Tibet Geography

Tibet (Xizang), the Roof of the World, was unknown to the remaining world until the beginning of the 20th century. The vast expanse of snowy land and grazing pastures has managed to lure travelers and adventurers ever since. Its majestic scenery, mysterious and exotic religious culture and wonderful people are always in the hearts and minds of those lucky few who manage to traverse through.

Tibet (Tibet Autonomous Region) borders Yunnan, Xinjiang, Sichuan, and Qinghai within China while Nepal, India, Bhutan, and Burma meet its international borders. Covering a massive 1,220,000 square kilometers (470,920 square miles) which is roughly 12.7 % of the China heartland, it averages about 4,000 meters above sea level in altitude. Some of the world’s highest mountains beautify Tibet. The Karakoram to the west, the Kunlun to the north, and the Himalayas to the south are the playgrounds of all adventurers and mountaineers.

This vast land is also the source of several great rivers such as the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, the Nu River (Salween), the Lancang River (Mekong), the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), the Indus, and the Ganges. Tibet offers awe-inspiring beautiful valleys, lakes, and grasslands. Over 1,500 lakes including the Heavenly Lake, Namtso and the holy Lake, Manasarova make Tibet the plateau with the highest number of lakes.

The Religion

The long history and exotic religion lure more and more tourists every year. Tibetan Buddhism inhabits most Tibetans’ hearts. Plenty of awe-inspiring monasteries, vivid murals and sculptures, and solemn stupas built to worship and honour the unparalleled Buddha. Lhasa and Shigatse, are the important cities in Tibet, that feature many of the religious monuments including the Potala Palace, Drepung Monastery, Jokhang Temple, Ramoche Monastery, Sera Monastery, Sakya Monastery, and Tashilunpo Monastery. Besides these monasteries, sacred mountains and holy lakes are also great places that show the Tibetan peoples’ devotion to Buddhism and their culture.

The western Tibet, Ngari, is a vast barren plateau and is renowned as the Roof of Tibet. It is the place where the Holy Lake (Lake Manasarovar) joins the Sacred Mountain (Mt.Kailash), Ngari is truly a holy pilgrimage destination of Tibetans and Hindus alike, as well as a popular destination to trekkers.

Similarly, the people of Tibet are warm and hospitable. Tourists visit local households and experience the daily life of the Tibetan people. Festivals and Holidays are the most important days in Tibet. During the festivities, Tibetans enjoy, local food and dance. Purchasing handicrafts in Barkhor Street or from other vendors may add extra enjoyment to your visit.

Tibet Travel Info

All travelers to Tibet should understand that Tibet, being extremely remote and isolated still remains one of the most captivating yet least developed parts in the world. With its very short history of tourism (near about 25 years), the facilities, although upgraded, are still at basic and limited levels. Therefore, visitors should not have high expectation in terms of facilities in Tibet, rather take this tour as an adventure.  Apart from that, we will surely put all our efforts into making your journey as pleasant as possible.

Overcoming Altitude Problem:

This is an adventure involving high altitude, which can be strenuous and exhausting. Until now, visitors have had only minor effects from altitude. However, we advise especially guests with known heart, lungs, or blood diseases to consult their doctor before traveling. Symptoms include a mild headache, fever, loss of appetite or stomach disorder can take place before acclimatization.

Our Advice:

  • Drink 4 litres of water a day.
  • Do not exhaust yourself so much.
  • Take a deep breath and rest more than usual.

Most hotels where you will be staying overnight and restaurants on the route will have bottled water.

Landslides:

Since Tibet, tours operate primarily during the monsoon season, landslides, especially on the Nepalese side and immediate areas of Tibet might occur. In case of landslides, extra vehicles with porters are required to cross over and these might be extra to your itinerary costs.

Guide:

We try our best to provide a good English speaking Tibetan guide. However, as per new regulations, guides are appointed through the Guides Association on a queue basis. Since guides in Tibet do not get enough exposure to English, do not expect a fluent and spontaneous explanation from him/her. Your frequent questioning will certainly encourage him/her to explain well, one question at a time.

Clothes and Accessories:

As the temperature in Tibet is low and involves high altitude journey be advised to carry warm clothes (bring a sleeping bag along with you). Since the weather is harsh and dry, we recommend Chap Stick, sun hat, suntan cream, sunglasses with comfortable trekking.

Monastery Entry Fee:

This is included throughout the tour for the monuments and monasteries as mentioned in your itinerary, whereas photography fee is not. So, please kindly pay for the photography fee accordingly if you insist on having the photos inside the monasteries taken.

Hotels:

As mentioned earlier, the facilities in TIBET are very basic.  Hotels, although they look comfortable, do not have proper facilities even in LHASA. For hot water, you will have to coordinate the timings with the reception. This is especially true for hotels outside Lhasa. 24 hours hot water service is not available in most hotels in Tibet.

Recommended Restaurants in Lhasa:

Eating out in LHASA is spectacular. You can try traditional Tibetan as well as Chinese or Continental. We recommend the following restaurants that serve cheap and delicious food range.

  1. SNOWLAND RESTAURANT / BARKHOR
  2. MAD YAK RESTAURANT / BARKHOR
  3. DUNIYA RESTAURANT / BARKHOR
  4. KAILASH RESTAURANT / on the rooftop of HTL BANAKSOL
  5. BARKHOR CAFÉ / BARKHOR
  6. MAKEYAME RESTAURANT / BARKHOR

Average Estimated Expenses for Food in TIBET:

EN ROUTE IN LHASA
Lunch Approx. 30 Yuan 50 Yuan
Dinner Approx. 40 Yuan 55 Yuan

Tipping:

Drivers and Guides are not well paid in TIBET. Hence, it is always a good gesture to tip the guide and driver to enable us to have them happy and helpful for our trips.

Group Visa:

Traveling in Tibet requires all to travel in-group visa. It is a document visa in a separate two original sheets of paper. One is for entry and the other is for the exit. So, always make sure you, your tour leader, or your Tibetan guide carry it until you exit. Remember, a photocopy does not help at all.

Airport Tax:

Airport tax at Kathmandu airport is Rs. 1100/- per person and the airport tax in LHASA airport is Yuan 90/- (USD 12/-), if you are flying out.

Clothes and other Accessories:

From May to September, we advise you to carry light clothing such as T-shirts and jeans. However, from October to April, please use warm clothing.

Money:

Banks in Tibet / China remain closed on Saturdays and Sundays. So, if you are entering Tibet overland, please carry about USD 100 per person in cash to cover your extra expenses for main meals and other en route expenses until LHASA. If you have dollars, even local people could help you to get them exchanged in Chinese Yuan. Traveler cheques and credit cards are very difficult to cash outside of the banks, especially outside LASHA. However, if you are in Lhasa, ATM facilities are available for convenience.

Some Do's and Don'ts in Tibet

With a view to enabling you to enjoy your stay in this remarkable country of age-old rich culture and heritage, it is important to take into consideration some travel tips. Here is a list of tips, which may be helpful to you.

Gestures
  1. The form of greeting in Tibet is “Tashi Delek” by joining the palms together and a little bowing of your head.
  2. One should develop a genuine interest to meet and talk to the Tibetan people and respect their customs. You will have a great time with them.
  3. Always seek permission before taking pictures of the interior of all monasteries and temples. Many chapels and rooms in the monasteries and temples charge extra for photography.
  4. Public displays of affection between man and woman are frowned upon. Do not do something that is very alien to the Tibetan culture like kissing in the public.
  5. Remember, many times, when a person shakes his/her head from left to right, he/she may mean “yes”, as in Nepal and India.
Culture/Customs
  1. While traveling, dress appropriately. Shorts should never be worn both by women and by men, even during the trek. Tibetan people never show their legs. You are supposed to do the same. Men should wear long pants/trousers. Knickers are fine for trekking. Women should wear loose-fitting pants or calf-length skirt. A normal sari is fine for those who are used to a sari. Women’s shirts should be loose fitting and not revealing. This may seem trivial or an inconvenience, but remember that you are a visitor in their country.
  2. Religious beggars are an accepted part of society in Tibet and most of Asia. However, do not encourage begging among the children, youths and fit people. Giving sweets also may not be good for children who hardly brush their teeth.
  3. Traditionally you should walk clockwise around monasteries, temples or stupas.
  4. It is offensive among Tibetans to touch anything with your feet.
General
  1. Do not show off your money and valuables. Always maintain small money in a separate pocket/wallet for petty expenses.
  2. Importantly, please strictly follow the health tips on coping with the high altitude sickness advised to you by your travel agent to enjoy your tour without major problems.
  3. Tipping is part of the tourism industry. Anyone offering you service will expect a tip, provided the service is up to your expectation. They include your guide, driver, hotel porters etc. In a restaurant in the cities, 10% tip is expected.
  4. You know that traveling light is always enjoyable everywhere. However, make sure you have enough warm clothes with you even when you are traveling in Tibet in the summer season.
  5. Always get a receipt while exchanging money with the authorized banks or moneychangers.
  6. Make sure you do not buy banned wildlife products and artifacts more than 100 years old. In such cases, you are required to have special certification from the concerned government authorities.
Very Important
  1. Do not wear or display T-shirts with slogans like “Free Tibet”. Also, do not carry and give out any pictures of Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama or Karmapa. Make sure you do not show the flag of Tibet either.
  2. Shouting slogans or discuss any negative feeling about China might help you feel better temporarily but, it will cause grave danger to your travel agent, guide, hotel or the people you are visiting and wish to help.
  3. Any negative action of yours against China will not only bring trouble for you but also cause trouble for your participant friends or any Tibetan people like the travel agent, guide, drivers etc.
  4. Be friendly and polite to the Chinese as well as to the Tibetans so as not to bring any problem to your friends or the Tibetans you would like to help.
  5. Do not discuss political issues on Tibet publicly, like monasteries, restaurants, hotel lobby etc. Not all Tibetan looking people are trustworthy, including your guide.
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