Tibet Travel Update November 2012

Tibet travel update

Tibet travel update

UPDATED October 30, 2012

This year has been a difficult year so far for those wanting to travel to Tibet, including the regions of Amdo and Kham. All areas were closed during March and some areas in Kham didn’t reopen until late April/early May. Here is the latest update on travel regulations and closures across the Tibetan Plateau (NB: This information is current at the time of writing. It is important to remember that travel regulations can and do change all the time without any warning).

Lhasa and the Tibet Autonomous Region (read carefully!)

UPDATE: Lhasa and the Tibet Autonomous Region are currently open to foreign travelers.

After periodic closings throughout 2012, Lhasa and the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) are currently open to foreign travelers, however not all areas are open. Mt. Everest Base Camp remains closed to foreigners as does all of Chamdo Prefecture with the exception of Rawok Lake.  Mt. Kailash and the overland route to Nepal are open.

Read through the following carefully! These are the regulations that are currently being enforced:

The current regulations handed down by the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) state that foreigners need to be in a group of 5 people who are all from the same nationality. This means that all 5 people in your group must carry the same nationality passport. Some of the more popular travel agencies will do their best to find others from the same country as you so that a group of 5 can travel together. Also, some travel agencies with more “connections” at the TTB can get permits for groups of only 3 or 4, but this is not common. Also, the TTB is requiring foreigners to each pay a $500 deposit to the travel agency before travel permits can be processed. Since you have to travel in a group of 5, this means that a deposit of $2500 ($500 x 5 people) needs to be paid in advance to the agency before the TTB will even think about processing your permit. The travel agency needs to submit a bank transfer receipt for the $2500 to the TTB along with the permit applications. If your permit is processed, the amount of the deposit is deducted from the total price of your tour. For example, if your tour costs $3500 for your group of 5 and you have paid the $2500 deposit, you will pay the remaining $1000 balance of the tour to your agency once your permit is processed. If the TTB doesn’t approve your travel permit, which happens often, you will be refunded the $2500 deposit, minus bank transfer fees. You most likely will have to pay any bank transfer fees that occur for returning your deposit.

People holding passports from the UK, Norway, Austria and Korea currently are not being allowed to travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region. No official statement has been given on this strange regulation and it is impossible to say when this rule will be lifted. The standard regulations of having a tour guide and a private vehicle remain in place. Independent travel in the Tibet Autonomous Region remains impossible. It is highly unlikely that those regulations will go away anytime soon.

I recently met with the owner of one of the most popular and most recommended Tibetan owned travel agencies and he told me that he has only been able to obtain permits for around 20% of the customers who have contacted his office this summer. I met with the managers of 2 other popular Tibetan owned travel agencies (one based in Lhasa and the other in Xining) and they said they have stopped trying to arrange tours to Lhasa and the TAR for foreigners because it is just too difficult for them to arrange. Other larger Chinese government owned agencies in Chengdu have slightly better chances of obtaining permits for their customers, but most still report only getting permits for 20% to 40% of the people who contact them.

Again, you can try contacting a travel agency in Lhasa to arrange a tour and permits for you, but be advised that many people/groups are not getting in. The Tibet Tourism Bureau has not said that the area is closed, but they are being extremely selective in issuing permits for organized tours. It is also important to remember that it is NOT the agencies who make the regulations! All of the Tibetan owned agencies that I know report that they have had many foreigners call them cursing and yelling at them. These foreigners think that these agencies are trying to rip them off and think the agencies are giving them a run-around telling them different regulations each week. However, it is the Tibet Tourism Bureau who makes the rules….not the agencies. It is important to remember that these agencies want your business and are trying everything they can to arrange your tour, but the TTB is making it difficult for them. It is no use wasting time getting upset with a travel agency when these are rules that they have to follow.

It is important to note that there are early rumors out of Lhasa suggesting that the TAR could close again in September or October due to the Chinese Congress meeting in Beijing, which will be discussing the upcoming presidential change in China. This is not for certain, but it could happen.

Chamdo prefecture in the far eastern portion of the TAR remains permanently closed to foreign travelers. It has been closed since March 2010. The overland routes from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, which must pass through Chamdo prefecture along the way to Lhasa, also remain closed to foreign travelers. Everest Base Camp also remains closed to foreign travelers.

Sleeper bus in Kham, Tibet travel update

Sleeper bus in Kham

With Lhasa and the rest of the Tibet Autonomous Region being heavily restricted, don’t just cancel your Tibet tour! Go explore the (mostly) open regions of Amdo and Kham that are located in Qinghai, southwest Gansu, western and northern Sichuan and northwest Yunnan. More than 60% of the total Tibetan population live in these amazing areas!

The Amdo regions

The Amdo regions appear to be open except the restive county of Ngawa/Aba in northern Sichuan province. This is not a surprise as this county has been closed for most of the past 10+ years. I have heard many reports of foreigners traveling across the Amdo areas of Qinghai, including Golok prefecture and Rebkong, without any problems. I have also heard many reports of people traveling the overland route from Xining to Chengdu through Xiahe/Labrang, Langmusi, Zoige/Ruo’ergai and Songpan without any problems. Again, keep in mind that Amdo can be quite restive and closures could occur again at anytime.

UPDATE: There have recently been at least 4 self-immolations in and around Labrang (Xiahe). Though the government there has not said the region is closed, there most likely are travel restrictions in this area regarding foreigners.

The Kham regions

The Kham regions found in northwest Yunnan very rarely close and currently are all open. Yushu prefecture in southern Qinghai province also is all open, but keep in mind that the area in and around Jyekundo is still being rebuilt from a 7.1 earthquake that devastated the region in April 2010. There have now been more than 7 immolations in Yushu prefecture including a recent one in Jyekundo. So, while the authorities there say the area is open, it could close at anytime.

After months of refusing to sell bus tickets to foreigners, the main Xin Nan Men station in Chengdu is now selling tickets to Kangding without any problems. The smaller bus station in the Tibetan District of Chengdu in Wu Hou Ci should also sell tickets without any problems.

Not all regions of western Sichuan are open, even though the local police in the area claim that everything is open. I have heard several reports of people getting turned around who were trying to go north or northwest to places like Ganzi, Sertar and Dege counties. Some people have managed to get to Dege without problems, though I have now heard many reports of people being asked to leave Ganzi, Sertar and Dege. As these places have been political hot spots for decades, this doesn’t come as a surprise. I also have heard several recent reports of people not being able to purchase bus tickets going west from Kangding to Litang. There are also reports of a checkpoint along the road from Jyekundo (Yushu) to Sershul (Shiqu). This checkpoint has turned several foreign travelers around back to Jyekundo who were attempting to get to Sershul and Dege. I also heard a recent report of foreign travelers who managed to get bus tickets from Shangri La (Zhongdian) in Yunnan province to Chaktreng (Xiangcheng) and Dabpa (Daocheng) in Sichuan who had to get off the bus near the border of Yunnan and Sichuan and register with their passports.

I know there are a lot of restrictions across the Tibetan Plateau, but with all of the immolations that have happened, it is not surprising.

I will do my best to keep this update.


92 thoughts on “Tibet Travel Update November 2012

  1. Pietro Brambilla

    Dear Sir,

    I read in Landofsnow web site that to visit TAR on next months,
    it can be required that foreigners will travel in group of 3-4 pepole
    of the same nationality.

    I have one Key question, please help me to understand:
    If we are a group 2 people, and if we will obtain a TAR Visit Permit
    from a Travel Agency, there is (also in this case) the risk to be blocked in Lhasa airport because of the small group issue ?

    My best regards
    Pietro Brambilla

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Pietro, if you are issued a permit to go to the TAR, you will have no problems entering even in the regulations change by the time you arrive in Lhasa. Once your permit is in your hand, you are good to go.

  2. Erika

    Dear Losang,

    I have read that permits are issued to two people provided they are married (and have the same nationality) – can you confirm this?


  3. Mani

    Planning for Kailash Yatra. Is there any change in eligibility based on Age? Please let me know.

  4. Egle

    Dear Sir,

    I’m from Italy, I’m planning a Tibet Tour on June and I have already booked the flight from Italy To Katmandu and paid half of the amount to the Tibet agency. But today they said that there are many problems to get the permits for us (we are 2 persons) , not mentioned before, and they don’t know if we’ll be able to do the tour.
    Is this possible? What can we do?
    Please help me, we have the flight on 30/05/2012!
    Best regards


    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Egle, Every major guidebook on Tibet has said for the past 20 years that travel regulations in Tibet can change at any time so this should not come as a surprise! Currently, all foreigners wanting to go to the Tibet Autonomous Region need to be with a group of 4 people from the same nationality. There are no exceptions to this. Because the regulation change is not your fault, you should get most (if not all) of your deposit returned to you.

  5. Egle

    Thank you for your quick response.
    I read about continuos changing of travel regulations, but we are in touch with a local agency and we thought that they were able to get the permits.
    How long the new rules are in force ( 4 people from same nationality) ? Just from May or also in the late April?
    Thank you

    Best regards


    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Most travel agencies were told by the government that the group of 4 regulation would end by early May. However, the government decided to keep the group regulation indefinitely. There is no telling when the group travel regulation will end. This is NOT the fault of the travel agency as they MUST abide by the rules given to them. Most agencies were under the understanding the the group travel regulation would end by the first full week of May (May 7th), but it didn’t happen.

      It is the government who decides what the regulations are….not the travel agency. The agency is just as sad about having to cancel your tour as you are and maybe even more so! Tourism season in Tibet is relatively short and by having to cancel your tour because you are not a group of 4 means that the agency is losing money that they desperately need!

  6. matt

    |Hello, |thanks for the update. |Does it mean that foreigners can reach |Luhuo, |Ganzi, |Serthar, |Sershul…..\? |If it s possible that will be so great news.

  7. Monika

    I was travelling a month ago with one couple, there were coming back from Tibet and were given the permits only for 2 of them, that’s what they said.

  8. Monika

    I can confirm also regarding bus tickets to Kangding, it wasn’t any problem to get them from Wuhou Bust station, while at the same time Xinnanmen Bust station in Chengdu was not selling them, telling it is not allowed for foreigners to go, even though I was travelling in tibetan sichuan for 2 weeks already.

  9. matt

    Anyone know if foreigners can purchase tickets for Maerkang now at Xin nan men station or Cha dian zi station?

  10. Magda

    Dear Losang,
    Me and my husband are planning (if possible) to travel to Tibet in July, so we are in contact with a couple of travel agencies. Some of them say that at least 5 persons of the same nationality have to participate and some of them say that at least 6 persons of the same nationality have to comprise the group. Moreover, some of them say that it’s enough to show the valid passports and Chinese visas of other Polish persons without requirement that they travel with us, but some of them informed us that everybody from the group has to enter by the same means of transport and in the same time. Could you please advise which versions are true?
    Thank you!

  11. matt

    just to inform taht now xinnanmen station sell tickets for Kangding. Chadianzi bus station (on phone) tells that they sell tickets to Maerkang and Seda to foreigners, but they also say that they sell tickets to Aba, so I’m not sure about the 2 first, because for sure it’ not possible to go to Aba as a foreigner.

  12. matt

    at xinnanmen they sell me today a ticket for ganzi. On phone the golden yack hotel say that foreigners are allowed to go. Same thing in maerkang. I will let you know if i can make it to ganzi and further.

  13. Boon

    Hi Losang,

    We are a group of three, with mixed nationalities, have booked a cycle tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu in September 2012.

    We all have Hong Kong SAR passports and China Retry Permit Cards. I suppose we do not need to apply for Tibet travel permits. Would the new policy of group travel minium of 4 with the same nationality affect us?

    Please advise, greatly appreciated.


  14. Cezar

    Hi Magda,
    we are Polish couple and we have confirmed trip on 22 July (Lhasa-EBC-KTM).
    Please contact privte me scandinavian[malpa]gmail.com.

  15. Fiona

    Hi, we spent about 10 days in TIbet from 10th to 18th April. There were just me and my partner and our 8 year old son. Same nationality passports, but different last name. We did bump into another couple travelling. I realise now how lucky we were and wondered if having a child with us helped. Even then they were saying ‘no small groups’ and for the most part this appeared to be the rule but there were exceptions. I am not sure if that helps anyone in anyway other than the rules don’t always appear to be consistent. It was an incredibly country and it and the Tibetan people will remain in my heart forever. My heart goes out to them.

  16. darshan

    hi losang,

    our agents in kathmandu and lhasa informed me yesterday that tibet is once again closed to foreigners until september 2012. are you able to confirm or tell me of any official sources that mention this? thank you.

  17. matt

    Hi, I m now in Dege, from Kangding to Ganzi there were 3 checkpoints, they just asked few questions and note my passport number. Around Daofu. No problem to travel to Ganzi, Manigango, Dege.

  18. Paola

    Hello, My name is Paola. I am from PERU.
    Few days ago I read the new regulations to go to the Tibet, that is why I want to find 04 Peruvians who want to travel this July or August 2012.

    Please, you can contact by mail: cielito0205@hotmail.com

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  20. Frederik

    If I want to go to the TAR from 8 th till 20 th of July ? What are the possibilities ?

  21. annechung

    I’ve just returned from Xiahe. We encountered no restrictions at all. Nobody asked for passport or anything. The bus people were just happy to sell anyone a ticket. There were no police presence in town, the army is outside the town.

  22. Douwe

    Dear Sir,

    We will travel in july 2012 the route from chengdu, Kangding, Tagong, Danba, Maerkang, Songpan and back to Chengdu. Is this route open for tourist and can we travel it with a bus or hire minivans is this places or is this not allowed bu the goverment.

    with regards


    1. Avigdor Sapir

      Hi Losang.
      I left a question in Lonely Planet about Bayanbulak Grassland in Xinjiang, and I got an advice to find you in this site. Can you help?



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  26. isajie

    Thanks that much for the clear update , specially also about travel tibetan areas outside TAR!
    please keep it updated .
    i’ve been in minyak end february /march. In chengdu it was very difficult to get any clear answers about closed areas (PSB, Tourist office, Bus station were pretending it’s closed but then the offical people in charge for Kangding told me this area is not closed at all ) . the communication skills in sichuan still could be improoved..

  27. Chloe

    Hi, You say that groups need to be of the same nationality in order to get permits, I am travelling with my boyfriend who is American and I am British, therefore I am guessing it will be out of the question for us to obtain a permit to travel together?? Any clarification would be great. Thank you

  28. Gerard

    I had a 12 people group travelling from Chengdu-Danba-Yushu-Tibet-Nepal but we think we are going to cancell. Start 2nd july

    In case monday not reopen we will do Chengdu-Rilong-Danba-Tagong-Litang-Daocheng-Yading-Daocheng-Shangrila-Lijinag-Shaxi-Dali-Weishan-Kunming-Kathmandu. I guess fine to resolve their problem …. , ???

    Anyway i wait late news from Lhasa on monday beause now nobody know what happen.

    I have several overland groups in summer i guess we must cancell .. bufffff

  29. Brian Dell

    The bus station in Kangding won’t sell tickets to Litang, as of the first week of July anyway. Met several disappointed foreigners in Kangding yesterday. Which means they really only sell tickets to the east, since places like Tagong require finding a minivan or shared taxi.

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Brian, Thanks for this update. It seems like the situation going west from Kangding seems to change every 7 to 10 days. There will be short periods of time where the bus station sells tickets going west and then other times when they don’t. Sorry to hear that you weren’t able to make it west.

  30. Jahzeel

    Hi! Love your website by the way! ok, i’m planning a trip from Beijing to Lhasa for late November/December 2012. My travel agency is telling me there is nothing to worry about and that they can provide me(Mexican) and my husband (American) with the Tibet Permit with no problem. If the travel agency is in fact able to process our permits, do you think we will have a problem entering Lhasa? given my husband and me have different nationalities and we are not travelling in a group?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Your travel agency is full of garbage is they can guarantee you that they can get travel permits for you!! It is impossible to say what the travel regulations for Tibet will be in December, but no travel agency can guarantee permits, especially during this politically sensitive time.

  31. Winnie

    Hi Losang,
    Thanks a lot for the updated info.
    Today I have been informed by a friend of mine (she was informed by one of the hostels in chengdu) that the only way opened now to enter Tibet is from Nepal.
    They also said that entering Tibet from Lhasa is still closed.
    Is it true?
    Thanks for your reply.

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  33. Winnie

    Hi Losang,
    My friends and I have bought ticket to Chengdu for the second week of August this year.
    We are planning to go to TAR on that second week too but our travel agent informed us that it is still impossible to go there via Lhasa.
    Is there any possibility for us to get the permit and go there either via Lhasa or any other places?

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Winnie, the past month there have been very few foreign travelers who have been able to get their permits processed for the TAR. While there is a possibility your group could get your required travel permits, the chances at this time are quite small.

  34. Sarah

    Hi Losang,

    We are due to travel to Lhasa by train from Xining in late August. There are three of us – two adults and a 5 year old child. We are British. Do you advise giving up on the idea right now and planning something else? How long do you think the travel ban in British travellers will stay in place?

    Thanks for your reply

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Sarah, currently, the travel situation in Tibet looks bleak for everyone and not just people from the UK. Except for a few high end tours that have been planned for many months, very few foreign travelers have been given permission to go to Lhasa and the Tibet Autonomous Region the past month. Some of my friends who own agencies in Lhasa have tried applying for more than 100 groups the past month and all applications have been denied, while others have only been able to obtain permits for 5% to 10% of the groups they have applied for. I say to continue and try to get to Lhasa, but have a Plan B close by.

  35. winnie

    Thanks for the rep;y Losang.
    I heard it is easier to get the permit from Nepal.
    Is it true?
    If we enter Tibet via Nepal, is it still possible for us to visit Lhasa?
    Btw, is EBC still closed for foreigners?

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  37. Blake

    So sorry I keep posting, lol. One last question.. so with the Chinese takeover and Tibet being in communist control, is it even possible to move there? How did you move there? Is a lot of Tibet already built on and taken over? Is it still vast and open?

  38. Yuli

    Hi Losang,

    Your website is extermely helpful and i really enjoy to read your blog.
    Can you please advise the recommended travel agency for visit Tibet?
    so for amdo and kham province do not required any travel permit?


  39. KenLa

    Dear LosangLa, Tashi Deelek. I am Ken Ballard US citizine living in Chiangmai & Bali these past 36 years. Since 1992 I have taken over 32 groups into Tibet. I have a dear Tibetan friend there who is also very honest with me and she has great connections in TTB.

    We have 56 pax planning on going in Sep 20-Oct 3. Large group of pilgrims from USA-Canada-Denmark-Thailand-Cambodia. A few former monks.

    What are the infinite possibilities of what can unfold?

    Looking today at Plan B:

    Fly Chengdu to Lanzhou and visit the cave grottos.

    4 nts in Xiahe
    4 nts in Langmusi
    1 extra day where ever we decide
    3 nts in Jiuzhaigou for the nature and Tibetans.

    We are pilgrims and I want to offer my dear friends a deep slice of the culture custom and Spirit of the Tibetan people.

    I love your photography. I am also a photographer. Many photos of Tibet and Bhutan. Going to Europe to photograph my old friend Alice Cooper soon.

    Love to meet in Chengdu.

    Thanks for any ideas you have Ken

  40. Jay

    Hi Losang, I’ve just e-mailed you a request for travel agency recomm. in Kathmandu but thought others might also be interested in this question: Based on all the above, I’ve revised my Tibet plan for this year down to a Kailas tour from KTM, if even that is possible. Do you know if it might be easier from that side? I thought perhaps so because it’s already highly restricted, it’s big on the Indian pilgrimage market, and it’s far from the troubles in the east. Any insight & advice you can offer would be much appreciated!

  41. selena

    Thank you Losang, this is very good information and I watch it closely. Thank you for your interest and support to all your readers and blog followers.

  42. amy

    Hi, Just wanted to say thanks for the all the info. Seems like you have your work cut out trying to keep abreast of all this so just wanted to show some appreciation for your hard work.

    Hoping to get into Tibet overland from China side in November- UK citizen!!!!.

    Fingers crossed hey!


  43. julie murray

    Hi Losang, my husband and I are Australian and are flying into chengdu on 18th sept. We were hoping to fly into Lhasa then travel over to ebc…plan b is to get a car with driver and go through kangding to Litang, do some trekking/horse riding in the area of
    Manigango lake.. for a week or 2..or maybe visit the 4 sisters mountain area. Last time, 2 years ago, we went through landing to targong grasslands and were hoping to do more trekking. What would you suggest considering the political situation?

  44. Mekong

    Hi Losang
    first thanks for all your Advices so precious.

    I’m writing a Feedback
    during July and August i’ve travelled through tibetan Areas Amdo and Kham from Xining to Shangri La
    my Itinerary : Qinghai Lake – Xining – Maqen – Darlag – Huashixia – Maduo – Xiewu – Serxu – Manigango – Dege – Kandze – Tagong – Kangding – Chengdu – Kangding – Litang – Xiangceng – Shangri La

    I’ve travelled freely and i’ve never seen an Uniform during this Journey except one Time : before Kangding in Luding at a Checkpost for a basic Control. That’s all.

    Sometimes it was difficult to travel especially in the Golog Country and the small Roads (between Xiewu and Manigango and Dege and Bayul). No public Bus, expensive Minibus and I wanted to go to Xieshan close to the Amnye Machen Mountain. too much expensive. A Driver asked 3000 yuans.
    But i liked the Golog Country with a lot of Grasslands, tents and Herds of Yacks everywhere. Not a touristic Place.
    Darlag is a beautiful City. I’ve stayed at the small Tibetan Hotel besides the Bus Station. 50 yuans for a Room
    Maqen : several Hotels don’t accept Foreigners. Ask to the Tibetan People for a Guesthouse. I think it’s possible to find. The Hotel that accept Foreigners is too expensive.
    Maduo : i don’t recommand this Place. I was blocked there for one Day waiting for a Bus to Yushu. No bus Station in Maduo. The City isn’t located on Road 214. Hotels didn’t accept me and the only Hotel for Foreigners cost 200 yuans. I slept outside. There is an Hotel on the Road214 where all the Trucks and Buses stop for eating. 120 yuans the Room. I think Huashixia is better for a cheap accomodation and i think it’s possible to find a tibetan Guesthouse there.
    Xiewu (on the Road 214 before Yushu) : there are tibetan Guesthouses. I asked to the People on the Street but i didn’t stay coz i’ve found a Car to Serxu.
    Serxu : Tibetan Hotel on the main Street 100m of Walk from the Crossroad where all the Minibuses wait. I paid 80 yuans for a double Room.
    Dege : i’ve stayed at the Hexie Hotel on the main Street. Indication in English. Very good Adress. I highly recommand it. So nice tibetan Family. One Bed cost 40 yuans. double Room 80 yuans Triple Room 120 yuans. Free Wifi.
    Kandze : i’ve stayed at the tibetan Hotel located opposite at the Golden Yack Hotel, in the parking of the Bus Station. 50 yuans double Room.
    Tagong : i’ve stayed at the Gayla and Drolma House. Beautiful traditionnal tibetan House and two nice Families (Gayla and Drolma are two Sisters) 20 yuans for a bed in a clean Dormitory.
    Kangding : I’ve stayed at the Zhilam Guesthouse. 30 yuans for a bed in Dormitory. Very clean and cheap Place
    and for my come-Back from Chengdu Kanka youth Hostel 50m of walk from the Bus Station 35 yuans a Bed in Dormitory
    Litang : Potala Inn very close from the Bus Station. 35 yuans Bed in Dormitory. Metok the Owner is a very kind and helpful tibetan Woman
    Xiangceng : Bamu Guesthouse opposite to the Bus Station. 70 yuans double Room. Bamu is the owner and a nice tibetan Woman
    Shangri La : Tavern 47 Hostel in the old Town. 35 yuans Bed in Dormitory. So beautiful traditionnal naaxi House run by a couple chinese naaxi (her)/korean (him)

    I liked very much The Golog Country and this feeling of Freedom (Darlag is a really beautiful Place with a friendly People there)
    Dege and all the Area especially the scenic Road between Manigango and Dege with the Chola Pass
    Xiangceng in Kham Country
    Kandze where the Monastery is free of Charge

    Thanks for your Website
    Mekong (Eric from France)

  45. Spencer Cosford

    Hi Losang,

    Me and my wife to be have chosen Tibet for our Honeymoon at the end of October 2012 but it looks like we might get denied a second time (we lost £800 last time but ever the optimist I wanted to try again!).

    We are both British and have booked through Intrepid.com – unfortunately they aren’t really giving us sufficient information either way and last time the trip was cancelled just 5 days before departure. I really don’t want to go through this again as it’s horrible to get all excited and then let down at the last minute – does it look likely we’ll be cancelled again? If so I think I’d rather cancel it ourselves and take the loss but it’ll give us more time to plan another trip of a lifetime…

    I really hope things work out as I’ve always wanted to visit Tibet (hence trying twice!).

    Thanks for your help, Spencer

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Spencer, New permits for Tibet are NOT being processed at this time. I highly recommend canceling your trip and getting a refund back. Instead of using international travel agencies such as Intrepid (which does NOT have it’s own office in Tibet), use locally owned Tibetan agencies. Not only are these agencies far cheaper, you will not lose such a large deposit. Support the Tibetan people by using Tibetan owned businesses!!


  46. boskl

    If I would to visit Tibet mid Oct, will the TTB permit allow to process during that time?
    And will the permit are ready in my hand before I went to China on12 oct?
    I heard Mt. Kailash and EBC are closed now? when they will reopen again?

  47. Sim

    As far as I heard from our Tibetan/Chinese guide (information is ten days old), not only permits to Tibet are not processed, but until October 1st all the foreigners had to leave Tibet. So I would not plan anything for October, since chances of TAR opening wide so soon are pretty low.

  48. Jenna Watson

    Hello there,

    I am hoping to make a trip to Tibet in March/April 2013, any recommendations on local Tibetan agencies that I might be able to contact in order to arrange this? Fingers crossed the regulations on a group of people from one nationality have to go but if not I have both a British and Australian passport so at least I can try and find a group of people willing to go with me. At the moment most of my friends who want to go are Swiss…


    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Jenna, For the past 5 years, the Tibet Autonomous Region has been closed to foreign tourists from late February to early April each year. You most likely will not be able to obtain the required travel permits to go in March.

      Tibet is a HUGE area covering 25% of the land mass of China. Email (thelandofsnows@gmail.com) me which specific region of Tibet you are planning to go to and I will glady get back to you with some agency recommendations.


  49. Sortie

    Hi, Just would like to check, 5 person in a group and the deposit $500 had been transfer to the agency, however one of the member need to be cancel the trip, due to personal sickness. Will the member able to get back the deposit from agency?


    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Sortie, yes if someone has to cancel you will get the $500 refunded to you, minus the bank transfer fees. However, if you have a participant cancel, you will most likely have to find another person in order to have the required 5 people.


  50. Sortie

    The participant was cancel suddenly, all the permit process had been done. That means the cancel participant unable to get back the deposit $500 from travel agency?

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      I would need to know more about this situation. If all of the tour had been arranged including permits, then the travel agency might keep the deposit, depending what was written in the tour contract. Without looking at the tour contract, I can’t really give an opinion on this.


  51. Marie

    Hi there,

    Thank you very, very much for your up-to-date information about travel to TAR.

    I know this may be a foolish question, but is it possible to get into Qinghai/Xining as of now (November 1) without a special permit? Are there any restrictions as of now other than in the Ngawa/Aba area?


    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Marie…Hope you are doing well!

      Currently, there are no travel restrictions on going to Xining and nearly all areas of Qinghai are open to foreign travelers. The only places that are closed are remote places that few foreigners have ever heard of.

      All areas in Amdo and Kham that are in Qinghai and Sichuan are open, except for Ngawa county, which remains closed indefinitely. There have been several recent immolations in the Labrang (Xiahe) area of SW Gansu province. Though the government there has not officially stated that the area is closed, foreigners most likely will not be able to go to this area.

      Have a good day….Losang

  52. another marie

    I happened to find your question and answer as i roamed around for weather information, regarding nepal and my heart Tibet. Thank you for the mention of those closed areas and the passing of monks in Labrang. Tibet remains a culture behind bars. I wish to never forget and never give up. Your posting of the facts keeps us in touch with truth regarding the conditions in the Tibet.

  53. Andrew Mille

    Losang, You were kind enough this fall to direct me to Snowlion tours for a possible trip for myself only from Lhasa to the Friendship Bridge in late January, then on into Nepal on my own. Snowlion (Gonkho) asked me to send funds to cover the tour, but was vague as to how to obtain a visa for China. He told me they would deliver my Tibet permit at my hotel in Xining. It appears I won’t be able to get a visa though without showing my full itinerary in China, in that my air ticket is to Bejing, then on from Dehli after traveling overland across the country. From what I am reading in your excellent site, it appears my hope to travel across Tibet solo is out of the question unless restrictions have changed.

    Also, I tried to sign up for your newletter but the request was refused. Is there a way I can donate to your excellent work? Thank you! Andrew Miller, Fraser, Colorado

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Andrew…Yes, certain Chinese consulates/embassies are now requiring a full itinerary showing hotel bookings for each area and sometimes are also requiring to see air tickets leaving China. Travel agencies normally cannot keep up with the changing visa regulations and the fact that different nationalities and different consulates/embassies have different rules.

      Traveling solo in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is completely impossible and has been all year long. I do not expect the group travel regulation to change anytime soon. The areas of Amdo and Kham remain mostly open and do not require group travel.

      If you plan to be in the area again, do let me know.


  54. joy

    Hi Losang,

    Hope this finds you well! Thanks for keeping us curious Tibet-traveling hopefuls up to date. Two of us are planning to take the bullet train from Beijing to Lhasa around mid-December for a couple of weeks traveling around Tibet. Any helpful updates or tips on how to secure visas is most appreciated! We are currently living in Hong Kong so if you know of any esteemed tour operators we could connect with before departing for China please advise!

    Thanks again!

    Joy and Nick

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Joy and Nick….I hope you are both doing well.

      There is no “bullet train” to Lhasa. All the trains to Lhasa travel at the normal speeds. The train from Beijing to Lhasa takes about 47 hours. Since Tibet is firmly a part of China, there is no such thing as a Tibet Visa. What you need is a travel permit, which is nothing like a visa. All foreigners are required to be part of an organized tour in order to travel to Lhasa or any other part of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Only a travel agency can arrange this for you as well as the required travel permits. I recommend emailing me which parts of Tibet you plan to go to and then I will respond to you about which agencies you should contact. My email address is thelandofsnows@gmail.com


  55. Jim

    Hello Losang,
    Thanks for your very helpful website and information. Is the Amdo region currently open to foreigners? I am hoping to visit Xiahe and Tongren during Spring Festival holiday, February 9 -15.

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Jim, for the past year the Amdo region has seen countless protests and self-immolations. The Amdo region is the most restive area of the Tibetan Plateau. Currently Labrang (Xiahe) is open to foreign travelers. Repkong (Tongren) seems to be open, though recent reports from travelers to the regions suggest that the police there can be a little intimidating.

      Losar (Tibetan New Year) is generally a great time to be in this area and normally there are numerous festivals. However, with the amount of political unstableness in both Labrang and Repkong, it is difficult to say if the local government will allow the normal festivals to take place.


  56. Michael Green

    Hi Losang,

    Thank you for taking the effort to provide the most up-to-date information regarding permits for Tibet on the internet. I am a citizen of the UK and wondered if you could confirm that the ban on UK citizens travelling to Tibet has been lifted as another website seems to indicate that it has. I am hoping to travel in April 2013 if this information is correct. Many Thanks.

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Michael, currently the Tibet Autonomous Region is closed to all foreign tourists until at least March 17th. Sometime in mid-March, the Tibet Tourism Bureau will have a meeting to discuss the travel regulations for foreign travelers going to Tibet during 2013. Until then, it is impossible to say what the travel regulations will be for UK citizens in 2013. I suggest checking back with me in late March/early April for an update.

  57. Michelle

    Hi Losang,

    Firstly, what an wonderful website – I wonder why no one has recommended it to us before.

    My husband and I plan to cycle from Chengdu to Kashi. We’ll arrive in Chengdu next week and will set off after a few days. We know the southern route via Tibet is closed so we had planned to the western route. However, having read your post we’re concerned about whether we’ll be allowed to pass through certain areas – for example we had hoped to visit Aba but it seems that is totally impossible.

    Are there any areas currently closed that you know of that we would be passing through and if so do you have any alternative suggestions?

    With many thanks


  58. Cory Marshman

    Are there any places in Sichuan or Yunnan that you are required to get a TAR permit? I have heard some people have problems near the boarder of Tibet, if they don’t have a Tibet Permit. Is this true?

  59. Huub Boosten

    Hi Losang,
    do you have information about the situation in Tibet on this moment. With other words, is it possible to travel from the first of april from Nepal to Tibet with 2 persons of the same nationality ?

    Or do you still have to be in a group of 5 people

    Thank you