- by Mark
- Last Updated: 2018-01-02
The foreign travelers who want to go to Tibet must be on an organized tour that includes Tibet Travel Permits, a private vehicle, a driver and a tour guide. There are no exceptions to these travel regulations. Only a travel agency can arrange a journey to Tibet for you. Group Tours to Tibet are not required, but they are an economical way to travel to Tibet. Solo travelers are permitted to go to Tibet, but still must be part of an organized tour as explained above. You will not be allowed to board any flight or train to Tibet unless you show your Tibet permits, which prove that you have joined an organized tour. To go to Tibet, all you need to do is contact a reputable, local-owned travel agency in Tibet and they will take care of ALL arrangements for you inside Tibet. Don’t worry! Going from Malaysia to Tibet is very easy!
Tibet via Chengdu, China:
As there are no direct flights from Malaysia to Tibet, one way to get to Tibet is taking a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu, China. There are daily flights between KL and Chengdu all year round on Air Asia. Before you fly to Chengdu, you will need to apply for a Chinese tourist visa. A tourist visa for China can be obtained at the China Embassy in Kuala Lumpur or at the China Consulates in Kuching, Penang and Kota Kinabalu. When you apply for a Chinese tourist visa, do NOT list Tibet on your visa application. If you do, you almost certainly will have problems.
There are 8 to 12 flights that reach directly to Lhasa from Chengdu. The flight takes about 2 hours and you can enjoy the spectacular mountain views along the way. In addition to the daily flights to Lhasa, you can also take the train from Chengdu to Lhasa. The train takes just less than 2 full days to reach the Tibetan capital. You'd better relax in Lhasa for the first or two days as your body adjusting to the high elevation. Try not to hike strenuously, climb the stairs of the Potala Palace and drink alcohol during these two days.
It takes at least 2 weeks for Tibet Travel Permit to be processed. You should get in touch with a Tibetan local travel agency at least 6 weeks before you plan to get to Tibet. If you plan to go to Mt. Kailash, Lake Manasarovar or other areas of far Western Tibet, contact a travel agency at least 8 weeks before you plan to arrive.
Tibet via Kathmandu, Nepal:
Another way of reaching Tibet from Malaysia is via Kathmandu, Nepal. There are direct flights to Tibet every day on Air Asia in Kathmandu. And from where you can either fly or go overland to Lhasa. It takes about 75 minutes for the flight and 3 to 4 days for an overland trip from Kathmandu to Lhasa. All foreign travelers to Tibet must be in an organized tour as you have been told just now, no matter they enter Tibet from Mainland China or Nepal.
It's different to go to Tibet from Nepal or from mainland China. When going to Tibet from any cities in Mainland China, all you need is a normal Chinese tourist visa and a Tibet Travel Permit. One can be obtained from the Chinese Embassy in KL or at the Chinese consulates in Kuching, Penang or Kota Kinabalu and another from Tibet Tourism Bureau. However, if you plan to enter Tibet from Nepal, you must get a Chinese Group Visa from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. You will not be able to use a Chinese visa that you already applied in Malaysia or anywhere else on this planet to go to Tibet from Nepal. You will need to submit a visa invitation letter which is written by your local Tibet travel agency to the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. You do not need to be actually in a group to get this visa while it is technically called a “Group Chinese Visa”. Even if you are a solo traveler, you can easily get a group visa as long as you joined an organized group tour. The Chinese Group Visa normally takes about 2 business days to obtain. The Chinese Embassy is not open on the weekends, so be sure to plan your arrival to Kathmandu to avoid delays in getting your visa if you are in a hurry.
It is extremely important to you that your travel route includes proper acclimatization if you go overland from Kathmandu to Lhasa. Many budget tour agencies in Nepal and Tibet offer itineraries that do not think about the acclimatization and eventually put travelers at serious risk of altitude sickness. Kathmandu is not high enough to help with the acclimatization process with only 1350 meters. Some travel agencies have routes that take customers from Kathmandu directly to Everest Base Camp with an elevation of 5200 meters in only 3 days. This is extremely foolish and unsafe. Going that high so quickly can cause serious altitude sickness or even high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). In a word, I suggest you to actually fly to Lhasa from Kathmandu, stay in Lhasa for at least 3 nights to acclimate the altitude and then travel slowly overland back to Nepal throughout the main sites in Central Tibet, including Everest Base Camp.
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