Tibet, standing at an average elevation of 16,500ft above sea level, till today, still remains one of the most interesting, mysterious, enchanting, remote and in many of the areas still underdeveloped. 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 very amazing. Its isolation nearly till the second half of the twentieth century; its diverse climatic and geographical conditions strongly attract people of all types from historians, adventurers, pilgrims and so on.
A trip to Tibet is more of an adventurous and spiritual for those who believe Tibet as a Power Place. Due to its high altitude, those travelers with a history of heart, lung or anemic problems should consult their doctor before considering a visit.
Overland travel between Kathmandu and Tibet is an incredible journey where you get to see the world’s highest plateau and the Himalayan Ranges in all its glory before you. The trip becomes more wonderful and amazing as you pass through high winding roads and passes.
It’s most important that visitors should understand that Tibet was only opened to tourism since the mid eighties and you should be ready for a bit of adventure regarding hotel accommodation and other services especially 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, many popular deluxe category hotel of international standard have employed English speaking staffs, many of them are from Nepal. There are several continental restaurant are available in Lhasa.
We use Land Cruiser 4500 (New Model), van, mini bus, coaster and deluxe coaches as necessary. All vehicles have air-conditioned.
Flight: Air China is the only airline fly between Lhasa – Kathmandu, this is the only airline in the world fly over Everest, make sure you take a left hand seat while flying to Lhasa and vice versa to view the majestic Himalayas including Everest.
Taking photographs is prohibited in sensitive areas like in Check Posts/Army Areas. There is 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 ask him or her first, Carry plenty of rolls of films and batteries.
The road from Kathmandu to Kodari (Nepal-China Border) is quite narrow but most of it is tarmac. The driving in central Tibet is much more comfortable since roads from Zhangmmu to Lhasa are fully pitched except in some area between Nyalam and Zhangmmu which is under construction and about to be completed. From Zhangmu to Nyalam it is one of the most mountainous with many twists and turns, you will enjoy breathtaking views including water falls pouring down to the river Bhotekosi. The landscape changes from green forest to barren Tibetan plateau or vice versa.
Toilet en-route Zhangmmu to Lhasa during drive is a problem for ladies, you will require going to toilet often due to required consumption of water, it is best not to use common toilet, we advise using open air toilet which is available. One can go behind the rock or off the road. We suggest asking driver to stop the vehicle for toilet in less populated areas before stopping for a meal in town where clean toilets are not available.
Tibetan and Chinese are highly spoken in Tibet Autonomous region, remote area more majority speaks Tibetan Language however, there are different Tibetan dialoged used.
Traditional meal of Tibetan is Tsampa (roasted Barley flour) and butter tea. There are not so many choices of restaurant in small town however, there are many Tibetan, Chinese and continental restaurant in big cities such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Tsedang. Mostly you get yak meat, sheep meat sometime port. Some recommended restaurants:
Lhasa: Kyichu restart, snow land restaurant, Lhasa kitchen, third eye, Tashi Restaurant, Crazy Yak, Duniya
Bars: 52beer bar, Last Bus Bar
Shigatse: Mandala Restaurant, Tashi restaurant
Entertainment in Lhasa: There are discotheques, nightclubs, brs, karaoke, well organize spa facilities, Nangla (cultural show) with traditional music.
Exchange Rate, ATM and Credit Card
The exchange rate of - approx. US$1 = Yuan 8. 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 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 Zhangmmu but consult with your guide for reliability of the money changer in order to avoid any counterfeit notes.
Communication from Tibet
There are internet centres and private phone booths in Lhasa, Gyantse and Shigatse, it is best to ask your tour guide, it is usually written INTERNET CENTER on their signboards.
Taxi is available, charges Yuan 10 within the city centre. There are three wheeler pushbikes as well for short distances. You will have to make sure you have someone with you who speaks Chinese while taking taxi or any local transport or you must know the Chinese and Tibetan name of the your destination.
Electricity: 220 volt.
Passport Size Photographs
Please make sure that you carry enough passport size photographs; some extras would help in case it is needed.
The agency reserves the right to amend the itinerary at the last minute without prior notice as per the local conditions.
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 on the outward trek. 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, each morning and evening, from the night before the trek through to the start of the descent from the highest point.
We advise you to buy few box of bottle water easily available in cities en-route so you have enough stock always. You must drink to avoid any dehydration and be safe from altitude sickness.
We provide reserve oxygen cylinder in our private tours. There will be minimum charges for using it.
The length of time of drive everyday may vary from 3 hours to 8 hours including lunch, tea break depending upon the condition of the road; you will notice continuous construction of road in many places.
The political situation in Tibet is highly sensitive. You would be well advised not to discuss or talk or take anything of political with the local people that may aggravate the situation. Confine yourself to the interests of the tour.
Lonely Planet Guide book is not allowed inside Tibet. We recommend Foot Print by Dr. Gyurme Dorje.
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. Hotels in Tibet normally do not have triple sharing room.
We always use our own Guides employed by our office. Guiding is considered the most important factor to ensure quality services. Tourism is still consider new to Tibet compare to many Asian countries, so Guides 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.
Zhangmmu Immigration is the main immigration point while entering Tibet from Nepal by overland. Gonggar airport is the main immigration where you have to go through the formalities while flying into Tibet.
It is customary to give US$65 each to Guide and Driver per week per group. It is not compulsory to tip, only if you believe staff have done remarkably good job putting extra effort to make your trip enjoyable.s
Cold Season (September – March)
- Thermal underwear, Down Jacket, Warm Trousers and sweaters, Woolen Shirts full slip
- Hat (ear cover), Gloves water proof, Woolen socks
Warm season (April – August)
- Comfortable trousers, T-shirt, Windproof jacket, Fleece jacket, Scarf
- 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 pack camera and enough film, Mask : roads can be very, dusty
- Rain Jacket, Personal medical kit, Recommended Guide Book (Foot Print by Gyurme Dorje)
- Kathmandu Lhasa Road Map (easily available in Thamel)
Do and don’t
- Wear proper dress code during visit holy area, remove your hat, do not interrupt prayer
- Do not point with your finger to any holy objec
- 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
- Important Tibetan words are Tashi Delek which means “greetings”, Thucheche means “thank you”
- Use always both hand whenever you give or take.
- Do not touch, walk over, or sit on any religious texts, sacred objects or prayer flags.
- Tibetan people do not eat horse, dog, or donkey, as well as fish (in some areas). While in Tibet, you should follow local dietary restrictions.
- It is not polite to clap your palms and spit behind the Tibetan people.
- Tibetan people stretch out their tongue to say hello to you. Also it is a courtesy to put their hands palm in front of breast.
- Do not smoke in monasteries. Also it is not permitted to touch or photograph Buddha statues and religious articles.
- In addition, when walking around the monastery, you should always walk in a clockwise direction (with the exception of Bon temples).
- When walking around dagobas, monasteries or Mani piles, please go around them in a clockwise direction (with the exception of Bon sites), without crossing them.
- 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)
- 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.
Have a great time!