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Tibet Travel Guide

About TIBET

Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas, in the People’s Republic of China. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people. Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 metres (16,000 ft).

 

Tibet Fact Sheet:

Tibet Information

 

Full Name

Tibet Autonomous Region (Xi Zang Zi Zhi Qu)

Capital City Lhasa
Area     1,220,000 sq km (463,320 sq miles), 1/8 of China’s territory
Population About 2,760,000 (by 2005), Tibetan 2.41million, 92.2% ; Han 155,000 5.9%;Other ethnic groups : 50,000 1.9%
Time Zone GMT/UTC +8
Languages Mandarin (official) Tibetan (other)
Currency

RenMinBi (RMB¥)

Country Dialing Code: ++86

 

ENTERING TIBET:

It is not difficult at all to get to Tibet either from mainland of China or Nepal. There are more 20 flights flying to Lhasa, Shigatse or Nyingchi every day, five direct trains over the world’s highest railway carrying tourists to Tibet, and five highways leading to Lhasa from different directions.
The easiest way to enter Tibet is to from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu or Kathmandu within 2 or 3 hours. Flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa only departs every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday

 

ENTERING TIBET:
It is not difficult at all to get to Tibet either from mainland of China or Nepal. There are more 20 flights flying to Lhasa, Shigatse or Nyingchi every day, five direct trains over the world’s highest railway carrying tourists to Tibet, and five highways leading to Lhasa from different directions.
The easiest way to enter Tibet is to from Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu or Kathmandu within 2 or 3 hours. Flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa only departs every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday

 

VISA AND IMMIGRATION FORMALITIES:

Tibet Permits (or Tibet visa) documents is required for a Tibet tour except China visa. There are three Tibet permits: 

 

1- Tibet Tourism Bureau Permit (or Tibet Entry Permit) : Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) Permit which is necessary for entering into Lhasa or any other parts of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, is obtained through tour operators.

2- Travel Permit or Aliens’ Travel Permit : Alliens’ Travel Permit is required to visit ‘unopened’ areas. Which is issued by the police (Public Security Bureau, “PSB”).

3- Military Permit : It is issued by troop for sensitive border areas such as Mt Kailash and eastern Tibet. And also need foreign-affairs permit issed by Foreign affairs office in Lhasa.

Tibet Tourism Bureau issued a new policy on issuing Tibet permits in May, 2012. The new policy stated that Tibet permits would only be issued for a tour group with minimum FOUR tourist with the same nationality, which makes it hard for individual travelers to get Tibet permits.

 

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL TIBET

Early April to late November is the pleasant time to visit all areas of Tibet, not cold. The late November to next March is ok for paying a visit to Lhasa, The best time to travel Tibet is between April and October. The best months are May, June, September and October as July and August are rainy months.

 

FESTIVALS:

The Tibetan culture is unique in the world. A Tibet tour is certain to be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. There are countless festivals held all over Tibet. Horse racing festivals in the summer and harvest festivals during the fall are held throughout the region. The dates of even the same festival may vary from region to region. For example, the New Year’s Day in Shigatse is celebrated at the beginning of December on the Tibetan calendar.

 

INSURANCE:

We highly recommend you that you have travel insurance which covers all the risk and covering any expenditure incurred by rescue helicopter.

 

CURRENCY:

Tibet uses the Chinese Renminbi (RMB), or Yuan. The current rate of the yuan is about 8.3 to the US dollar. Visa and American Express credit cards are accepted in most of the places but have a limited use. Traveller’s cheque as well as US and Hong Kong Dollars, Pound Sterling, Euros and Japanese Yen can be exchanged at local banks and at most hotels.

 

ACCOMMODATION:

Accommodations in Tibet range in quality from budget guest houses to Western-style hotels. However, these high quality hotels are few and concentrated in the big cities, such as Lhasa, Shigatse, and Naqu. Expect to pay roughly US$80 high-end hotels, US$35 for middle class hotels, and US$25 for low budget guest houses.

 

GUIDE:

Our guides are licensed and trained in programs conducted by the Department of Tourism. Most of the Guides speak fluent English. We suggest you not to hesitate to ask any related questions, they will go the extra miles in terms of service.

 

FOOD & DRINKS

Cuisine includes traditional Tibetan fare, Chinese, and Western, although you can find Indian, Himalayan, and other cuisines as well. You could play it safe with snacks and foods you know and like, but all Tibetan foods are worthy of experiencing at least once while you are there, even yak butter tea. We highly recommend the Tibetan restaurants in Lhasa with their excellent traditional meals. You will notice of a lack of fish, this is for both cultural and religious reasons. In general, strict vegetarians will find food choices very limited.

 

DRINKS:

It is safer to drink bottled, boiled and filtered water. A reasonable variety of both hard and soft drinks are available in hotels, restaurants and shops in most towns. Many Tibetans enjoy drinking traditional home made alcoholic brews made from wheat, millet or rice.

 

TRANSPORTATION:

Road conditions in Tibet have improved significantly in recent years, especially in the cities and roads between big cities. Most of the famous sightseeing places have asphalt-paved road, such as the Lhasa area, Tsetang, Nyingchi, Gyangtse town, Shigatse, Chamdo, etc.

The Tibetan terrain is steep and remote. Roads are often blocked by landslides or washed out. You may need to hike several kilometers, regardless of your intended transportation and destination. Travel in Tibet requires flexibility, perseverance, a sense of humor, and a very sturdy pair of boots.

 

ALTITUDE:

Tibet is also called ‘Roof of the World’ and the ‘Third Pole of the Earth’. Five mountains exceed the altitudes of 8,000 meters (26,240 feet) and most rise to 7,000 meters (22,960 feet), making them a natural challenge for mountaineers. The world’s highest peak Mt. Everest north side ascent is situated in this region. The vast land is also the river source for the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, the Yarlong Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), the Indus, and the Ganges. Its lakes: the Heavenly Lake Namtso, the Yamdrok Yumtso Lake and the Lake Manasarova set the region apart as an exceptional scenic place.

If you are doing trekking or going over 3000m acclimatization is very important. You may be likely to experience some of the minor symptoms and discomfort of altitude sickness (headaches, mild nauseas, loss of appetite) until your body adjusts to the elevation.  This can take from a few hours to a couple of days depending on the individual. Do not exert yourself and drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquids. It is very important to drink at least 4-5 liters of liquids daily to avoid any altitude sickness; this is probably the best remedy for AMS.

 

Health and Safety

Tibet being a region of high altitude, travelers may experience Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) which is characterized by mild headaches, nausea, altered breathing patterns at night and loss of appetite. This can be reduced by frequently drinking non-alcoholic liquids such as water and juice. Travelers should also protect themselves from the strong sunlight which can cause sunburn.

Do not forget – the common effects of altitude such as:

— You may feel breathlessness on exertion.

— Some headache which is treatable by aspirin. 

— May be some difficulty sleeping and a little loss of appetite.

— You might also wake up suddenly at night trying to catch your breath. Do not panic! Your metabolism has simply slowed down.

— You may also experience an exaggerated thumping headache, which will not go away, breathless even at rest, extreme nausea. The lack of oxygen in the system will first affect either the brain (HACE – Height Altitude Cerebral Edema) causing loss of physical and mental coordination OR the lungs (HAPE – Height Altitude Pulmonary Edema), coughing up persistent sputum or both.

— Do not drink any alcohol on the outward trek. It seriously impairs the ability to acclimatize, and confuses the symptoms of AMS.

 

The do’s and don’ts to aid acclimatization:

 

Do drink copious quantities of water-even 5 liters a day is recommended by some medical sources. Dehydration through perspiration and increased breathing rate seriously inhibits acclimatization, and is the most common cause of altitude related problems.

Do not drink any alcohol if you are above 3000m It seriously impairs the ability to acclimatize, and confuses the symptoms of AMS.

The following medication has been found to be helpful:  

Diamox the common name for Acetazolamide originally developed as a diuretic, but pragmatically found to aid acclimatization available in Kathmandu pharmacies. Some people feel it is ‘cheating’, but as trekking at altitude is not a competition and you are here to enjoy it to altitude, not just mask the symptoms. It will make you pee more as intended, and possibly give you a tingly feeling in your fingers, but is understood to have no more serious side effects. Taking it is entirely down to personal choice, but if you do decide to use it as a preventative we have found that a half a 250 mg tablet works just as well as a whole one and minimizes the side effects, each morning and evening, from the night before the trek through to the start of the descent from the highest point.

 

EDUCATION:

Education in Tibet is the public responsibility of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. Education of ethnic Tibetans is subsidized by the government. Primary and secondary education is compulsory, while preferential policies aimed at Tibetans seek to en roll more in vocational or higher education. The Tibet, Department of Education currently oversees 73 Tibetan schools.

 

ECONOMY:

The economy of Tibet is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Due to limited arable land, livestock raising is the primary occupation mainly on the Tibetan Plateau. In recent years the economy has begun evolving into a multiple structure with agriculture and tertiary industry developing side by side.

The industry that brings in the most income is that of handicrafts.  These include Tibetan hats, jewelry (silver and gold), wooden items, clothing, quilts, fabrics and carpets.  Another important revenue generator is tourism, with tourists most staying in Lhasa or going to Xihaze and the Mount Everest base camp.

 

LANGUAGE:

The official language of Tibet under Chinese colonial occupation are both Mandarin and Standard Tibetan.Tibetan is a Tibeto-Burman language which is a part of Sino-Tibetan language family. Tibetan is the language most used in daily interaction whereas Mandarin has become the language of commerce. Many Tibetans also speak Hindi, Bhutanese or Nepali.

 

CULTURE AND CUSTOMS (do’s & don’t):

Tibet has richness and the depth of its traditions and cultural heritage. Wisdom, the knowledge about life, compassion, tolerance, peace of mind all contribute in making culture of Tibet. The simply life, the spirituality of minds, give a strong hold to this alpine region which is entirely decorated with its holy charisma.

The following advices might help you have a nice trip in Tibet:

 

Customs and Taboos Related to Daily Life:

— Tibetan people do not eat horse, dog and donkey meat and also do not eat fish in some areas, so please respect their diet habits.

— Eagles are the sacred birds in Tibetan culture. You should not drive them away or injure them. It is impolite to spit in front of or behind others or clapping hands behind others.

— Do not throw any bones into fire. Do not touch other’s head by hand. Do not use paper with Tibetan characters as tissue to wipe off mess with the paper.

— Remember not to step on the threshold when entering the tent or house.

— Please add “La” behind the name when you call someday to express respect.

— If you are asked to sit down, please cross your legs, do not stretch your legs forward and face your sole to others.

— In the tent, men sit on the left side, and women on the right side.

— You should accept the gift with both hands. While presenting the gift you should bend your body forward and hold the gift higher than your head with both hands.

— Please keep quiet on the top of mountains. It is believed that loud noise will result in heavy snow, storms or hail.

 

Customs and Taboos Related to Religion:

— A monastery cannot be entered without permission.

— Once inside a monastery, don’t smoke or take photos; do not touch, walk over or sit on any religious texts, objects or prayer flags in monasteries.

— Don’t wear shorts or short skirts in a monastery. Take your hat off when you go into a monastery.

— Walk clockwise around a monastery, mani stones, pagodas, or other religious structures. Prayer wheels should also be turned clockwise.

— Keep quiet during religious ceremonies in the monastery.

(When meeting a lama, it is not appropriate to hug him or shake hands with him. The proper way is to hold the two hands upright, palms together in front of the chest, and lower the head. Don’t talk with them on sensitive topics, such as marriage and the eating of meat.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY:

You are not allowed to take photos inside most of monastery/fortress/temple/museum. We advise you to consult with Guide before taking picture of temple and any sensitive monument. 

 

NO SMOKING:

Authority in Tibet has strictly prohibited smoking in public areas.

 

TIME:

08 hours ahead of GMT, Tibet is linked to Beijing time so when you cross the border to Nepal the time change is considerable.

 

ELECTRICITY:

Tibet’s electricity is 220 volts. Throughout Tibet electricity is subject to failure on occasions, so a torch is an essential piece of equipment for your tour. A solar power project is expected to bring electricity to villages in remote regions of Southwest China’s Tibet autonomous region.

 

Communication Facilities

Post Office: The biggest post office in Lhasa is located on the West Beijing Road, at the east side of the Potala Palace. It not only offers full postal services but also sells various kinds of postcards.

Telephone: The international dialling code for China (Tibet) is +85. China Mobile coverage is available in some areas of Tibet, but there is no coverage in villages or remote places. Therefore, cell phones are not a reliable mode of communication. You can use telephones found in the post office, hotels, street booths and shops.
However, with the exception of the major cities like Lhasa, Xigatse, Gynatse, Lhatse and Tsedang, communication facilities including telephone and postal services are absent in other parts of Tibet.

Internet: Internet cafes are available in Lhasa. Hotels in Lhasa like the Xigatse hotel also provide internet facility to its customers.

 

SHOPPING:

Lhasa has a fine range of handcrafts like hand-woven woollen carpets, traditional paintings and brass and copper ornaments. Outside of Lhasa there is not much opportunity for shopping. Be aware that the export of antiques is strictly forbidden.

 

CLIMATE & WEATHER:

The temperatures over most of the area are fairly low through much of the year, as Tibet lies in one of the coldest parts of Asia. The months of summer are, between April and October, is the most tolerable part of the year, when it can even get quite hot in low-lying places like Lhasa and Shigatse – the upper reaches of the Himalayas remain snow-bound even in the hottest of summers. Winters are very cold, with the temperature going to below freezing point – more so in the high altitude areas. Considering the fact that it is so cold in this region, is is also an extremely sunny region – around 3000 hours of sunshine annually.

 Tibet Climate

 

 CLOTHING WHILE ON TIBET

What to pack

Deciding what to pack is not always easy, but do try to remember this principle: Pack the minimum!

 

Warm clothing is a must for Tibet travel. The type of clothing depends on which parts of Tibet you are traveling to. Casual attire is recommended. Warm clothing is a must to ensure a comfortable tour. Wearing several layers of clothing that can be easily added or removed is advisable since temperatures may vary greatly within a single day. A wind stopper plus a sweater will work nicely around Lhasa in summer. During the peak tourism season, frequent rainfall makes waterproof clothing and raingear absolute necessities. Other essentials to pack include four or five pairs of cotton or woolen underwear, four or five pairs of woolen socks, long sleeve cotton or lightweight wool shirts and T-shirts. Women should avoid skirts or dresses. Comfortable, sturdy sneakers, walking shoes, or hiking boots are also recommended. Don’t forget to bring along a warm hat as well as one or two pairs of warm mittens or gloves.

 

It is a good idea to take a good quality multivitamin to supplement your diet since a supply of vegetables and fruits may not be readily available. A first aid kit including aspirin, antibiotics and AMS medication is highly recommended.

 

For more information on clothing and gear list…Read More…

 

Have a great time!!