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A Quick Guide to Tibet Currency and Money

Travelers to Tibet are often confused by how to refer to Tibet money. The answer is no doubt to be Chinese Currency, as Tibet is an autonomous region of China. Also, there are many frequently asked questions, such as how to use credit cards to pay my bill? Where to exchange money? How about the exchange ratio? Here you will find detailed info about money, currency exchange, credit cards, debit cards as well as international transfers in Tibet.

Tibet Currency

The official name of the currency in Tibet is Renminbi, which literally translates to People's Currency and is abbreviated to RMB. People also call it Chinese Yuan, which is abbreviated to CNY. You can write either CNY 1,000 or RMB 1,000. 

At present, banknotes in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 yuan are in circulation. One yuan coins are also widely used. Due to inflation, banknotes or coins with a value of less than one yuan, including one jiao and five jiao, are rarely used in China. CNY 100(Yuan in Chinese) is the highest currency.

There are several denominations of RMB in yuan.

Here only refers to the paper money; the coin CNY is not acceptable in Tibet as there is no Tibetan language on it. As the world currency, USD is acceptable in Lhasa and Shigatse at many hotels or restaurants.

Exchange Money in Tibet

If you start your Tibet tours from another city in China, like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, etc., you can exchange money in any one branch of the four state-owned banks. Namely, Bank of China (BC), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Agriculture Bank of China (ABC), and Construction Bank of China (CBC). But if you come to Tibet from Nepal directly, you can do this in Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyirong, and Purang as well. For a small amount, you can exchange it with our tour guide. For the big one, the guide will lead you to Bank of China, the only bank in Tibet that provides the exchange service of foreign currency and travelers’ checks. Of course, the receptions of some four or five-star hotels also offer money exchange only for the hotel guests. But they need to charge a handling fee, and the rate will be a little bit higher than the current cash buying rate published by the Bank of China.

The current exchange rate of the Yuan is about 7.3 for 1 US Dollar. However, the exchange rate keeps changing and it is better to recheck again before you exchange. We suggest you change all your foreign currencies in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, as it’s the most convenient place compared with the other three mentioned before. Here is the information of The Bank of China in Lhasa, 

  City Address Opening time
The Bank of China’s main office Lhasa Lingkhor Bei Lu 28, north of the Yak Statue 9:30 am -1pm and 3:30 - 6:00pm, Monday to Friday.
The Bank of China’s sub-branch office Lhasa Beijing Dong Lu, between the Kirey Hotel and the Banak Shol Hotel 9:30 am-6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, and 11 am-3 pm, Saturday and Sunday.

And please keep some change, like CNY 10, CNY 20, or CNY 50, which you can use in some remote rural areas, such as Shannan, Ngari, Nyingchi, and Nagqu; For the smaller ones, like CNY 1,  CNY 2, or CNY 5, which can be donated to monasteries or those beggars you meet on the street. 

Debit Card & ATM

If you have worked or studied in China before, you must have at least one debit card from any Chinese bank. So, it’s easy to take money from ATMs in Lhasa, Shigatse, Tsedang, Baiyi, Lhatse, Zhangmu, and Saga. But please note that the ATMs are not widely distributed in Tibet, especially in some small places, for example, there is only one ATM in Lhatse. So, you’d better prepare enough cash in advance.

Several ATMs in Lhasa and Shigatse, even in remote Nagri, accept foreign cards. The Bank of China accepts Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, American Express, Maestro, Cirrus, and Plus. The Agricultural Bank accepts Visa, Plus, and Electron. But most ATMs just accept domestic cards, so please confirm with your tour guide before you try.

A maximum of about CNY 2,000 can be withdrawn from each transaction. Occasionally the card would be eaten. It's recommended to make your transaction during bank working hours, so you can take back your card timely.

Credit Cards

With the development of tourism, credit cards are accepted for more and more hotels, and shops in Lhasa. After all, it’s the capital city of Tibet. But in other cities, it may not work well. Besides, it usually charges an extra 3-4% as a service fee when you use credit cards to pay the bill.

The Lhasa Central branch of the Bank of China is the only place in Tibet that provides cash advances on a credit card, a 4% commission is deducted.   

In general, it is more convenient to use cash than credit cards in Tibet as credit card usage is limited in Tibet.  It's better to take enough cash with you. About the daily cost, here is some information for your reference:

  • Budget: Less than US$75
  • Midrange: US$75–150
  • Top End: More than US$150

Tip: we suggest you take less than  USD 5000 cash to China. If you bring more than this amount (USD 5000 - USD 10000), you need to fill in a form for custom declaration. If you take your bank card, then there is no limit.

Mobile Payment

Mobile payment is now widely adopted in Tibet. International tourists can now conveniently use the mobile payment for basic necessities during your travel including payments for food, transportation, accommodation, shopping, etc. Mobile payment services now mainly support the linking of credit cards with WeChat and Alipay. WeChat accepts Visa, Diners Club, Mastercard, and JCB cards, etc. Alipay accepts Visa, Diners Club, Mastercard, and Discover cards, etc. We recommend using Alipay for its convenient steps.

Mobile payment via Alipay
Mobile payment via Alipay

It should be noted that the exchange rate is set by the card network and the issuing bank. As for transaction fees, it’s waived for single transactions under 200 RMB. A 3% transaction fee will be applied for single transactions above CNY 200. Once the accumulated payment amount reaches US$ 500, please upload the identity information for verification. After the verification, a single payment shall not exceed the equivalent of US$ 1,000 and the annual cumulative transaction limit shall not exceed the equivalent of US$10,000. For further details, please refer to the notification of related apps.

In addition, mobile payment does not support transfers, withdrawals, red envelopes, etc. In addition to the widely used Alipay and WeChat payment, other mobile payment options such as UnionPay App and Apple Pay are also accepted in many cases.

International Transfers

In case you run out of money during the trip, it’s possible to get money by International transfer in Lhasa. There's only one way of making the international transfer now since the Western Union has been turned off in Tibet.

Use the Bank of China’s central office in Lhasa. Money should be wired to the Bank of China, Tibet / Lhasa branch, 28 Linkuo Xilu, bank account No. 90600668341, SWIFT code BKCHCNBJ900. Double-check wiring instructions with the bank beforehand.

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