Planning to travel to Tibet? Confused what else to do and what else not to? Yes, travelers have many questions before processing for Tibet trip and they happened to do mistakes unknowingly. And you realize, ‘I wish I knew these things before booking Tibet tour’. As being a tour operator and adviser for more than a decade, I am presenting some of my experiences that can be helpful for those planning to visit Tibet near the future.
Tibet is occupied by China and it makes sense that every traveler must have a Chinese visa to enter Tibet. Yes, you must have a Chinese visa to enter Tibet but it has different conditions on different routes. If you are planning to enter Tibet from Kathmandu Nepal, DO NOT issue Chinese Visa before you book the trip with an agent, because your existing Chinese visa gets canceled and granted another paper group visa mentioning your travel dates. You will lose your money if you do so; some refunds will be given, though. Be sure that the existing Chinese visa is only for the visit and nothing happens if it gets canceled. You can still travel to mainland China with your paper visa which is generally issued for up to 30 days. You will be received an invitation letter or confirmation letter issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB), which will have to be taken for the paper visa to the Embassy of China in Kathmandu along with application form, photographs, and other necessary paper works. Do not worry as this all needs to be done by your local travel agent.
On the other hand, you must have a Chinese Visa if you are traveling from Mainland China. Make sure that you hold Tourist Visa, if you hold different types of Chinese visa like business visa, student visa or something, you will be required to have a No Objection Letter or Leave Letter from the concerned body. You may not be eligible to get the travel permit to Tibet if you fail to provide those documents.
If you are entering Tibet via Mainland China, stay at least for a night at the hotel or apartment. Because your agent must courier your original permits to China. (It is not allowed to send original Tibet travel permits to the other countries except mainland China). You must hold the original permits before boarding on to Tibet either by train or flight (Only copy of the permit can be valid in some areas, please check with your agent properly). Send proper address including your phone number in China that makes it easier to deliver your permit at the right place. Having just a transit can be a mess sometimes and you may not get the permits in hand or postman may not have access to the airport. Therefore, staying for a night in any city in China can a smart idea and can solve the trouble of losing original permits sent from Tibet.
Potala Palace, Lhasa Tibet
If you are traveling in a group from Kathmandu, make sure of your travel destination after the Tibet Trip. If you are splitting from Lhasa airport or train station, you must have a separate paper group visa; else, you will be sticking with your travel partner until your nest destination from China. And, getting another Chinese visa is hardly possible inside China. Be specific of your travel destination after the Tibet Trip; clearly inform your travel agent and ask for a separate visa if you are splitting with your group from Lhasa.
Plan your trip to Tibet quite earlier (At least a month before the travel date) and let the agent issue your flight ticket as soon as the TTB accepts your travel request or after you get the confirmation letter to enter Tibet. Sometimes, tickets are non-refundable or agent charges high cancellation fees. In order to avoid this, it is suggested to book Tibet Tour at least a month prior to the departure. Sometimes, TTB limits the number of travelers if there are festival seasons or other ceremonies. Sometimes, TTB gives priority to the initial applicants rather than the last hour bookings.
It is restricted to bring books or magazines that are related to the politics of Tibet, any religious debate, or Free Tibet activities; these are strictly prohibited. Your bags will get searched at the border customs of Tibet, China. There are high chances of getting refused at the immigration of China if the officials find you suspicious and no matter you have not done it intentionally or not. Check with your travel agent and ask what else can be brought and what else not and better not to take the risk as traveling to Tibet is your life-time-experience. Sometimes, Lonely Planet or similar guide books can be rejected but it does not put you in trouble, it can only be taken away.
I hope that the above information can help go through the travel planning to Tibet smoothly. It is great to be aware of the Tibet tour procedures and Things to Do & Things Not to Do in Tibet before you make any plan. You may check Tibet Travel Information or Tibet Travel Procedure to learn more about touring in Tibet.
Enjoy your travel to Tibet! Happy Travels!!