Packing for a trip to Lhasa is a lot more important than many people think. You need to ensure that you have the appropriate clothing and gear for the time of year you are traveling. The climate of the capital city varies greatly from season to season, so here is a basic rundown on the things you need to make your tour as comfortable as possible.
Your documents are one of the most important things to pack for the trip, as you will not even be able to travel without them. So making sure that you pack them first is a hugely important part of your packing. And you should make sure that you pack them somewhere easily accessible, so that you can produce them as and when needed.
As well as your passport and Chinese Entry Visa, you should also make sure you have the right documents for Tibet, or you will not be able to enter the region. The main permit for Tibet is the Tibet Travel Permit, which is obtained by your travel agency before you travel to Lhasa. Once you have booked your tour with us, we will use scanned copies of your passport and visa to apply for the Tibet Travel Permit on your behalf. Once approved, we will forward the permit to your hotel in China ready for your trip to Tibet.
The clothes you need should be appropriate for the season in which you are visiting the plateau, as well as where you are going. Tibet may be a monsoon-affected region, but has four seasons, which makes it a lot easier for many western tourists to pack the correct clothing.
In spring, clothing needs to be warm and comfortable, especially if you are planning on trekking around Lhasa. Warm sweaters, layers of shirts, and fleece jackets are necessary still, and you should bring decent warm pants, but preferably not jeans if trekking. Gloves, hat, and scarf are also useful, though the weather may feel warmer in certain places than in others. And bring sunglasses and a decent hat for the bright Tibetan sunshine.
Summer means less need to bring lots of thick sweaters and jackets, but you will still need a fleece for the colder nights. Lighter cotton shirts are easier to wear, and more comfortable in summer. And lighter pants make it easier to move around. Sunglasses and a sun hat are very necessary, as are waterproof jackets and maybe an umbrella for the rainy summer monsoon.
Autumn is similar to spring, but warmer, so light but warm clothing is needed. Layers can be useful, and you will need that fleece for the cooler nights. Light pants can still be worn, but you might want to bring some thicker hiking pants if you are planning a trip up to Lake Namtso.
Winter is the coldest time of year, and when you will most need those fleeces and thicker sweaters, even in the daytime. Warm down or quilted jackets are necessary at night, and gloves and a warm hat are also important packing items. Sunglasses are a must for the bright sunlight, and you will find that thermal underwear can be very useful.
For all seasons, good strong boots are necessary, even if you are not planning on trekking. The ground in many places can be rough, so sturdy hiking boots can be very useful. And bring some softer shoes for traveling in the car and in the hotels.
For more detailed information, check the monthly weather in Lhasa here to decide what you need to pack.
Medications are not easily obtainable on the plateau, especially for those that are not Chinese residents. You may find that you cannot get even the basic medicines for headaches once you reach Tibet, so it is essential that you bring with you anything you may need. Medicines for headaches, nausea, and dizziness can be useful to help combat the symptoms of altitude sickness. – Check the expert tips about how to avoid altitude sickness in Tibet
You should also make sure that you bring with you enough of any prescribed medications that you are taking on a regular basis for any pre-existing conditions. Medications prescribed by your doctor will not be available to obtain anywhere in China, except on an emergency basis, so you should pack enough to cover your entire trip, plus a week for any emergencies.
Sunscreen and Skin-care Product
The Tibetan plateau is not a cold and hostile environment, as many people think it is. And you will find that the sun can be just as strong on the plateau as it can be in some tropical countries in Asia. Even in the winter months, it is still possible to get sunburn in Lhasa, due to the thinner atmosphere not filtering out as much of the sun’s UV rays as at sea level. Sunblock, the highest possible sun protection factor, is an essential item of packing throughout the year in Lhasa.
The winds can be quite strong too, and cold. Chapped lips and dry skin are a common concern for tourists traveling to Lhasa, so it is a good idea to bring along skin moisturizers and lip balm to protect your face, hands, and lips from chaffing. Protecting your head against the sun is also as important as protecting your face, so bring a decent hat to keep off the more dangerous UVB rays, which sunblock does not protect you from.
Cash and Cards
Paying for goods on the plateau is normally done mostly in cash, and while China has a large industry for cash-free payments, Tibet is yet to feel this system being implemented well. Most places you will buy things from will expect you to pay in cash. And in local currency.
The currency in Tibet is the Chinese Rénmínbì (RMB), which is also popularly known as the yuan (CNY – ¥). You can exchange dollars or other major internationally-recognized currencies for yuan at any of the major banks in Lhasa, including the Bank of China. Many of the higher-end hotels also have money changing facilities on the premises, and you should get the same exchange rate as from the banks. Keep your exchange receipts if you plan on changing currency back in the Bank of China in Lhasa before you leave the city. – See how to pay and use money when touring Tibet
Credit cards are more widely accepted in the major hotels in Lhasa, but you will have few opportunities to use them aside from hotels. Few shops accept credit cards for even large purchases, and those that do have a 4% surcharge added. If you need to make a cash advance on your credit card, the Lhasa branch of the Bank of China is the only place you can do so, with a 3% commission deducted from your card.
ATMs can be found in many places throughout Lhasa now. The best options are the ATMs of the Bank of China, which accept all of the major credit card providers, including VISA, MasterCard, AMEX, Maestro, Cirrus, and Plus. However, check the ATM you are using first, as some only accept local cards. ATMs have a 2,400 yuan transaction limit, but are not subject to daily maximum withdrawal limits. The limit is set by your own card provider.
Gadgets are a major part of life today, and you should make sure that you have the correct chargers for your devices, from phones and power banks to cameras, laptops, and netbooks. It can also be handy to have spare batteries for your most-used gadgets, in case the battery runs out before you get back to the hotel.
You should also bring a small bag or backpack for daily use, so that you can carry your important documents and stuff without needing your main bag, especially when touring monasteries and other tourist sites. And bring a water bottle with you, so that you can carry water around when walking or exploring.
Packing for the Lhasa tour is not an immense task. Knowing what to bring is important, especially if you are traveling outside the peak season for tourism in Tibet. And making sure you have the right clothes, enough gear to use, and all the things you need is the most important part of your trip planning. So when you decide to take that trip to the City of Sunshine, follow our packing guide for the best things to bring with you.