Getting a Tibet Travel Permit

Getting a Tibet Travel Permit

Overlooking Nam Tso, Tibet’s most famous lake


If you have been looking online for Tibet travel information, you have probably come across multiple sites that seem to contradict each other regarding the travel regulations in Tibet. I constantly read websites that have either severely outdated travel information on Tibet or the information is simply incorrect. Some websites I have come across, particularly those from travel agencies in North America and Europe, list regulations that are outdated by as many as 20 years! Wrong information can be extremely frustrating for travelers who are trying to plan their journey to Tibet. Here’s a little secret…..Getting a Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) is not difficult! It’s very easy! Let me tell you how to do it……….

Snow-covered Tibetan Plateau

First, it’s important to understand what a Tibet Travel Permit is…..and what it is not. TTP’s are not a “Tibet Visa”. Since Tibet is part of China, there is no such thing as a “Tibet Visa”, even though many travel agencies will use this term when referring to TTP’s. When going to Tibet, there is only 1 visa that you need and that is a Chinese Visa (tourist, student, work, business, etc). When entering Tibet from Mainland China, you can apply for a Chinese tourist visa in your home country or at most other Chinese Embassies/Consulates across the globe. When entering Tibet from Nepal, you will have to obtain a Group Chinese Visa at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. You will not be able to use a Chinese Visa obtained from anywhere else…it must be from the Kathmandu Chinese Embassy. The travel agency you use will assist you with this.

A Tibet Travel Permit is similar to an entrance ticket. In addition to a Chinese Visa, all foreign travelers must also have a Tibet Travel Permit in order to enter Tibet. TTP’s are issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa and not by Chinese Embassies/Consulates. These permits are valid for the duration of your journey in Tibet. The permit is not placed in your passport (again, TTP’s are not visas). The permit is 2 pieces of paper. The first lists your itinerary in Tibet, along with your travel dates and the business number of the travel agency you are using. The second page lists your name (as well as the names of anyone traveling with you) as well as your nationality, gender, passport number, profession and birthdate. While you will have the permit (or a copy of it) when you board a flight or train to Lhasa, your guide will handle the permit the remaining time of your journey. You probably won’t see it very often. Your guide will show it to authorities at the numerous checkpoints that are across Tibet.

The black stupa at Samye Monastery

Now, how do you get a Tibet Travel Permit?? Only a travel agency can arrange this for you as part of an organized tour. In addition to a Tibet Travel Permit, you will also require a tour guide, a private vehicle and a driver in order to travel to Tibet. There are NO exceptions to these regulations. You cannot get a TTP on your own. It is issued from the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa. Permits are not issued from Chinese Embassies or Consulates.  To get the permit, follow these simple instructions:

  1. Contact a local, Tibetan-owned travel agency (contact me for recommendations on which travel agency to use)
  2. Tell them the travel route you wish to follow in Tibet (you have the freedom to design your own itinerary while traveling in Tibet)
  3. Tell the agency the dates you plan to travel in Tibet
  4. Scan and email the agency your passport and Chinese Visa
  5. The travel agency will then take care of EVERYTHING else for you, including obtaining your permits, arranging a vehicle and driver and arranging a guide for your journey.

The travel agency you use will fill out the paper work for your permit, submit it to the Tibet Tourism Bureau and then mail or email the permit to you so that you can board a flight or train to Tibet. **NOTE: If taking the train to Tibet, the travel agency will just email you a copy of the permit. If you take a flight to Tibet, the travel agency will mail you the original permit.

Certain areas of Tibet require additional permits such as an Alien Travel Permit or Military Permit. The same applies to these permits….the travel agency you use will take care of these for you. You don’t need to do anything except follow the simple 5 steps listed above! The travel agency you use will know which permits are required for your journey and they will take care of all the required paperwork in obtaining these permits. Remember, permits are just 1 thing that you need in order to travel to Tibet. You will also have to have a tour guide, a private vehicle and a driver (Exception are tours that only stay in Lhasa. No private vehicle or driver are required in your stay within the city of Lhasa. A guide is still required for tours to Lhasa.)

In summary, getting a Tibet Travel Permit is NOT difficult. You don’t have to do anything except contact a travel agency. The agency you use will take care of everything regarding your permit and will then mail or email it to you so you can enter Tibet. The most difficult thing about getting the required travel permits is trying to get accurate, up-to-date travel information on Tibet. For more information on how to get to Tibet, read the following post of mine: How to get to Tibet

For a recommendation on a reputable, Tibetan-owned travel agency to use or if you have any other Tibet travel questions, please email me at:

15 thoughts on “Getting a Tibet Travel Permit

  1. Gary Imanishi

    One of my life long dream is to visit Tibet. A great friend of mine invited me to travel with him to Lhasa, Mt Kailash. He is considering the 20 day trip with possibly adding a few more days. I have never experienced this type of vacation/trek. I would need to prepare for this adventure. Can you suggest how one from Seattle prepare physically for this as well as outfitting properly for it. Thanks!

  2. JY

    Hello there. Thanks so much for setting up this website! It has given me a lot of useful insights. I would like to find out the time required to get the TTP? I’ve submitted all the documents to the travel agency for my Tibet trip starting on April 29, but was told they will only be able so submit the docs at the beginning of April because of my trip’s dates, which means i’ll only know of my visa status Mid April or earlier.

    Thanks in advance!

      1. Simas

        Hello, thanks for the article!
        I have one question in which I would appreciate your clarification: So when I arrive at Lhasa, can I just leave on my own and start hiking/backpacking across the country without any guides and cars?

        1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

          Um, no. You won’t make it out of the airport or train station without proving that you already have a FULL organized tour arranged. As stated a million times throughout my website, ALL foreigners going to Tibet MUST be on an organizd tour that includes travel permits, a tour guide, a private vehicle and a driver. You cannot travel in Tibet on your own.


  3. Sue White

    I have found your web site really helpful, thank you. We are hoping to drive from the UK to India and we’re glad to see the Nepal China border may be re-opening in June. We have our own vehicle, is it possible to drive through Tibet in this with a guide or do we have to have a driver as well, or indeed use a local car. Can you please suggest a travel agent who could arrange a guide for us if it is possible to use our own car to come in from Kyrgyzstan come around west and then south of the Takliman desert via Lhasa into Nepal, across Nepal into India. Is this possible or would you suggest a better route. We would like to leave the UK this summer and get into India before the snow. YCan you suggest roughly how long it would take and suggest a travel agent please. Many thanks, Sue

  4. Nat

    Hello, great site and lots of useful info, thanks.

    I have a flight to Lhasa booked from Bangkok late July 2016. I do not have a Chinese Tourist Visa or TTB permit yet. I have three questions:

    1. It says in lots of places not to mention Tibet on your application for a Visa however as my flight ticket says BKK – LXA they will know. Is this going to be a problem?

    2. Tours are very expensive and when I went in 2005 you didn’t need to be on a tour every day of your trip. Can I book a tour for 4 days and then extend my trip after and just stay in Lhasa and do my own sight-seeing there?

    3. How can I get the TTB permit when my flight starts in BKK and ends in LXA via XMN? Do they email it or only post to Chinese address still?

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Nat….You will certainly have problems getting a Chinese visa if you provide a flight booking showing Lhasa on it. Just show your flight from Bangkok to Mainland China and you will be fine. Yep….Tibet is not a budget travel destination. Travel regulations have changed 100 times since you were last here in 2005. The travel regulations change and change often. Your Tibet Travel Permit will need to be mailed to you in Mainland China. It cannot be mailed to the airport. It is ALWAYS best to arrange your tour of Tibet BEFORE you buy your flight tickets to Lhasa.


  5. Tatiana

    Please advise us which travel agency to use to get Tibet Travel Permit, How much is it We are going to visit Tibet, Lhasa, Drepung monastery , palkhor Chode, a city of Shigatse, Tashilhunpo monastery, Sakya, Shegar, Rongbuk, Lhatse Chode.
    We are going to set off Chengdu this July 2016

    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      You need more than just a permit to go to Tibet….as I have written in this post. You must have an organized tour that includes permits, a tour guide, a private vehicle and a driver. I have emailed you some travel agencies in Tibet to contact. Enjoy your journey!


  6. Yvinne

    I am planning to visit Tibet (mainly Lhasa) in mid December 2016 and I would be grateful if you could send me some local travel agents info so that I plan my trip accordingly. Thank you!

  7. Michal


    we plan travel to Tibet late next month. Can you please send us your recomennded travel agency? I will also appreciate latest information regarding the Lhasa to Kathmandu overland travel via Zhangmu port or Gyirong port.
    PS. Is it true that there may be chinese visa problem if the Tibet visit is mentioned in the travel itinerary?

    Thank you


    1. Lobsang བློ་བཟང་ Post author

      Michal….The border crossing from Tibet to Nepal remains closed and likely will remain closed for many more months. The only way to go from Tibet to Nepal is to fly from Lhasa to Kathmandu. I sent you an email with further information.


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