Access to Tibet
Kathmandu to Lhasa:
There are two airline carriers (Air China and Sichuan Airlines) that operate flights to and from Kathmandu and Lhasa with daily flight options available. The incredible Himalayan views on this 70-minute trip make it one of the most spectacular flights on earth. From Gonggar airport, it is a two-hour journey to reach the main city.
Please note that because Air China is using a 110-passenger carrier, flights can fill up quickly.
Chengdu (Sichuan to Lhasa):
Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province of China, offers daily flight connections to other major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Xining – as well as with Lhasa. This makes for easy travelling to Tibet from most areas of China. There are also two weekly direct flights between Chengching and Lhasa.
Our company can organise your travel permit and air tickets and deliver them to your contact address in China.
Xining, Qinghai via Golmud to Lhasa:
This overland trip takes three days and two nights by bus. The route takes in several high passes and the road is extremely uneven in many places. However, most travellers find that the extremely scenic landscape more than compensates for the discomfort. Be warned that some passengers can suffer the symptoms of mild altitude sickness.
Kathmandu to Lhasa:
This is an epic journey of five to seven days on the ‘Friendship Highway’. The route passes close to Everest Base Camp, Shigatse and Gyantse, so is not short of spectacular scenery The road conditions are rugged, even though the Chinese government is gradually renovating the highway – so watch out for plenty of bumps and dust!
Tibet Visa & Travel Permit
Visa fees will be charged according to the rule of the Chinese government.
A clearly scanned colour passport copy is required at least 30 days before arrival date. This is to process the Invitation Letter required to acquire the necessary travel permits.
The original passport is required at least 4 working days before arrival to apply for the Visa.
China Tourist Visa Requirements & Documents
Your passport with at least 6 months remaining validity and available blank pages, as well as a photocopy of your passport's data page.
2. Application Form
One accurately completed China Tourist Visa Application Form. Please fill in every column of the application form, using "N/A" if not applicable. If the application form is not filled out truthfully, completely and legibly, there could be a delay in processing or refusal of the application.
3. Recent Photo
A recent passport-size colour photo with white background attached to the application form.
4. Round-trip Tickets Plus Hotel Bookings or Invitation Letter from China
Documents showing the itinerary including proof of round trip tickets booking and proof of hotel reservation.
Or, if you are being invited to China, you can submit an invitation letter issued by the inviter, whether it's an entity or individual, with the following information:
- Information on the applicant, including full name, gender, and date of birth.
- Information on the planned visit, including arrival and departure dates, place(s) of visit.
- Information on the inviter, including name, contact number, address, official stamp, and signature of the legal representative of the entity or the inviting individual.
5. Other Supporting Documents
- For those not applying in their country of citizenship, proof of legal stay or residence status is required.
- In some cases, applicants may need to submit a certification letter from the employer of the applicant with details as follows: name and contact number of the employer, the applicant's income statement, or original copy of recent 6-month bank statement of the applicant.
- Applicants who intend to travel to Tibet must obtain a Tibet Travel Permit, which can be obtained from the Tourism Bureau of Tibet Autonomous Region by travel agencies.
Travelling to Tibet via Mainland China:
It is possible to travel to Tibet via Mainland China with the Chinese visa, but you must also obtain a Tibet travel permit. A Tibet travel permit can only be obtained through a travel agency and we can help you do that.
Travelling to Tibet via Nepal (Kathmandu):
Foreigners are not permitted to cross the Nepalese border into Tibet unless they have a specific Tibet visa (rather than a Chinese visa). Tourists are unable to obtain the Tibetan visa directly – they must buy a package tour with a travel operator in Kathmandu, who will apply for the visa on their behalf.
If there is an individual Chinese visa already in your passport, the Chinese Embassy will cancel the Chinese visa before issuing the Tibet visa. This is because Tibet is part of China and it is impossible to possess two valid visas for the same country simultaneously.
The Chinese government allows single travellers as well as groups, but there should be a fixed tour itinerary indicating the precise dates of entry and exit. You must travel with a government-approved tour guide (Chinese or Tibetan), and hire a Land Cruiser (Jeep) for the entire journey.
Travelling via Mainland China:
Without a travel permit for Tibet, it is impossible even to buy an air or bus ticket. Foreigners are not allowed to apply for the permit directly, so they should apply through a local agency in China. For those travelling via Mainland China, our Chengdu office can obtain the permit and deliver to your contact address in China.
Travelling from Kathmandu:
For foreigners travelling via Kathmandu, their tour operator should obtain the Tibet travel permit from the Public Security Bureau, through their head office in Lhasa. The Chinese tour guide will bring the permit to the border town when he comes to receive the group.
Alien Travel Permit:
Much of Tibet is restricted for foreign visitors. If foreigners wish to visit a restricted area, they can apply for a ‘travel permit’ from the local Public Security Bureau, showing their desired destination. If they are booking with an agency, the agency can handle this.
Tibet’s currency is the Chinese Yuan. US dollars are also acceptable, but still only in a fairly limited number of shops and the exchange rate may be poor. There are a limited number of ATMs in Lhasa, but they are not available elsewhere. The recommended option is to change your money into Yuan at the Nepal-Tibet border or in Lhasa.
Tibet Tour Guide
Tour guides work under the control of the Chinese government and are certified by the National Tourism Administration. Our guides are hand-selected for their friendliness, as well as for their experience and knowledge. We do our best to provide you with a native Tibetan guide, as they are more informed about Tibetan culture and about Buddhism.
Transport in Tibet
Because of the harsh landscape and uneven roads, we charter four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers for our groups in Tibet. The Land Cruisers are either of the 1962 type, or the more deluxe 4500 version. We also provide a supporting truck for trekking and expedition groups, to carry all the necessary supplies.
It is only possible to use a car or van in Lhasa, where there are some tarmac roads.
Hotel and Guest Houses:
While the bigger cities such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse and Tsedang have a reasonably good choice of hotels (up to 4 stars), in other places expect the accommodation to be very basic – usually in dormitories with a typical Tibetan toilet. Unfortunately, there are no hot shower facilities outside the cities.
Tibet Trek Packing List:
We recommend that you bring clothes for changing weather conditions, as the temperatures in Tibet can vary substantially. Wet weather gear is also necessary.
The intensity of the light – and the high UV factor – in Tibet makes sunglasses imperative, as well as plenty of sun-block. Sunscreen products are not easily available in Tibet, so make sure you bring plenty of your own. A brimmed hat is also recommended, for extra protection.
The following is a checklist of the items, which you should pack:
- Walking boots and sandals (or trainers are OK)
- Water/windproof jacket
- At least one thick sweater
- Trousers/track pants
- Thermal underwear
- Water bottle
- Warm socks, preferably woollen
- Swiss army knife
- Torch with spare batteries
- Extra bootlaces
- Personal medical supplies
- Sewing kit
- Day pack (for valuable items such as camera, money, passport)
- Rucksack for clothes
- Down jackets, sleeping bags (we can provide these on request)
- Warm hat with sun protection