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Tibet Travel Guide

Last updated by elysees at 2015/5/10

Tibet Overview

Important Travel Note: Nepal Earthquake Affects Tourism for Several Weeks

The Nepal earthquake occurred on 25 April, 2015 with a magnitude of 7.8. Mt. Everest Base Camp and Zhangmu are tremor-influenced areas in Tibet. Zhangmu is closed to tourists.

We do not recommend to visit the border between China and Nepal or Mt. Everest in the next 2 weeks. But the rest areas in Tibet, like Lhasa, Shigatze and Namtso far from the border are unaffected. Qinghai–Tibet and Lhasa–Shigatse railways are still operating.

We will try our best to make changes to you itineraries if this natural disaster caused you any trouble. 

Good news: On 8, May, visitors can visit Mt. Everest Camp again.


Tibet will reopen to foreign travelers except Japanese visitors in April 1st in 2013 after it was forbidden since May in 2012. Before you trip to Tibet, you need to apply for a Tibet Travel Permit. Foreign travelers excluding Japanese won’t be limited by nationality and a number, however, you can only get the travel permit operated by a travel agency in China.

Tibet Autonomous Region lies in the southwest of China and in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is bounded to the north by Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province, to the east by Sichuan Province, to the southeast by Yunnan Province, to the south and west by these countries: Burma, India, Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. 

Tibet Tour & Yangtze River Cruise

Tibet Autonomous Region is huge, covering an area of about 1.2 million square kilometers, which, by comparison, roughly equals the combined areas of France, Germany, the UK and Luxembourg. Tibet Autonomous Region is second only in size to Xijiang Uygur Autonomous Region, among all the provinces of China. With an average altitude of above 4,000 meters, Tibet Autonomous Region has very complex topography and falls into three geographic parts: the west, the south and the east. The west part, known as the North-Tibet Plateau, lies between Kunlun Mountain and Kangdese Mountain, and Tonglha Mountain and Nyainqentanglha Mountain. This part takes up 2/3 of the total area of Tibet. Most of the north part is uninhabited. The south part of Tibet consists of valleys and lies between Kangdese Mountains and Himalayas. The east part is mainly made up of canyons and is marked by a gradual decline in altitude intercepted by small ranges called Henduan Ranges. Most of the tourism resources now opened to foreign tourist are in the east and west parts.

Tibet remains a religious and spiritual sanctuary. The numerous monasteries, temples and chapels scattered around the region, and the pious pilgrims worshiping in front of these temples are testimonies to Tibetan people’s passion about their ancient religion.

Tibet is probably one of the last unspoiled lands in the world. Despite of the influx of tourists in recent years, Tibet’s natural scenery is largely remained untouched. The snow-capped mountains, abundant gemstone-like lakes, countless species of wild life, clear and blue sky excursive hold of imagination of many travelers.

Tibet is now easier to access since the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway in 2006, which have made it possible for budget travelers to lay eyes on this land of “Roof of the Word”by taking a train from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xining or Chongqing.

Highlights of Tibet

  1. Feel the mysterious ancient religion, and marvel at the architectural essence at Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and the Barkhor pilgrim circuit in the holy city of Lhasa.
  2. Take in resplendent hues of sunset or sunrise at Lake Namtso as the first or last ray of sunshine cast across the surface of the lake.
  3. Behold the breath-taking natural scenery of vast grassland, snow-copped mountains, gorges, lakes by taking a overland trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Check out Tours from Lhasa to Kathmandu.
  4. Obtain a glimpse into the local Tibetans’ lifestyle by paying a visit to a family in the countryside around Lhasa.

Tibet Facts

Population: 4.22 million

Urban Population: 1.22 million

Area: 7,266 sq km

Nationalities: Han, Hui, and She

History: a quiet market town before 1949 and has since expanded to become an industrial center 

Climatic Features: subtropical humid monsoon climate with frost-free period of 245 days, 4 seasons clearly

Average Temperature: 15.7℃ annually

Rainfall: annual precipitation of 1000 mm

Rivers: the Cao Lake - one of the 5 famous fresh-water lakes in China, Feihe River - a branch of Huaihe River, Sili River; Ershili River and Banqian River

Products: paddy rice, wheat, legume, potato, cotton, flue-cured tobacco,

Best time to visit

The best time for traveling in Tibet is May and the period from middle August to October. The rest of the year is not suitable for touring activities because of harsh weather condition. Please note: Tibet is closed to foreigners during January to March every year.

Major tourist regions

Tibet Autonomous Region has 7 districts under its jurisdiction, they are Lhasa, Shigatse, Chamdo, Lhokha (Shannan), Nyingchi, Nagri(Ali) and Nagqu.

Tibet Entry Permit

Foreign travelers can join in not only a group tour, but also a private tour in Tibet in April 1st, 2013. But you can only apply for Tibet Entry Permit by a Chinese tour operator as the permit is only issued to a Chinese travel agency now. You need to apply for the permit at least 20 days in advance.

Things to know

1.    You can have an individual travel in Tibet according to the latest news. But you need to book a tour operated by a legal Chinese travel agency in advance.

2.    Foreign travelers except Japanese are not limited by nationality and quantity to travel in Tibet. At this moment, Tibet is completely close to travelers who have a Japanese passport.

3.    You need to book all the tours in advance via a Chinese travel agency. Your whole tour in Tibet has to be accompanied by a licensed tour guide.

4.    The time to book a tour need to be at least 15 days in advance. Usually, it takes 2 to 3 days to confirm your tour details such as hotels. And the Tibet Entry Permit needs at least 10 days to apply. We need at least 15 days in advance to make sure your successful Tibet trips.

5.    All the hotels have to be booked before your trip. Not all hotels have rights to offer rooms for foreign customers. You need to book a hotel which is officially for foreign travelers.

6.    The documents to apply for a Tibet Entry Permit include a copy of your passport, Chinese tourist visa and personal information. The personal information consists of your formal name, gender, date of birth, passport number, nationality and occupation.

7.    Some areas in Tibet are still unavailable to foreign travelers without permits. But if you can want to travel there, you can ask our travel guide to apply for the right documents for you.

Tip: Travelers need to respect Tibetan unique custom and cultures, and avoid any political issues during your trips in Tibet.

Tibet Taboos

With its special culture and religion, Tibet is a heaven for Buddhists. As a hot destination, its unique natural landscapes attract thousands of travelers form home and abroad. However, it is better for travelers to know some Tibetan taboos before your trip to Tibet.

About etiquette

1. Travelers can call names of the senior, the venerable, monks and teachers respectfully by following with a character“啦(La)”. When you walk outside, you need to let them go first.

2. Presenting Hada (Khatag) stands for a high respect and hospitality in Tibetan Areas. If you want to present a Hada to other people or to a respectful lama, you need to raise the Hada above your shoulders and bow. When other people present a Hada to you, you can accept it by both hands.

3. When you welcome or say goodbye to guests, you can smile at him and bend your body forward.

4. Tibet is a Buddhism heaven, you will see a lot of Buddhism monks and please avoid touching their heads by your hands. It is not respectful to do it to a Buddhism monk.

About diet

1. Due to Tibetan culture, to kill animals are forbidden in Tibet which is more strictly for Buddhists. Tibetan people usually don’t eat donkey, dog and horse meat, and fish in some areas. Although they eat mutton and beef in daily life, they don’t kill the animals by themselves. Besides, Tibetans don’t eat shrimps, chickens and eggs in some areas.

2. When you have a meal, the etiquette is the same as western habits. You should avoid making some noise when you chew food or have a soup.

3. It is polite to wait to drink after Tibetan host or hostess to hand over a buttered tea bowl to you by both hands.

4. When you have a tea, or wine, you also need to give or accept it by both hands without touching the inside bowl by fingers. So do cigarettes.

About visiting Buddhism monasteries

1. Before you enter a monastery, please ask for a permission first. When you visit a monastery, you can’t smoke, touch the Buddhism statues, turn the Buddhism books and ring the bells.

2. Travelers can’t touch lama’s wearing amulets, rosaries and other religious artifacts. Keep quiet in the monasteries and sit down properly in the monasteries. Besides, you can’t hunt and kill animals near the monasteries in Tibet.

3. When coming across a monastery or other Buddhism religious facilities, you need to bypass it from the left side, and if you are a Buddhism you can bypass it from the right side. No crossing of the musical instruments and brazier for Buddhism activities.

4. When you whirl round the pray cylinders, please touch them in the clockwise turn. And you can’t use scripture papers to clean other things.

5. When you meet a lama, try not to hug him or shake hands with him. You can hold both hands together as praying in front of your chest. And please don’t talk some sensitive topics for them like marriage, religions and eating of meat.

About beliefs 

1. Eagles are the totem for the Tibetan groups. Travelers should not hurt or kill the eagles, otherwise you will lash Tibet people into indignation.

2. People in Tibet believe in every person has his own inauspicious days and auspicious days in life. When people are 13, 25, 37, 49 years old in Tibetan calendar, it is his the inauspicious years. Every 12 years is another inauspicious year. Tibetan people recite or chant scriptures at home and go to pilgrims in the monasteries during the inauspicious days.

About visiting Tibetan families

1. When you visit a Tibetan family, men need to sit down on the left side and women need to sit on the right side in the houses. Male and female visitors can’t sit together in Tibetan houses.

2. When you are invited to visit by a Tibetan family, you can cross your legs and keep your feet from facing other people.

3. When women are giving birth to a baby or a family member is ill, Tibetan people make a mark in front of the door to tell visitor not to visit. Some family keep a fire outside, or some family put a tree branch or stick a strip of red cloth on the door.

About photography

1. Travelers usually can’t take photos of Buddha statues in the most monasteries in Tibet, however, you can take some pictures by paying some money in some monasteries like Tashilhunpo Monastery.

2. People in Tibet think it is inauspicious to be photographed without permissions. To ask a permission to take photos of monasteries and Tibetan people is a polite thing. There might be some people asking you for money, you can give them some small gifts instead of money.

3. Travelers may be interested in the celestial burial in Tibet, but taking photos is strictly forbidden in the celestial burial areas.

About gifts and souvenirs

1. To give or receive a gift by one hand is a sigh of very disrespect in Tibet. When you offer a gift to Tibet people or accept a gift from Tibet people, you can bend your body forward and accept it by both hands beyond your head.

2. When you buy souvenirs in Tibet, you need to avoid the ones made by wild animal’s skin and bones. Otherwise, you might get into trouble when you leaving the areas.

Other Tattoos in Tibet

1. Stop talking about sensitive topics such as politics and religions with Tibetan people is a wise thing to do in Tibet.

2. To oblige is treated as a happy and common thing in Tibet. To prepare some small changes like some 1 CNY for beggars is a charity.

3. You can’t put bones into fires in Tibetan Area.

4. When a lot of pilgrims get together to pray religiously during religious festivals, visitors should take the special visitor passage if there is one.

See more on China Travel:

4 Day Essence Tour of Lhasa is from USD 459 per person. 5 Day Essence of Lhasa and Nakchi Tour is from USD 799 per person.

Related Links:

1. Lhasa Tours

2. Tibet Travel Permit