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Tips Tibet

Written by DanielaZavala. Posted in Asia, Tips

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Published on December 08, 2009 with No Comments

IMG_1090TIBET: Facts for the traveler

Visas and Permits: First, you need to get a Chinese visa to go to Tibet. It is recommended that you not put in your application that you are planning to visit Tibet. Unfortunately, traveling independently to Tibet is not possible at the moment; you need to join a tour group or hire a travel agency. The travel agency will get you the permits necessary to travel around the TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region)

How to get there: Air China flies from different Chinese cities to Lhasa. There is also a flight that connects Kathmandu, Nepal with the Tibetan Capital. However, to avoid high altitude sickness due to drastic altitude gain, it is recommended to take the sky train from Beijing to Lhasa. It takes two days, but the ride is comfortable (make sure to get a soft sleeper) and there are beautiful views along the way.

Money: There are plenty of ATMs in Lhasa. Credit cards are widely accepted. However, bring enough cash for the countryside, as it may be difficult to change your money.

Tour agencies: Try to use a local Tibetan agency so you can help the Tibetan community. There are many agencies. I first checked the tour companies that were recommended by the guide books and they were very pricy. I found an agency online that – although small and didn’t have reviews – turned out to be really good and it was the cheapest I found. Tashi Norbu – my contact at the agency – speaks English fluently, is very helpful, and does his best to suit my needs as an independent traveler.

Where to stay:

Lhasa: The Yak Hotel or the Snowlands Hotel. Great location and known as the best budget accommodation in Lhasa.
Gyangtse: Jiangzang Hotel. Great location. You may need to ask them to bring a heater to your room, though.
Shigatse: Gyan-gyen Hotel: Great location. The hot water for the shower didn’t last for long, though.
Rombuk: You can stay in the monastery, or at the guest house of a Tibetan family in the village. I stayed at “Everest Pabar Guesthouse”. It is run by a warm and caring Tibetan woman and her two daughters. Doesn’t have the comfort of a hotel, but it would bring you closer to the lifestyle of the Tibetans.
Zangmu: I stayed in the Pema Hotel. It is ok to crash for the night, but there has to be a better budget accommodation in this border town, so try to check out some other options.

Where to eat: Hmm, I am a vegetarian and therefore a picky eater, but regardless of your diet, Tibetan food won’t be something you will be craving when you leave the region. For authentic –and supposedly the “best”– local food check “Medoe Karpu Restaurant”. For a variety of foods and good service, go to “Tashi”. Although small, it is well known among travelers. The restaurant at the “Snowlands Hotel” also serves good food.

Also, I strongly recommend you to stop by in the mid or late afternoon for a tea at the Anisangkong Nunnery in Lhasa, near Barkor. Great place to relax after a long day of sightseeing and you will be surrounded by locals only 🙂

Special recommendations:

o Do not bring photos or books of the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, anything that has to do with the Holiness is forbidden in Tibet, and the Chinese authorities will take it away from you. Be careful also with whom you speak regarding your political views. The Tibetan issue is still very sensitive.
o Make sure that your guide is Tibetan because they know more about the temples and the culture. Also make sure he/she speaks fluent English – mine was Tibetan but his English was very basic so he wasn’t much help or insight during my trip as I would have liked to.
o If you happen to have a lousy guide or you feel that your itinerary is being changed without a reason, do not confront your guide, as it would make things worse. Instead, kindly say that you would like to call the agency to “consult” the changes, and I can guarantee you that your guide will ask you not to do it, and will then follow the original itinerary and become “more helpful.” Dont make that ruin your trip. Tibet is wonderful!
o Do not forget to bring deodorant (I lost mine during the trip and couldn’t find any in the supermarkets in Tibet!) and other special toiletries
o As silly as this may sound, bring a hair dryer! You can use it for your hair (although when you are there, you wont care much about how you look like!), but you can actually use it to warm up your bed at night and the freezing clothes in the early morning. It will make a BIG difference!
o Bring toilet paper for the road.
o Bring wipes as well. Sometimes the hotels don’t have hot water and to take a cold shower in those freezing temperatures can make you sick.
o International travel/health insurance. Many travelers get sick with the high altitude and need to be treated at the hospitals.

Web site travel Agency:
General sales manager-Mrs. Chungla.
Assistant sales manager-Mr. Tashi Norbu.
Tashi Norbu Tsatrultsang: or
Tibet Office: Mrs. Chungla (Tel. 86-891-6836609)
Chengdu Office: Mr. Gao Li Qiang (Tel. 86-28-89751793)

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