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Is It Possible to Travel to Tibet Without Tibet Permit
“Go to Tibet. See as much as you can.” Tibet is definitely the ideal dream place for backpackers who are fond of Tibetan Buddhism and natural landscape. Endowed with the unparalleled attractions, Tibet is named “the place people most want to visit” by travelers. Due to the special political background, Tibet is never fully open to foreign travelers. They must apply for the Tibet Travel Permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau before entering and will still undergo some limitations regulated by local government. Some people may wonder if they can sneak into Tibet without this permit. This article will answer the question and tells what the limitations are.
The travel areas are limited. Foreign tourists can only visit the “open areas” in Tibet, namely Lhasa, Shigatse, Lhohka, Nagri and Nyingchi Prefectures and are prohibited to go to Chamdo Prefecture. Even in the “open areas”, places like border and military regions are restricted. For example, Jilong County and Yadong County in Shigatse Prefecture, border region in Lhohka Prefecture, the Brahmaputra River Grand Canyon and Medog County in Nyingchi Prefecture are off-limits to foreign travelers.
The travel permission is required. Before entering Tibet, foreigners need to apply for the Tibet Travel Permit. They need to provide detailed information for the application: confirmed tour itinerary, tour date and hotel. If the tour itinerary includes any aforementioned “closed areas”, or if the itinerary is not intact, this application is very likely to be rejected. See how to get Tibet Travel Permit successfully at Tibet Permit Application Guidelines.
The way of travel is limited. Independent travel is not available for foreign tourists in Tibet. All the travel services, such as guide, ground transportation, driver and hotel, have to be arranged by a travel agency. Based on the tour confirmation from the local agency, the government will have a clear idea of the travel information: where to go, how long to stay, what to do in Tibet, etc.
The choice of accommodation is limited. Only some hotels in Tibet are authorized to receive foreigners, especially 3-star hotels and above. If there is no hotel in remote areas, travelers can stay at local inns or monastery guesthouses. Outdoor camping is also doable. Wherever to stay, they have to list them in the application form, which will be verified by local government.
**Keep in mind**
Due to all the limitations, chances of traveling to Tibet without Tibet Travel Permit are extremely slim. Without showing valid permit, travelers won’t be allowed to board a flight or train to Tibet. Even if some sneak into Tibet miraculously (which is very unlikely), they won’t be able to find a place to stay without the permit. In addition, there are numerous checkpoints in Tibet, at which everyone, even Chinese travelers will be required to register, let alone foreigners.
However, if foreign tourists want to visit other Tibetan areas bordering on the Tibet Autonomous Region, like Ganzi and Aba in Sichuan Province, Diqing in Yunnan Province, Gannan and Guoluo in Qinghai Province, the aforementioned restrictions are not applicable. Even if there are some temporary regulations from time to time, those places are still far more unrestrained than Tibet. See detailed information at Visit Sichuan and Qinghai Inhabited Area