Arranging travel to Tibet

Arranging travel to Tibet

Arranging travel to Tibet, UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2015

I often hear from people who want to go to Tibet, but are frustrated with arranging their tour. They are convinced that arranging travel to Tibet is too difficult for them. If you use the wrong travel agency, it probably is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Having lived in Tibet for nearly 14 years and having arranged around 500 custom tours across Tibet over the past 10 years, I can personally tell you that arranging travel to Tibet is not hard! In fact, arranging travel to Tibet is very easy. With this post, I will tell you everything you need to do in order to arrange the perfect trip to Tibet.

Tibetan woman spinning a prayer wheel at Ronghhu Monastery རོང་ཕུ་དགོན་

1. The first thing that you need to do is research where in Tibet you want to go. Tibet, including the  Amdo and Kham regions, is huge and covers roughly 25% of the land mass of China, which is the world’s 4th largest country by area. There are dozens of amazing routes and itineraries to choose from. Since Tibet is so huge, it has many different types of geography to offer. I recommend picking up a copy of Lonely Planet’s Tibet guidebook. This newly updated guidebook is the best option for researching the popular overland routes that begin in Lhasa. It has detailed information for getting from Lhasa to Mt. Everest Base Camp, the Nepal border or to western Tibet’s Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. For information about the Amdo and Kham regions, I recommend getting Lonely Planet’s China guidebook. The Qinghai, western Sichuan, northwest Yunnan and southwest Gansu chapters are loaded with useful information on the Amdo and Kham regions. Another excellent resource is Footprints Tibet Handbook. This guidebook covers all regions of Tibet.

A remote monastery in Nangchen county in Yushu prefecture ཡུལ་ཤུལ་ཁུལ་ནང་ཆེན་རྫོང་ (southern Qinghai)

A Kagyu sect བཀའ་བརྒྱུད་པ་ monastery in Chamdo county ཆབ་མདོ་རྫོང་ in Kham (eastern TAR)

2. After you have researched where you want to go to in Tibet, contact a reputable, Tibetan owned travel agency. It is important to use a good, reliable travel agency when traveling through rugged and remote Tibet. For budget travelers, it is very important to research which agency to use. The agency with the lowest price is usually not the best agency to use. Not all agencies care about their customers and some arrange itineraries that are dangerous and do not provide enough time to properly acclimatize to high elevation. Because travel permits and tours to Tibet can take several days to arrange, it is best to contact a travel agency at least 4 to 6 weeks before you plan to depart to Lhasa. For recommendations on which travel agency to use, feel free to contact me:

All foreign travelers to the Tibet Autonomous Region are required to be part of an organized tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide and a private vehicle with a driver (no vehicle is required if you are just staying in Lhasa). There are no exceptions to this. You will not be allowed to board a train or flight to Lhasa without showing your travel permits. These permits can only be issued by a travel agency. This is not a new regulation, but has been enforced off and on for the past 30 years. The Kham and Amdo areas, which cover 50% of the Tibetan Plateau, have no travel regulations, though they do close periodically due to political protests.

A young Amdo monk from near Qinghai Lake/Tso Ngonbo མཚོ་སྔོན་པོ།

3. When you have decided on a travel route for Tibet and have found a good travel agency to use, then you (actually the agency) begin processing your tour. This can all be done through email. There is no need to physically go to a travel agency to arrange your tour of Tibet. As I stated above, begin contacting a Tibet based travel agency 4 to 6 weeks before you plan to arrive in Lhasa. In order for your travel permits to be processed, you will need to scan and email the agency you use a high-resolution image of both your passport and Chinese visa. These are needed in order to apply for your travel permits. The agency will arrange your permits and everything else for you. They will arrange a guide, a vehicle and a driver. Most agencies can also arrange train tickets and discounted air tickets to Lhasa.

4. Travel agencies require a deposit of anywhere between 10% and 50% before they will issue you your travel permit. Tour deposits can be sent using a bank transfer, Western Union or Pay Pal. The remaining balance of your tour will need to be paid once you arrive in Lhasa. Some agencies will require you to pay the entire tour balance before arriving in Lhasa. As long as the agency is reputable, I see no problem paying the entire tour balance before arriving in Lhasa.

The Yarlung Tsangpo River ཡར་ཀླུངས་གཙང་པོ་ཆུ་ east of Lhasa

5. If you plan to fly to Lhasa, you will need to give the agency you use the address of a hotel in mainland China where you plan to stay so they can mail you the original permit. The original permit is needed in order to board a flight to Lhasa. Most people fly to Lhasa from Chengdu. If you plan to take the train to Lhasa, a copy of the permit is all you need. The agency will email you the permit and you will need to print it out (both pages). The copy of your permit will need to be shown to officials before you can board the train to Lhasa.

Besides doing a little research and sending a few emails, there isn’t much else to arranging a tour to Tibet. It is not difficult to do. In my years of experience arranging tours of Tibet, I have arranged many trips with just 4 or 5 fairly short emails. Bottom line: It’s not that hard arranging travel to Tibet!

For more information on getting to Tibet or for recommendations on which travel agencies to use, feel free to contact me at:

Lobsang བློ་བཟང་

Nuns walking at Everest Base Camp

70 thoughts on “Arranging travel to Tibet

  1. Pingback: Tibet Travel — How to Plan Your Trip to Tibet

  2. ray

    We are planning to go on tour this may 2012 with a company called Tibet Does any know if this is a legit company operating out of Lhasa? Thank you Ray


    I understand you work with Zhilam hostel? I am booked in to arrive on the 6th July. I have return flight from Guangzhou to Chengdu-Guangzhou.
    depart Guangzhou:CA4310-5th July
    Depart Chengdu:JD5162-15th July

    Can you advise cost of return flight to link with the above to get me to Kanding .
    please advise as soon as possible

  4. Salikea

    Hi, we are traveling to mutiple countries in the south pacific Asian countries and would like to fly into China and take the train into Tibet. Can we fly out to Tibet straight into India after? Or do we have to travel by train for 45 hours back into Beijing or shianghai in order to fly out to India? thanks for your blog post.

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hello….There are no flights from Tibet to India. There are 2 main ways of getting to India from Tibet:

      1. Go to Nepal (either overland or by flight) from Lhasa. Then, from Kathmandu, you can fly to Indian cities such as Delhi or Kolkata.
      2. From Lhasa, you can go to Kunming. You can fly to Kunming via Shangri La or take the train to Chengdu and then on to Kunming. Kunming has several weekly flights to Kolkata.


  5. Chan Jit Yen


    We are Malaysian students and will be travelling in Tibet and Nepal on this coming June. Any recommendation for reliable travel agency with the best price.

    Hope to get your reply soon.

    Jit Yen

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Jit Yen, I hope you are doing well. The Tibetan Plateau covers a HUGE area of 2.5 million square kilometers and is nearly 8 times the size of Malaysia. I recommend telling me which specific regions of Tibet you plan to travel to and then email me at and I will get back to you on a travel agency recommendation. Few travel agencies specialize in all of Tibet, which is why it is best to tell me where you plan to go.

      Have a good day…..Losang

    2. Eywen Yap Ee Wen

      Jit Yen,

      Came across this and knew that you have been to Tibet from Malaysia. Need more advice from you. If you don’t mind, can you share me more details on your trip?


        1. Husna

          Can you send me some info on how to travel from malaysia to.tibet.
          We plan to travel to tibet,nepal n Bhutan overland. We know that there is a lot of flight to b fro kuala Lumpur to nepal,but we are not sure on docs needed to travel from nepal to tibet. N from tibet to Bhutan.

          If u.have any any advices, kindly email me ya.


          1. Ezzan

            Hi Lobsang & everyone. My husband and i with our 2 teenage daughter plan to visit tibet somewhere around May 29th if time permits OR before end of the year.

            Anyone from Malaysia would like to join our trip? or is anyone from Malaysia been there recently?

            Would like to know all infos, tips of getting to Lhasa by train. Kindly drop me a line at

            Lobsang, would like to receive your soonest reply, i’m in the midst of arranging itinerary to travel into tibet and need your advise and help.

            Thank you in advance

  6. Oliver

    I booked a tour to Tibet fo April, but yesterday I was told that the tour has been cancelled. Having already booked flights and attained the Chinese visa, I am still intent on trying to go ahead on travel to Tibet, but with a different tour company. My trip would preferably depart Beijing, and travel to Lhasa by train. Then travel down the friendship Highway, visiting places such as Tingri and EBC. Then will travel on into Kathmandu, where the tour would end. I would preferably begin the tour on or around the 14th April. I am a solo British traveller. Do you know of any tour companies that might be able to help or offer a tour like this? Any help or advice would be genuinly appreciated. Thank you.

  7. John

    I’m closing a tour with “Explore Tibet” to Lhasa, I’d be very gratefull if you could give me your personal reference about this company? Thank you John

    1. Losang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      John, Explore Tibet is one of the few travel agencies in Tibet that I know very little about. I have not heard any bad reports about them and they are a Tibetan owned and staffed company, so based on that, I assume they are a good company to use.

      Enjoy your trip to Tibet!

  8. Anh


    I am a big fan of your blog and website !
    I will go to Jiuzhaigou and part of Kham Tibet this October the first time in a group of 10 people. Could you please advice us a budget car rental service company from Chendu ? I’ve searched over the internet, there are plenty of them, but it’s really difficult to identify the reputable & with best price service companies among them.

    Many thanks in advance !


  9. sherry

    Hi I’m traveling on a budget are there any reputable tour companies that can take me to Namsto Lake in Tibet on a 4-6 day tour at most?

  10. Kallol Chatterjee

    Can you get me into a group tour that begins in Lhasa and ends in Kathmandu in early August 2014?

    Thank you

    Kallol Chatterjee

  11. Susan


    Kind thanks for your informative site.

    My friend and I are beginning to arrange a spiritual walk through Tibet and are realising how difficult it is with visas and potential restrictions.
    We are planning to walk from Kathmandu and up to Lhasa for three months in Jan-March 2015 (yes by foot..!) and will then catch a train to Bejiing.
    Will we require a Sherpa for this walking trip?

    Kind thanks for your time,

  12. claudio

    can you suggest me a trusted travel agency? i’m in Beijing at the moment and i want to cross the border to nepal before 22th of june because on that day my chinese visa expire. I can’t take flights so i’ll arrive in Lhasa by train and want to pass on friendship highway. do you think is possible?

  13. Howard Huxter


    Interesting site!

    Can you advise on a travel agent to use. I am British living and working in China for many years



  14. Monique


    My partner and I are a young twenties couple planning to visit tibet on our way out of china to head to nepal. We are photographers on holiday and want a thorough, relaxed tour through tibet and have a very local and photographic experience for at least 3 weeks, from there we want to train it to kathmandu.

    i have read here that when applying for a chinese visa to not mention tibet on the itinerary.

    is there a way/tour whether it be group or private travel tour that can accommodate for up to 3 weeks? We are aiming to reach tibet around late august – September.

    your help would be much appreciated!

    Thank you for your time.


    1. Kasia

      In September I also plan to travel to Tibet. I’m going from Beijing to Lhasa by train and later go trekking to the base of Mount Everest.I don’t have a lot of many for trip so I need cheap agency I am traveling witm my husbend and if it is possible to join to one of group of tour it will be great for us. Maybe we can make a one of tour group in Tibet, it will be cheaper for us.

  15. Elli Cheung

    I am planning to go to Tibet between 27 Jun – 5 Jul this year and have been contacting a few travel agency which I found in the Lonely Planet Guide Book.
    After contact one of the reputable agencies, Shigatse Travels, they refer me to Tibetan Expeditions, whom they claimed to be the same travel agency in Lhasa, only that they deal with private tours. I wonder if you have heard about them and about their reputation. The thing which concern me is their price is much lower than the others in general, ie. Road to Tibet, Spinn Cafe,Namchen Tours etc. What do you think about the agency I have contacted? Appreciate if you have any recommendations!
    Many thanks,

      1. Oliver Thomas

        Dear Lobsang,

        I am in contact with Tibetan Expeditions as well and would also be interested in hearing your recommendation about that agency. Feel free to email me some information, thank you!

  16. Tina Lu

    Hello Lobsang,

    This is Tina from Hong Kong. My friends and I, which is 4 people in total, planned to visit Tibet for graduation trip for 21 days.

    We are travelling Lasa on our own by public transportation, and are looking for car rental just for visiting parts besides Lasa, which will a total of 15 days to spend.

    Would like to ask for your recommendation for car rental, because from our research, the price varied greatly.

    Can you give us some hints on what a reasonable price should be, and whether a Tibetan driver is preferable to a Han driver. It would also be great, if you have a particular driver that you would like to introduced to us.

    Thank you so so much for kindly advising us 🙂


  17. Dani Gee

    My husband and I are planning to travel to Tibet in December 2015/Jan 2016.
    We have been reading through forums, and consider getting into Tibet rather straightforward. We would like some helpful information from you to confirm what requirements are, and perhaps some suggestions as to places that we can visit.
    Thankyou 🙂

  18. mavis wu

    Hello Lobsang, 🙂

    I’m Mavis i would like to visit Tibet on 2016 Sep/Oct.
    Actually i still not yet work on any plan.

    Hope you can advise me on the permit, package that available and some useful information.

    As i know we need to travel in Tibet with the local tour agency, no backpack allow.

    But i prefer more budgeted trip.

    Any advise.

    Sorry for trouble you,

    Thanks you very much 🙂



  19. Max & Two

    Dear Lobsang,

    My friend and I planning to visit Tibet in May 2016. First we will be flying in to Chengdu and then will fly from Chengdu to Lhasa for 9 days.

    Please could you advise us what would be the best way to get Travel permit to Tibet as we would like to visit a few places including to the Everest base camp.

    Please let me know what is your price range. Note: I would prefer a more budget trip but not to basic also.

    Thank you in advance for your infomation.

    Max and Two

  20. Deanne

    Hi there, Im planning to visit to tibet on Sep 2016, there’s 5 persons here in my group. Could I have the suggested itinerary and package for trekking to Mt Everest?
    Email me at

    Thanks! Have a great day ahead!

  21. Erik Hornman

    Dear Lobsang,

    Many thanks for all your valuable information on this website
    Could you provide me with the name of a good travel agent for making travel arrangements for tibet(train from Xining to Lhasa, travels in tibet and finally overland to kathmandu.
    many thanks

  22. kh

    hi lobsang,

    I am plan to visit Tibet on this coming july / august, I will be with my few fren will traveling together.

    can you send my more infor about from Malaysia to Tibet, and what is the nice place can be visit during this trip.

    we are planning to go lasha by train, plan to have a 10-12 days tour.


    1. Ai Hui

      Hi, kh ! Nice to meet you.

      I’m from Malaysia as well and would like to travel alone to Tibet in August/September. Do you join group tour or do you organise a private tour on your own? I’m doing some budgeting now and it’s really hard…

  23. Irina

    Dear Lobsang, thank you very much for clarifying some burning questions! Do you have any recommended tours? Moreover, some tours do not explicitly state flights or train tickets to Lhasa from China (eg. Chengdu, as what you’ve stated). How much does it roughly cost? I’m still doing some research as to which parts of Tibet I wanna go to, but Lhasa seems to be an interesting place. Now I’m just looking at which other places I shall go to. Thanks a lot!

  24. Emma Harrison

    I am really thankful to you for offering such a good information about Tibet.Tibet,really awesome place to travel.Is there any possibilities to travel Tibet through Nepal ? Will you help me out ?

  25. Rayson Sun

    Hi, We group of 4 people plan to travelling in Tibet and Bhutan on this coming Chinese New Year Time in year 2017. Any recommendation for reliable travel agency with the best price.

    Hope to get your reply soon.

  26. Dandz

    You are soooo knowledgable, I look forward to receiving information. My husband and I have plans to trek in the Kanchenjunga region of Nepal (through a USA owned company who has contracted with a Nepalese company to lead the trek – sorry, I don’t know the Nepalese company’s name). Our trek is from October 23-November 19, 2016. After the trek, we want to fly from Nepal to Lhasa on either November 20 or 21. I am in communication with a travel agent in Lhasa for a local tour in the Lhasa area, but they will not arrange any of our current documents to secure a “Group Chinese Tourist Visa” through the Chinese Embassy in Nepal – which is what we will need since we are coming from Nepal and entering Tibet – right? We currently have a 10-year Chinese Visa issued through the Chinese Embassy in USA, and a USA Passport. Can you recommend a travel agency in Nepal that can assist us with planning a 3or4-day tour of Lhasa? Lastly, when we depart Lhasa we would like to take the train from Lhasa Railway to Shanghai Railway. Ideally, can you recommend a travel agent in Nepal willing to assist with arranging the paperwork for getting into Lhasa, booking the airline from Kathmandu to Lhasa; pickup from the airport in Lhasa by a tour guide, with a driver, booking hotels during the tour, and include some meals (usually breakfast & lunch). Also, which railway station in Shanghai does the train arrive (I believe there are 3 – west, south and ???). Thank you in advance for your time and reply.

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      As you are going to Tibet and then on to Mainland China, I ONLY recommend using a travel agency in Tibet. Almost all reputable agencies in Tibet can assist you in getting the required Group Chinese Visa in Kathmandu….this is very easy. I have emailed you some reputable travel agencies in Lhasa to contact for your journey. It makes no sense to use a travel agency in Neal to book your train tickets from Lhasa, Tibet to Shanghai, China…..use a local agency instead!


  27. JL Lee

    Dear Lobsang, appreciate if you could kindly send me some travel agency name in Lhasa , as I would need their help to obtain permit, to travel overland Tibet to Nepal if the boarder is open.
    Thank you,

  28. JL

    we, me and GF, are looking at travel in June or July, although we are open. We travel internationally frequently. we are not fans of tour groups and are more inclined to independent travel. Normally, we rent a local car and just drive, we like to interact with local culture that wa, we have done this is turkey, Argentina, UAE… any suggestions or thoughts on how best to plan an adventure rather than a tour group? Look forward to your input.

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Hi….Group tours are NOT required in Tibet, however, an organized tour IS required. No exceptions. All foreign travelers going to Tibet must have their journey arranged by a travel agency and must include a private vehicle, a driver, a tour guide, travel permits and an official travel itinerary. I have emailed you further info to help you get to Tibet.


  29. Kris

    I am currently planning a trip to china and tibet (beijing-lhasa-xian-shanghai). I have received a interesting offer from a travel agency in Lhasa, but i can’t find any reviews of the agency. Do you know anything about ? I have also tried finding the adress on google, but ican’t find it.

  30. Sixian

    Dear Lobsang,

    Thanks for all these valuable information you’re putting out there on travel in Tibet. It’s been super useful. I’m currently planning for a trip to Tibet and have plans to move on to Ladakh subsequently. Appreciate your advise and recommendations on agencies for the 2 places. Also, what is the most sensible way to get into Ladakh after my visit to Tibet?


  31. OE

    I am planning to fly to Chengdu, and then transfer to Tibet in Sept. Could you provide a good tour agency for Tibet travel,and recommended tours. Thanks!

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