How to plan a trip to Tibet in 5 easy steps

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Photo of How to plan a trip to Tibet in 5 easy steps by Monty Bajaj

As a foreigner, planning a trip to Tibet can be discouraging considering the planning involved, the permits required and a lot of waiting so patience is a virtue. It takes a great deal of motivation, determination to research and spend many hours reading to come up with a list of places to visit and things to do. Remember a foreigner cannot travel Tibet by oneself. A full time guide is necessary, tour must be booked, private transport must be arranged and permits must be obtained even before arriving in Tibet. So to simplify things here are 5 steps to follow when planning a trip to Tibet.

STEP 1: Understand where you want to go

Tibet is a big country. It is best to stick to one of the top 3-4 known itineraries. Get a travel book like Lonely Planet or read online on top places to visit in Tibet. An easy way would be to look at few tour operators standard itineraries from 3-4 days to 15-20 days. Following places in Tibet top the list:

  1. Lhasa (and its various Monasteries)
  2. Yamdrok Lake
  3. Namtso Lake
  4. Shigatse
  5. Everest Base Camp
  6. Mount Kailash

STEP 2: Find and finalize a Tour Company

My best advice is go to TripAdvisor and read reviews to select one of the top tour operators where dates and budget agree with you. Most of the companies offer standard itineraries. It is worthwhile to note that most of the tour companies are mere agencies and you may end up booking with one agency however going with another company. Our group, booked this particular tour through different agencies but it was CITS who organised the trip. Once you have decided on a tour company you can confirm via email or phone to finalize the dates and cost of the trip. The tour companies will provide clear instructions for the next steps.

STEP 3: Get your Tourist Visa for China

Before you spend a single penny with any Tour Operators it is important to apply and receive a Chinese Tourist Visa from your local Chinese Embassy. An important thing to note while applying for the tourist visa is NOT to mention in your application that you will be visiting Tibet. The likelihood is that your visa application will get rejected. Make a sample itinerary of places in China and get a visa for the duration. Generally 30 day visa would be given.

STEP 4: Book Tickets & Pay Advance 

Once your Chinese Visa is at hand, book you air/rail tickets online or through a travel agent. I strongly recommend the Qinghai-Tibetan Railway journey at least one way. Send in the details to the tour company you have already selected at least 20-25 days before your trip start date. At this stage the tour agency will demand advance (around 10-20%) which you can pay by various electronic means. Your trip is booked.

STEP 5: Receive your Tibet Travel Permit (TTP)

Photo of How to plan a trip to Tibet in 5 easy steps 1/2 by Monty Bajaj

Sample Tibet Travel Permit (TTP)

You will have to wait for a  week or so before your tour company will send you your Tibet Travel Permit (TTP). TTP is required for you to board a flight or train to (Lhasa) Tibet. TTP is a must but depending on where you are going in Tibet, Alien’s Travel Permit (ATP) or Military Permit may be required.

Photo of How to plan a trip to Tibet in 5 easy steps 2/2 by Monty Bajaj

GO: Pack your bags and necessities and off you go

Pack your bags, get warm clothes, buy altitude sickness tablets and board your inbound train/flight. The roof of the world awaits you.

Disclaimer – Situation in Tibet changes almost every year. So please keep an eye on following links to know the latest:

Useful Links:

Explore Tibet website – Permits News 
News on Tibet Travel Permit
FAQ on Tibet Travel Permit 

This travelogue was first published on PlanetMnM.com.

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