Restrictions and Permits for Traveling in Tibet: What You Need to Know

Unlike other parts of China that are easily accessible, there are specific regulations for travelling to Tibet, including the requirement of a Tibet Travel Permit and the necessity of travelling with a tour agency. Familiarizing yourself with these restrictions and making advance plans will ensure a seamless and enjoyable trip to Tibet.

Individual Travellers are not allowed in Tibet

Foreigner Independent travel is not allowed in the Tibet. You can visit Tibet only with a guide, driver, and private vehicle. Public transport is only permitted in Lhasa, except for the train to Shigatse. Therefore, international travellers rely on private tour vehicles for transportation between destinations.

You can join a group tour or customize a private tour to visit Tibet.

International tourists must book a pre-arranged tour to visit Tibet. Travel agencies offer tours and provide all necessary requirements for travel on the plateau, including a guide, driver, and vehicle. Booking a tour from a registered operator is essential to access the region from China or Nepal.

Tibet Travel Permit is a necessity to enter Tibet.

For booking the tour with a registered Tibetan travel agency, you will first need to apply for the Chinese Entry Visa, unless you are entering Tibet from Nepal. In that case, your visa is applied for when you arrive in Kathmandu. For those entering from mainland China, we will first need your visa, as this is required to allow us to process the application for the Tibet Travel Permit.

Tibet Travel Permit will be required to board the plane or train to Tibet.

The Tibet Travel Permit is required to enter the TAR. It is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa and can only be applied for by a registered travel agency or tour operator. Additionally, the permit is only granted to those who have already booked a tour of the region.

After receiving the scanned color copies of your passport and China Visa, we will apply for the permit on your behalf. The processing time for the permit can be up to 10-15 days. Once approved, we will send a copy of the permit to your hotel in China.

Not all the places in Tibet are open to foreigners.

There are some parts of the Tibet Autonomous Region that you cannot visit, even with all the approved permits. For example, while international tourists can travel overland to Tibet along G318 National Highway, it is not possible for them to travel along the G317 National Road, the northern route from Chengdu to Lhasa.

In addition to a car tour, you can opt to cycle to Tibet along the picturesque G318 National Highway with us. Moreover, some specific locations in the region are off-limits to international visitors, regardless of possessing all the required permits for Tibet. Currently, these restricted areas for international tourists include, but are not limited to:

  • Pangong Lake in Ngari Prefecture,
  • Nanyi Valley,Tsonag County is located in Shannan Prefecture.
  • Yadong County in Shigatse Prefecture
  • The sacred Lhamo La Tso, the holy lake of Tibetan Buddhism
  • The Tombs of the Tibetan Kings in Tsedang, Shannan Prefecture
  • Chamdo Prefecture
  • Sky Burial Sites
  • The slopes of Mount Kailash.

Additional permits are required for some places.

Aside from the Tibet Travel Permit, you will also need other permits and passes for travel to different places in Tibet. Different permitted regions of Tibet have a different permit or pass that is required for entry and travel.

The Tibet Travel Permit is required for entry to Tibet and travel only in the area of Lhasa, which includes even the outlying areas such as Damxung County. For travel outside Lhasa to what are known as the “unopened” areas of Tibet, you will also need to have the Alien’s Travel Permit. This is required for travel to places such as Shigatse, Mount Everest, and parts of Nyingchi.

Aliens’ Travel Permit is needed for Everest Base Camp tours and can only be obtained when you are in Tibet.

The third main permit is the Restricted Areas Permit, also known as the Military Permit. This is required for entry to certain restricted areas of Tibet, including Bome County, Nang County, and Ranwu Lake in Nyingchi, all of Shannan Prefecture, and all of Ngari Prefecture.

You will also need to have the Frontier Pass for all tours that take you within the area of the Chinese borders with Nepal, Bhutan, and India, including visiting Everest Base Camp and Mount Kailash in Ngari.

People with some disease are not suggested to visit Tibet.

While altitude sickness is normally relatively easy to get over after a period of acclimatization, there are some who should refrain from traveling to high altitudes due to pre-existing conditions. You should always talk to your doctor about high altitudes and altitude sickness before traveling if you have any medical conditions.

Though these is no age limit to viist Everest Base Camp, people with heart or lung disease are not suggested to do so. Ideally, pregnant women should avoid high altitudes above 3,000 meters, as the thinner atmosphere can affect the pregnancy. People with heart or lung disease should only ascend to high altitudes if their condition is under control, and people with mild forms of coronary artery disease and high blood pressure are at no higher risk than anyone else if they are already treating the conditions.

However, there are certain diseases and illnesses that make it very dangerous to travel to Tibet. These include such diseases as sickle cell anemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), severe emphysema, and severe heart disease.

You can only access Tibet from China or Nepal.

Tourists can only enter Tibet from two places – China or Nepal. For most travelers, entry through mainland China is preferable, and many tourists spend time in other areas of China before moving to the TAR. As they already have their visa for entry to China, they can travel easily from mainland China to Tibet once they have their Tibet Travel Permit.

Toursits can travel between Tibet and Nepal via the Gyirong Port.

Nepal is the only country in the world with international access to Tibet, and has the option of either direct flights to Lhasa or overland travel across the Sino-Nepal border. At present, you can go to Tibet from Nepal by air and overland. Flights to Lhasa from Nepal run daily throughout the year, and take just 90 minutes to reach the Tibetan capital from the exotic city of Kathmandu. The overland trip takes you over the border crossing point between Rasuwa Gadhi in Nepal and Gyirong Port in China. This border crossing is the only one open for tourists to enter Tibet from Nepal, though there are other crossing points for locals for trade.

China Group Visa is required to enter Tibet from Nepal.

When entering Tibet from Nepal, the usual Chinese Entry Visa that you would use to enter China elsewhere is not actually valid. The requirement for tourists from Nepal to Tibet is the Chinese Group Visa, which is applied for completely differently. The visa, which is only valid for tourists entering Tibet from Nepal, is issued only once you arrive in Kathmandu for the trip to Tibet. Once you arrive, we will meet you at your hotel to collect your passport and completed application forms. The visa can only be applied for by the travel agency on your behalf, and personal applications are automatically rejected.

Usually it takes at least 3 business days to obtain the China Group Visa. Processing of the visa actually takes around three working days, so you should plan to arrive in Nepal at least 4-5 days before your trip departs for Tibet to allow time to process the visa. Standard processing will release the visa in the morning of the third day from application, and we will collect your passport and visa from the embassy and deliver it to your hotel with the rest of the permits.

Travel to Tibet may sound extremely restrictive, but the restrictions are in place for the benefit of the tourists as much as for the protection of the environment. Allowing tourists to wander freely as before can cause irreparable damage to the delicate environment of the plateau, and preservation efforts help to maintain the delicate balance. Travel on the plateau can also be dangerous, with altitude sickness, extreme weather conditions, and wild animals. However, as all the details are taken care of for you by the travel agency, these restrictions are only beneficial, and can help make your trip even more amazing and special.

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