1 / How to get in Tibet and What are exactly Tibet Travel Permits (TTP)?
All Tibet travel permits (TTP) are issued at the Tibet Travel Bureau in Lhasa. Foreigners can not directly obtain a travel permit through this office. Only China based travel agencies registered with the Central Tourism Bureau of China can obtain these permits.
In order for a permit to be issued, you must book a tour. We will work with you to establish a finalized itinerary to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). Once your itinerary is set and your tour with us is booked, we will obtain the necessary permits for you.
We offer a number of existing Lhasa Tibet tours and surrounding Tibetan areas that are popular with travellers. Alternatively, we are happy to work with you to create a unique itinerary specifically tailored to your wishes.
Who is eligible for a TTP (Tibet travel permit) to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR)?
If you already have a L (tourist) visa, F (visitor) visa, or Z (Business) visa allowing your travel or stay in China, we can process the TTP immediately for you. For those who are coming to China as tourists, once you obtain a tourist visa, we can start to process your TTP paperwork prior to your arrival. Additionally, those with X (Students), F, and Z visas are required to provide proof of study or work status in China. A stamped letter from your employer or school stating your position as a staff member, business agent, or student is required.
We cannot process a TTP for:
Anyone (in official categories) involved in organizations or activities that can be deemed politically sensitive, illegal in China, or disrupting harmony between the various ethnic groups residing in Tibet.
What we need from you
We will need a color scan of your passport and current Chinese visa. Your Chinese visa must be valid throughout the duration of your stay in Tibet.
Please keep in mind the permit processing time takes 10-12 working days since year 2008. For the west part of TAR (including Mt. Kailash), it might take approximately 20 days.
Those who take a overland journey or a flight to Lhasa will need to bring the original TTP with you for entrance. Those who take train to Lhasa will need to make three photocopies of your TTP. One copy will be used in order to buy your train tickets. The second copy is given to the police officers of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) to get on the train to Lhasa, and finally, you will need to show the third copy to the police officers from the Lhasa PSB.
Please make a note of the type of visa you are currently holding, and provide us with the following additional information:
Tourist (L) visa holders do not need to provide any extra documentation.
Business (Z) visas holders are required to send a copy of their work permit, and an official letter from their company certifying their status within that company.
Visitor (F) visa holders must also provide a letter from their company or school certifying their status within that company or school.
Student (X) visa holders are required to provide proof of enrollment at their place of study. A letter including the official school stamp is needed.
Important information regarding train tickets
The Qinghai – Tibet railway has become a very popular means of transportation since it’s completion in year 2006. During the tourist season starting in May and ending in late October, train tickets are difficult to obtain and the high demand for the tickets has brought an inflation of the ticket prices. We make sure to obtain tickets for our customers at the cheapest price possible. However, greater demand during the tourist season means that we are at times only able to obtain tickets at a higher price. Again, you will need to show your TTP copy, no matter the tickets are bought from the tickets office or from secondary sources.
No time to wait for TTP, now what?
In case your schedule does not allow you the time to wait for obtaining a TTP for TAR, you can explore the regions of Amdo and Kham Tibet, where you do not need to get any permit for travelling. These areas are part of the Tibetan Plateau, and are culturally Tibetan. They are also less travelled and offer very unique experiences. You can pick one of our tours, or email us, we will get back to you within shortest time with detailed answers.
2 /What is Amdo and Kham? Are they part of Tibet?
In a simple and generalized way, Tibet belongs to three divisions along the cultural and linguistic line: Utsang (the central), Kham (the eastern and southern), and Amdo (the northern and eastern) regions of the Plateau. Utsang is equivalent to much of today's Tibet Autonomous Region and the area required for special entry permit (Tibet permit), while the other two regions falling under the jurisdiction of provinces, don't require any entry permit. All three regions share similar religious affiliations with some areas concentrate on specific traditions / sects / lineages.
Kham region covers an immense territory of diverse terrains, stretches from the center to the eastern and the south of the Tibet plateau. It includes the Nakchu (Naqu) and Chamdo (Changdu) of TAR, Yushul (Yushu) prefecture of Qinghai province, Karze (Ganzi) prefecture of Sichuan province, and Dechin (Diqin) prefecture of Yunnan province. The journey to Kham will take you to explore the high mountain ranches surrounded by the snow-capped mountains, rocks and cliffs, the log houses, fields and forestry of deep gorges.
Amdo refers to the majority land of Qinghai province, Huare (Tianzhu) county and Ganlho (Gannan) prefecture of Gansu province, Ngawa (Aba) prefecture of Sichuan province. The land features the open pastureland of nomads, highland hills, fields and valleys, canyons and Gobi desert, and (yes) snow-capped mountains.
Do Kham therefore refers to the vast expanse outside of Tibet Autonomous Region, the Tibetan inhabited land in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, which is half of the plateau. You'll find that we have provided more itineraries in this region, as it's requires no permit of entry (although some areas are restricted for foreign visitors). It is less known to the world, therefore less traveled. Many of our itineraries are overland crossing counties, prefectures and provinces due to the nature that one historical land might fall into different administrative divisions.
03/ Is it possible to travel on your own in Tibet?
If your destination is within TAR, the regulation is that you travel through an agency and accompanied by a guide. Outside of TAR, there's no such restriction, so technically you can travel on your own, except for a few restricted areas. Please consult beforehand for such areas.
04/ Is there any trek i can do without going through any local travel agency?
The entry and travel restrictions apply as the last question. Yes, you can trek in areas outside of TAR on your own. If needed, we'd be happy to provide any camping gears for rent.
05/ How to prevent altitude sickness?
The Tibetan Plateau has an average elevation of 3600m. (12000ft.) It is important to know what to expect, and what precautions you should take when traveling at these elevations. Some things you can do to help prevent altitude sickness are: stay well hydrated, decrease salt intake, do not be too physically active, eat high carbohydrate and low fat meals, reduce alcohol and caffeine intake.
Other factors at high altitude include intense sun exposure and colder temperatures. Make sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. In Tibet the temperatures can change by the hour. It is important to dress in layers. Have a wind proof and water proof outer shell, and insulate inside with good base layers and mid layers. In the fall, winter, and spring a down coat is a good option for easily staying warm.