Chinese Visa when going from Tibet to Nepal

Updated May 2016: Find out how to get your Chinese tourist visa when going overland from China to Tibet and on to Nepal.

For recommendations on a reputable and affordable travel agency in Tibet, send an email to: thelandofsnows@gmail.com

Chinese Visa for Tibet

One of the most common questions I receive from travelers is how to get a Chinese Visa when traveling from Tibet to Nepal.  Most, if not all, Chinese embassies and consulates require foreigners to show proof of air tickets to China as well as tickets leaving China. The overland route from Lhasa to Kathmandu is one of the most popular routes to take when traveling in Tibet. However, it can be a little tricky to get your Chinese Visa when taking this route (or flying to Kathmandu from Lhasa) since you aren’t able to show that you have an air ticket leaving China.

Tibet Permit

The moon above a 6000 meter peak in Tibet

Chinese Visa when going from Tibet to Nepal

If you list on your Chinese visa application that you plan to go to Nepal from Tibet, there is a high chance that your visa application will be denied. Read this post of mine for the reasons why: Don’t list Tibet on your Chinese Visa Application. Since Tibet is so politically sensitive, Chinese embassies and consulates don’t like it when foreigners list “Tibet” as a destination. If you do list “Tibet” as a travel destination, the Chinese embassy/consulate will most likely ask for 1 of 2 things. The first thing they will usually ask to see is your Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) before issuing a Chinese visa. However, the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) in Lhasa will usually NOT issue a Tibet permit unless you have a Chinese visa….a classic Catch-22 situation. The second thing that Chinese embassies/consulates ask for is an invitation letter from a travel agency that is stamped by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. Getting a letter from a travel agency is easy enough, but getting it stamped by the TTB can be difficult. For whatever reasons getting the TTB to stamp an invitation letter usually takes an eternity. And, even with this letter, there is NO guarantee that the Chinese embassy/consulate will grant you a visa. Though foreign tourism to Tibet is allowed and encouraged, Chinese embassies are extremely hesitant to grant visas to people that list “Tibet” as a travel destination on their Chinese visa application. For this reason, it is best to NOT list Tibet. Just list 2 or 3 major cities in China and you will be fine.

Chinese visa for Tibet

Rongphu Monastery with Everest in the background

Lhasa to Kathmandu

Nam Tso Lake in northern Tibet

How to get a China Visa when traveling to Tibet

I will explain what I recommend to do in order to still get a Chinese Visa for Tibet without listing Tibet on your application and being able to travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu without having a flight ticket leaving China. If you follow these instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems.  Read through the following very carefully:

1. As stated above, do NOT list Tibet as one of your travel destinations in China. You will most likely have major problems if you do. Just list 2 or 3 major cities in China such as Beijing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Kunming or Guangzhou. Even if you don’t list a specific destination on your Chinese visa application, you can still go there without any problems. Chinese embassies don’t expect you to list every single place in China you are planning to go to. Just list a couple of big cities and you’ll be fine.

2. Some (even most) Chinese embassies/consulates require foreigners to prove that they have at least a few nights accommodations booked in advance, while others will require you to prove that you have ALL of your hotels booked in advance. For a lot of travelers, following such a rigid itinerary just doesn’t fit their style of travel. And of course, if you show hotel bookings in Tibet, you are going to have issues (see #1). To get around this regulation, there are several websites that will allow you to book a hotel and then cancel it without any penalty. Websites such as C-Trip (http://english.ctrip.com/) and Agoda (http://www.agoda.com/) allow you to book a hotel room and cancel it for free (make sure that the hotel you are booking offers free cancellation….they usually all do, but check to make sure!). ***Using the C-Trip site, you should be able to choose the “Pay at Hotel” option, meaning nothing is charged to your credit card. Once you make your hotel bookings for the duration of your time in China, print out the confirmations and then cancel the booking for free. Then submit these hotel booking confirmations along with your visa application. I have never heard from anyone who has been denied a visa for China when giving these cancelled hotel bookings.

3. The next thing you will need in order to get a Chinese visa is proof of your flight going to China and exiting China. Obviously, showing proof of your flight to China is easy. However, if you are planning to go from Tibet to Nepal, you have no air ticket to show, which will cause your visa to be either denied or will cause you major headaches. Here is what I recommend doing in order to give the Chinese embassy the required exit air ticket needed to get your Chinese Tourist Visa.

  1. A. Go to the Travelocity Flights website (http://www.travelocity.com/Flights)
  2. B. Check the “Flight Only” tab on the top of search panel on the left side of the page.
  3. C. Check the “One-Way” tab
  4. D. Set your “Leaving From” city for a major city in China, such as Chengdu, Beijing, Kunming, etc.
  5. E. Set the “Departing” date for a date that corresponds to the end of your time in China.
  6. F. Set the “Going To” city for a major city such as Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, etc.
  7. G. Check the “Refundable Flights Only” tab near the bottom of the search panel.
  8. H. Hit the “Search” button.
  9. I. Click the “Show Flight Details” tab and make sure that the ticket allows free cancellation within 24 hours.
  10. J. Book the ticket using your credit card.
  11. K. Print out the flight booking, which will need to be submitted with your visa application.
  12. L. After you print the booking, cancel it for a full 100% refund (Cancellation MUST be made within 24 hours!!).

I understand it may sound strange to have to do all of the above steps (And I agree…It is strange!), however, it’s just one of the political hoops you have to jump through in order to travel to the amazing region of Tibet. The above instructions are what nearly all travel agencies in Tibet recommend for their customers to do when they plan to travel overland out of Tibet to Nepal. I cannot guarantee that following the above instructions will work, but I can say I have NEVER heard of anyone who has been denied a tourist visa for Tibet by following what I have written in this post.

Lhasa to Kathmandu

Mountains along the way from Lhasa to Kathmandu

Tibet Permit

Remember that ALL foreigners going to Tibet must be on an organized tour. There are no exceptions. You will be required to be on an organized tour that includes a Tibet permit (sometimes multiple permits are required), a tour guide, a private vehicle and a driver. Only a travel agency can arrange this for you. Getting to Tibet can sound difficult and confusing, but in reality it is VERY easy. The travel agency you use in Tibet will make all arrangements for your Tibet tour, but it will be your responsibility to get your Chinese Visa for Tibet when going to Tibet from Mainland China (NOTE: The travel regulations for Tibet are different when entering from Nepal. If you plan to go from Nepal to Tibet, please read the following link: How to go from Nepal to Tibet).

If you have further questions about a Chinese Visa for Tibet or need a recommendation on a reputable and affordable travel agency to use, feel free to send me an email at: thelandofsnows@gmail.com

Lhasa to Kathmandu

Young Tibetan man from the Everest Region

29 thoughts on “Chinese Visa when going from Tibet to Nepal

  1. Luis Matias

    Hi!
    My name is Luis Matias from Spain. Me and my italian friend, we are actually doing the Silk Road. We are still in Uzbekistán, but we are trying to plan our trip for the coming months. That´s why I wrote to you. I read you webpaga and I really love it. Our dream will be to cross Tibel to Nepal on December. We read in your web that the road from Lhasa to Kathmandu is open in Winter right? We are planning to cross from Kyrguikistan to China at the beggining of December (planing to get the Chinesse visa on Bishkek). We will stop in Khasgar and Urumqui and from there we read there is train from Urumqui to Lanzhou and from there to Lhasa. Do you think it will be posible to do it?
    If yes, do you know which is the best city in order to get the Tibet Travel Permit (TTP)? Urumqui or Lanzhou?
    Best regards, and thanks in advance for everything.
    Once again congratulations for this very nice web,
    Luis

      1. Tânia Neves

        I have the same questions, I am in Datong and would like to make my way down do Kathmandu, by land, via Tibet. I’m find it really difficult to find all the information I need!
        Thank you,
        Tania

  2. Marc

    About flight tickets: I already had reserved and paid my return tickets to Beijing and Xining when applying for Chinese visa, and for obvious reasons I could not attach that to the application. So, using a brick and mortar travel agency, not net reservation system, made a ticket reservation for a return flight to Beijing for the dates I needed the visa for (+ few extra days at each end). I printed this RESERVATION to go with the visa application and got the visa. After that I canceled the reservation (I had almost a month to cancel before I would have had to pay, not just 24 hours to cancel a payment). I told the agency why I needed this reservation, and they were kind enough not to charge anything for it.

    I also just listed half a dozen hotels with their addresses in the cities I was claiming to visit, without any proof of reservations. This was good enough for the local embassy. I guess the requirements wary, even if the rules should be the same. I do not think the have the time and resources to actually check any reservation details as long as everything looks believable.

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Thanks Marc….What you did is definitely another option, if you don’t mind going to a travel agency office. Chinese Visa regulations definitely vary from country to country. They can even vary within country. For example, some people in the US have been able to get a 90 day tourist visa without any issues from the New York/new jersey Consulate while others have only been able to get a 30 day tourist visa from the San Fran and Houston Consulates. Thanks again for your helpful tip!

      Losang

  3. MUSTAFA

    Hi there,

    This is MUSTAFA, I would like to have info about my Tibet trip, i live in Guangzhou, China, i have a residence permit, i am planning to go Nepal on february and after i finish my trip on Nepal, i want to go back China by land via Tibet,so do i still need that TTP, and do you think i can have TTP in Guangzhou, What do u suggest me to do for my case?

    Thanks for info in advance

  4. Joshua

    Hi I was wondering if you could help me. Me and a buddy are looking to do some site seeing with a friend in Nepal and then wanted to know if we could travel by land to Tibet during July. From Lhasa we want to then fly to bejing where we will be staying for a few days before leaving. How should we go about the visa issues?
    Thanks

  5. Bonza

    I am a South African, and interested in visiting Nepal, Tibet and China. (trying to plan for next year or so). How do visa’s work in this case?

    regards,

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      I have sent you an email with further information. All nationalities entering Tibet from Nepal must obtain a Group Chinese Visa from the Chinese Embassy in Nepal. The travel agency in Tibet that you choose will assist you in arranging this.

      Losang

  6. Pingback: Do not list Tibet on your Chinese Visa Application | The Land of Snows

  7. Imran

    I m an indian and a regular visitor to china and having one year chinees valid visa , but I have never been through nepal .desire to visit china through route to tibet can u pls suggest me how can I visit china by route and which city I should choose .

  8. Irmantas

    Is it possible to cross Tibet from Nepal to Mainland China (travelling alone)? I am planning to leave to Nepal from India tomorrow. I already have a China Mainland Visa.

  9. Marie

    Hi! I am currently in Ulaanbaator and tomorrow I am applying for my Chinese Visa.
    Of course, I have not really told them the truth, but I am planning to hitchhike to Tibet and than travel further to Nepal. Is this doable without planning? I can not really find the answer in this article, since it only gives tips on how to get the Chinese Visa, but nothing about the real journey to Tibet and finally crossing to Nepal. Any tips?

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hitchhiking in Tibet? Good luck! All foreign travelers to Tibet MUST be part of a fully organized tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide, a private vehicle and a driver. No exceptions. You won’t be able to board any flight, bus or train to Tibet without proving that you have all of the above arranged. Your chances of success are about zero, but your chances of getting in serious trouble are quite high!

      Lobsang

  10. Lindsey

    If I go on a formal trip from Beijing to Nepal and then try to fly from Kathmandu to Hong Kong and leave from Hong Kong will that cause problems? Or, do I absolutely have to buy the return flight and cancel once I’ve printed for my VISA application?

    Thank you!

  11. Angel

    Hello and thank you for kindly assisting. I live in the United States. If I am traveling from Lhasa, China to Delhi, India and we have a layover in Kathmandu, Nepal will we have to get a visa for Nepal. We were thinking of taking a 1 hour plane tour of Mt. Everest while we wait for the second leg of our flight in Nepal.

  12. Karthik

    HI,

    I am planning to travel to France by road from India and i would like to travel from Nepal -> China -> Kyrgyzstan. I have read many review and not sure how difficult it is to get the visa from china.

    Can you please help me with this

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Going from Nepal to China is very easy. You can either fly from Kathmandu to Mainland China (Kunming, Chengdu or Guangzhou) and then continue overland through Xinjiang province to Kyrygyzstan or go overland from Kathmandu to Lhasa when the border reopens later this year.

      Lobsang

  13. JANET YOUNG

    next May, my husband and I are hoping to travel to Nepal, do some trekking there, then travel to Tibet for the Kailash Kora and sightseeing around Lhasa. We would like to leave Tibet by the train to Beijing… how would our visas work?? also, my husband is a Mexican citizen, and I am a Canadian…will this be problematic for us in making our arrangements??
    Thanks for any advice!

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hi Janet….Hope you are doing well. It is no problems for you to go to Tibet as Canadians and Mexicans have been able to travel to Tibet since the region opened in the 1980’s. It is no problem that you are from 2 different countries. Anything you read to the contrary is NOT TRUE. Getting to Tibet is VERY easy. I have emailed you further info. For future questions, please email me at: thelandofsnows@gmail.com

      Lobsang

  14. sarah

    Hi there

    Im thinking of travelling from Nepal to Tibet, then taking a train from Tibet to Beijing. Is this possible? as I read in your blog that you need to provide evidence of flights in and out of china.

    Thanks!

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