6 Things to Know Before Visiting Tibet
Most seasoned travelers have heard of Tibet, but not many truly know a lot about this Asian destination? What makes Tibet intriguing is that it’s well known yet still cloaked in mystery at the same time. Let’s break down some of the mystery and confusion around Tibet.
Here are some pointers to give you even more reasons to add a trip to Tibet to your bucket list once we can all freely move about the cabin again.
1. You Need a Travel Permit to Enter Tibet
The first thing to note is that you’re not able to just up and saunter into Tibet.
You’ll need a visa to enter China first, then a special travel permit to get into Tibet. While you can get your Chinese visa as you would any other visa, at an embassy or consulate in your home country, you will need the help of a tour operator to get your hands on a Tibet travel permit.
This brings us to the second point.
2. You Must Be on an Official Tour to Visit Tibet
Foreign nationals are not allowed to travel around Tibet independently. Prior to entry, you will need to sign up for a tour. This can be done through a Tibetan travel agency. If you prefer not to move around with a large group, a private tour can be arranged. This costs more than a group tour, naturally, but offers you the freedom to tour at your own pace.
You must be accompanied by your guide to visit all of the tourist facilities. To move around Tibet, you will also need a driver to operate a motor vehicle.
3. Altitude Sickness Prevention is Critical
You might not know this but the average elevation of Tibet is around 4,500 meters/14,750 ft above sea level. Most U.S. cities don’t get higher than around 200m/656 ft for comparison. So yes, the risk of altitude sickness is high. Being prepared for this will help you to enjoy your Tibet experience. Follow basic acclimation rules, like visiting somewhere mid-level first as well as resting for a couple of days upon arrival to Lhasa before going out on strenuous tours.
Check with your doctor to see if you’re a good candidate for preventative Diamox to have on hand. Click here for a beginner’s guide to avoiding altitude sickness.
4. Winter is a Great Time to Visit Tibet
Winter can be one of the best times to visit Tibet for many reasons. The most delightful of these reasons might be avoiding the influx of travelers who head to Tibet during the summer. Tourists arriving from China and all over the world can make it difficult to book hotels, make reservations and enjoy the wonderful attractions to be seen around Tibet.
It can also be quite a bit more expensive to visit Tibet in the summer. Plus the clouds from the summer monsoons can often obscure the views of Mount Everest, making sightseeing difficult. If you don’t mind colder temperatures and really want to enjoy that famous view of Mount Everest, then avoid the crowds. Winter is the ideal time for you. Don’t worry, the winters are cold but not likely as cold as you might imagine.
5. Tibet is Home to Mount Everest
One of the many reasons people visit Tibet is to see the famous Mount Everest. Add a bit of adventure and sightseeing to your Tibet trip by planning a trip to the Everest Base Camp to catch a peek at the world’s highest elevation..
6. Important Things to Know About Buddhist Etiquette
If you find yourself visiting a Buddhist temple on your visit, which is highly likely and highly recommended, here are some tips to help you respect the culture.
- Avoid touching the head of monks or nuns.
- When you’re sitting, avoid extending your feet toward a teacher or a shrine. Feet are considered dirty in Buddhist culture and it is considered rude to point your feet toward holy people or sacred objects.
- It is common to remove your hat and shoes when entering a temple or shrine room. There are occasions in the winter where shoes are allowed, so if in doubt, look around the room and take your cues from what others are doing.
I hope you’re inspired to visit Tibet and learn all about this incredible culture through travel and immersion. Have questions about visiting Tibet? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
About The Author: Yolanda O’Bannon. Yolanda is a travel writer and photographer with a special passion for Tibet and Asia. With her husband Lobsang, Yolanda makes Tibet travel simple and safe at YoWangdu Experience Tibet where you can learn everything you need for a safe and amazing visit to Lhasa and all of Tibet.