The Tibetan Autonomous Region is a place often dreamed of for years in advance of a visit. Visitors don’t always realize the restrictions available to foreign travelers about where they can and cannot travel within the TAR. Here are some guides to help in planning a trip around the TAR traveling as an independent traveler on public transportation and where you will need to hire a car and driver. Permit status can change at any time.
Travelers can follow five steps to prepare for a journey to Tibet:
Step one: Design an itinerary. It is not difficult to design the itinerary at all because one will easily find classic tour guides book on internet. Tibet is a huge land and roughly divided into five tourist areas, Lhasa, Eastern Tibet, Western Tibet, Northern Tibet and Yalong Valley.(according to Lonely Planet ) .Travelers need to consider where to go and how long to travel. Anyway, a trip to Tibet generally takes 7 to 20 days.
Step two: Choose a reliable travel agency. Most travelers know that all foreigners traveling to Tibet must be part of an organized tour, and that a travel agency is a must. Although there are dozens of travel agencies offering Tibet tour services, only a few, like Great Tibet Tour, Tibet Travel CITS, Wind Horse Tours, Friend Ship Nepal [Ola Viajes] are able to provide high-quality services and authentic local experience at reasonable price.
Step three: Apply for a Chinese Visa and Tibet Permits. One can apply for a Chinese visa from a Chinese Embassy easily. However, travelers should take note that Tibet is a politically sensitive place. Besides a Chinese visa, travelers need to apply for two more documents, Tibet Entry Permit issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau (aka Tibet visa among westerners) and Alien's Travel Permit issued by Foreign Affairs Division of the local Public Security Bureau.
Step four: Think about the [way to get to Tibet]. Currently, foreign travelers can fly or take a train to Tibet from mainland China or fly to Lhasa from Kathmandu. Getting to Tibet by train is very popular among both domestic and overseas travelers because the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is known as the world’s highest and the most scenic railway in China. But whichever way a traveler chooses depends on his interest, budget and the length of the travel.
Step five: Prepare luggage. As Tibet is a remote place with high altitude and harsh climate, it is highly recommended to double check your luggage before the trip. Do not forget your travel documents, warm clothes, sunglasses, sunhat, skin care products, common medicine and other necessities.
(see also Overland to Tibet)
Lhasa by Air (6 Days)
A tour of the Lhasa region. Having arrived suddenly at a high altitude, travelers are very strongly recommended to take it easy for the first two days in order to acclimatize. The flight from Chengdu to Lhasa is the shortest among those available from Chinese cities. Alien Travel Permits are not required for Lhasa.
Day 1 – Chengdu/Kunming (By Air) – Lhasa (PM: Barkhor) Day 2 – Lhasa (Jokhang Temple, Norbulingka) Day 3 – Lhasa (Potala Palace) Day 4 – Lhasa (Drepung and Sera Monasteries) Day 5 – Lhasa (Day trip to Ganden Monastery) Day 6 – Lhasa (By Air) – Chengdu/Kunming (or Kathmandu, Nepal)
Tibetan Areas in Qinghai and Gansu along with Tibet Overland (11 days)
Day 1 – Lanzhou, Gansu (By Bus) - Xiahe Day 2 – Xiahe (Labrang Monastery) Day 3 – Xiahe (By Bus) – Tongren, Qinghai (Rongbo Monastery) Day 4 – Tongren (By Bus) - Xining Day 5 – Xining – Ta’er Monastery (Day Trip) (Arrange train tickets before leaving Xining in the morning) Day 6 – 8 – Trip to Qinghai Hu Day 9 – Xining City Sightseeing Day 10 – Xining (By Train) - Lhasa Day 11 – Arrival at Lhasa
Excursions around Lhasa (7 Days)
Day 1 – Lhasa (By Bus) - Xigatse Day 2 – Xigatse (Tashilhunpo Monastery) (Arrange alien travel permits in the morning) Day 3 – Xigatse – Sakya (Sakya North Monastery) Day 4 – Sakya (AM: Sakya South Monastery) – (PM: By Bus) - Xigatse Day 5 – Xigatse (By Bus) - Gyantse Day 6 – Gyantse (Pelkhor Choede) Day 7 – Gyantse (By Bus) – Shigatse (By Bus) – Lhasa
Excursion into Shannan (8 Days)
Travel to Shannan prefecture, the ancestral home of the Tibetan Royal Family, and the location of Samye Monastery, Tibet's first Buddhist Monastery. Tsethang is an open city, but the rest of the prefecture requires an Alien Travel Permit.
Day 1 – Lhasa (By Bus) – Entrance to Drachi Valley (2-3 Hr Walk) – Mindroling Monastery (Stay) Day 2 – Mindroling Monastery (Walk, Hitch, Boat and Truck) – Samye (Stay) Day 3 – Samye (Samye Monastery) Day 4 – Samye – Chimphu Hermitage (Day Trip) Day 5 – Samye (By Boat, Bus) - Tsethang Day 6 – Tsethang – King’s Tombs at Chongye (Stay) Day 7 – Chongye – Tsethang (Yumbu Lagang, Traduck Temple) Day 8 – Tsethang (By Bus) – Lhasa
From Lhasa to Tsethang area (By Land Cruiser) (3 Days)
Alien Travel Permit required.
Day 1 – Lhasa - Mindroling Monastery - Tsethang Day 2 – Tsethang Area (King’s Tombs, Yumbu Lagang, Traduck Temple) Day 3 – Tsethang (Both Ways by Boat) – Samye – Lhasa
Land Cruiser is the main option on this route since there is no public transportation between Shigatze and Dram, though some travellers have successfully hitch-hiked on this route. Alien Travel Permit required.
Day 1 – Lhasa – Yamdrok Yumtso Lake – Nangartse - Gyantse Day 2 – Gyantse (Pelkhor Choede) Day 3 – Gyantse – Zhalu Monastery - Shigatse Day 4 – Shigatse (Tashilhunpo Monastery) – Sakya Day 5 – Sakya (Sakya South Monastery) - Shelkar Day 6 – Shelkar – Jomolangma (Everest) Base Camp Day 7 – Jomolangma (Everest) Base Camp Day 8 – Jomolangma (Everest) Base Camp – Tingri – Milarepa Monastery – Dram (Border, Land Cruiser terminates here) Day 9 – Dram – Kodari (Nepalese Border) – Kathmandu
From Lhasa to Kongpo (By Land Cruiser) (9 Days)
A scenic tour.
Day 1 – Lhasa – Kongpo Gompa Day 2 – Kongpo Gompa - Basong Tso Lake Day 3 – Basong Tso Lake Day 4 – Basong Tso Lake - Bayi Day 5 – Bayi – Nyingtri – Serhyim La - Menling Day 6 – Menling – Lhopa village - Nang Dzong Day 7 – Nang Dzong - Tsethang Day 8 – Tsethang Area (King’s Tombs, Yumbu Lagang, Traduck Temple) Day 9 – Tsethang (By Bus) – Mindroling Monastery - Lhasa
To Mount Kailash (Kang Rinpoche) and Guge Ruins (By Land Cruiser) (3 Weeks)
The region visited in this tour is only accessible by land cruiser.
Day 1-6 – Lhasa (North Route) – Ali Day 7 – Ali - Toling Day 8 – Toling – Guge Ruins (Day Trip) Day 9 – Toling - Montser Day 10 – Montser – Tirthapuri – Darchen (Mt Kailash) Day 11-15 – Pilgrimage around Mt Kailash Day 16 – Darchen - Lake Manasarover Day 17-22 – Lake Manasarover (South Route) – Lhasa
Tours Not Sanctioned by Government
Some may tour Tibet on a tour that is not sanctioned by the government. These sorts of tours may rely on buses and hitching lifts from trucks. While generally physically safe, this is illegal according to local law and not recommended. If caught by the Public Security Bureau, you may be fined and/or jailed and then requested to leave the area. This may also affect your ability to obtain Chinese travel visas in the future.