Everyone knows Tibet—at least, they think they do. The word alone conjures images of monks, meditation, and mountaintops; of blue skies, white ice, and red robes; of a spiritually pure Shangri-La. Yet, in truth, few people know the reality of 21st-century Tibet, and that’s because it is one of the least trammelled areas in the world. Getting to Tibet is difficult—the borders spend more time closed than open—but it’s not impossible. Here are some lesser-known facts about Tibet to study up on before you journey there.
This is not permitted. If you plan to visit Tibet, be prepared to have a private tour or be part of a group tour. Before 2008, although a rarity, there were some free tours, however, all persons must be accompanied and have to go through various check points. This is for security reasons especially in the outskirts of Lhasa.
2. How much tour freedom do I really have?
When visiting tour points in Tibet, you have to be accompanied by a tour guide but if you are relaxing for the day, you are permitted to be alone. There are very clear rules of where you need or don’t need a tour guide. Just follow the instructions to avoid altercations with the authority.
3. What travel permits do I need to apply for if I want to visit Tibet?
Various travel permits exist for Tibet, most importantly and applicable to you, will be the TTB (Tibet Tourism Bureau) if you plan on visiting Lhasa and nearby areas for a few days. PSB permit and ATP permit are needed if you are to go near sites such as Mt. Everest, Tsedang, and Nyingchi.
4. Can I travel in Tibet by public bus given the private transportation is costly?
You are not permitted to use public transportation. Visiting Tibet implies costly transportation often arranged by tour agency.
5. What are the hotels like in Tibet?
Tourism is Tibet is in its infancy and the number of 4 Star hotels is quite limited. The newer hotels have been built away from the city center in order to protect the city´s historical and environmental sites. These hotels have central heating which is used in winter but no cooling is available in summer. The level of service and facilities may be quite basic. Staff will probably not speak much English. Hotels in small cities and the Everest Base camp are very basic. They will usually have a public bathroom with a squat toilet.
6. What are the hotel rooms like in Tibet?
Often, in a room, there are two beds which or a bed twin room. Some hotels have queen beds and some even have triple beds. But the number of queen bed room and triple is very limited. Twin-sharing room with two beds inside is commonly used in Tibet.
7. Does the hotel room have access to internet?
Some hotel rooms, not all, in Lhasa have access to internet, so you should inquiry your travel advisor for this information when booking accommodation.
8. Is there 24-hour hot water running?
Due to basic condition in Tibet, sometimes with the poor water pressure, the water flow is weak water temperature just warm. In remote areas, the conditions can be even worse.
9. What can I eat in Tibet?
In Lhasa, you can choose from a variety of Chinese food, western food, Nepali food and Tibetan food as well. But in remote towns and areas, choice is limited, Chinese food or Sichuan cuisine is the best choice.