Frequently Asked Questions

About High Altitude Sickness

What do I do if I get Altitude Sickness in Tibet?

Getting adequate rest and administering oxygen can help alleviate some of the symptoms of altitude sickness. The main form of treatment for all kinds of mountain sickness is to climb down (descend) to a lower altitude as rapidly and safely as possible. If a patient does not show any sign of improvement after 3 to 4 hours, he/she should go to a hospital for treatment.

How to prevent the Altitude Sickness?

  • Visitors with a severe cold, a high fever, acute or chronic pulmonary diseases, severe cardiovascular diseases, women with an advanced pregnancy and children under three years of age should avoid traveling to regions with a high altitude.
  • To prevent the occurrence of altitude sickness, visitors should have a proper rest and avoid strenuous activities days before you go to Tibet. After getting off the plane, you should try not to carry heavy things or run. Instead, you should have some rest.
  • Nifedipinum, Nuodikang Capsules and Suoluomabao Capsules (known as Hongjingtian Capsules in Chinese) may help some people prevent the occurrence of altitude sickness when they are taken three days before arrival to a highland. Note: Acetazolamide (Diamox) is a drug used to stimulate breathing and reduce mild symptoms of mountain sickness. This drug can cause increased urination, so when taking this medication, make sure you drink plenty of fluids and do not drink alcohol; if you don’t drink enough water, it may result in serious dehydration, which can worsen AMS.
  • Insist on High Carbohydrate Diet--Carbohydrate can provide heat quickly increasing the amount of the exchange of oxygen; while too much fat and animal protein shall aggravate high altitude sickness. Smoking shall not only consume the oxygen in the air, but also the carbon monoxide generated by the cigarette shall be absorbed by the hemoglobin. Smoking shall obviously aggravate high altitude sickness. Do not drink alcohol

About Permits

If we plan to fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa, what documents do we need to send to you for the Tibet Permit?

You just need to send us your passport copy after you confirm with us your itinerary. When we apply for your permit, we need to arrange your China visa invitation letter first. According to the memo between Nepal and China, all the travelers entering Tibet from Nepal have to apply for the China visa, whether he/she has china visa or not. And this china visa is called China Group Visa even there is only one person on the list.

How can we get the Tibet Permit if we plan to fly from mainland China to Lhasa? How about taking the train?

If you'll fly to Lhasa, you have to show the original Tibet Permit to board the airplane. Please tell us your hotel details (name, phone number & address) then we'll deliver your original Permit accordingly. Please do check with the staff at the front desk of your hotel to get your permit. In case any problem, please contact with your travel advisors at once. If you take the train to Lhasa, usually you just need to show the copy of the Tibet Permit and you can pass the check-in. We'll send the Permit's copy to you by email as soon as we get it. Just print the Permit (3 copies are highly recommended) out and bring with you to the railway station. But please note Chongqing, Xi'an and Lanzhou train stations require the original permit.

How long can we get the Tibet Permit after sending the documents to you?

Usually it takes 12 days, at least 7 days if you only travel in Lhasa city. The permit application is not only related Tibet Tourism Bureau, but also other department of government, such as Public Security Bureau, Foreign affair offices, and frontier defense department are involved. If you want to visit western Tibet like Mt. Kailash, Guge Kingdom, we have to provide the documents at least 1 month before your entering Tibet to military office. Only the documents passed the check-in can Tibet Tourism Bureau issue the permit.

What documents do we need to provide in order to get the Tibet Permit?

Settled itinerary including the day by day arrangements and ENTRY / DEPART CITY to/from Tibet. These will be printed on your TTB permit, makes them the right date and the only city you can enter from & depart to from Tibet. It will take extra time & fee if later you want to change them. Colour copy of valid PASSPORT photo page. Colour copy of valid CHINA VISA page (Can wait for later. We can start the application without it first) Except L Visa(tourist visa), any other types of China Visa need additional stamped paper in Mandarin from your school/company in China. In which your full name, passport No., position, company add & Tel, etc. should be stated.

What Permits Do I Need to Take the Flight to Tibet?

Of course, your original passport is the first important document.

Secondly, you must get some necessary permits for your Tibet tours, such as Tibet Travel Permit, Alien’s Travel Permit, Tibet Military Permit, etc. Except for the Tibet Travel Permit, which is a basic document, the others depend on the request of your air route. For Tibet Travel Permit, the request is different from the place where you enter Tibet. To obey the regulation of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), foreigners must provide the original Tibet Travel Permit when boarding the domestic flights to Tibet. But the scanned copy of Tibet Travel Permit is acceptable when taking flight from Kathmandu. Your Tibetan tour guide will bring the original one to get you released from the Lhasa airport.

Thirdly, Chinese Visa. Here are two situations as well. One, fly to Tibet from inbound China, you have to apply for Chinese Visa in your country. Two, fly to Tibet from Kathmandu. In this case, you don’t need to apply for Chinese Visa by yourself. Because according to the government’s regulation, it has to be issued in Nepal. The one you obtained before will be canceled in Nepal. What you should do is giving your passport to the Nepali agent when arriving at Kathmandu and waiting for 2-3 days to get the China Group Tourist Visa. 

If I only have the one entry China visa, can I travel to China and Tibet?

Yes, it's no problem.

What if I buy a flight landing into Lhasa, and don’t have the proper travel permit. What are they really going?

Tibet Permit will be checked at airports in China. Even you have your flight to Tibet booked and paid, without Tibet Permit, you still won’t be allowed to board the flight to Tibet.

About Safety

Is there a risk of attacking by animals?

Be aware of attack from animals. Tibetan people are often attacked by wild yaks and dogs. When you traveling in Tibet, do not approach it or play with it.

Is the traffic safe in Tibet?

Nowadays, most roads are paved and road transport condition has improved. And we only use experienced drivers and safe cars to make sure your safety.

Is there Crime in Tibet?

Overall Tibet is a safe place where you will meet friendly, honest and trustworthy people. Tibet has a low crime rate. But for travelers, you need to take care of your belongs and be on your guard against pickpockets. You should take particular care when traveling after dark, especially if you are alone.

About Tour Tips

What are top 3 scared lakes? Where are the top 4 Tibetan holy mountains?

There are 3 major scared lakes in Tibet: Lake Manasorovar, Lake Namtso and Lake Yamdrok, respectively. Lake Manasorovar is regarded as the top 1.

The top 4 holy mountains are the Meli Snow Mountain located in Deqin County, Yunnan province; the Mt. Amnye Machen, situated in Maqin County, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province; the mountain Kailash, located in Burang County, Ngari, Tibet and Gaduojuewu Snow Mountains, located in Gaduo Counaty, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province. Meli Snow Mountain is the multi-peaked range with an average altitude of over 6000 meters. The highest peak is called Kagebo with an altitude of 6740 meters. Every year in the fall, Tibetan pilgrims will trek to the scared Meli Snow Mountain and make a pilgrimage around. Amnye Machen Peak is the highest point with an altitude about 6282 meters. And the area around Mt. Amnye Machen is cold, even in summer, for being full of glaciers, so it's been treated as a dangerous trekking route. Mt. Kailash is the holy mountain both for Tibetan and India pilgrims. Every year in summer, devotees from India will travel thousands of miles to this holy mountain for making a pilgrimage trekking. Gaduojuewu Snow Mountains are the king among the scared mountains in the Yangtze River Valley, with an average altitude of 4900 meters. Its gorgeous and precipitous main peak (5470 meters above the sea level) leaves countless beautiful legends.

What are the interesting sites in Nyingchi?

The main scenic spots in Nyingchi are Basum Lake, Lulang forest, the great canyon region of Yalung-zangbo River(not available for international travelers currently), Namcha Barwa, etc.

It’s said that there are abundant hot spring resources in Tibet. Which one is the best?

There are 3 well-known hot springs in Tibet, namely, Yampachen Hot Spring, Dezong Hot Spring Resort and Riduo Hot Springs. Among them, Yampachen is the most famous one. Located 90 kilometers away from Lhasa, Yampachen is regarded as the best one for the largest range of pools and the highest temperature springs in China, and tourists can choose to take a bath in an indoor pool or outdoor pool.

 

Why can’t I Go to Tibet if I have a cold?

A cold can lower your resistance to disease, and your trachea and lungs would be inflamed due to this reason. If you go to Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at that time, the cold may deteriorate into bronchitis, pulmonary edema or pneumonia as the oxygen content is much lower in the high altitude areas. In addition, it takes a long time for you get recovery from a cold in highland. So please keep yourself warm.

Should I Take Exercise before Traveling to Tibet?

Most tourists are worried about the effect of high altitude, so they always have think about the physical exercise before their tours. Actually, the altitude sickness has nothing to do with being strong or not. Generally speaking, you don’t have to work out deliberately, but if you are still worried about this, you can jog a month early. And remember, stop taking excise a week before your departure!

Where Can I Buy some traditional Tibetan Items?

There are lots of groceries on the Barkhor Street. You can buy many Tibetan items such as Hada, cappa, traditional clothes, etc. 

Can I Take a Photo of the Pilgrims?

Lots of travelers will be stunned by the pious pilgrims in front of the Jokhang Temple. Thus, they want to take a photo of those pilgrims as a memory. However, for most Tibetan Buddhists, they are not willing to be recorded by the camera. You should make an agreement with the pilgrims before taking a photo of them.

Can I Take Photos in Potala Palace? What should I Notice When Visiting Tibetan Monasteries?

You are not allowed to take photos when visiting the Potala Palace. Taking photos is also banned in some monasteries in Tibet, or it is not free. You should avoid smoking, touching Buddhism statues, lection, bell, amulet, religious objects, etc. You also need to keep silence and sit uprightly. You cannot sit on the seats for living Buddha. Do not wear sunglasses, hats, make a big noise, etc in the monasteries.

Can I withdraw money from local banks in Tibet? or can i use my credit card in Tibet?

Yes, you can withdraw money from Bank of China or ATM machines in Lhasa. But pls be aware that there aren’t as many ATMs as what you are used to, plus Tibet is big, a run to a bank often takes up lots of time, especially when there is a queue; yes, you can use credit card at 5star hotels, fancy restaurants, etc. in Lhasa, but it is not widely accepted. Plus it charges a service fee; to sum up, it’s not very convenient to withdraw money nor to use credit card in Tibet, pls prepare enough cash prior you enter Tibet

Can the Elderly and Kids Travel to Tibet?

Actually there is no age limitation for people to travel to Tibet, but theoretically, the kids who are under 7 or 8 years' old are not really recommended to travel to Tibet because the parents sometimes can’t tell if their children suffer from symptoms of altitude sickness. Meanwhile, traveling to regions with quite high altitudes such as at Ngari or Everest Base Camp is too risky for young kids to visit. But in Lhasa and surrounding areas are perfectly fine for kids to simply grab the rough idea of Tibetan culture and history.

As for the old, it's also hard to define the age as the boundary of whether being able to travel to Tibet. Things are not always absolute considering the age of traveling to high altitude places. Previously, our oldest client who came from the US and even made it to Everest Base Camp is at the age of 81 with his 76-year-old wife. So suggest you consult with your doctor and staying physically strong and healthy are a must before making the decision to travel to Tibet.

About Tour Time

Can I Travel to Tibet in Winter? Is It Cold?

Although winter is the slack season for Tibetan tourism, a lot of travelers still travel to Tibet in this season. The holy snow mountains, warm sunlight, and sacred cities are allured their hearts. Lhasa is the ideal place for tourists getting to Tibet in winter. The temperature in Lhasa varies from -10°C to 10°C. It is very warm before the sunset, but it is cold at night. Therefore, you should bring some warm clothes before traveling to Lhasa. However, the average temperature in remote areas outside of Lhasa such as Ngari and Nagchu is very low, nearly about -10°C.

When is the best time to travel to Tibet?

Base on years of our tour operating experience, from April to Oct is the best time to travel to Tibet, but choosing the best season to travel to Tibet mainly depends on the tour you are interested in, eg. if you are interested in Mt. Everest tour, the best time would be May, June, Sep and early Oct, EBC is relatively less windy and clear during these months, from the blue skies you could view the peak of Mt. Everest from the Everest Base Camp. If you are interested in western part of Tibet tour like to Mt. Kailash, from May to later Sep is the best time to travel there with a warmer climate and less rain, you would also have the opportunity to see local pilgrims during doing trekking tour in Mt. Kailash. Aug is the best time to feel local popular festivals celebrated in Tibet. However, different month different experiences.

How is the weather in Tibet?

Generally speaking, Tibet is cold and dry all year round. Most of Tibet experiences frost at least 6 months of the year. Some high lakes are frozen from October to March. Tibet is a vast area, the topography and altitude vary greatly from eastern part to western part. Thus the temperature varies greatly in different areas, even within a single day at the same place. The weather change is huge in mountain areas then that is in central township areas. In winter, from November to next March, of course, you need bring down jackets, warm sweaters, gloves, warm pants, woolen hats. It is very cold in the morning and evening. In summer/spring/ autumn, wearing a T-shirt and coat in the day time but the Jacket is necessary at a hotel in the morning and evening.

About Transportation

Is it better to take the train vs. fly to Tibet to avoid altitude sickness?

Not really. Inside the Tibet train, the air is filled with manmade oxygen starting from Xining Station, of which didn’t really help you acclimatize the high altitude gradually as you being led to believe.

Do I need to book air tickets in advance?

The answer is no doubt a yes. With the development of tourism, Tibet has become a hot destination for travelers. The demands of the market have been increasing a lot that makes the ticket is very busy and hard to buy, even if the price is relatively expensive and there are quite a few flights. Therefore, it’s best to book the ticket in advance, especially during the peak season, generally from July to October. Great Tibet Tour will help you book flights once you are engaged with us. Please do not hesitate to contact us for flight information.

Why More and More People Choose Taking a Flight to Tibet?

Compared with taking a train, saving so much time is the biggest advantage of taking a flight to Tibet, especially for those travelers who have a tight schedule. Nowadays, “time is money”, is true for most of the people. After working ass-off for only a one-week or 10-day vacation, you really want to get to Tibet directly rather than wasting time on the way, which is usually more than 40 hours by train. Response to the market demand, 18 cities in China have offered the direct flights to Tibet. Most of them are the mighty gateways of China, such as Beijing- the capital of China, Shanghai- the financial center, Chengdu- the land of abundance, Xi’an- the starting city of the Silk Road, etc. There even 6-17 direct flights per day to Tibet in those top cities. So, it’s convenient to reach Tibet by air wherever you are in China. And if you travel to Tibet from Nepal, you can also take the direct flight from Tribhuvan International Airport which is located in Kathmandu. There are 1 or 2 direct flights to Lhasa each day.

Can I book Tibet train by myself after I arrive in China?

Highly unlikely. Trains in China usually start to sell about 30 days in advance, and trains related to Tibet are always in high demands, and sold out very fast. Even a local Lhasa travel agency like Great Tibet Tour, has to buy the train tickets for our clients from scalpers at peak season.

How do I get the train ticket from you? Would you send it to my home or hotel?

After we purchase you the train ticket, we will provide you with an eTicket, along with your original passport you can exchange the paper ticket at any railway station in China.

How to get to Tibet? by train or by air?

Based on years of experience, Great Tibet Tour would recommend you fly over the train to Tibet. First of all, Tibet train is always in high demand, not very easy to purchase unless you can book months in advance with us to guarantee it. Secondly, train ride usually takes long hours, 24hrs the shortest from Xining, the ride itself is tiresome. Thirdly, the train cabin is filled with artificial air which doesn’t really help you to acclimatize, whereas the flight takes about 2hrs usually, and after you land in Tibet, there is still a lot of oxygen in your system.

About Accommodation

Does the hotel room have access to internet?

This actually depends on the area, in most of our 3-star hotels and all 4-5 star hotels in major cities have access to the internet in a hotel room. But you could only find internet access in lobbies of most of guesthouse & 3-star hotel in the remote place, some even don't have it.

Do hotels have hot water for showers 24 hours a day?

You will be able to enjoy a 24 hours hot shower at 3-5 star hotels we choose for you, but not guaranteed for the guesthouses accommodation.

What kind of hotel do you provide in the trip?

Due to the rapid development of the tourism industry in Tibet recently years, the number of hotels & hostels level from the budget guesthouse to luxurious 5-star hotels have been increased, so, you have many choices on lodgings. And the hotels we provide have a good location and good reputations. But frankly speaking, the service qualities in Tibet are not the same as it in big cities such as New York, London, Beijing, Shanghai, etc.

About Culture

What are the biggest festivals in Tibet?

There are many great festivals in Tibet, including Tibetan New Year, Shoton Festival and Saga Dawa Festival.

The Tibetan New Year is to celebrate new year and make good wishes.

The Shoton Festival, also called “Tibetan Opera Festival”, “Buddha Exhibition Festival” or “Yogurt Festival”, which is a kind of religious activities at the beginning and now it becomes a popular Tibetan festival. The streets are busy and people will watch Tibetan opera, eat Yogurt and watch yak racing.

Saga Dawa Festival is to commemorate the birthday of Sakyamuni, as well as the time of his enlightenment and entry into nirvana.

What are Tibetan Taboos?

Donkey, horse and dog meat are prohibited to be eaten in Tibet, and fish are prohibited in some area; When drink buttered tea, you can't take the cup until the maste lifts it in front of you; Turn the prayer wheels in clockwise direction; Do not touch the heads of Tibetan people, even a kid; Do not accept or deliver articles with one hand; Do not use the paper with Tibetan characters to wipe anything; when visiting tents of nomads, men should sit on the left and women on the right.

What is Tibetan Buddhism Debate?

Tibetan Buddhism Debate is a kind of activity that monks gather together to debate on Buddhism doctrines. They are generally divided into pairs, one person is standing and another person is sitting. The sitting one puts forward one opinion, then the standing one counters with his argument. They will have countless debates to figure out the truth. Buddhism debating is the daily work of monks to test what they have learn usually.

Can Lama Get Married?

A great number of people hold the view that Tibetan Buddhism can be divided into five denominations, Gelugpa, Nyingmapa, Kagyupa, Sakyapa, and Bon. All the denominations can get married, except the Bon denomination. But this view is not the truth. There are two kinds of Lamas in Tibet. The first kind of Lama is studying in Tibetan monasteries. The second kind of Lama is living in their own home. The former should study Buddhism and obey the rules at the young age, while the latter have no responsibility to follow the Buddhist rules. Therefore, the monks who are at home can get married and raise a baby.

About Food

Is the Butter Tea Tasty?

Generally speaking, most of the travelers have no good impression on the butter tea. But it is a good tea to relieve the high altitude sickness. Butter tea most favored by Tibetans, and tourists cannot miss it.

What's Tibetan food like?

Tibetan people have unique food and drink due to the high altitude, their religious belief, and ethnic customs, their diet mainly consists of beef, milk and other high protein food such as yak meat and mutton to help them fight the cold. Tsampa is also the staple food in Tibet, it is a dough made with roasted barley flour and yak butter, Tibetan people eat this at every meal and bring it as ready-made food when traveling.

What can we eat in some remote areas such as at Mt.Everest & Mt.Kailash?

The food in some remote areas are very limited with less choice, you could only find some small restaurants and they serve noodles, fried rice and some simple dishes to order. For breakfast, they can make pancakes and omelets. So you better buy some food, milk and coffee etc in big cities in advance and bring along.

Are there any restaurants available for vegetarians?

Yes, you can find good vegetarian restaurants in cities like Lhasa and Shigatse. In small towns and villages, you can order vegetable noodles or dishes at local restaurants.

Is it easy to find western restaurants in Tibet?

Yes, you could easily find western restaurants in some big cities such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Tsedang, etc. Just tell your interests to your tour guide, he/she will help you find the one you like. But in the small counties/towns, it is hard to find the western food.

How much does it usually cost per person per day for food?

The cost of food is different in each region of Tibet. In the general cities like Lhasa and Shigatse, it will usually cost about USD10-USD15/person/day for Chinese, Tibetan or Nepal food, a little bit higher for western food but not much.

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