Many travelers are left in doubt as regards the skyrocketing cost of traveling to Tibet. It should be noted that Tibet is not considered one of the budget-friendly destinations in the world. The common question that still lingers among tourists is “I’m going to Tibet. How much will it cost?” Many travel agencies would burst into extreme laughter because these questions seem to be impossible to get a right response but in order to give a moderate cost for traveling to Tibet, there are some factors to put into consideration such as
1. The total population of travelers
2. Whether travelers would consider private tours or group tours
3. The duration of stay in Tibet
4. The specific regions planned to be visited
5. The type of accommodation that suits the traveler
6. The mode of transportation from Lhasa (either train or airplane) to mention but a few.
Without a definitive response to the questions stated above, it is quite impossible to get any real price estimate on a tour to Tibet and its environs.
As part of the requirement of traveling to Tibet, all foreigners planning to take this trip to the Tibet Autonomous region must get a travel permit (certain areas in Tibet requires multiple travel permit), a private vehicle, a tour guide and a driver. It should be taken into consideration that these regulations can never be jeopardized since all travelers and backpackers are subjected to moving together on an organized tour to the Tibet Autonomous Region. Hence, the costs of traveling to the region are extremely higher than other sites throughout the whole of China.
Here are some of the estimated costs of traveling in Tibet
- Travel Permit: As part of the strict regulations of the Tibet travel agencies, travelers and backpackers are mandated to get two main permits which are Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) and Alien Travel Permit (ATP). The actual cost of the Tibet Travel Permit is totally free but travel agencies are not expected to give it out for free. There are lots of processes involved in obtaining the Tibet Travel Permit such as filling of forms, getting the forms stamped officially by multiple offices and then the application forms will be submitted to the Tibet Tourism Bureau offices and so on.
All these stresses are taken care of by the travel agencies. So as a result of this, travel agencies rightly charge customers to get the permit on their behalf. There shouldn’t be a misconception that Tibet travel agencies are extorting money from their customers for the Tibet Travel Permits because these agencies underwent a lot of processes in order to get the permit. The prices travel agencies charges ranges between the amount of 350RMB and 750RMB for each per travelers. On the other hand, Alien Travel Permit is required if a traveler is planning to extend her tour to the west of Shigatse. This second permit is usually easier to obtain in less than an hour, unlike the Tibet Travel Permit. A travel guide would assist in getting the Alien Travel permit in Shigatse and its cost about 50RMB per each traveler. Other areas in Tibet also require a permit, such as Foreign Affairs permit or the Military Permit. These permits are not mandatory for all travelers in Tibet and it takes a couple of weeks or even more to arrange for and it cost between 400RMB and 800RMB per traveler. All that is required is nothing other than sending a passport, and your Chinese Visa and your payment to travel agency and they’ll get it done successfully.
- Tour Guides: All travelers and backpackers making a tour to the Tibet Autonomous region must have a tour guide with them each day as part of the regulations of the Local Authorities. It should be noted that it is not expected that the guide should be by your side for the whole of 24 hours, but all that is needed to be done is to pay for the guide each day of your stay in Tibet. For instance, most travelers have their guides beside them for about 3-6 hours each day while in Lhasa. Most importantly, there are some places in Lhasa you won’t be granted entries except you are with your tour guides.
However, if you just desire to explore the streets or markets in Lhasa, you may not deem it fit for your guide to be with you. All that is needed to be done is to politely tell your guide about your movement to the streets or market and you won’t be in need of their assistance for the rest of the day. It should be kept into consideration that your guide Is needed when traveling outside the street of Lhasa. Your guide would have no be in the same vehicle with you but not necessarily be by your side for the whole of 24 hours daily.
The cost of hiring tour guides in the Tibet Autonomous region ranging between 250RMB and 500RMB per day. However, the cost is higher if you want to hire a tour guide that communicates in French. The price of tour guides isn’t per traveler but per groups of travelers. Hence, in the region of Amdo and Kham of the Tibetan Plateau, the prices of guides are higher ranging from 400RMB to 600RMB each day.
3. The Cost of Vehicles: All travelers and backpackers are subjected to getting a private vehicle during tours in Tibet Autonomous Permit. The only exception attached is if you are planning to stay throughout in the city if Lhasa. If your tour is restricted to Lhasa only, you can make use of public buses and local taxis. In addition, you’ll be mandated to making use of private vehicles outside the city of Lhasa. In the ancient times, the majority of vehicles used for tours in Tibet Autonomous regions are Land Cruisers manufactured by the Toyota Company. Many travel agencies in the present day are considering fuel-efficient vans as it would reduce the cost of maintenance. The present conditions of virtually all both major and minor roads in Tibet are improved drastically. For instance, the road that connects Mt. Kailash and the Nepal border is paved and this also helps in reducing the driving time to the barest time of half compared to the initial driving time.
The largest expenditure for all travelers taking a tour to Tibet is the cost of a vehicle and the driver. In Tibet, vehicles are changed daily on the basis of the destination and the duration of the trip a traveler is planning to undertake. The costs of vehicle and driver rates are usually per vehicle and not per individual traveler. The rates of vehicles in Tibet are slightly lower during the low season compared to the busy atmosphere of the summer season. Here are some of the estimates of hiring a vehicle and a driver for some of the destinations in Tibet.
- Lhasa to Nam Tso Lake cost about 3000RMB to 4000RMB
- Lhasa to Yamdrok Lake to Shigatse to Sakya to Everest Base Camp to Lhasa cost about 10,000RMB to 14,000RMB.
- Lhasa to Shigatse to Saga to Lake Manasarovar to Mt. Kailash trek to Lhasa cost about 22,000RMB to 25,000RMB
- Lhasa to Shigatse to Saga to Manasarovar to Kailash trek to the Guge Kingdom to Ali to Lhasa cost about 25,000RMB to 28,000RMB.
It should note that the costs stated above are just estimates. The prices may change drastically in high seasons from the month of June to October. Moreover, the estimates above are just for the hiring a vehicle and the driver and it also depends on the duration of a particular tourist in Tibet.
4. Accommodation (Hotels or Guest Houses): All travelers are exposed to wide range of hotels and guest houses across the whole of the city of Tibet. The town of Lhasa is even blessed with a gigantic internationally rated 5 Star hotel. There are also dorm-style rooms and rooms without an attached bathroom for budget travelers in which the prices range from 60RMB to 100RMB per traveler. In Tibet, you can also get a middle range hotel or guest houses with an attached bathroom for the range of 250RMB to 450RMB per traveler. The prices of high-end hotels are expensive and they range between 600RMB and upwards.
Most of the hotels and guest houses do not have a website for online bookings but it is recommended that the travel agency will definitely finalize the bookings on your behalf.
5. Entrance fees: All temples, mountains, lakes, and monasteries in Tibet have some sorts of entrance fees charged per traveler. The average payment for a traveler extending a visit to the major sites along the way from Lhasa to the Mt Everest Base Camp is about 200USD and It is charged per individual tourist. The book Lonely Planet Tibet is a guidebook that has all the entrance fees for virtually all the popular destinations in Tibet. You can get a copy from the particular travel agency you have chosen to work with.
6. Additional fees: There are some other fees leveled against tourists In Tibet and this comes mostly from the travel agencies. The travel agencies will also fix a particular price for arranging all of the details such as the vehicles, drivers and tour guides for your journey to come along with enticing experiences.
7. Travel Agency to Use: It is a known fact that there are countless numbers of travel agencies out there offering tour services to Tibet. I’ll recommend using a Tibetan owned agency that is located and operates in Lhasa or Xining rather any other travel agency based in some other places like Beijing. It is important to verify all that is included when getting a traveling quote or price estimates by any agency. Often times, there are travel agencies that will propose lower price estimates than others but their prices do not include the basic necessities for a traveler like the hotels, the entrance fees, train ticket to Lhasa and some other fees. Most travel agencies are of the habit if not giving a complete breakdown of prices of your tour and that would afford you another extra cost when you finally get to those destinations. However, it is considered important when booking a tour with travel agencies to Tibet to clarify what is included and what isn’t included in the price. This will afford you wonderful and stress-free experiences in your journey.
There you have it! The factors associated with the cost of traveling to Tibet.