Back to ten years ago, it was very hard for foreigners to travel to Tibet. There were many strict regulations to limit foreigners entering Tibet. For example, members of a group tour must be of the same nationality. So, on one hand, aliens long for visiting Tibet; on the other hand, they felt a headache for how to enter Tibet. To the present day, it is much better than before. China government had loosened up the policy of foreigners traveling to Tibet. You can easily book a Tibet tour from a Tibet travel agency as long as you are not a journalist, government official, or Embassy staff.
However, there are still some rules to obey. Firstly, you must have a Tibet Travel Permit/Tibet Visa before traveling to Tibet.
How to get a Tibet Travel Permit/Tibet Visa?
Tibet Travel Permit is a basic paper requested for foreigners when traveling to Tibet Autonomous Region. That’s why people call it Tibet Visa as well. Tibet Tourism Bureau takes charge of it. Only a travel agency can apply for the permit for their clients because Tibet Tourism Bureau doesn’t issue the permit to the individual travelers. So, you just need to book a tour from a Tibet travel agency, best a local Tibet tour operator. Then they will apply for the permit with the copy of your passport and China Visa, and other information, such as the fixed tour itinerary, the last city before entering Tibet and the next destination out of Tibet, etc. All the information will be printed on the Tibet Travel Permit/Tibet Visa, which is not allowed to change in principle. But of course, it costs extra fee and time to amend the permit if you have to change your tour plan later because of some unexpected situation.
What should you provide when boarding the flight or train to Tibet?
Two situations, one is traveling to Tibet from Kathmandu, Nepal, another is from mainland China.
#1. Traveling to Tibet from Kathmandu, Nepal
It’s kind of special. You don’t need to apply for the China Visa in your own country, but have to get it from the China Embassy in Kathmandu with the help of a Nepali travel agency. The visa is called “China Group Visa”. Then, you can board the flight to Lhasa or cross the border by car with your original passport, China Group Visa and the copy of Tibet Travel Permit.
#2. Traveling to Tibet from mainland China
A. By air
You need the original passport, Tibet Permit, China Visa to board the flights to Tibet from mainland China. Not a single one can be omitted.
B. By train
If you take the Qinghai-Tibet train to Tibet, you need to provide your original passport, China Visa and the copy of the Tibet Travel Permit. Usually, your Tibet travel agency will ask you to print three copies of the Tibet Permit/Visa for checking on the way. But there are some exceptions. Chongqing and Xi’an train stations require the original Tibet Travel Permit to board the train.
So, you should arrange the hotels in mainland China according to your tour plan. The Tibet travel agency will send the original permit to the hotel reception. Please make sure you can get it before going to the airport or train station.