Tibet is a autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4,500 metres for which it is called the roof of the world. With its raw high altitude valleys and lakes, smell of juniper incense, the low murmur of Tibetan chanting and the warm glow of butter lamps in monasteries, Tibet is uniquely a spiritual place of magnificent monasteries, remote retreats and pilgrim paths.
Climate and Best Time to Travel
Climate is not such a major consideration when visiting Tibet as many people might imagine. Winters (November to March) are cold (the average temperature in January is -2 degree Centigrade) but there is not much snow. Summers (May to September) have warm days with strong sunshine and cool nights. Spring, early summer and late autumn are the best times to visit Tibet. Mt Everest is particularly clear during April and May.
From mid July through to the end of September, the monsoon starts to affect parts of Tibet. The months of July and August brings half of Tibet’s annual rainfall. Travel to western Tibet becomes slightly more difficult, the roads to the east are temporarily washed out and the Friendship Hwy sometimes becomes impassable. Trips to Mt Kailash can be undertaken from April to October, although September and October are considered the best months. October is also the best time to make a trip out to the east Lhasa and it do not get really cold until the end of November. New Year (Losar) in January or February is an excellent time to be in Lhasa, as is the Saga Dawa festival in April or May.
Visas & Travelling Permit
Chinese Visa for individual travel in China are easy to get from most Chinese Embassies. But the Chinese Visa and Tibet Permits are different. All travelers entering Tibet must also obtain SPECIAL TRAVEL PERMITS from the Tibetan Tourism Bureau (TTB), Lhasa. One cannot travel to Tibet with Chinese Visa. TRAVELLERS MUST OFFICIALLY BE PART OF A GROUP TOUR with a guide who will help dealing with the Chinese authorities at checkpoints. If you are traveling to Tibet via Nepal, you must obtain the Chinese visa which must be issued by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu but if you are planning to enter Tibet via mainland China, you need to get the Chinese visa from Chinese Embassy in your home country. Arrangements for the Tibet Travel Permits are done by the tour operator with whom you book the tour with.
1. Your passport should be valid for at least six months before travelling. Visa is not provided to the passports with less than six months’ validity. You need two passport-sized photos for the visa application. 2. All Tibet permits can be obtained using colored scan copy of your passport but you need your original passport to apply for Chinese visa. 3. Travelers must use the same passport for Nepal and Tibet. 4. Itinerary and the places to visit in Tibet must be stated clearly and finalized in advance because while applying for a Chinese visa from Kathmandu, a copy of this should be attached. Travel permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau (Lhasa) is obtained according to the places mentioned in the itinerary. 5. The Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu does not issue Chinese visas to individual travelers and will even cancel any existing Chinese visa once you apply for it from Nepal. 6. Travelers are not allowed to carry any Tibetan religious books, literatures, photographs, especially related to Dalai Lama during your travel to Tibet. Possessions of such are confiscated and you are not allowed to enter Tibet. 7. Rules and regulations regarding Chinese visa and Tibet travel permit keeps on changing very often, therefore we suggest our customers to consult the travel agent regarding the visa issues so that your programs and plans goes smoothly without any obstacles.
Getting into Tibet
By Air: So far, there are two direct flights between Lhasa and Kathmandu, run by Sichuan Airline and Air China. The best thing about flying to Tibet from Nepal is the stunning view of the Himalayas including Mt. Everest, the world’s highest peak.
By Road: This is the most common way to enter Tibet. Tourists find it convenient to fly to Kathmandu then enter Tibet via land. However, if you are already in Nepal, you can enter Tibet via Kerung and Simikot. Due to the Nepal earthquake in 2015, the Kodari border is temporarily closed. Instead, the Kerung border which is 6 hours away from Kathmandu is used. Simikot border is used mostly by travelers to Mt. Kailash.
FROM MAINLAND CHINA
Train/Railway: There are five routes that connect China and Tibet by train. The popular choice is to take the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It takes 2 days for travelers to reach Lhasa from Beijing. Travelling from Xining to Tibet takes around 21 hours. There is daily train service from Shanghai to Tibet. The Chengdu-Tibet train departs every other day and takes around 43 hours. The train ride from Guangzhou to Tibet train is the longest and takes around 54 hours.
Flights: Tourists can fly to Tibet from Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu within 7 hours. Many airlines offer discounts in winter, especially for the flight from Chengdu to Lhasa. At present, there are direct flights to Lhasa from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shangri-la, Kunming, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Xian, Xining and Kathmandu. There are also several daily flights from Chengdu to Shigatse and Nyingchi in Tibet. By land: Entering Tibet via mainland China by land is very expensive and takes from 7 – 15 days. Qinghai-Tibet Highway (1937km, an estimated 5-7 days), Xinjiang-Tibet Highway (2086km, an estimated 10-15 days)
NOTE: Whichever way you enter Tibet, from China or from Nepal , you will have to be officially part of a group tour purchasing a package tour through a travel company.
Tibet is a remote location, and if you become seriously injured or very sick, you may need to be evacuated by air. Be sure your policy covers evacuation along with medical, theft and loss and all the adventure activities in your trip along with trip cancellation.
The currency in Tibet is Renminbi (RMB). The Bank of China exchanges the foreign currencies. ATM facilities are easily available in Lhasa and Shigatse; however, it will be difficult to find one in other smaller towns or in remote places. So it is advisable to carry enough cash when visiting smaller towns and remote areas. Also that the Tibetans do not use and accept coins
In Tibet the power sockets are of type A, C and I. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. If the standard voltage in your country is in the range of 100 V – 127 V (as in the US, Canada and most South American countries), you need a voltage converter in Tibet. You can bring your own voltage converter as you might not find them in Tibetan stores. Alternately, you can also buy them in Kathmandu (if travelling to Tibet via Nepal).