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How to Travel in Tibet: the best guide to visiting Tibet

Figuring out how to travel into and around Tibet is very important before you go to the region, especially when you are an overseas tourist, because there are some special requirements for international tourists to Tibet. You need to understand that Tibet is a restricted region of China, and traveling there alone and independently is not permitted at all. You are required to have a pre-arranged tour, and certain permits are required, as well as needing a Chinese visa for the trip before you leave home. If you are wondering how to get to Tibet, take a look at the information below and then get in touch with us.

Things You Need to Know Before Travelling to Tibet

Firstly, you need to find a reliable tour operator to handle your trip to Tibet, as international tourists are not permitted to travel in Tibet unaccompanied. All tourists must be on a pre-arranged tour with a registered Tibetan tour operator. Here at Tibet Vista, we offer a wide range of tours to suit all requirements, and we can make custom tours depending on what you want.

Tibet Travel PermitA sample of Tibet Travel Permit

There are two indispensable documents for foreign tourists who want to travel in Tibet: the Chinese Entry Visa, which can be applied for in the Chinese Embassy in your home country; and the Tibet Travel Permit, which is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa. The Tibet Travel Permit is required for travel into and around Tibet in the area of Lhasa, and is required before you can board the flights or trains to Tibet. This is applied for by us on your behalf once you have booked your tour, using scanned copies of your passport and visa.

If you are planning to travel to some of the more sensitive areas of Tibet, such as Nyingchi and Ngari, you will also need to have the Restricted Areas Permit, which can only be applied for by the tour operator, and can take up to 15 days to process. You will also need the Alien’s Travel Permit for travel to the “unopened” areas of Tibet, including Shigatse and Mount Everest.

While this may sound like a lot of paperwork, the only things you need to obtain is your Chinese Entry Visa, which is simple to arrange and get from the nearest Chinese Embassy in your home country, and your flight to China. The rest is all done by us on your behalf, so you can just sit back and relax before your tour once you are booked. We will handle everything else. We can even help you arrange your transport to Tibet from mainland China.

The Best Time to Visit Tibet

Tibet has a climate that can vary from area to area across the plateau, largely depending on the altitude of the region in question, but in general, has a typical plateau alpine climate with warm sunny days and cold frozen nights. The weather depends on the season, and from March to May, the spring brings warming weather with clear skies and little rain.

Lhasa city in summerA bird’s eye view of Lhasa city in summer

Autumn, from late September to November, is similar to spring, with slightly warmer temperatures, greener landscapes, and more humid weather. Summer is the monsoon season, with more rain, especially in July and August, and cloudy skies that can obscure the views of the high mountains. Winter, from December to February, is the coldest time of year, with February being the coldest month. However, skies are clear and there is no rain, which makes it pleasant, if a little cold.

If you are planning a visit to Tibet, then when to travel depends on what you want to do and see, and where you want to go. For trekkers, the best times are from April to May and September to November, when the skies are clear, the weather is comfortably cool, and there is no rain to hamper the trekking. Cycling is also best done in the spring and autumn, although you can still cycle the plateau in summer, as the rains are not too heavy during the day. Winter, however, is another matter, and cycling in winter is not recommended.

If you are working on a budget, then winter is the ideal time to come to Tibet, although you may be limited to where you can go and what you can do. Winter is the low season in Tibetan tourism, and there are few tourists in the region, meaning that tours, hotels, flights, and trains are often a lot cheaper than in the peak season.

>> Click to find out your favorable time and tourist destination for Tibet travel

What is the Cheapest Way to Travel to Tibet?

There are a number of ways to get to Tibet, and how to travel to the region is up to you. However, if you are working on a budget, and are looking for the cheapest way to travel to Tibet, then there are two main options for this.

Trains to Tibet are usually the cheapest option for traveling to Tibet, and in the low season, which is the best season for budget travelers, the fares for the train tickets is at its lowest throughout the year. Xining is the closest city to Lhasa with trains departing from the station, and is the cheapest option, at just $73.99 per person. However, if you cannot get there, Chengdu is the most obvious choice for the cheaper route to Tibet, with hard sleeper tickets costing around $93.72 per person.

Qinghai-Tibet RailwayTaking the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is the best way to travel Lhasa.

Flights to Tibet from Kathmandu are also much more expensive than the trains, costing as much as 200 dollars even in the low season, while in the peak season, rising to as high as 400 dollars for a one-way economy flight. While flying is the faster option, it is not the cheapest.

What is the Minimum Budget to Travel to Tibet?

If you are working on a budget for your Tibet trip, then there are a few ways to reduce the cost of the tour, to make it more affordable. The first is to book yourself on a Small Group Tour, which departs on a set date with other travelers on the same tour, which dramatically reduces the overall cost of the trip by sharing certain costs with other members of the party.

You can also opt for cheaper accommodation, dining, and other things whilst you are staying in Tibet, and there are a number of budget hotels available, as well as good quality cheap restaurants. The main things that increase the cost of the tour is the accommodation and the cost of the tour guide, driver, and private vehicles. By reducing these, you can reduce the cost of your tour drastically.

The Top Tibetan Experience You Must Enjoy

Aside from the obvious choice of traveling to Lhasa, there are a few destinations in Tibet that are pretty much “must-see” locations for anyone traveling to the roof of the world. In Lhasa, you have the Jokhang Temple, a 1,300-year-old Buddhist temple that was built for the statue of Buddha brought to the plateau on the occasion of the wedding of Princess Wencheng to the Tibetan king; and the Potala Palace, once the center of government in Tibet and now the winter palace of the Dalai Lama.

If you are heading out towards Mount Everest on one of the our Lhasa to EBC tour or a Lhasa to Kathmandu tour, then Mount Everest is the pinnacle of tourist hotspots in Tibet. Lying on the border with Nepal in the far west of Tibet, this huge mountain is one of the most stunning sights on the planet.

Rongbuk MonasteryYou will visit the world's highest Rongbuk Monastery on the way to Everest Base Camp.

For those after a little more adventure, our 15-day Kailash tour takes you all the way into Ngari Prefecture in northwest Tibet for a trek that is unrivaled in the world. Mount Kailash, which lies in the Gangdise Range of the Transhimalaya in Tibet, is the world’s most sacred mountain, and is revered in four religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Bonpo. A stunningly breathtaking location, the three-day trek is the toughest and most spiritual in Tibet.

Out in the north of Lhasa, on the boundary with Nagqu Prefecture in Damxung County lies the sacred Lake Namtso, one of the Great Three Sacred Lakes of Tibet. Meaning “Heavenly Lake” in Tibetan, this stunning lake is part of our Lhasa to Namtso tours, which are two-day additions to most of the tours we have in Tibet. You can travel north to the beautiful lake and spend the night camping on the shores or staying in the local monastery, and watch the stars above as you fall asleep.

Conclusion

Traveling in Tibet can be done in several ways, and whether you fly to the region or ride the train, you are going to be amazed at the whole experience. You will need a tour operator in order to secure the permits you need to travel to the region, and there are plenty of amazing sights to see and things to do while you travel around the plateau. And when to travel is largely up to you, so come talk to us now and book your 2021 Tibet tour right now.

Master Catherine Jigme

About the Author - Master Catherine Jigme

With exceptional passion and outstanding leadership, Mrs. Catherine has dedicated herself to Tibet inbound tourism and China tour for 15 years. As one of the handful females who see great potential of Chinese inbound tourism, Catherine has made great contribution to promoting Tibet tourism and enhancing the employment of Tibetans and prosperity of local Tibetan community.

Over the years, she travelled overseas with Tibet Tourism Bureau many times to promote Tibet tourism. Currently, Catherine works as the marketing director of Tibet Vista, an opinion leader behind the whole team of Tibet Vista.

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