The climate of Tibet:
1. How’s the weather in Tibet? Is it hot in summer? Is it freezing in winter?
Tibet is a high plateau, and it belongs to the typical downy exceptional climate. Climates are quite different in different areas of Tibet. Eastern Tibet, which is at a lower elevation, is warmer than western Tibet. In some mountain areas, there are four seasons at the same time at different altitudes. The weather in a day varies greatly, too. The night is cold while the day is warm. It spans 12-15 degrees centigrade in a single day.
The climate in southeastern Tibet, including Nyingchi and Chamdo, is balmy, with an average of eight degrees centigrade. Simultaneously, in western Tibet (Shigatse and Nagqu), it is quite cold with an average temperature below zero degrees. However, in Tibet’s central area, the climate of Lhasa and Tsedang is more favorable for traveling. Travelers can visit these two areas all year round, not too hot in summer and not too cold in winter.
2. How is the road condition in the rainy season in Tibet? Need I take any rainproof with me?
The rainy season in Tibet is mainly from June to August, and it does have a terrible impact on the roads. However, many track maintenance workers and the local army would also help restore the roads. Generally speaking, it only takes a few hours to make the streets feasible again. As for the rainproof, you are suggested to take a raincoat, rain-proof trousers and shoes if you want to trek, climb the mountain or ride a bike. If you have group tours organized by some travel agencies, usually you don’t need to take rainproof with you, because Tibet often rains at night and the weather is quite good in the daytime. Besides, the tourist bus is always along with you.
3. What is the best time to travel to Tibet?
Generally speaking, early April is the beginning of the travel season, which lasts until mid-June when a large number of Chinese travelers rush to Tibet for the summer holiday. Late June to the end of the National Holiday is the peak travel season when some important festivals are held in Tibet, like Shoton Festival, Gyantse Dawa Festival, and Nagqu horse riding Festival. After mid-October, Tibet turns to winter, and as the visitors reduce significantly, more than half of the hotels are closed for the poor reservation.
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As for the best time to travel, it depends on your travel requirement.
1. If you want a meager price, go to Tibet in winter, from December to next March. All the things are relatively cheap; even the tourist sites offer a 30-50% discount on the entrance fee. Hotels are cheap, too. You can enjoy 5-star hotels with less than 100USD, including breakfast. Compared with traveling in August, a winter tour cost is only 50%-60% of a summer tour. Because of the poor amount of visitors, the Potala Palace allows you to spend even a whole day in it. Besides, the monks are not busy and have spare time to chat with you.
2. If you like trekking, do it in May or September when the monsoon will never bother you, and the weather is balmy and pleasant.
3. If you love Mt.Everest and want to see the exact face, try to avoid the rainfall season and foggy weather.
4. If you love to visit the grassland in north Tibet, do the tour in July when the flowers bloom in vast plateau and groups of yak and sheep, Tibetan nomad tents spread all over the grassland.
5. Those who want to drive to Tibet through the Sichuan-Tibet highway should avoid the rainy season. There will be mudslides, cave-ins, and more on individual road sections, blocking vehicles’ passage.
About high altitude sickness
1. What is high altitude sickness? What’s the symptom of high altitude sickness?
High altitude sickness may occur at high altitudes (over 2700m) due to decreased oxygen availability. It usually occurs following a rapid ascent and can usually be prevented by ascending slowly. Symptoms often manifest themselves six to ten hours after the climb and generally subside in one to two days, but they occasionally develop into more serious conditions. Common symptoms of high altitude sickness include shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, and sleep disturbance.
2. How to avoid or relieve high altitude sickness?
Keep a good mood, don’t be too excited or be too worried about high altitude sickness. Before visiting Tibet, get as healthy as possible, both physically and psychologically. Take care of yourself and avoid catching a cold before going to Tibet, not taking a shower for the first two days after you are in Lhasa to avoid being cold, or you will easily suffer from altitude sickness under weak physical condition. Do not drink any alcohol on the first two days when you are in Tibet. Drink plenty of water and eat light, high-carbohydrate meals for more energy. Do not run, jump or do some taxing jobs in the first two days. Being peaceful and having a good rest is important.
Once you have the symptoms of altitude sickness, take some medicine (it is said that it’s helpful to have some butter tea if you can adapt to the flavor of it) and don’t go higher. Medication and oxygen also help to prevent altitude sickness. Mild altitude sickness symptoms can be treated with proper medication. If medication and oxygen do not relieve the symptoms, go to a hospital or evacuate immediately to a safe altitude! Oxygen can help you relieve altitude sickness symptoms, but do not use it too often in Lhasa while your altitude sickness symptoms are not serious. If you feel chilly or feel very uncomfortable, you should go to the nearest hospital available in the area. In addition to the usual medications for traveling, it is advisable to bring high altitude medication. Seek suggestions from your doctor. Tell your tour guide quickly if you don’t feel well and follow the guide’s advice.
3. What should I do if I have high altitude sickness after arriving in Tibet?
There are hospitals in many large cities in Tibet. You may adapt to mild high altitude sickness by yourself slowly, and you may go to the hospital if it is severe. After you have already had high altitude sickness, you should rest well, do not move too much, keep eating, drink some water with black sugar or take some medicine. If the high altitude sickness is pretty severe, you should go to the hospital, descend to some lower places, or leave Lhasa immediately. High altitude sickness shall disappear after you descend to a certain altitude, and it has no sequel symptoms.
4. Is high altitude sickness more serious if going to Tibet by plane than by train?
Exactly, but both means have their advantages and disadvantages. You are more likely to have high altitude sickness because you don’t have enough time to adapt to the plateau environment gradually if you go by plane. The altitude change is directly from several hundred meters to more than 3000 meters. If you go to Tibet by train, you can slowly adapt your body to the high plateau environment. Then, you may relieve or avoid high altitude sickness.
5. People with what kind of diseases can not go to Tibet? Do I need physical practice before traveling to Tibet?
People with the following diseases can not travel to Tibet:
- People with all kinds of organic heart diseases, severe arrhythmia or resting heart rate over the 100per minute, high blood pressure II or above, all kinds of blood diseases, and cranial vascular diseases.
- People with chronic respiratory system diseases, medium degree of obstructive pulmonary diseases or above, such as bronchus expansion, emphysema, and so on.
- People with diabetes mellitus, which is not controlled properly, hysteria, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.
- People with a bad cold, upper respiratory tract infections, and body temperature above 38F or below 38F while the whole body and the respiratory system have obvious symptoms are not recommended to travel to Tibet until they’re OK.
- People diagnosed with high altitude pulmonary edema, high altitude cerebral edema, high-altitude hypertension with a noticeable increase of blood pressure, high altitude heart diseases, and high altitude polycythemia.
High-risk pregnant women.
If you are not sure about your body condition, you may have a physical examination. But you are not supposed to do more exercise before going to Tibet, for exercising will give more burdens to your heart and you’ll need more oxygen, which may easily cause high altitude sickness.
6. Why can not people with cold go to Tibet? What should I do if I catch a cold in Tibet?
Your immune system shall be weak if you catch a cold, and you may suffer high altitude sickness easily because of it. Besides, the severe cold may quickly turn to some more serious high altitude diseases, especially pulmonary edema, which is very dangerous. So you are not supposed to travel to Tibet before you get rid of a cold. While, if you catch a cold in Tibet, things might not be so serious because your body has already, to some extent, adapt to the plateau environment, and you can go to a doctor and take some medicine.
Permits & certificates
1. Are there any limitations or restrictions imposed on foreigners to travel to Tibet? How about overseas Chinese, Taiwan Compatriots, and Hong Kong and Macao compatriots? How to handle it, and how long does it take?
There are some special requirements for foreign travelers to Tibet. Firstly, foreign tourists to Tibet must be organized by travel agencies, with confirmed routes. Secondly, a Tibet Travel Permit issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau is indispensable. The Tibet Travel Permit must be obtained before they head to Tibet. What’s more, foreigners are not allowed to travel alone in Tibet on their own, even with a travel permit. A licensed tour guide must accompany them. Tibet travel permit is also required from overseas Chinese and Taiwan Compatriots, while Hong Kong and Macao compatriots can travel to Tibet like another Chinese citizen with a valid Home Return Permit. Foreigners, overseas Chinese and Taiwan compatriots can apply for a Tibet travel permit from the Tibet tourism bureau or certain qualified travel agencies with a valid passport (copies), visa (documents), and job certificate. Usually, it can be obtained in one week and 2 to 3 days if you are in urgent need.
2. What is Tibet Entry Permit? How to get a Tibet Entry Permit, and what documents are required to get it?
Tibet Entry Permit, also known as Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) Permit or Tibet Visa, is the primary document for foreign travelers entering Tibet. No foreign visitor can visit Tibet without holding the Tibet Entry Permit in their hands. Foreign tourists must show both their Chinese Visa and Tibet Entry Permit when they change for the boarding passes of flying to Tibet or board trains to Tibet. The Tibet Tourism Bureau officially issues Tibet Entry Permit to restrict the number of foreign visitors. With this permit, foreign tourists can travel in the Lhasa region, including Lhasa city, Yamdrok Lake, Ganden, Tsurphu, Namtso, Drigung Til Rating. Tibet Entry Permit is not available for independent travelers. Foreign travelers must travel in the tour group and ask the legitimate travel agency to apply for the Tibet tour.
You can get a Tibet entry permit (TTB permit) by sending a specific qualified travel agency the first page of your valid passport and a copy of your Chinese visa by fax or by email, and state clearly your occupations (Foreign journalists and diplomats are not allowed to go to Tibet as a tourist). If you are Taiwan Compatriots, send us the copies of your MTP-Mainland Travel Permits or called Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit/travel document (commonly known as “Tai Bao Zheng”), and tell us your occupations.
If you are Hong Kong and Macau SAR citizens, China Re-entry Permit for Hong Kong & Macau Compatriots is enough to travel to Tibet. You are not required to apply for the Tibet Permit. Pay attention: If you plan to travel to places officially closed to foreigners in Tibet, an Alien’s Travel Permit is required.
3. What is Alien’s Travel Permit?
Except for Tibet Entry Permit, an Alien’s Travel Permit is required if you plan to travel to places officially closed to foreigners in Tibet, such as Mt. Everest, Rongbuk Monastery, Mt. Kailash, and Lake Manasarovar. Alien’s Travel Permit is not needed for places in the Lhasa region, towns of Shigatse and Tsetang, or nonstop travel on Friendship Highway.
Aliens’ Travel Permit is required to visit ‘unopened’ areas. Which is issued by the police (Public Security Bureau, “PSB”)? Usually, you can apply for it once you arrive in Lhasa. For tour groups, our guide will ask you for the passport and TTB permit and submit it to the Foreign Affairs Section of PSB for the Travel Permit. It normally takes several hours, and the cost is 50 CNY/person. If you are an individual traveler, you need to join local tours to ‘unopen’ areas, and the local travel agencies will arrange the PSB for you as well. Pay attention; no travel agency can provide a ‘PSB permit-only’ service.
Notice: If you want to do a Tibet overland tour from Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, or Xinjiang province to Tibet, you must get the PSB permit before your time starts.
4. Which parts of Tibet are listed as the closed areas?
At present, you have to apply for a Travel Permit if you are planning to visit the following places: areTsedang: Samye Monastery, Tomb of Tibetan King, Trundruk Monastery, YumbulakhangShigatse: Sakya Monastery, Mt. Everest, Rongbuk MonasteryGyangtse: Pelkor Chode Monastery & Kubum StupaNgari Region: Mt. Kailash, Lake Manasarovar, Tsaparang, Years, etc. Nyingchi Region: Based-to, Pomi, Raw-to, etc.Chamdo Region: Chamdo, Riwoche, Tengchen, etc.5. Are there any other certificates and permits that may be required in Tibet?
Except for Tibet Entry Permit, Alien’s Travel Permit, there are Military Permit, Foreign-affairs permit, and other permits required when traveling in Tibet. Sensitive borders such as Mt Kailash and eastern Tibet also require a military permit and a foreign-affairs permit. For Tholing and Tsaparang in western Tibet, you will also need a permit from the local Cultural Antiquities Department. All these will be arranged by our travel agency one month before you enter Tibet. The Military Permit is issued by troop, while Lhasa’s foreign affairs office gives the Foreign-affair’s permit. It normally takes 10-15 working days to get them all.
6. How to deal with the visa from Tibet to Nepal? Can I apply for a Nepal visa in Lhasa? Is it fast? Shall I be denied?
Nepal has two embassies in China: one is in Beijing, and the other is in Lhasa. It is more comfortable and convenient to handle the Nepal visa in Lhasa as long as you conform to specific procedures. And there are seldom any cases of denial. But the visa officers don’t work at a regular time, so you are recommended to stay several more days in Lhasa to apply for a Nepal visa. It is more secured if you handle the pass first after you arrive in Lhasa. The general consulate of Nepal is in Lhasa, near Norbulinka Park. Usually, you can get the visa in the afternoon of the next working day if you submit the application and necessary documents on the morning of the first day. The time to submit papers is from 10 am to 12 am Monday to Friday. So, it would help if you planned a couple of days in Lhasa to wait for the visa. The time to get a permit is usually at 4 pm; once you get access, you can fly to Kathmandu or set out to the Zhangmu border by car or bus.
To apply for a Nepal visa in Lhasa, you need to prepare the original passport, 2 passport size copies, and complete a form. Your passport must be valid at least for the next 6 months. According to the period you plan to stay in Neal, there are three kinds of visas, 15 days, 30 days, and 3 months. If you are going to last more than 15 days in Nepal, it is better to get the visa in Lhasa, as the border office issued 15 days ticket only, and it is relatively expensive to extend the visa in Kathmandu or Gorkha. You can also get a Nepal visa at the border. Not far away from the Friendship Bridge, you can get an arrival visa of 15 days to stay at the border office with 25 USD. You need to prepare a passport size photo and complete a form as well.
What to Pack:
1. What drugs to take when traveling to Tibet?
In the first few days after arrival in Tibet, you may experience some degree of altitude reaction. Colds, insomnia, and digestive disorders are common. Take an adequate supply of any prescription medication you regularly use, including medicine for cold, headache, stomachache, insect bite, diarrhea, and so on, like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Antibiotics, and throat lozenges, nasal decongestant, and vitamins, etc. Most over-the-counter medicines, such as aspirin and anti-diarrheal pills, are available in Lhasa but are more difficult to obtain outside of urban areas. It is advisable to take anti-altitude sickness drugs to cope with oxygen deficiency. Bring Diamox pills, which are believed to be able to prevent altitude sickness effectively. Please consult your doctor before your travel to Tibet.
2. What food to take when traveling to Tibet?
You may take some chocolate, dried beef, hot pickled mustard tuber, biscuit, and other food and snacks you like. You’d better bring food with high calories. You may also take some gum with you, which may help relieve the symptom of syringes and headaches. When traveling to Tibet’s remote areas, it is good to pack some food, snacks, and drinking water. It is not always easy to find food or drinkable water in these areas. Water purification equipment, such as hand pump filters, is unnecessary, as bottled mineral water and thermoses of boiled water are available everywhere throughout Tibet. Water purification tablets can be useful during trekking. It is a good idea to take a good quality multivitamin to supplement your diet since a supply of vegetables and fruits may not be readily available.
3. The necessary commodities you should take when traveling to Tibet Necessities:
sunglasses, hat, sun cream, skin cream, lipstick, long sleeve clothes, sweaters, Passport, visa, money, credit card, camera, film, batteries, toiletries, cosmetics, knife, watch, day bag-pack, big travel bags (soft luggage), water bottle, journal, reading a book, writing materials, binoculars, family pictures, and snack foods.
4. What kind of clothes and shoes should be taken when traveling to Tibet?
The temperatures change greatly on the altiplano. In the north part of Tibet, people wear thick coats all year round (including July and August, which are the hottest months in most of the areas in China). The highest temperature is 4-5 degrees centigrade in northern Tibet. It also snows in July and August.
The temperature difference in a single day is significant. In Lhasa, the temperature in July arrives at 30 degrees centigrade in the daytime but falls to 10 degrees centigrade at night. Sometimes it will snow or sleet at night, so you’d better take some down garments (those with hats will better), woolen sweaters, warm gloves, warm and wind-proof shoes and socks. Wearing several clothing layers that can be easily added or removed is the wise choice since temperatures may vary greatly within a single day. Most hotels in Tibet have no central heating. The air-conditioners in single rooms do not work well on a cold night. In winter, from November to next March, of course, you need to bring down jackets, warm sweaters, gloves, warm pants, woolen hats. It is freezing in the morning and evening. In summer, wearing a T-shirt in day time but the Jacket is necessary at the hotel in the morning and evening.
During the peak tourism season, April, May, September, and October, you need to prepare T-shirts, overcoats and jeans, warm sweaters. Besides, frequent rainfall in this season makes waterproof clothing and raingear absolute necessities. Even in summer, a down coat is necessary for those traveling beyond Lhasa and Shigatse into more remote areas such as the Everest Camp. A windbreaker plus a sweater will work nicely for strolling around Lhasa in summer.
Other essentials to pack include four or five pairs of cotton or woolen underwear, four or five pairs of woolen socks, long sleeve cotton or lightweight wool shirts and T-shirts. Women should avoid skirts or dresses. Whenever you visit Tibet, if your plan includes overnight at Everest Base Camp or Namtso Lake, or a several days outdoor trek in the mountain area, to keep warm is essential. The winter clothes are a must. However, you do not need to worry too much about clothing; you can buy any clothes you need in Lhasa, and dresses are relatively cheap.
It is imperative to have a strong, comfortable pair of boots, primarily your travel covers the remote area, and you have to walk for a long distance. For example, if your journey reaches Everest Base Camp, you need to cover 8 km from Rongbuk Monastery to EBC and back. Lightweight boots are fine, but Tibet can be wet, and we will do extensive walking, so make sure your shoes fit well and are suitable for cold and puddles. It would help if you also had a pair of comfortable and tough sandals.