Tibet – Know Before You Go

General Information

Activity
You take an adventurous drive by best 4WD land cruiser across the ‘roof of the world’ with an English speaking local Tibetan guide. A highlight of this trip is the visit to the Everest Base Camp at 5200m, from where you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Everest’s north face. This trip does not involve any trekking or physical activity, unless you opt to walk 9 km from Rongbuk to the Everest base Camp. It takes around two hours to reach EBC. No tour vehicles, apart from expeditions, are allowed beyond Rongbuk so you walk for 9kms or take a horse cart that will cost $3-5 per person.

Arrival in Lhasa
Tibet is connected by railway line from Chengdu, Beijing, Xian, Xining and Shanghai.
Air China operates flights between Kathmandu and Lhasa (Tue, Thu & Sat – 2008). This flight offers spectacular views of Mt. Everest, Makalu and many other Himalayan giants. We will organize your pick up once you reach Lhasa and drive you to your hotel.

Visa & Entry Procedure

Via Kathmandu
For Tibet, we organize a group visa, and in order to do this we will need a copy of your passport at least 30 days prior to the commencement of your trip. Tourism regulations in Tibet are subject to change without prior notice. As per current regulation Chinese Embassy issues visa on Monday, Wed and Fri (09.00am – 11.00am) in Kathmandu. Hence, we will need your original passport 1 day before the visa processing day.

Visa Mainland China
Those entering Tibet from mainland China (Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xian, Guilin, etc.) have to get Chinese visa from their country.

Group Size
We bring together a small group of like-minded people. During the trip, not only do they gain a memorable and insightful travel experience but also get an invaluable opportunity to interact with each other. On our fixed scheduled departures, group comprises minimum 2 persons and maximum of 12. You are likely to join a group from different countries. Average age ranges from early 20s to mid 50s.

For private trips, no minimum and maximum apply. If you would like to travel independently or with your friends, families and colleagues you are invited to choose any of the trips at your convenient time frame for any number of people.

Accommodation
In Lhasa, accommodation will be at 3-star hotel. This hotel is renowned for its hospitability and ethnic Tibetan ambience.  It is centrally located, just a few minutes walk from the Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Square. Elsewhere along the route, accommodation will be at the available hotels. If you would like to book a single room, please do inform us. A supplement charge will incur in that case.

Rooms in Tingri and Rongbuk cannot be booked in advance. Your guide books them on arrival. If rooms are not available at specified guest house, he will book a room at another similar category guest house. No private rooms are available at Rongbuk guesthouses. Only dormitory style of accommodation is available with 6 to 7 beds in a big hall.

We shall try our best to provide the best accommodation available but please do keep in mind that you are taking an adventure tour, and sometimes the arrangement may be basic. Traveling in Tibet is a fantastic experience but sometimes you have to put up with a bit of discomfort. To enjoy this trip you need to have an adventurous spirit and the ability to adapt to minor discomforts.

Guide
Throughout your time in Tibet you will be accompanied by an experienced English-speaking Tibetan guide who will not only act as an interpreter but will also provide valuable insights into the Tibetan way of life.

Food
All breakfasts are included in our package. Your guide will help you find good restaurants with reasonable price. A must are the small Tibetan restaurants which serve authentic Tibetan food. You can try ethnic Tibetan cuisine. Have some momos or gyantok, and wash it down with a cup of salted Tibetan butter tea. Meals will either be in the hotel or at a restaurant of your choice (where available). While on the road, lunch will be at one of the many Chinese tea shops along the way which generally serve a variety of noodle and vegetable dishes and meat where available.

 Expect to spend around USD $15-20 per day for meals.

A Typical Day – Overland Drive
After breakfast, we begin our day’s drive at about 9am. We’ll drive for several hours, stopping along the way for photographs or places of special interest, before stopping for lunch at around midday. After lunch we continue our journey, generally arriving at our destination by 3 or 4pm.

Transportation
We use the best 4WD Land cruisers (Toyota 4500) for the overland drive across the Tibetan highland. These vehicles are extremely sturdy, spacious and reliable and they make the journey as comfortable as possible.

Communication
Communication facilities in Tibet have been improved over the past few years. All the hotels we use in Lhasa, Gyantse and Shigatse have international IDD phone and fax services. Phone calls can also be made from public booth in bigger towns. Internet cafes are also available at bigger towns, check with your guide for the best cyber cafes in each town.

These days, mobile phones work fine up to the Everest Base Camp. You can also have a roaming facility added to your mobile phone. If you buy a Chinese SIM card at the border, you could stay in touch with your family and friends most of the time.

Best Time to take this trip
The best time of year to take the Lhasa- Everest Base Camp tour is from April to October. During these months, the average temperature ranges from 15˚C to 25˚C, with blue skies and clear weather. From July to August there can be the odd shower during the day. The nights, however, can be very cold and temperatures can drop below 0˚C.

Clothing & Equipment
During the day, a light shirt or jumper and lightweight pants will be suitable, but a warm fleece or down jacket is recommended for the evenings.

Comprehensive list of equipments will be provided once you book your trip.

Personal Expenses
Besides Chinese Yuan, only US dollars can also be accepted in Tibet. Also shops that accept American currency are very limited and you might not be able to get a good exchange rate. Credit cards can only be used at some hotels. The Bank of China also accepts credit cards. ATM is not widely available. Exchanging your money to Chinese currency will be the best option for you, which can be done at the Bank of China (exchange rate between USD & RMB is 1.00~6.25 at the time of writing this text). While changing money at the local money exchange centers, please make sure that you are accompanied by your guide and do consult him as you may easily be duped with counterfeit notes.

Tibet is becoming more expensive every year. There are many shops in Lhasa, Shigatse and Gyantse that sell traditional Tibetan handicrafts. We recommend you to bring extra money to spend on souvenirs.

Tips are appreciated by your support team, after completion of the trip. The amount you give depends on your budget and appreciation of their work. For this you can allocate around 5% (or USD $180 per participant) of your total land tour cost.

Health
Vaccination requirements change frequently, so we suggest you consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to your trip. The main health consideration in high altitude is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). You may experience some mild symptoms initially, such as headache, lethargy, nausea and difficulty sleeping, but these should lessen within a few days. To avoid Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), people take pills called ‘Diamox’. You can also use these pills after consulting with your doctor. A supply of bottled oxygen is carried in the vehicle at all times. Chinese doctors will also be available at places like Lhasa, Gyantse, Shigatse, and Shegar. Our itinerary will allow your body to acclimatize properly and to handle the low oxygen levels.

Since 1998 (when we introduced this trip), we have organized this trip for more than 5000 clients. Out of them just 25-30 have suffered from severe AMS.

Rescue and Evacuation
In case of a serious sickness or a casualty, which we hope will not happen, you shall be transferred to the nearest hospital. Since you are entirely liable for all the expenses incurred in evacuation please make sure that it is covered by your insurance before assigning for it or be prepared to pay on your own after getting back to Kathmandu.

Insurance
Before joining a tour, we recommend you to take a travel insurance which should cover cancellation, medical expenses and emergency repatriation.

Itinerary Changes
One should keep in mind that this is an adventure trip that takes you into one of the remotest corner of the Tibetan plateau, where many unforeseen events may contribute to the need for a change in the itinerary. Depending on the prevailing situation, the itinerary can be modified to some extent after consulting with your guide. However, the date of tour completion should always coincide with the original itinerary.

People and Culture
The Tibetans are classified as belonging to the Mongoloid family of people. They are probably descendents of a variety of nomadic tribes who migrated from the north and settled along sedentary cultivation of Tibet’s river valleys.

The Tibetans living within the borders of present day Tibet are easily identified by their distinctive dialects, social customs and dress. The Topas live in the highland regions (Lato and Ngari), the Tsangpas in the West Tibet (Tsang), the Upas live in central Tibet, the Horpas comes from the north (Nagchu/Jangtang), the Kongpowas from the south, the Khampas live in the east, the Amdowa in the northeast, and the Gyarongwa in the extreme east.

Travelers to Tibet inevitably find Tibetans to be friendly and possessing a great sense of humor. It is appreciated when you try and use Tibetan language when communicating with Tibetans. The further from Lhasa you travel, the more often Tibetan is used.

Religion is extremely important to the majority of Tibetans, and travelers should endeavor to respect their customs and beliefs. Always circumambulate Buddhist religious sites or monastery in a clockwise direction, and when in a monastery do not wear a hat, smoke or touch frescoes. In addition, refrain from climbing onto statues, mani stones or other sacred objects They are warm and friendly people. Some speak a bit of English and are happy to have a chat with you. Don’t photograph people without permission, and be aware that some locations prohibit photography without a fee.

Festivals
Losar or “New Year” is celebrated in the month of February by the Tibetans. During Losar, Buddhist monks offer prayers for good health and prosperity at monasteries. People exchange various goods and gifts among them. Families organize feasts and perform dances.

Saga Dawa (Buddha’s Birthday), celebrated on the 15th day of the fourth lunar month, is an occasion for outdoor operas and to see many pilgrims at the Jokhang Temple and Mount Kailash.

Gyanste Damang (Gyantse Horse Racing and Archery), celebrated in May/June, honours the Tibetan marksmanship while riding at full tilt. Horse riding and archery competitions are held during this festival.

Samye Dholdhe Festival is celebrated in the month of June, as pilgrims and monks from distant monasteries journey to Samye to watch masked dances and obtain blessings of Buddha.

Zabling Chi Sang (World Incense Day) is a special day dedicated to pray for peace in the world.

Ganden Khi-khu (Ganden Thangka Festival) is celebrated in July to honor the founder of the Gelugpa sect.

Karma Durba (Bathing Week) is celebrated in August/ September. During the festival, the Lhasans flock to the waters of the Kyi Chu River which literally means “Changing the stars” in the belief that if they bathe all week, they will drive evil spirits from their bodies and enjoy good health in the following year.

Trip Extensions
In addition to Everest Base Camp tour, we can organize trip extensions both within Nepal and other neighboring countries. You may want to try white water rafting or go on a jungle safari in the deep jungles of Chitwan or take a cultural tour. You may as well take a trip to India or Bhutan, whichever appeals more to you.

Booking Conditons
It is fundamental you acknowledge that this is an adventure tour. This requires some flexibility. The day to day itinerary can be taken only as a guideline. We cannot be held responsible for any delays caused by international or domestic flights, strikes, Government regulations, weather or natural calamities etc. In such cases, our ground handler shall provide suitable alternatives which could be decided upon mutual agreement. If an agreement cannot be made, refunds will be made only after deducting the expenses already incurred.

Your booking will be confirmed by email once we receive your deposit of SGD $1,500 per person. This deposit goes towards paying for your international airfare and airport taxes, and towards confirming your Tibet land tour.

The balance is due no later than two months prior to departure. If you book a tour less than 2 months prior to departure, you must send the full payment within 7 days of confirmation by us.