If you are planning a trip to Tibet, remember that the flow of tourism is regulated by Chinese authorities. Tibet is a special administrative region of China, and unless you are a Chinese citizen, you’ll need a travel permit, in addition to a Visa for China, and probably some more permits, depending on your destinations.
It is not possible for non-Chinese citizens to travel independently. We need to be accompanied by an official guide, but please don’t let this be the reason you cancel your the trip.
The visit is 100 times worth the “pain” of relying on somebody to take you around. Having a guide at your side, you’ll be able to ask all the questions you want about the culture and the places you see.
The guide should also be able to assist you if you have altitude sickness (as it happened to me in EBC) or any other issues that might show up in the extreme environment.
The agency that I chose is Tibetan owned. They picked me up at the airport and communicated with me in good English.
They showed me their cozy office just outside central Lhasa, and together we discusse the trip in more detail in person, since prior to that meeting all the plans had been made via phone or email.
I visited Tibet when I was living in China.
I choose to travel with a Tibetan-owned agency because I wanted to support Tibetan small economy and also to have a Tibetan guide.
Even if Tibet is a Chinese province, the culture is so different that it seemed silly to travel with non-locals!
The price for every tour package is different, depending on how many people join the same tour and other factors that you can’t imagine. Set aside a few weeks in advance to organize the trip with the travel agency and to obtain the permit (usually two to three weeks).
If you travel solo, have a thorough conversation with the agent before you decide the tour dates. The trip costs less if the agency can create a group. If you are a solo traveler, the agency will be able to fit you into a group, and you’ll save money. After doing your research about the places you want to visits in Tibet, explain it all clearly to your contact in the agency.
One of the destinations I chose was a bit off the ordinary touristie routes, but the guys at Explore Tibet managed to arrange the trip. The money issue had been on my mind persistently before I booked the trip, but I was happy to discover that the trip cost less than I expected.
I’d heard of the altitude sickness experienced by some travelers after landing in Lhasa, but I did pretty well during that phase of the trip. I fell sick during the visit to Everest Base Camp, instead.