Is it safe to travel to Tibet? 12 Tourists Most Concered Safety Issues
1. Is there Crime in Tibet?
Overall Tibet is a safe place where you will meet friendly, honest and trustworthy people. However, violent and petty crime occurs at times. The majority of crime is minor or opportunistic such as pickpockets or bag snatching. Tourists are particularly vulnerable. Take precautions and use common sense, at night in particular. Try to avoid go out at night. If you have to, avoid alleys where robbery often happens. Particularly around the tourists areas and in crowded public places like the Barkhor Street/Square, be ware of robbers and pickpockets. When you lose yourself in shooting the grand buildings or various sceneries around this area, do clench your camera for it may be taken away by a robber suddenly. Try not to carry large amounts of money or obvious symbols of wealth and keep your bags and purses close to your sides, and wear your wallets in front instead of rear pockets. Be alert to some common scams. If someone approaches you and invites you for a drink at a bar or coffee nearby to "practice English", be cautious.
Besides, do not pick up "roll of bills" on streets. Otherwise, someone will immediately come to share the windfall with you and then the bills in your pocket would be changed into fake ones or lessened, even gone, after a confusing moment.
Moreover, ATM crime is on the rise in recent years. Your card might be stolen by ATM scams through using a fake ATM or other methods. You'd better use the ATM when accompanied by your guide during daytime. Avoid using ATMs that open onto the street and instead use ATMs in controlled areas such as banks, shops and shopping centres.
In addition, you should keep valuables out of sight and avoid unnecessary displays of wealth. Be vigilant to your personal security and possessions in public places. You should keep the doors locked and the windows up when travelling by car in some destinations.
You should take particular care when travelling after dark, especially if you are alone. You should avoid places known for criminal activity and avoid deserted areas.
Foreigners can be particularly vulnerable to scams. You should check the Tibet travel advice for your destination to familiarise yourself with common tactics. You can also consult more information from Tibet Vista Tour.
2. Is there Natural Disasters in Tibet?
Tourists may be affected by natural disasters and health emergencies overseas each year. You should search for more information, be aware of emerging risks and take appropriate precautions.
Tibet is one area with the most severe natural disaster, weather and climate in China for Tibet is located at an average altitude of more than 4,000 meters. Tibet is often dry, chill, windy, oxygen-poor, and low in atmospheric pressure while high in radiation. The climate in Tibet varies greatly. You can even experience four seasons on the same mountain. All mountains, even roads are covered by thick snow from December to next March in Tibet. The traffic is seriously disturbed and traffic accident may occur frequently. Ordinary vehicles are of little help when you travel to mountain areas of Tibet in winter. Therefore, an SUV is a must for reducing or avoiding traffic accidents.
In summer, Tibet receives a large amount of rainfall, from June to August in particular, which may cause torrential flood, landslide, snowslide and mud-rock flow. Especially in mountain areas of Tibet, such as Nyingchi, Bome, Basu and so on, the traffic can often be disturbed for landslide. The road from Xegar to Zhangmu can be blocked by landslide in rainy season. However, landslide usually happens at night and generally has no risk to travellers except for interrupting their trip.
Besides, summer is a foggy season in mountain areas of Tibet. Severe weather such as snow storms and heavy rains can cause disruptions to essential services like transport and communications. Therefore, consulting more information to plan a perfect Tibet trip is quite necessary.
Moreover, natural disasters frequently occur in Tibet for its especial geographic location and geological structure, and changeable climate. Tibet is located in a zone with frequent seismic activities. According to concerning data account, hundreds of strong earthquakes have happened in Tibet since 1911. There were more than ninety earthquakes above magnitude 6 in the past century. The earthquakes are mainly distributed in the following areas: Chayu zone where an 8.5-magnitude earthquake happened in 1950, Bomi-Medog-Mirin, Tsona, Damshung-Lhasa, Purang and Rutog zones. An earthquake in the neighbouring Province, Sichuan on 12 May 2008 measured 8 on the Richter scale. Many people were killed, injured or left homeless.
Forest fire is another hidden danger in Tibet. Tibet has vastness of forest reserves which attract a large number of forest explorers and naturalists. If you plan to spend time in nature in the thick virgin forest in Nyingchi, Tibet, pay attention to any combustible. If a natural disaster occurs you should follow the advice of the local authority.
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from CITS Tibettravel.org. You should also check the travel advice for your destination.
3. Be Aware of Attack from Animals
Tibet is home to almost 800 species of wild animals. Some 125 species are under state protection and more than 200 species are native to the Tibetan Plateau. It is advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife. Over the past few years, wild animals, particularly bears, wild yaks and snow leopards have attacked local people. Reputable and professional guides in CITS Tibettravel.Org can help you to cover your trip smoothly.
According to Lohse, our Tibetan tour guide, northern Tibetan people are often attacked by wild yaks and brown bears, while those in central Tibet have to look out for snow leopards, brown bears and wolves. Therefore, tourists are not recommended to trek or cycle in the wild without company of tour guides.
Besides, beware of the dogs when you are in Tibet, in the countryside and pastoral areas in particular. Nearly every family in Tibet has a man-eating Tibetan Mastiff for housekeeping. If you are bitten by a Tibetan Mastiff, its owner will not hold any responsibility for you. If you see local people walking a dog during your travelling or trekking, do not approach it or play with it. It is quite frequent that tourists are injured by dogs. If you, unfortunately, are attacked by a bog, pick up or just pretend to pick up some stones. Sometimes kicking or lunging at the dogs before they attack may scare them off. Some other ways to protect yourself is by wearing boots and thick pants.
If you want to take a photo of riding a yak offered by local people at a certain scenic site, mount the yak after it is held by its owner. You must properly control the yak. Otherwise, you might fall down from its back. You might want to try a horse-riding in some spots or ride a horse during trekking. You'd better move forward on the horseback while the horse is lead by its owner. Do not ride it away from its owner or run with it crazily because there is a lack of measures for protecting you. You might get hurt for any carelessness.
At last, you may be bit by insects. So take some medicine along with you.
4. Boating and Drifting Safety in Tibet
Tibet is origin of several famous rivers, such as the Yarlung Zangbo River, some branches of which are suitable for boating or drifting. When drifting in Tibet, specifically drifting in Lhasa, you must be careful. In some places, the rivers run fast and fall rapidly, and there may be large rocks standing in the rivers or under water. When you are drifting along a river in Tibet, focus attention on what in front of you. It is best to participate in such activity organized by a professional Tibet travel agency which can offer admirable service, lifeguards and advanced drifting equipment. Avoid boats with poor lifesaving appliance or even without any life preserver, as well as bullboats and wooden boats provided by local villagers.
5. Money and Valuables
Before you go, organise as many ways as possible to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Consult your bank to find out the most appropriate currency to carry and the overseas applicability of your ATM card. The Chinese Customs Administration requires that travellers carrying over US$6,000 (or equivalent in foreign currencies) in cash must declare it upon arrival in China. The declaration should be kept safely and shown to customs officials upon departure. Travellers who wish to depart China carrying between US$6,000 and US$10,000 (or equivalent in foreign currencies) should obtain permission from a Chinese bank to do so.
Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, Tibet Permit, tickets, visas, travellers' cheques, credit card numbers, insurance policy, itinerary and phone card details. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery, cameras and electronic items may be tempting targets for thieves. Do not leave them in the travel vehicle. Besides, hotels disclaim any responsibility to keep your valuables so take along them with you and do not leave them in the rooms, especially in remote areas.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from CITS Tibettravel.org.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
An additional fee is required to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. Passports can be issued at extra cost using the priority processing service. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports. For more information, see the Tibet Permit.
6. Avoid Getting Lost in the Wild
Tibet is a varied, remote and very vast place to travel. It is easy to get lost in the remote mountain areas, where there are few inhabitants and your mobile phone or other communication tools may be of no use. Therefore, it is wise to hire a guide and always stay with your tour guide or driver. Do not do anything alone no matter how attractive the scenery is. If you unfortunately get lost in the wild, you'd better return by the same way to wait for your tour guide. If you cannot find the way you came, stay in one place or area. Do not wander for your guide moves slowly while searching for clues.
7. Is Food and Drinks Safety in Tibet?
Though there are lots of delicious and tempting food on the streets in Tibet, you'd better resist the temptation. Do not eat food purchased from street vendor. Moreover, it is best to choose bigger restaurants in Tibet because smaller ones are poor in sanitary condition and may offer you stale meat and vegetables, particularly out of Lhasa.
8. Photographing or Videoing
In Tibet, it is not wise to casually ask a local person to take photos for you or take pictures of others. Before snapping, consult your tour guide. Or else, you may have trouble with local Tibetan.
In high mountain areas, shoot the beautiful scenery after you find a safe place to stay. It is extremely dangerous to take pictures while walking for you might tumble down from the cliff.
Besides, photography of military or government buildings may result in a penalty. You should seek permission from local authorities before taking photographs.
Photographing or videoing protests, or carrying letters or packages from Tibetan to be posted in other countries, could be regarded as provocative by authorities in Tibet and elsewhere in China.
Therefore, get a full idea about do's and don'ts from CITS Tibettravel.Org to ensure a smooth and happy journey.
Terrorism is an ongoing threat throughout the world. Terrorists may attack official or civilian targets depending on their particular objectives at the time. Travellers could be caught up in attacks targeted at others. However, you do not need to worry about it too much in Tibet for the security procedures have been strengthened.
10. Civil Unrest/Political Tension
Although there are ongoing conflicts and social unrest in Tibet, foreign tourists are often keep away from this danger because Tibet permit will not be issued if there is any unrest indication or major political activities and other situations that may cause political tension.
11. Traffic Safety in Tibet
Poorly maintained roads and aggressive driving can make travel by road in Tibet dangerous. But we only use experienced drivers. For further advice, please refer to Road Transport and Road Condition in Tibet.
Public buses and boats might not meet the safety standards you would expect in your country, particularly in rural areas of Tibet.
You should contact your airline or travel agent for up-to-date information on flights and transport options, for both domestic and international travel. Please refer to our Flights to Tibet.
12. Luggage Safety
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from our travel advisors at CITS Tibettravel.Org.
Where to Get Help
You can obtain consular assistance from your country's embassy in China and get help through dialing 120 for obtaining emergency treatment or 110 for getting help from police.