One of the main concerns for international travelers to Tibet is the requirement to have a Tibet Travel Permit before you travel. International tourists are not permitted to enter Tibet, or even to board the trains and flights to Lhasa, without the permit, and obtaining the permit does require you to be on a pre-booked tour with a registered tour operator. For the definitive guide on how to get this essential document for your trip to the Roof of the World, just follow the simple steps below.
Step 1: Find a Reliable Tibet Travel Agency and Book Your Tibet Tour with it
The first thing to do is to find a reliable and registered travel agency for your trip to Tibet. Independent travel in Tibet is not permitted for international tourists, and you are required to be part of a guided tour that must be booked through a Tibet travel agency. Only though a travel agency for Tibet can you obtain the Tibet Travel Permit, as well as other permits, for traveling into and around the region.
Finding the right travel agency is not as hard as you might think. Sites like TripAdvisor.com can help with that. TripAdvisor, and other tourism review sites, use real reviews from real people for the companies that provide services to Tibet. A simple read through the reviews of the various agencies will soon show you which the best for traveling to Tibet are. Once you have booked your tour, the agency can then make the application for the permit on your behalf.
Step 2: Get Chinese Visa and Email Personal Information to Your Tour Operator
Before you can book your tour, however, you do need to obtain your Chinese Entry Visa, as this is needed for the agency to apply for the permit. Obtaining the visa can be done from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in your home or resident country, and usually takes around three days to process. However, it is essential that you do not include Tibet in your itinerary for the visa application, as this will cause problems with the visa approval.
Once you have the visa stamped into your passport, then you will need to send a scanned color copy of the passport’s main photo page and the visa page to the agency. They will then use these copies to make the application for the Tibet Travel Permit.
Step3: Get Your Tibet Permit Before Heading to Lhasa
Processing of the permit has been known to take up to 15-20 days, and it is essential that the permit is ready and in your hands before you travel. We do recommend booking a tour to Tibet at least 30 days in advance, once you have the visa, to allow enough time to ensure your permit is ready and sent to your hotel in China for your trip.
Once the permit has been approved, it will normally be sent to your hotel in China, ready for you to board the train or flight to Tibet. It is not possible to board the trains or flights without it, though while you do need the original for boarding the flights to Lhasa, you only need a photocopy for boarding the Tibet trains. The agency can have the permit delivered to your hotel in the major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi’an, Xining, etc., which can take a few days if it is sent by courier for the flights to Tibet.
For all travelers to Tibet, the Tibet Travel Permit is the most essential document you will need, as all of your other permits require this one permit for their application process. Getting the permit is not as hard as many people think, thank to it being applied for by the agency. As long as you leave enough time to prepare the documents and for the agency to make the application for the permit, your trip to Tibet will go without a hitch.