Given the special historical and religious background between China and India, there are 2 types of Indians traveling to Tibet. Besides common Indian tourists, a great number of pilgrims flood to Mt. Kailash
from April to October every year. Tibetans consider them as “special tourists
What is an Indian pilgrim?
An Indian pilgrim is defined as one who holds an Indian passport and visits Ali prefecture in TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region). If you are an American Indian with a U.S. passport, you won’t be regarded as a pilgrim, even if you go to Mt. Kailash for pilgrimage. In reality, however, as long as Indian travelers go to or go via Ali prefecture, even not for religious purposes, they will be treated as pilgrims.
How do Indian tourists and Indian pilgrims get Tibet visa (Tibet Travel Permit) respectively?
For Indian tourists:
If planning to travel to Tibet from Mainland China, like most tourists do, they have to get Chinese Visa
before entering China and then apply for Tibet Travel Permit
through a reliable travel agency.
If entering Tibet from Nepal, they need to email the copy of passport to a Chinese travel agency in advance for the application of Tibet Travel Permit and Letter of Invitation. After they get the 2 documents, they can get Chinese visa from Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu
For Indian pilgrims:
The Tibet Travel Permit for pilgrims needs to be verified and issued jointly by the Foreign Affairs Office of TAR, Tibet Military Region, Armed Police Tibet Frontier Corps and the Department of Public Security of TAR.
Only two organizations are authorized for pilgrimage tour in Tibet. One is Foreign Affairs Office of TAR (governmental); the other is Pilgrim Center (non-governmental), short for Tibet-India Pilgrim Reception Center, located in Tuanjie New Village of Lhasa. Other organizations and travel agencies are not allowed to receive pilgrims.
As the official agent of Pilgrim Center, CITS Tibet Travel is authorized to provide tour-consulting service for Pilgrims. Nevertheless, only the 2 aforementioned organizations can arrange practical tour service (accommodation, transportation, itinerary, guide, yaks, etc.) for pilgrims.
The way to Tibet and cost of pilgrimage tour
Most pilgrims enter Tibet from Zhangmu
Border (also called “Kodari border” in Nepal), while some will choose Purang
border, which is about only 100 km to Mt. Kailash. As their main purpose is to make a pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash, whichever route they choose, they seldom go to Lhasa or other places of Tibet.
Owing to the monopoly situation of Pilgrim Center, the cost of a pilgrimage tour is much higher than that of a common one. However, Indian tourists do not need to pay such high cost, because they have a wide range of choices of travel agencies. See the cost of normal tours at Tibet Group Tour