Tibet General Information

(Updated January 2024)

General Information:

Tibet, the ‘roof of the world’, lies 16,500ft above sea level and is undoubtedly one of the most interesting, mysterious, and enchanting places on earth. Besides being the highest plateau in the world; its transformation from a warring and aggressive to a peaceful, pious and gentle people by the influence of Buddhism, is quite amazing. Tibet remained isolated until the second half of the 20th century and, today, its diverse climatic and geographical conditions strongly attract people of all types from historians, adventurers, pilgrims and so on.

Also, the overland journey, through high winding roads and passes, between Kathmandu and Lhasa is an incredible experience where you get to see the world’s highest plateau and the Himalayan Ranges effortlessly weave into each other. 

A trip to Tibet is both an adventure and a spiritual journey for travelers.

Since, Tibet was only opened to tourism during the mid-eighties travelers will have access to decent (not luxury) accommodation and other services en-route. Also, travelers with heart, respiratory or any high-altitude related sickness must consult a doctor before undertaking the Tibet journey.

Hotels En-Route:
Budget hotels en-route are very basic provide dormitories accommodation and common toilets. Most of the hotel staff does not speak English. However, there are many deluxe category hotel of international standard in Lhasa and other cities en-route.

Taking photographs is prohibited in sensitive areas like in Check Posts/Army Areas. There is an extra charge if you wish to take photographs inside Monasteries. Sometimes, monasteries charge extra for each different section of the same monastery. If you want to take a photograph of an individual please take permission first or ask your Guide.

Overland Transport: We only use van, mini bus, coaster and deluxe coaches as necessary. All vehicles are air-conditioned. Driver usually does not speak English but they are very experienced and friendly. Please do feel free to ask to stop for toilet, short break if you are tired of driving. There are speed limits and it is strictly monitored so driver may stop vehicle before check point to adjust the speed limit.

Flight:  Air China and Sichuan air are the only airline that operates between Kathmandu – Lhasa – Chengdu and vice versa. This is the only airline in the world that flies over the Mt. Everest. Make sure your take a left hand seat while flying to Lhasa and vice versa to view the majestic Himalayas including Everest and other highest mountain on Earth.

Best way to explore Tibet is via overland driving through highest plateau, lakes, and passes. Thank to well build road condition along the friendship highway from Lhasa to Nepal border which has made possible to enjoy overland drive and smooth drive however, driving can still be tiring so it is very important to tell the driver to stop occasionally to take break for photo or toilet beside proper stop for lunch.

Road Condition & Connectivity:
Tibet is rapidly developing into a well connected destination. All major cities are well connected by proper road from east to west and north to south. Now, you can even drive half way to Mt. Kailash. There is full fledge airport in Ali nearby Mt Kailash operates daily flight from Lhasa. Government is planning to build more airports in Tibet for better connectivity.

The road from Kathmandu to China border is quite narrow and rough.  The driving in Central Tibet is much more comfortable since roads from the border to Lhasa are fully black topped. The landscapes while driving are very interesting with many twists and turns, high passes and views of snow capped mountains including Mt. Everest and other highest mountain over 8000m. The landscape change from green forest (Nepal) to barren Tibetan plateau or vice versa.

Lhasa is connected with Qinghai Railway network with major cities of China. This has already connected Beijing – Lhasa – Shigatse and soon will be extended further towards the Nepal Border. Train enters Lhasa through Golmud north of Lhasa, Xining is the nearest Chinese city connected with Lhasa. Train is pressurized and fully air-condition. There are Soft sleeper (4 person cabin) and hard sleeper (common cabin) 3 story 6 beds.

Toilet En-Route:
Cleanliness and hygiene is an issue in Tibet specially during traveling. Toilet en-route Zhangmu/ Kyirong to Lhasa during drive is a problem for ladies. You will require going to toilet often due to required consumption of water.  During long drive it is best to use an open air toilet rather than using common toilet. Guide will stop the vehicle in suitable non inhabited area. We also suggest to use clean toilet wherever is possible while stopping for a meal or tea break during long drive.

Tibetan and Chinese are highly spoken in Tibet Autonomous region. Most of the people speak Tibetan Language. Local people rarely speak English. Our entire Guide speaks good English and some international 5 Star hotel staff speaks English. But most of the people working in local hotels, restaurant you encounter do not speak English. It`s always handy to learn few important local words or sentences or carry a phrase book.

Traditional meal of Tibetan is Tsampa (roasted Barley flour) and butter tea. There are not so many choices of restaurant in small towns. However, there are many Tibetan, Chinese and continental restaurants in big cities such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Tsedang. Mostly you get yak meat, sheep meat sometime pork.

Some recommended restaurants:
Lhasa: Kyichu restaurant, Snow Land restaurant, Lhasa Kitchen, Third Eye, Tashi Restaurant, Crazy Yak, Duniya, Namaste Restaurant.

Bars: 52beer bar, Last Bus Bar

Shigatse: Mandala Restaurant, Tashi restaurant

Entertainment in Lhasa: There are discotheques, nightclubs, bars, karaoke, well organized spa facilities, Nangla (cultural show) with traditional music. 

Exchange Rate, ATM and Credit Card: 
The exchange rate of - approx. US$1 = Yuan 6. Banks in Tibet/China are closed on Saturday and Sunday. Regarding the budget for your tour, it is entirely up to you how much you want to spend with shopping etc. However, we advise you to carry at least US$150 per person for a week. Major currencies such as US Dollar, Euro, UK sterling can be exchanged at the Bank of China branches in Kyirong / Zhangmu, Shigatse and Lhasa. There are ATM Machines in Lhasa and Shigatse. Big stores, restaurants and hotels accept major credit cards.

While entering Tibet by overland through Nepal border, you can change with local moneychanger in Kyirong / Zhangmu but consult with your guide for reliability of the money changer in order to avoid any counterfeit notes.

Communication from Tibet:
Nowadays there are WiFi facilities in most of the hotels and restaurants in major cities and you can make international calls from most of the hotels. Gmail, face book do not work in Tibet unless you wish to download VPN. http://startuplivingchina.com/ best-vpn-for-china/.   If you are carrying your phone please be in touch with your family or travel agency via watsap or wichat or normal text. Do not hesitate to use guide cell no if there is any emergency.

Access to Electricity for charging devise:
Except remote area trekking, there are no problem of charging your electric devise but it is best to carry an international adapter.

Acclimatization & Altitude Sickness:
Due to the very high altitude - over 12,000 ft, acclimatization is very important. You may be likely to experience some of the minor symptoms and discomfort of altitude sickness (headaches, mild nauseas, loss of appetite) until your body adjusts to the elevation.  This can take from a few hours to a couple of days depending on the individual. Do not exert yourself and drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquids. It is very important to drink at least 4-5 liters of liquids daily to avoid any altitude sickness. This is probably the best remedy for AMS.

Do not forget - the common effects of altitude such as:

You may feel breathlessness on exertion; some headache is treatable by aspirin.
May be some difficulty sleeping and a little loss of appetite.
You might also wake up suddenly at night trying to catch your breath. Do not panic! Your metabolism has simply slowed down.
You may also experience an exaggerated thumping headache, which will not go away, breathless even at rest, extreme nausea.
The lack of oxygen in the system will first affect either the brain (HACE - Height Altitude Cerebral Edema) causing loss of physical and mental coordination OR the lungs (HAPE - Height Altitude Pulmonary Edema), coughing up persistent sputum or both.
Do not drink any alcohol specially. It seriously impairs the ability to acclimatize, and confuses the symptoms of AMS.

The following medication has been found to be helpful:            

Diamox the common name for Acetazolamide originally developed as a diuretic, but pragmatically found to aid acclimatization available in Kathmandu pharmacies. Some people feel it is ‘cheating’, but as trekking at altitude is not a competition and you are here to enjoy it to altitude, not just mask the symptoms. It will make you pee more as intended, and possibly give you a tingly feeling in your fingers, but is understood to have no more serious side effects. Taking it is entirely down to personal choice, but if you do decide to use it as a preventative we have found that a half a 250 mg tablet works just as well as a whole one and minimizes the side effects. There is an herbal medicine for acclimatization easily available in Lhasa called Plato.

Oxygen Cylinder:
We provide reserve oxygen cylinder in our private tours. However, we do not recommend you to use it your Guide advise it.

Political Situation:
The political situation in Tibet is highly sensitive. You would be well advised not to discuss, take or talk anything of political with the local people that may aggravate the situation. Confine yourself to the interests of the tour.

Single Supplement:
Please note that all tours are organized on twin sharing basis. If you want to stay in a single room than you will be required to pay single supplement, and you must inform us before the start of the tour so as to enable us to book the room in advance, otherwise it will be difficult to get rooms.

All BATE Guides are Tibetan and they are fully registered with Guide license. Without License it is strictly illegal to guide and can be heavily fined. Role of Guide is considered the most important factor to ensure quality services. Tourism is still considered new to Tibet compare to many Asian countries, so Guide in Tibet do not get enough exposure, Tibetan Guides have limited English and you may not expect a fluent explanation about culture and religion or any other academic topics. However, Guide will try to do best to their capacity. Your frequent questioning will encourage him/her to explain more in details. It`s important to discuss program with your Guide for any confusion and issues so everything is clear and in order. BATE wish to address and resolve any problem issues immediately on the spot.

Immigration Formalities: 
Zhangmu Immigration or the Kyirong immigration is the main immigration point while entering Tibet from Nepal by overland. Gongkar airport is the main immigration where you have to go through the formalities while flying into Tibet.

For those entering Tibet via Kathmandu gateway city will have to apply Tibet Visa in Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. Embassy issue paper visa also called the group visa. Embassy issue two copy of original visa to be submitted each in immigration while entering Tibet. You must carry this document while travelling in Tibet or during sightseeing to show authority if required.

Use local resources:
Basanta Tibet always gives priority to local resource as possible and encourage traveler to do same. Do not hesitate to ask your guide to take you to local restaurant to try out local meal with local people, try noodle yak thukpa, butter tea, Swaylabhu (fermented radish) pickle and visit local market. Buy gift from local and stay in locally owned hotels as long as it’s possible.

It is customary to give approx. US$15 per group per day for Guide and US$10 per group per day for Driver per trip (suggested for one week trip). It is not compulsory to tip. But, you can tip only if you believe staff have done remarkably good job putting extra effort to make your trip enjoyable. It is always good to tip individually to each crew member, if possible put tips money in an envelope to show respect.

Cold Season (September – March)          

Thermal underwear, Down Jacket, Warm Trousers and sweaters, Woolen Shirts full sleeves.
Hat (ear cover), Gloves water proof, Woolen socks

Warm season (April – August)

Comfortable trousers, T-shirt, Windproof jacket, Fleece jacket, Scarf

Normal checklist:
Casual wear and comfortable walking shoes, Sleeping bag (if you are trekking or using guest houses)
Bring all your films, Cosmetics, Personal toilet items that you will need from home, Wind breaker
Sun hat, Food snacks along way (power bars), Water Bottle, Sunglass, Swiss knife, Sun Cream
Toilet paper, Flash light batteries, Day Bag, camera and extra memory cards, Mask : roads can be dusty sometimes
Rain Jacket, Personal medical kit,
Alto meter
Oxy meter.

Resolving issue:
We have a policy to resolve any issue or discomfort immediately on the spot, we kindly request you to communicate with our guide or to your Travel Agency if there are any issues, and so we can resolve it as soon as possible to ensure you continue enjoy your holiday.

Do's and Don'ts:

Wear proper dress code during visit holy area, remove your hat, and do not interrupt prayer.
Do not point with your finger to any holy object.
No antique are allowed to take from Tibet.
China time is 8 hours ahead of GMT.
Always keep copy of your visa or permit with yourself.
Do not take photograph without asking.
Do not talk about any sensitive issues (especially politics).
Important Tibetan words are Tashi Delek which means “greetings”, Thucheche means “thank you”.
Always use both hand while taking or giving anything.
Do not touches, walk over, or sit on any religious texts, sacred objects (including prayer flags).
Do not smoke in monasteries. Do not touch any religious object, do not climb or sit on stupa or statue.
In addition, when walking around the monastery, you should always walk in a clockwise direction (with the exception of Bon temples).
While in Tibet, you should follow local dietary restrictions. Tibetan people do not eat horse, dog, or donkey, as well as fish (in some areas). 
It is not polite to clap your palms and spit behind the people here in Tibet.
Tibetan people stretch out their tongue to say hello to you. Also it is a courtesy to place their palms on their chest/breast.
It is a gesture of goodwill to leave a small donation to the monastery where you are welcomed by the Monks with tea and blessings.
Always Eagles are sacred birds in the eyes of the Tibetan people. Do not disturb them, drive them away or injure them. 
You should also not disturb sheep or cows decorated with red, green or yellow cloth.
It is advisable to offer ‘Khada’ (silk scarf ) to anyone you meet for the first time
Note: We provide Khada to offer your crew member during first meet.

It is advisable to offer Prayer flag or Lungta sacred script (string of prayer flag) in high passes, temple for good fortune or long life.
Note: We will offer you each prayers flag before you leave for Tibet as a gift.

Best time to visit Tibet:
April to November are the best time to visit Tibet however, winter season from December to March are festivity season for pilgrimage when massive population of Tibet from every corners of Tibetan plateau travels to Lhasa both for holiday and pilgrimage. Tourist will witness Tibetan people from various regions of Tibet in their colorful local attire.

Please remember Tibet was opened to tourist only in mid-eighties, it is a high altitude destination with harsh climatic condition. Tibet is a sacred land considered by many religions around the world. People are friendly and hospitable and they have come a long to serve tourist despite proper training and other experiences of tourism.  To get the best out the experience, we encourage you to engage with both the people and the place with respect and an open-mind. Your guide will further help you with anything throughout the journey. 

Have a great time!