Travel FAQs

We have compiled a few of the questions that we are commonly asked and trust that the answers are useful in helping you to understand the GoToTibet experience and how best to arrange your time with us.

Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions you don't find answered.

Q Is there internet access on the train to Tibet?

A

There is no internet access on the train to Tibet.

Q Where is Tibet?

A

Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups, such as the Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas. Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 meters (16,000 ft).

Q Is Tibet a safe place to travel?

A

Yes, Tibet is very safe, even for solo and female travelers. Tibetans are quite hospitable. The dangers in Tibet stem mainly from natural disasters, accidents and sometimes from encounters with animals.

Q What is the Tibet Travel Permit?

A

The Tibet Travel Permit is the official travel document that allows foreign tourists to enter Tibet. The Tibet Tourism Bureau grants it, which is also called TTB. Every foreign traveler should get this permit before entering Tibet. It is regularly checked in Tibet, for example, when check in at the airport or any of the hotels.

Q When is the best time to travel to Tibet?

A

Tibet can be visited all year round, although certain times tend to be better than others. The best time to take a Tibet trip is from April to November. That is when you can avoid the severe cold and dry weather which exists between December to February.

Q When is the rainy season?

A

The rainy season in Tibet begins in late June and lasts until early September. The rainy season in Tibet is not nearly as wet as south and Southeast Asia, but it does bring forth relatively ample rainfall and clouds. If you are coming to Tibet for excellent views of the Himalayas or any of the other extravagant peaks, then it is recommended that you wait until the end of the rainy season. You can trek during the rainy season because most of the rains in Tibet occur at night, but be sure to bring waterproof shoes and clothes just in case.

Q Is it easy to get the Tibet Travel Permit?

A

Yes, it is easy to get the Tibet Travel Permit. It normally takes about 15 work days while it takes more days if you travel to remote area like Mt. Kailash. However, these people as diplomats, journalists, or government officials should travel to Tibet under an arrangement made by the Foreign Affairs Office of Tibet's local government.

Q Shall I get a single entry or double entry Chinese visa if I travel through mainland China to Tibet?

A

All you need is a single entry visa. Tibet is an automous region of China. There is no Immigration or Customs crossing when travelling to Tibet from inland China. If you enter Tibet from cities in inland China, and then plan to go back to these cities after your Tibet trip, a single entry Chinese visa is good enough. The only exception is if the city is Hong Kong or Macau. If you come to mainland China from Hong Kong or Macau after staying in mainland China, and then go back to Hong Kong or Macau, you will need a double entry or multi-entry visa if you want to go to mainland China for the second time.

Q I have a business (F) visa. Can I get travel permits for the TAR?

A

Yes, you can, but you must have a letter from your inviting company that states your full name, nationality, passport number and position at the company. Once you have the letter,  it needs to be scanned and emailed to the travel agency you are using, and they will turn it into the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Your expert certificate or work invitation letter copy could also work for the time being.

Q I have a resident visa for China. Can I get travel permits for Tibet?

AYes, you can. If you are working or studying in China, you need to provide a work or study certificate. If you stay in China because you have a family member working there, such as your parents or spouse, then you need to ask your family member to provide a work certificate. Make sure you mention that you've come to China to live with him or her. 

Q If I travel from Nepal to Tibet, are there any special restrictions on a Chinese visa?

A

If you plan to enter Tibet from Kathmandu, Nepal, you are required to obtain a Chinese visa in the consulate of P.R China in Kathmandu no matter if you have received your Chinese visa in your home country. The application takes at least three working days to process, which is regulated by the border tready signed between Nepal and China. The Chinese visa you get in Kathmandu is a "group visa". A "group visa" is not entered in the traveler's passport but rather on a separate sheet of paper issued in duplicate by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, listing all members of the group. It usually allows a stay of up to 30 days. 

Q What's the procedure to get a Chinese visa in Kathmandu?

A

1. After you book the tour with us, you will need to provide us with the copies of your passport and other required information.
2. We will apply for the 'Visa Invitation Letter' from the Tibet Tourism Bureau. After that, the TTB will send the 'Visa Invitation Letter' to the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. In the meantime, we will send it to our Nepal partner before your arrival in Kathmandu.
3. Upon your arrival in Kathmandu, our Nepal partner will meet you at the hotel or airport and then go to the Chinese Embassy with you to apply for the Chinese visa. With the 'Visa Invitation Letter', you can get your Chinese visa quickly.

Q How can you send the Tibet permit to me, or how can I receive it?

A

To enter Tibet by train, you usually need to provide a copy of your Tibet Travel Permit. The permit is needed when checking in at the train station. If you fly into Tibet, we must deliver the Tibet Travel Permit to your hotel or your home/company address before your arrival in Tibet. When you change for the boarding passes at the airport, you're required to show both your passport and the Tibet Travel Permit.

Q Which areas of Tibet require an organized tour?

A

All areas of the autonomous region of Tibet require all foreign travelers to be part of an organized tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide and a private vehicle with a driver (private vehicle is not a must if you are staying in Lhasa). The Tibetan prefectures found in Qinghai, northern Sichuan, western Sichuan, southwest Gansu and northwest Yunnan are (usually) open and do not require travel permits or a tour guide.

Q Do I really need to have a tour guide if I am only traveling in Lhasa?

AYes, you need to take an escorted tour even if you only visit Lhasa. Without the guide in your party, you cannot visit any of the monasteries or palaces. However, you can stroll around the streets, do some shopping and have a cup of tea at the local teahouse on your own.

Q Can I stay in Tibet after my tour is finished?

A

No, your travel permit is only valid for the duration of your tour. Once your tour is completed, you have to exit Tibet. If you decide to stay longer in the TAR after your tour is over, you could cause the agency you used to get in big trouble. They could even lose their business license, forcing everyone out of work. But your travel agency can help to extend the permit date should you really want to stay more days.

Q What’s the difference between a private tour and a group tour?

A

A private tour means that you never tour with strangers. It is a tour designed specifically for you, your friends, or your family. Each tour includes a personal private tour guide and a private vehicle with a licensed driver. Meanwhile, we also have group tours ranging from 4 days to 8 days; you can choose any of them according to your availability. You’ll share a vehicle and guide. Of course, the price of the group tour is much lower in comparison to that of a private tour.

Q Do you recommend for travelers to get insurance when traveling to Tibet?

A

Absolutely! Having traveler’s insurance that protects you against cancelled tours, cancelled/delayed flights, and any unplanned medical emergency is highly recommended. A reputable travel agency should have a reasonable refund policy, but it is still good to have extra insurance to protect you from a big loss.

Q Do I need a sleeping bag in Tibet?

A

Unless you plan on trekking and camping, there is no need to bring a sleeping bag or tent to Tibet. Every guesthouse and hotel will offer clean sheets and plenty of thick blankets.

Q What kind of vehicles are used in Tibet?

ATen years ago, we would have recommended a 4WD vehicle for tourists traveling out of Lhasa since there are many bumpy roads. Now, most of the roads are constructed well with concrete or pitch. You can use an MPV to almost everywhere, including the Everest Base Camp and Mt. Kailash. However, if you travel overland from Sichuan, Yunnan or Xinjiang to Tibet, a 4WD will be a better choice since the road condition is very complicated with many sharp turns, steep slopes, etc. 

Q I have heard others say NOT to list Tibet on my Chinese visa application. What do you think I should do?

AWe do not recommend listing Tibet on your visa application. It might cause your Chinese visa application to get denied. We recommend for you to list a couple of major cities in China that you will be going to, such as Beijing or Chengdu. Once your Chinese visa is issued, we can get your Tibet Permit smoothly.

Q Does my guide have to be with me all day, every day?

AYour guide must be with you each day while you're in the TAR, but the guide does not necessarily have to be with you all day long. In Lhasa, your guide must be with you whenever you decide to enter the temples and monasteries. You can visit stores, restaurants, and bars on your own. But get the contact number of your guide and request for them to come along if you decide to visit the sightseeing places, such as the temples & monasteries.

Q Is English spoken widely across Tibet?

A

No. Besides the popular hotels and restaurants in Lhasa, English is rarely understood in Tibet. Most of Tibet is very remote and undeveloped, so not many people can speak English. Chinese is widely spoken by Tibetans who live in Lhasa, Shigatse, and a few other larger towns in Tibet. In remote regions, Tibetan remains the only language that is understood. Don’t let this stop you from traveling to the region, though. Tibetans are extremely hospitable, friendly and helpful and will do their best to communicate with you, despite the language barrier.

Q What currency do I have to use in Tibet?

A

The legal currency in Tibet is Renminbi (RMB). Foreign currencies cannot be used directly. Foreign currencies may be converted into RMB at all banks, bank branches or hotels at the exchange rate quoted on the foreign exchange marker of the day. The Bank of China in Tibet is the bank which specializes in handling monetary exchange.

Q Is it easy to find an ATM in Tibet?

A

You won't have any problems finding an ATM in Lhasa and Shigatse, although you probably won't be able to find one in the remote areas or smaller towns. However, this situation is changing, and ATMs are gradually spreading across the land.

Q Which credit cards are accepted in Tibet?

ACredit cards are often accepted in big cities in Tibet, like Lhasa and Shigatse. Most of the internationally accepted credit cards are usable in Lhasa. They include Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diner's club, and the JCB card of Japan. Credit cards are accepted only in large shopping stores. If credit card symbols are displayed in a visible place in shops and hotels, then it indicates that credit cards are accepted.

Q What are the hotels like in Tibet?

AIn Lhasa, lodging ranges from guest houses to 5-star hotels. Other cities like Shigatse and Tsedang have 4-star hotels; however, 3-star hotels are most common. They usually have a private western toilet and 24-hour hot water running. But there are few accommodation options in some remote areas like the Mt. Everest Base Camp and Ngari Prefecture, where only simple guesthouses and tent hostels are available.

Q Does the hotel room have access to the internet in Tibet?

A

Most of the hotels above the 3-star standard have internet access or Wi-Fi, and some youth hostels in Lhasa have a computer in the lobby where you can use internet service.

Q What can I eat in Tibet?

A

You can choose Chinese food, Tibetan food, and Nepali food in big cities. And Western food options are easy to find in Lhasa. But in remote towns where food options are limited, Tibetan food and Sichuan cuisine are good choices.

Q Can I see a sky burial in Tibet?

A

To respect customs, unless local Tibetan families invite you, there is no chance to view sky burials or take photos of the practice or do anything blasphemous around.

Q Is it difficult to arrange/get train tickets to Lhasa?

A

The popularity of train travel to Tibet has resulted in the huge demand for train tickets among visitors. It’s very difficult for individual travelers to get a ticket on their own, especially during the high season. Even reliable travel agencies cannot guarantee successful bookings during the high season. If your schedule permits, it is a little easier to fly to Lhasa and then take the train leaving Lhasa. Train tickets departing Lhasa are still difficult to get, but not as difficult as going to Lhasa.

Q Where can I take a train to Lhasa?

A

Trains to Lhasa originate in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Lanzhou and Xining. Xi'an is one popular choice for tourists. However, there are no trains to Lhasa that originate in Xi'an. The trains from Xi'an to Lhasa originate in the megacities of Shanghai and Guangzhou. They just pass through Xi'an. The railway station does keep a select number of tickets to Lhasa for travelers in Xi'an, but the number of tickets is relatively small. It is a solution to take a train from Xi'an to Xining and then get on the train to Lhasa.

Q Which city do you recommend taking the train from?

A

I recommend taking the train from Xining for two main reasons. Xining, the capital of Qinghai province and the largest city on the Qinghai Tibetan Plateau, is the actual starting point of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It lies at an elevation of 2275 meters and is a good place to spend a couple of nights in order to acclimatize to the higher elevation of Lhasa. Spending a couple of nights in Xining will reduce (but NOT eliminate) the chances of getting serious altitude sickness. Another reason why I recommend taking the train to Lhasa from Xining is that it is generally easier to get train tickets in Xining. Unlike the other cities that have trains originating to Lhasa, Xining is a small city by Chinese standards. The smaller population means that fewer people are trying to get tickets on the coveted Lhasa Train. It can still be difficult to get train tickets to Lhasa from Xining during the peak season, but not as difficult as getting them from Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai or any other larger city.

Q What documents are required for riding the train to Lhasa?

A

The Tibet Travel Permit issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau is necessary for foreigners entering Tibet. The permit copy is fine for boarding the train nowadays. It is recommended that you take at least three copies, just in case they keep one copy at the checkpoints. The requirements can be changed frequently at a certain time, so you should ask the agency about the latest one when you are coming there. Besides, a passport is also a required document for your Tibet train tour. You are required to present these documents when boarding the train to Lhasa. So do forget to prepare all these documents properly. Any carelessness will spoil your train trip to Lhasa.
 

Q Do the trains to Lhasa depart daily?

A

Presently, there are daily trains to Lhasa from Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an and Xining. The trains from Chengdu, Chongqing and Guangzhou depart every other day.

Q How long it takes for the train ride to Lhasa?

A

It takes more than 35 to 52 hours from Chengdu, Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to Lhasa by train, and you'll have two overnights on the train. If you take the train from Xining, it takes only around 22 hours with one overnight on the train, which makes Xining one of the most popular starting points to Lhasa. For details of the train schedule, please check more on our train info.
 

Q Is there a private bathroom on the train to Lhasa?

A

There is no private bathroom, no matter which cabin you take (soft sleeper or hard sleeper). That means dozens of passengers will share them. And there is no toilet paper provided there, no place to shower. The only thing that might comfort you is the 24-hour hot water drinking supply on the train.

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