Many tourists like to combine their Nepal and Tibet tour since Nepal is adjacent to Tibet, but has a different landscape and culture. Comparing with entering Tibet from any city in China, traveling to Tibet from Nepal has two disadvantages in the travel document and health.
When traveling from Nepal to Tibet, no matter if you’re flying or driving overland, you are required to apply for a Chinese Group Visa in Kathmandu. This is a must even if you already applied for a valid Chinese visa in your home country. The visa application takes at least 3 workdays. It will take more days if there are Chinese or Nepal public holidays. The visa is always valid for 3 months, so you can go forward to other China cities after your Tibet tour. But since it is a group visa, you have to leave China from the same city and on the same day. It is too complicated to split this visa. If you and your partner have a different tour plan in China, it is better to avoid entering Tibet from Nepal.
Chinese Group Visa
Besides, to get the Chinese Group Visa in Kathmandu, we must first apply for a visa invitation letter from the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Normally, the Bureau will issue a letter for single travelers, but sometimes they allow the letter only if there are at least 5 people. Travel agencies can not foresee the policy changes.
By the way, tourists from Japan, Singapore, Mongolia and Serbia do not need a Chinese visa to enter Tibet if they come from inland cities in China. However, they have to apply for a group visa in Kathmandu just like other foreign tourists do if they come to Tibet from Nepal. This is non-negotiable.
It is acceptable to travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa by flight, but going overland from Nepal to Tibet via the Gyirong border is kind of risky because the elevation goes much higher quickly and allows tourists very little time to acclimatize.
When traveling overland from Nepal to Tibet, you will start from Kathmandu with an elevation of 1,350 meters, and go through the Rasuwa border to the Gyirong Port Tibet side at an altitude of 2,800 meters. Normally, you will meet your Tibetan guide in the border and stay overnight in Gyirong town. The journey today is suitable for normal tourists since the altitude just ascends from 1,350 meters to 2,800 meters. What makes this trip dangerous is the activity on the second day. Going overland from Kathmandu to Tibet, you might want to have a visit to the North Face of the Everest Base Camp and then head to Lhasa or do the Mt. Kailash Kora first before going forward to Lhasa and other areas. If your next destination is the Base Camp, on the second day, you will drive through the Kungthang La Pass which is 5,236 meters and then you will stay overnight in Old Tingri at 4,300 meters high. On the third day, you will get to the Base Camp with an elevation of 5,100 meters. You will just keep going up and up. Your body cannot adjust that quickly after just one night’s acclimatization in Gyirong. It is the same situation if your first destination is Mt. Kailash. For this route, you will need to drive from Gyirong to Saga (4,487 meters) on the second day. In the next several days, you will trek around the Mt. Kailash and pass the Drolmala Pass at the elevation of 5,660 meters.
We are not trying to scare tourists, but it is indeed dangerous and irresponsible to arrange a program like this. No matter if you stay overnight in Old Tingri or Saga, these are remote areas with very basic medical facilities. If there is serious altitude sickness, we need drive to the nearest big city Shigatse for treatment or drive back to Gyirong, which is at a much lower altitude. Compared to making money from tourists, we value your life and health most.
However, there is an exception. If you are a very experienced mountaineer or just finished a trekking tour to the Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side, the overland tour from Nepal to Tibet is good for you.
Considering the disadvantages, so, if possible, we’d like to suggest that you enter Tibet from any city in China and then travel overland from Tibet to Nepal. You can apply for your China Visa in your home country and know for sure that your Tibet Permit is guaranteed before you leave your home for the trip. You can fly to Lhasa or Nyingchi to start the tour. The altitude in Nyingchi is much lower (2,900 meters) and there are big hospitals near your hotel in Lhasa (3,650 meters). After acclimatizing for about 3 or 4 nights in Lhasa, it is safe for you to ascend to much higher altitude spots like Everest Base Camp or Mt. Kailash.
Please find the recommended programs for the overland tour from Tibet to Nepal: