VISITING TIBET: Travel Guide
Chinese Name: 西藏 (xī zàng)
Admin. Type: Autonomous Region
Average Altitude: Over 4,000 meters (13,123 feet)
Location: 26°50' to 36°53' N, 78°25' to 99°06' E
Area: 1,228,400 km² (474,288 mi²)
Population (2010): 3,002,166
Climate: Tibet weather is cool in summer, but excruciatingly cold in winter. In Lhasa, the relatively humane city of the region, although the temperature may exceed 29 degrees C (84 degrees F) in summer, it can also plummet to minus 16 degrees C (3 degrees F) in winter! Solar radiation is extremely strong. The period from April to October is the best time to visit Tibet, avoiding the coldest months from December to February.
In northern Tibet, the climate is not favorable with the average temperature is sub zero and winter lasts from October through May or June. July and August are the best time to visit the area, enjoying warm temperatures, intense sunshine, beautiful scenery, and festive events.
Tibet Climate In eastern Tibet, May, June, and September are the height of the tourism season. In winter, roads are all blocked by heavy snow. Landslides are frequent occurrences, making travel difficult.
Although southern Tibet is balmy during May through October, most rainfall also comes during this season between June and September. Heavy rains during the nights block roads and make travel difficult. However, during this season, the scenery is at its best and there are also great festive events held. Hence, it is the preferred time to visit Lhasa, Shigatse, and Nyingchi. From November through May, strong winds are common occurrences.
Location: Tibet is the southwest frontier of China, the larger southern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is directly south of Xinjiang and Qinghai, west of Sichuan, northwest of Yunnan in China; and borders Burma, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and the disputed area of Jammu and Kashmir on the south and west.
Language and Culture: Most young and middle-aged people have command of two languages, their own language, and Mandarin. The people living in this vast land are mainly Tibetan, an ethnic group with bold and uninhibited characteristics. Most live a pastoral lifestyle, earning a living by raising yaks, farming, as well as by making crafts. Some cultural highlights include the thangka, a style of Buddhist painting on cotton or silk applique, herb medicine, and local operas. The local people celebrate various festivals, such as Tibetan New Year, the Shoton Festival, the Monlam Prayer Festival, the Butter Lamp Festival, and the Saga Dawa Festival. See more about People & Life and Festivals.
Religion: Religion in Tibet, China (estimates as of 2012), Tibetan Buddhism 78.5, Bon 12.5%, Chinese religions and other 8.58y%, Islam 0.4% and Christianity 0.02%.
Money: Renminbi (RMB)
Electricity: Tibet the standard voltage is 220 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in Tibet if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 - 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). You can also consider a combined power plug adapter/voltage converter.
Communications: International mail service is available at the post offices. The Internet is another alternative which is accessible to travelers. Most hotels provide internet service or free WIFI. Restaurants, cafes, and tea houses also have free WIFI. There are dozens of internet cafes in Lhasa.
More Internet accesses
Huiren Internet Cafe: Around the Barkhor, the largest internet cafe in Lhasa with unique furnishings, pictures, and art works hung on walls for sale.
Jisu Internet Cafe: 76 Beijing Zhong Lu, Lhasa, Tel (0891)6832001
Shiye Internet Cafe: 230 Beijing Zhong Lu, Lhasa, Tel (0891)6830672
Qiubite Internter Cafe: Z310 Changqing Jie, Chamdo, Tel 13908956573
Accommodation: The accommodation in Tibet is improving, a lot of modern Chinese Hotels brought up in recent years, but the hotel class is lower than that in other parts of China. For example, the 3-star hotel in Tibet is around the same as the 2-star class in other cities. most of the hotels do not have a heating system in winter,80% of hotels close in winter for low travel season, the hot water supply in winter is quite poor. In Lhasa and Shigatse, the accommodation ranges from the guesthouse to the 4 or 5-star class hotels.
In Gyantse, Tsedang, and Ningtri, the accommodation ranges from the guesthouse to the 3-star class hotels.
In Tingri, Zhangmu, and Nagchu, the accommodation ranges from the guesthouse to the 2-star class hotels, actually they are just simple hotels with very basic facilities
In remote places, there are only guesthouses, no heating, and no shower.
Food: Tibet has food habits different depending on the region. The regular Nepali meals are Tsampa and Yoghurt, which is consumed daily. Traditional Tibetan food consists mainly barley, meat, and dairy products. Vegetables are scarce in the high altitude. Dried beef and the mutton stripe is also popular local snack. Other dishes include Momo (Tibetan dumplings), Thenthuk (Tibetan noodles) and yak tongue.
Tibet food has been influenced by Chinese food, mostly Sichuan cuisine. However, the locals seldom eat fish due to their religion and custom. Restaurants serving Tibetan food, Chinese food, and even western food mushroom in the streets to accommodate visitors. Lhasa Hotel (former Holiday Inn)'s restaurant provides Chinese dishes, Indian dishes, Nepalese dishes and western dishes. Kailash, Tashi, Snowlands, Dunya (former Crazy Yak) and Makye Ame are popular among visitors also in Lhasa. Veggies may still have little choice in short seasons, however.
Tibetans like drinking tea, salted butter tea, and sweet milk tea. The barley beer called Chang in Tibetan also popular. The beer is mild, slightly sweet and sour and contains little alcohol. The beverage is worth trying. Soft drinks and beer are also available in Lhasa.
Entering to Tibet:
By Land: In recent years, the local transportation has improved drastically, particularly so with the completion of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. Tickets are very hard to buy especially in peak season from May to October. Train trips from other cities are not recommended as it is quite a long journey (around 40 hours).
Another way is to enter Tibet from Nepal. To take this trip, you need to obtain a China visa and Tibet permit in Nepal. China Highlights can help our customers to obtain a China visa and Tibet permit in Nepal.
By Air: There are direct flights from China’s major cities to Lhasa, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Chongqing. However, the most frequent and reliable flights to Tibet are from Chengdu.
Visa Information: There are overall four documents that may be required for foreign tourists to travel freely in Tibet. Chinese visa and passport — You can apply for these in your country. Tibet Entry Permit — It is a must for foreigners entering Tibet. Aliens' Travel Permit — It is required to travel to most areas outside Lhasa.
Tibet Travel Permit: A travel permit is required for every foreign visitor. The only way to obtain a permit is to book a tour package with an authorized travel agency in China, which can help apply for the Travel Permit through the local tourism bureau. No agency can provide "permit-only" service, and overseas tourists must book their tours with a private vehicle, driver and tour guide. Citizens of all nationalities can apply for the permit.
Travel Restrictions: It is extremely difficult for non-Chinese citizens to travel independently in Tibet. There are various restrictions on foreign tourists. All foreign visitors are required to join an organized tour operated by authorized travel agencies. Diplomats, journalists, and government officials are not allowed to enter alone or with a tour group. There are also many areas closed to foreign travelers, like the areas near China’s border and military bases.
When to Go: From May to October is the best time to travel in Tibet, when the weather is not very cold, averaging above 10°C. This is naturally the busiest travel time in Tibet when people come for the warmer weather and higher oxygen content.
July and August are the rainy seasons in Tibet, though, apart from in the southeast, there is still not a lot of rain.
The best months for camping are May and September when it hardly rains at all.
If you plan to travel to Mt. Everest, travel in April, May, September, or October, when you are more likely to see the peak clearly. It is more likely to be hidden behind thick clouds the rest of the year.
Travelers who are interested in Tibetan festivals are recommended to visit Tibet in August when the Shoton Festival, Nagqu Horse Racing Festival, and Ganden Thangka Festival are held. But expect to see huge crowds during the festivals.
Late September to October is the best time to see autumnal colors in Tibet.