How to reduce cost of Tibet Tour
Most of travelers would like to arrange a Tibet tour as cheap as possible, in my opinion, the most effective way is to arrange your trip in low season – In winter, almost 40% discounted off compared with peak season, you can get cheapest price in winter if you do not mind the cold weather. Warmer than winter, April, May, December could be the better choose than Winter, though the price raise a bit than it is in low season. More than Tibet, for travelers those ahead to Nepal after Tibet, the best season of traveling Nepal is April, May, October and December, you can not only get the relatively lower price in Tibet but also enjoy the best time in Nepal.
Then, Use cheaper domestic transportation can reduce the price a lot. As my experience, if travelers enter and leave Tibet by flight, the air fare will be approximately 50% of the domestic tour fee, the airline companies seldom reduce cost on flights to and leave Tibet. Comparatively, a convenient train from Beijing to Lhasa or Shanghai to Lhasa is more popular than flight in recent years. You can benefit on cost and appreciate the beautiful scenery of Qing-Hai Tibet Plateau, you guess you heard about this famous train in USA. Take train from Beijing to Lhasa for example, this 45 hours train journey takes you to Lhasa for 2 days and 2 nights, the comfortable sleeping berths(6 persons share a compartment, divided to lower berth, middle berth, upper berth) only cost you about 130-150USD/person, which is just half price of flight tickets Beijing to Lhasa.
Then, let me introduce how to reduce cost after entering Tibet, the tour price is affected by 7 elements;
1. Tour Guide
Though tour guide fee is just small part of the tour price, it could not be removed, because Chinese Government requires a fully guided tour for foreigners in Tibet. The English Speaking Guide, Chinese Speaking Guide are cheap for this great population, tour guides for other minority languages are expensive in Tibet.
2. Vehicle and driver
You can save a lot on Vehicle by rental a tourist bus. because a tourist bus that can load abot 10 travelers is cheaper than a Land Cruiser that can only load 4 travelers.
The cheapest accommodations is dorm bed in guesthouse, but this kind of accommodation are always privately-owned hostel/inn, dirty and no hot water supply. Though it is cheap and some backpacker love to stay in it, I not recommend them for tour groups. The best choice for budget tour groups is to live in cheap hotels, like 2 star hotel, or quasi 3 star hotel or Tibetan Style Inn, Comfortable, cozy and quite. Provide 12-24 hot water and private bath room. Some hotels provide free breakfast.
4. Entrance fee of visiting Monasteries, tourist sites.
The admission fee of tourist sites in China is very expensive, in Tibet either. Take 8 days Lhasa-Mt.Everest- Katmandu tour for example, the total amount of admission fee is more than 120USD. This can not be removed because your main goal is to see them in Tibet.
Meals in Tibet is very expensive, I thought they are double of the price in China mainland. For example, if a normal quality meal is about 30RMB in China mainland, that would be 50-60RMB in Tibet. But some cheap and simple food is about 15-20RMB/person, which can be affordable.
You may save from Shopping, and buy nothing in Tibet.
7. Tips for guide and driver
The tour group can tip them about 6-12 USD for driver and 10-15USD for tour guide per day for total.
At the end, Try to find more travelers to share the cost, or seek the help of travel agency to hunt more partners.
Catherine Go, CITS Tibettravel.Org
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