel is not allowed in Tibet
According to the laws and regulations of Tibet Tourism Bureau, foreign travelers are not allowed to travel independently in Tibet. You have to use travel services offered by a qualified China travel agency, at least a tour guide. It depends on you to book hotels from your travel agency or not. When you are visiting the monasteries, museums and other attractions, you must be accompanied by a tour guide.
You can join a fix-departure group tour, or let your agency offer a tailor-made private tour according to your interest. When you are in the town, such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse, Nyingchi, you are free to walk around after the activities arranged by your agency.
2. Tibet Entry Permit is Required for any Tibet tour
To travel in Tibet, foreign travelers not only have to have a valid passport and Chinese visa, but also need the Tibet Entry Permit. Some people call Tibet Entry Permit as “Tibet Visa” which is not the official name. It is issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa. This document permits you to travel in Tibet, including Mount Everest, also permits you to take a train or flight to Tibet. When you go to take your train or flight to Tibet, the Tibet Travel Permit will be checked. Without the permit, you will be rejected to board the train and flight. Travelers can’t apply for the permit on their own. You have to let a China Travel Agency to apply for the permit on behalf of you. It usually needs about 15~20 days to obtain the permit.
How to Obtain the Tibet Entry Permit
1. Contact us to work out and confirm an itinerary in Tibet;
2. Send us the scanned copies of your passport, and provide an available address in China (hotel or local agency) to receive your permit;
3. We apply for the Tibet Travel Permit from Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa;
4. Once the permit is issued, we will send the original permit to you by post.
3. Extra Permits are required other regions beyond Lhasa
Tibet Entry Permit only guarantees a Tibet tour in Lhasa city and suburb areas. If you want to extend your trip to other prefectures in Tibet, such as Shigatse, Shannan, Ngari, Mount Everest, you have to obtain several other necessary permits.
Alien Travel Permits - this permit is issued by Tibetan Local Public Security Bureau. It is required for foreign tourists to travel beyond Lhasa to other prefectures, like Shigatse, Tsetang, Nyingchi, Ngari, etc. It can be applied after your arrival at Tibet.
Border Pass - when you travel to destinations near the border area, such as Mount Everest, Mount Kailash, you have to apply for the Border Pass. It is also needed for transfer between Nepal and Tibet.
Military Permit - it is applied by foreign tourists who want to visit the military sensitive areas, such as Ngari and Nyingchi prefectures or overland from/to Yunnan, Qinghai, etc.
4. Only mainland China and Nepal have transport access into Tibet
Currently only mainland China and Nepal have transport accesses into Tibet. There is only an international flight to Tibet – Kathmandu Lhasa Flight. In the tourist peak seasons, there are usually two daily flights to Lhasa from Kathmandu each day. Travelers can also travel overland to Tibet from Nepal when the borders are open again (currently the borders are still under reconstruction).
Most travelers like to travel from mainland China to Tibet, which ensures more options of transportation. There are many cities operating daily flights to Lhasa, Nyingchi and Shigatse in Tibet, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Kunming, Xian, etc. Chengdu has the most frequent flight schedules. Travelers can also take trains to Tibet from Chengdu, Chongqing, Beijing, Xian, Lanzhou, Shanghai, etc.
5. A Group Visa and Border Pass are required if traveling to Tibet from Nepal
If you want to travel from Nepal to Tibet, you should apply for a Group Visa at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. Please note you can’t apply for this visa at your home country. As a special Chinese Visa, the Group Visa is valid for mainland China visit as well. After you finishing your Tibet tour, you can use the same Group Visa to extend your trip into other destinations of China. But you have to specify your itinerary clearly in your application form. It usually costs only about 3 working days to get the Group Visa. Top urgent applications usually cost more fees.
To travel from Nepal to Tibet, whichever by flight or overlanding, travelers also have to obtain the Border Pass. Your travel agency will apply for and obtain it in Tibet, then send you a photocopy which is also available to check in at the border or airport.
6. Some diseases do not allow you to visit Tibet
Visiting high-altitude places may cause high altitude sickness (AMS). High altitude always means an attitude of over 2438 meters (about 8,000 feet). The average altitude of Lhasa is 3,650 meters and the altitude is higher in Shigatse, Namtso, Everest and Kailash. Usually, most people can acclimatize their body to high altitude gradually if they start their journey from Lhasa. However, getting heavy cold, severe anemia, high blood pressure, heart disease and some breathing diseases including pneumonia, tuberculosis, tracheitis, and bronchitis don’t allow you to high-altitude area, or you will easily get high altitude sickness and your health will take risk. So you are suggested to take a physical examination and consult your doctor to make sure you can travel to Tibet.
7. Journalists and Diplomats can’t travel in Tibet with a travel agency
A China or Tibet travel agency can only arrange travel service for regular travelers. If you are a journalist, a diplomat or a media staff, and want to visit Tibet, you can’t ask help from the travel agency. You have to apply for special permit from China Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
8. Tibet tour is not available from late February to the end of March due to holidays
Travelers are not suggested to plan your Tibet trip in late February and March when Tibet travel agencies will suspend business because of major holidays and attraction maintenance. There are several holidays in this period of time. The most important one is the Tibetan New Year, or Tibet Losar. During this period, Tibet travel permits cannot be obtained. When the April comes, we will start to apply the permits and operate Tibet tours again.
9. Some special places are not open for travelers
Most attractions in Tibet can be visited by foreign travelers as long as he/she obtain required permits. Visiting attractions in Lhasa area requires only Tibet Entry Permit. Traveling beyond Lhasa requires Alien Travel Permit. Destinations near the border areas require Border Pass. There are several regions which are not open for foreign travelers because they are military sensible grounds, such as Pangong Lake in Ngari, Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon and Nanyi Valley in Nyingchi, Tsonag County in Shannan, Yadong Couty in Shigatse. The famous holy Lhamo La-tso, as a sacred site of Buddhism, is also not open for foreign travelers.
10. Regular Tourists cannot reach higher Everest area beyond Rongbuk Monastery
Regular travelers are forbidden to travel to the Everest area beyond Rongbuk Monastery (togethere with Everest Base Camp), but it is enough to admire the unparallelled stunning view of Mount Everest's north face. To take an adventure to Everest Base Camp, one has to obtain three permits – Tibet Entry Permit, Border Pass and Alien Travel Permit.
If you are a professional mountaineer, and want to summit Mount Everest, you have to apply for mountaineering permits from General Administration of Sport of China and Tibet Mountaineering Association.
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