Can You Travel Independently in Tibet?

I think you have searched online already. Can I travel independently in Tibet? This is the first question that foreign travelers should figure out before having a Tibet tour in practice. However, there might be much different information; even some are inconsistent with each other. But actually, it’s kind of easy in nowadays for foreigners to travel to Tibet. I will introduce the real and effective tips on how to have a trip to Tibet. Please kindly note that all the information in this post is valid as of July 2018.

Tibet Travel Permits

Firstly, I have to give you a definite answer --- foreigners are not allowed to travel to Tibet alone. It means you could not travel to Tibet same as other parts of China, no tour booking with a travel agency, no guide, no private vehicle, going everywhere as you like, etc. The truth is, you have to engage with a Tibet tour company in advance. Because no foreigners could enter Tibet without a paper called "Tibet Travel Permit".

Tibet Visa
Tibet Travel Permit

Actually, there are several of Tibet permits for foreigners traveling to Tibet because of the special situation of Tibet Autonomous Region. The basic one is issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau only --- Tibet Travel Permit. Some people call it Tibet Visa as well.

All the foreigners must provide the Tibet Travel Permit when boarding the flights or trains to Tibet. The only difference is the original permit for the plane, the copy for the train, except for the train from Xi’an, Chongqing, and Lanzhou.

There are two papers in total. One is written the tour group number, size of the group, date of the tour, cities before and after the Tibet, places to visit, the name of the Tibet tour company that arranges your tour, etc. Another one will list the personal information of the group members, such as name, nationality, passport number, the birth of date, and so on. Both of the two papers will be sealed with the stamp of Tibet Tourism Bureau. In addition to checking when you enter Tibet, there will be irregular checks during your stay in Tibet. It will be very troublesome once you got caught that you don’t have the Tibet Travel Permit. Thus, there is no fake thing on this matter.

Tibet Tourism Bureau doesn’t accept the Tibet Travel Permit application from the individual travelers. Only Tibet travel agencies could make it. And they have to take responsibilities for the travelers’ behaviors during their stay in Tibet.

To sum up, foreigners could not travel independently in Tibet but must book a tour from an authorized Tibet tour company in advance.

If you will travel out of Lhasa, you may need to apply for some other Tibet Permits. It depends on the places you will visit. For example, if you want to pay a visit to the highest mountain in the world --- Mt. Everest, you have to get the Aliens’ Travel Permit. What more, a Military Permit is required when visiting Mt. Kailash.

Aliens' Travel Permit

However, you don’t need to worry about the Tibet Travel Permits. Your Tibet tour company will know what kind of permits you need to obtain after you book a tour with them. And they will handle all the necessary permits for you. What you need to do is only to send them the copy of your valid passport and China Visa by email.