Are there any Taboos for travelers in Tibet?
While much grace is given by Tibetan hosts to foreigners to not have to totally fit in, there are a few big no-no’s to try to avoid while traveling in Tibet.
- Don’t step on religious objects or prayer flags.
- When entering a door, step over (not on) the threshold.
- Usually you are expected to remove shoes before entering monasteries or temples. Typically, though, you do not need to remove shoes to enter a person’s home.
- Don’t touch (or even approach!) dogs in Tibet. Whether stray or domestic, dogs are wild and unpredicatable.
- Do not show public displays of affection (kissing, excessive touching, etc.)
- Don’t take pictures of people or inside the monasteries unless you have permission.
- Don’t discuss any sensitive political topics in public.
- Dress conservatively (nothing above the knees, no spaghetti straps, etc.)
Anything I should avoid if I stay at a local Tibetan family’s home?
- Don’t place bowls or cups on the floor. The floor is the dirtiest part of the house and the feet are the dirtiest part of the body.
- Don’t put your feet on tables.
- Don’t wear revealing clothes outside your bedroom (i.e. be fully dressed when you emerge!)
- Don’t go in the god-room (shrine) without family’s permission.
- Don’t put your socks on the fireplace to dry. (It’s been tried.)
- Always drink boiled water.
Can I withdraw cash from local banks in Tibet?
At certain banks, yes. But banks are not always abundant outside of major towns. Large Chinese banks like ICBC, Construction Bank and Bank of Communications are connected internationally and foreigners usually have no trouble withdrawing cash from these banks. When you get to more rural areas, there may only be small local banks or an Agriculture Bank of China. These are not as reliable for international cash withdrawal. We recommend getting sufficient cash in Chengdu, Kangding, Lhasa or other major cities before going to travel to more remote places in Tibet. Please notify your bank regarding your travel dates before departing for your trip. Debit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, JCB, Master and Visa are accepted at most banks.
Can I use my credit card in Tibet?
In the not too distant past, across all of China, merchants who accepted international credit cards were a very rare breed. Today, it is much more possible to pay with credit card in Chinese cities. However, while it may grow to become more ubiquitous in Tibet, credit card payment systems are still virtually non-existent (with perhaps the exception of a few five-star hotels in Lhasa). So, bring your card for your shopping malls in Chinese cities, but don’t expect to be able to use them during your time in Tibet.
What about tipping? How much?
Tips are not required at restaurants and hotels. Some are relieved by this, but most have a difficult time fighting the urge from their cultural background to give tips to these staff. Feel no compunction in those situations! However, TIPS ARE EXPECTED for your driver and guide after a tour concludes. A rule of thumb is: $20 per day for guide and $10 per day for driver collectively as tour group.
Do I need to get a permit to travel to Kham and Amdo Tibetan areas?
No, you don’t need Tibet permit to travel to the Kham and Amdo Tibetan areas. You only need a Chinese tourist visa to travel to these areas. Tibet Travel Permits (TTP) are required for all travelers wishing to visit the open tourist areas of the Tibetan province (TAR). Your guide will keep the original document with him/her at all times during your travels. Your guide will need to present it along with your passports for inspection in order to pass through airports, train stations, bus stations and roadside checkpoints.
Can I travel on my own in Tibet after my tour is finished?
Yes, in the Kham and Amdo areas, you are allowed to travel in as an individual. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to stay more time than your organized tour itinerary dictates in Lhasa or other regions of the TAR. Your travel agency representative and/or tour guide assigned to your group will ensure that you exit the TAR before your permit expires.
When I’m applying for a Chinese visa, should I write “Tibet” as one of my destinations?
No. Doing so may cause your visa to be denied. Include cities of entry, such as Beijing or Chengdu. No need to include an exhaustive itinerary of your planned destinations.
What is the easiest way to reach the Kham area of Tibet?
The easiest way to reach the Kham area of Tibet is through Chengdu. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan. It is a 6-8 hour drive or 50 minute flight from Chengdu to the capital of Kham, Kangding (Dartsendo).
What is the easiest way to reach the Amdo area of Tibet?
The easiest way to reach Amdo is through Xining or Chengdu. Xining is the capital of Qinghai province and also is the largest city on Tibetan plateau. From Xining, it takes 2-3 hours by bus to reach Qinghai Tibetan nomad area. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan; it takes 7 hours by bus to reach Amdo areas of Tibet and it takes 1 and 20 minutes to fly to Xiahe (Labrang) airport.
Are there airports in the Kham area of Tibet?
Yes. Kangding (Dartsendo) airport (KGT), Yushu (Yulshul) airport (YUS) and Yading (Nyiden) airport (DCY) are all located in the Kham area of Tibet.
Are their airports in the Amdo area of Tibet?
Yes. Xiahe (Labrang) airport (GXH), Hongyuan (Krhongche) airport (AHJ) and Huanglong (Sertso) airport (JZH) are located in the Amdo area of Tibet.
Can I stay with local Tibetan families in Tibet?
Yes, you can stay with local Tibetans in Kham and Amdo areas. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to stay with local Tibetan families in TAR.
Is Tibet open for tourists all the time?
No, the TAR usually closes to foreign tourists during the month of March. Kham and Amdo areas are sometimes open and sometimes closed. It is better to get clear information from a local travel agency before planning a trip. You are also welcome to ask us at email@example.com
Am I able to extend my visa in Tibet?
Visa extensions are not available in Lhasa. It is possible, however, to get visa extensions in Dartsendo (Kangding), Yulshul (Yushu), Barkham (Maerkang), Gyelthang (Shangri-la) and Tsoe (Hezuo).
Do I have to join a group tour or I can travel individually?
Though your group size may be one (you), you must still purchase an organized tour product through a travel agency to visit the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). You are free to travel solo (without purchasing a tour product) in Kham and Amdo regions, but we still recommend hiring a guide as English and sometimes even Chinese are rarely spoken. Having a local introduce you is also the best way to get the most information and story about Tibet.
When is the rainy season in Tibet?
The rainy reason is from July to August (about two months). It rains often but not everyday so it is not an issue if you desire to travel during this time.
What times should I avoid traveling to Tibet?
Prices at hotels and restaurants will double during some major Chinese holidays –especially Chinese National Holiday (Oct 1-7th), Chinese May Holiday (May 1-3th) During these times Tibetan areas will be very crowded and noisy. For Chinese people, Tibet is their main travel destination during the holiday. So you should chose a better time to travel to Tibet.
Is it okay to give a donation to a monastery?
Yes, you can offer donations to the monastery. You will find some donation boxes usually near the entrance of the monastery.
Is it possible to spend a few days in a monastery or a nunnery in order to meditate or study Buddhism?
Yes, it is possible in the Kham and Amdo areas of Tibet. Local travel agencies can help you make arrangements for your stay. Again, this is impossible in the TAR.
What tools would you recommend if I want to study some basic Tibetan language or Tibetan Buddhism in order to prepare for my trip to Tibet?
What would you recommend if I want to experience the most authentic Tibetan culture?
We recommend you have a homestay experience, a village tour and a cultural tour. Check out http://extravagantyak.com/trips/amdo-tibet-tserings-village/ as an example of a great homestay and village tour experience.
Is it difficult to go vegetarian in Tibet?
No, in the bigger cities such as Lhasa and Xining there are some vegetarian restaurants. In small towns or villages, you can order vegetable noodles and dishes.
What kinds of meat options are there in Tibet?
We have Yak meat, pork, mutton and chicken. In larger towns, some seafood is available.
What is the most effective way to prevent high altitude sickness?
It is impossible to avoid all symptoms of traveling at high altitude. Most travelers (even Tibetans I should add) feel breathless, light-headed, loss of sleep, minor headaches, etc. during the first couple days of acclimatization. However, there are very good measures to prevent severe symptoms and to mitigate even the minor ones.
- The most important is ascend slowly. If your tour itinerary has you arriving in China and then immediately whisking you up to 4,000 meters, put your foot down and demand they build in at least 1-2 nights between 2,000m and 3,000m. In Kham, we always recommend groups acclimatize in Kangding for two nights.
- The second most important things is to drink TONS of water. Seriously, drink more water than you feel comfortable drinking. You will thank us.
Other measures, in no particular order of importance:
- Try not to over-exert yourself on your first day at altitude.
- Also, do not take a hot shower on your first day at altitude.
- Don’t drink alcohol while you are still acclimating.
- There are herbal medicines that some claim help reduce symptoms of altitude discomfort. A local one called Hongjingtian (红景天) is readily available in pharmacies in China. It is most effective to begin taking several days leading up to your trip to high altitude and then every day at altitude.
- Did we mention drink lots of water? Good. Just checking your still awake.
What kind of medicine should I prepare for my trip to Tibet?
We suggest that you prepare basic medicines for colds, Diamox for high altitude sickness and something for traveler’s diarrhea. It never hurts to bring some basic first aid essentials, too.
What are the main festivals in Tibet?
Tibetan festivals are based on lunar calendar
|Name of the Festival||Active Place||2016||2017||2018|
|Tibetan New Year (Losar)||Almost all Tibet||Feb 09||Feb 27||Feb 16|
|Monlam Prayer Festival||Lhasa||Feb 23||Mar 11||Feb 23|
|Butter Oil Lantern Festival||Almost all Tibet||Feb 23||Mar 11||Mar 11|
|Saga Dawa||Almost all Tibet||May 21||June 9||May 29|
|Gyantse Horse Racing Festival (Gyantse Damag)||Gyantse||July 18||July 8||July 18|
|Tashi Lhunpo Thangka Display||Shigatse||July 17||July 17||July|
|Zamling Chisang / Samye Dolde||Samye Monastery||July 19||July 9||July|
|Chokor Duchen Festival||Almost all Tibet||Aug 6||July 27||July 16|
|Ganden Thangka Display||Ganden Monastery||Aug 18||Aug 7||Aug|
|Shoton Festival||Lhasa||Sept 1 – 7||Aug 21 -27||Aug 11 – 17|
|Nachu Horse Racing||Nachu||Aug 10 – 16||Aug 10-16||Aug 10-16|
|Lhabab Duchen Festival||Almost all Tibet||Nov 20||Nov 10||Oct 31|
|Pal Lhamo Festival||Lhasa||Dec 13||Dec 3||Nov 26|
|Ganden Ngacho||Almost all Tibet||Dec 23||Dec 12||Dec 2|
|Labrang Monlam Festival||Amdo,Labrang||—||Sept 02||Sept|
|Lithang Horse Racing Festival ( Not permanent)||Lithang||—||Aug 01||Aug 10|
|Jye Kundo (Yushu) Horse Racing Festival||Yushu||July 25th||July 25||July 25|
Who can I contact if I have a problem booking the hotels that are recommended on the Tibetpedia website?
You are welcome to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are very happy to help you book a hotel.
Can I write an article and share it on the Tibetpedia platform?
Yes, please, if you have any helpful information or positive reviews of local Tibetan entrepreneurs’ businesses you are more than welcome to write and share. Send us your idea at email@example.com.
Is it worthwhile to visit Jiuzhai national park? Is it in Tibet?
Yes, it is in northeast Tibet. It is a 7-8 hour drive by bus (or 1 hour flight) from Chengdu. It’s a stunning place to visit. Be aware, though: the park has more than 20,000 visitors every day. If you can take the crowds and the slightly more expensive hotels, the beauty of the park is still worth it.
Do I need to bring electrical adaptors/plugs?
In Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, the common power voltage is 220 Volt 50 Hz AC. Most of your electronics, computers and cell phone chargers are rated to support this. Household appliances (some shavers, blow dryers, etc.) from North America (110V, 60Hz) are typically not compatible with electricity in Asia. If you must bring that favorite electric coffee grinder with you, then you will need to also bring an electrical converter. Otherwise, you don’t need to worry about this. China power sockets are compatible with most North American and European male adaptors. There are two kinds of sockets widely used in Mainland China: type A and type I. The type A can also accept plugs of type C or F.
Is Wi-Fi available in Tibet ?
Yes, Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, hostels and guesthouses. Also, most restaurants and cafes have Wi-Fi. There may be some homestays and hotels in remote areas that do not yet have internet, though.
Is there coffee in Tibet?
We would suggest that you should bring your own coffee if you are a coffee connoisseur. Cafes and coffee shops are popular in towns across Tibet. But it is still not uncommon to find one using instant coffee. Yuck!
Can Tibetans speak English?
Not many Tibetan people speak English. It’s better to have a local English-speaking guide with you.
Would it be offensive if I spoke Chinese to them?
Not at all! Most young Tibetans speak Chinese, so you could practice your Mandarin with them.
Is it safe to walk down the street in the night in Tibet?
In most Tibetan places, it is relatively safe to walk at night in town. However, we would recommend that you do not go out alone. It is not uncommon for young Tibetan men to be found drinking too much at night and breaking out in fights in local clubs and bars. Be wise and be safe.