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Cost of Food in Tibet: How Much Does it Cost for Dinning in Tibet

The cost of food is an essential factor to consider for budget-minded travelers visiting Tibet. If you want to keep food costs down without missing out on any Tibetan local delicacies, we’ve got you covered!

In this tutorial, I will walk you through what you can eat in Tibet, and how much Tibetan food costs, and how to manage your budget for Tibetan food in the best way.

Why the Cost of Food in Tibet Is Much Higher Than Other Chinese Cities

Food costs in Tibet are significantly higher than in other mainland Chinese cities. The rugged landscapes and high altitude of the Tibetan Plateau make it unsuitable for farming.

In addition, arable land is limited in Tibet, and the weather is cold much of the year. Many vegetables and farm products used in restaurants and local cooking have to be transported across long distances to reach your plate there, making the cost of Tibetan food more expensive than other parts of China.

harvest tibetan highland barleyHarvest Tibetan highland barley.

What Are the Typical Tibetan Foods You Can Eat in Lhasa and Their Cost

Tsampa is a staple food in Tibet. Barley is a crop grown locally, and it is roasted and eaten at almost every meal. The barley is roasted, ground into flour, mixed with water or butter tea, rolled up and eaten. A plate of tsampa at a local restaurant can cost around 38 CNY (5.35 USD).

Tibetan TsampaTsampa, a staple of Tibetan food.

Momo Dumplings are traditionally made with yak meat and vegetables wrapped in a thin pastry. They are steamed or fried and then eaten with noodles or on their own with a dipping sauce. An order of momo dumplings can cost 20-30 CNY (2.8-4.2 USD).

Tibetan MomoThe delicious Tibetan Momo.

Thukpa is Tibetan noodle soup. It’s made with a rich broth, some vegetables, freshly made noodles, and shredded yak meat. The dish is very popular because it’s both nourishing and warm. A bowl of Thukpa can cost between 7-18 CNY (1-2.5 USD).

Thukpa is Tibetan noodle soupThukpa is Tibetan noodle soup.

Tibetan yogurt is so popular that it has its own festival. Made from fermented yak milk, it is another staple food often served on the street, along with raisins. Tibetan yogurt costs around 15 CNY (2.1 USD).

Boiled yak meat is a delicious local specialty. Yak meat is the staple meat on the Tibetan Plateau. It is often served boiled and cooked with salt and highland potatoes. A serving of boiled yak meat costs around 33 CNY (4.6 USD),

How to Budget Cost of Food for Three Meals in Tibet

In Lhasa, breakfast often has Western, Chinese, and local options. Western breakfast includes pancakes with honey, yogurt, cereal, eggs, sausages, and bread. Chinese breakfast usually consists of steamed dumplings, boiled or scrambled eggs, hot vegetables, and congee. Local Tibetans prefer noodle soup and sweet tea.

Your guide can help you choose good restaurants for lunch and dinner. In larger cities like Lhasa and Shigatse, there is a choice of local, Chinese, western, and Indian food.

Lhasa Kitchen is a popular budget restaurant near Barkor Street. It mainly serves Tibetan cuisine but also some Indian, Nepalese, Chinese, and Western food. The average price for a meal is 56 CNY (7.8 USD) per person.

Lhasa KitchenLhasa Kitchen offers delicious Tibetan traditional cuisine.

Makye Ame, on the southeast corner of Barkor Street, is a restaurant tied to a famous romantic legend. It is said to be where the 6th Dalai Lama fell in love with a girl named Makye Ame. Today, it serves famous Tibetan dishes and has live traditional entertainment. A meal costs around 107 CNY (15 USD) per person.

Snowland Restaurant is a popular mid-range restaurant serving Western, Tibetan, and Nepalese food. They serve great pizzas and offer good discounts in the low tourist season. Meals cost an average of 67 CNY (9.5 USD) per person.

New Mandala Restaurant is a Nepali-run restaurant where you can get a full view of Barkor Street from their 2nd-floor rooftop. Their Nepali food is highly recommended. An average meal costs 56 CNY (7.9 USD) per person.

What Beverages and Snacks You Can Enjoy in Tibet and Their Food Prices

There are two kinds of tea that Tibetans drink all the time. Tibetan Butter Tea keeps people warm and full of energy in the harsh climate. It’s made from black tea leaves, water, yak butter, and salt. The tea is brewed very strong, and it is full of the vitamins and minerals needed for daily plateau life. A hot Tibetan butter tea will cost 10-15 CNY (1.5-2 USD).

For around the same price, you can also have a cup of Tibetan sweet tea. It’s trendy amongst younger Tibetans. Made with black tea, powdered milk or yak milk, and plenty of sugar, it’s a perfect drink to have while socializing in a Tibetan tea house.

Tibetan Butter teaTibetan Butter tea

Tibet also has popular alcoholic drinks. Lhasa Beer is brewed in Tibet. Made with local highland barley and Himalayan spring waters, it’s the only beer from Tibet exported to other countries. A bottle of Lhasa beer can be as cheap as 6.5 CNY (1 USD).

Barley wine, also known as Chhaang or Chang, is an alcohol native to the Himalayas. It's made from fermented millet seeds and served warm for the cold climate. A 680ml bottle costs around 18 CNY (2.5 USD).

Tibetan Barley WineTibetan barley wine carries a distinct malty sweetness.

Raksi is another native drink, the Himalayan equivalent of vodka. It’s a distilled drink, usually drunk while eating yak meat strips or dried mutton. It can be very strong and has a taste similar to Japanese Saki. A small bottle costs around 48 CNY (6.8 USD).

Popular snacks in Tibet are easy to find at street food stalls. Fried potatoes, usually topped with chili powder, are a spicy, warm treat that costs 5 CNY (0.7 USD). Potato starch jelly is a smooth, sweet snack made with highland potatoes turned into starch and served with chili. A serving costs 8 CNY (1.1 USD).

Crunchy cheese curds are popular and found all over Tibet. Dried and sweetened, with nutritious proteins, these cost 12 CNY (1.7 USD). Dried yak meat is probably the most iconic snack. Thinly sliced and dried under the strong Tibetan sun, it can be eaten plain or seasoned with chili. A 250g bag costs around 80 CNY (11.3 USD).

Enjoy all the snacks you want before heading out trekking. All the traditional local foods are perfect for being outdoors in the local climate. It’s okay to enjoy alcohol in Lhasa, but we recommend avoiding drinking when going to high-altitude regions.

Effective Ways to Reduce Food Costs for Travel in Tibet:Tibet Vista’s Welcome Dinner & Farewell Dinner

Another great solution to save cost on food in Tibet is you can book one of our small group tours, such as the 8-Day Lhasa to EBC Small Group Tour, which can help you manage your food budget. Most of our tours include breakfasts and a complimentary welcome and farewell dinner. Our tour guides will also help you find local restaurants with good food at reasonable prices and make sure you avoid tourist traps.

enjoy complimentary dinner with our local guideEnjoy complimentary welcome dinner with our local guide in Lhasa.

When traveling to remote areas like EBC or Mount Kailash, restaurant options are limited. To keep your budget down, you can bring your own snacks, instant noodles, or self-heating food.

Conclusion

Eating local at street food stalls and small local restaurants will go a long way to keeping food costs down while traveling in Tibet. It's also the best way to experience Tibetan food culture and immerse yourself in local life. Tsampa, butter tea, Tibetan yogurt, and yak meat are all things you should try, whether you're trying to save money or not, so you don’t have to sacrifice anything to enjoy the best of Tibetan food. Check out our small group tours and see how to have a great experience at the best value.

Master Kungga Dundruk

About the Author - Master Kungga Dundruk

Kungga Dundruk, often respectfully referred to as “Manager Kunga”, is the most revered and legendary Tibetan guide in our team.

Currently working as a customer service manager in Lhasa, Kunga used to study business overseas and got his Bachelor of Business in Nepal and India before moving back to his homeland. With pure passion for life and unlimited love for Tibet, Kunga started his guide career as early as 1997.

As a legendary Tibetan guide with 22 years of guide experience, Kunga was awarded the Gold Medalist of China’s Best Tour Guide in 2019, marking the pinnacle of his career. Today, Kunga loves sharing his wealth of Tibetan knowledge through travel articles and stands ready to offer prompt support whenever our guests need help in Lhasa.

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