Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to visit Tibet?
The weather is best, and temperatures warmest, from mid-May to mid-October in Tibet. The summer brings some rain and clouds in July and August, but the temperatures are at their warmest during this time. Do not plan a journey to Tibet during the first week of October, or the first week of May, because of national holidays during that time that make booking accommodation difficult.
How cold will it be?
Tibet is generally cold due to high altitude but the temperature varies depending on the time of year. May, June and September can have day time temperatures up to 20 degrees, but still be close to freezing at night above 3,000 metres. April and October will have daytime temperatures around 15 degrees and drop below zero at night over 3,000 metres. You should pack according to the season and have at least some thermals, a warm fleece and preferably a down jacket for evenings and mornings. Information on what to pack will be in your Travel and Cultural Information pack that you receive after booking.
Are there any special permits required for going to Tibet?
All travellers to Tibet require a Chinese visa. We will send you guidelines for applying for your Chinese visa along with an invitation letter which is required with your application. Travellers to Lhasa and anywhere in the Tibet Autonomous Region also require a Tibet Travel Permit. We will process this for you prior to departure. Please note, travellers to Kham and Amdo in Eastern Tibet do not require a Tibet Travel Permit, as they do not enter the Tibet Autonomous region.
How far will we drive each day?
The itinerary has been planned so that you are not rushing through Tibet. However, there are still long distances to cover and there will be some days where you are driving for 5-6 hours. On our Kailash Kora Journey, the drive times are longer; around 8-9 hours. This is not every day and you will find that the scenery is so spectacular that the time passes quickly. There are lots of photo opportunities.
What are the roads like?
Roads in Tibet these days are smooth and comfortable. You will rarely be on an unpaved road. In eastern Tibet’s Kham and Amdo areas the roads pass through several long tunnels, whereas in central Tibet the roads follow switchbacks up and over high mountain passes.
What kind of bag should I bring?
A soft bag that loads into jeeps is essential. No hard suitcases please.
Do I need to bring a water bottle?
Yes, we recommend bringing your own drinking water bottle. We supply mineral water each day. To minimize our environmental impact, we encourage you to fill up your bottle from our large water containers rather than purchasing more disposable bottles. At the high altitude in Tibet, you will need to be drinking more water than usual.
What standard of accommodation can I expect?
Your Tibet journey will take you to some remote places, where we ensure you experience the best that the host culture has to offer. Some of these places do not offer four-star hotels, but Beyond The Clouds takes responsibility for your comfort and the cleanliness of all our hand picked accommodation. In venturing to these hard-to-reach places you will be exposed to some of the warmest hospitality on earth.
Will there be heaters in our accommodation?
Some of our hotels have heated rooms whilst others have electric blankets. You may wish to bring a hot water bottle if you prefer this to electric blankets.
Do I need a sleeping bag?
No, this is not necessary.
Will there be somewhere safe to store my valuables?
We use very good hotels and most of them have safes and safe storage. Make sure that you ask each hotel to protect your valuables.
Will I be able to recharge my phone/ batteries?
Yes, make sure that you have an adapter. Tibetan and Chinese outlets usually have both 120V and 220V sockets, for both round and flat plugs.
Can I do laundry on the trip?
There are some places where automatic washing machines and clotheslines are available. Remember that it may be cold and you are travelling most days so this is restricted to a couple of places during the trip. Bring plenty of changes of clothes, particularly socks and underwear.
What standard of toilets can I expect?
Many years ago, Tibetan toilets were very primitive. These have vastly improved, and in most hotels and many restaurants you will now find western style toilets. You may have to use squat toilets when travelling between places so be prepared and carry some toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
What type of food can I expect?
Tibetan cuisine is simple but delicious, and in most of our destinations we have selected the best local restaurants to dine at. Tibetan food is not particularly spicy, and features yak meat and potatoes in most dishes. Chinese cuisine is also very popular in Tibet, which can be spicy and is commonly rice-based. You will want to carry snacks with you, especially for the car journeys. Chopsticks or spoons are used to eat with, so we recommend practicing your chopstick skills before you leave!
Do you cater for vegetarian and other special diets?
Yes, we can cater for a vegetarian diet whilst travelling in Tibet. Please let us know about any special dietary requirements so that we can arrange this in advance.
What vaccinations do you recommend?
Beyond The Clouds recommends consulting a travel doctor (worth shopping around and check the prices) for vaccinations. Usually they will recommend hepatitis, typhoid, diphtheria/tetanus, polio booster and meningitis. You may also be offered a series of rabies injections as there is rabies present in the Himalayan region. Please discuss this with your travel doctor. We strongly recommend staying away from all animals during the trip. Please note: It is your personal decision as to which vaccinations to take, and we cannot take responsibility for this.
What do I do if I need medical care?
Tibet has limited medical facilities in the main centres. There are basic medical facilities in most towns, including traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicines. Please inform your guide if you need any assistance.
Will I suffer from altitude problems on the trip?
Many people entering Tibet experience some degree of altitude problems. The effects can be severe for some, but for most they are more of a minor discomfort experienced on the first few days. Symptoms include breathlessness (especially when walking), headache and difficulty sleeping. If you experience a persistent headache, nausea or loss of coordination or disorientation, tell your guide and seek immediate medical help and then descend to a lower altitude (sometimes 300m lower is sufficient).
Altitude is thoroughly taken into consideration when planning our Tibet journeys. Where possible we acclimatise at lower altitudes before going higher. However, this is not possible when flying into Lhasa for a short trip. We strongly recommend that all clients drink plenty of fluids, eat foods rich in garlic and ginger, avoid alcohol, and rest in order to combat any altitude problems that may be experienced. All our vehicles carry oxygen as a precautionary measure. There are also a number of natural and pharmaceutical medicines that reduce the symptoms of altitude. These include Diamox, rhodiola, homeopathic coca, ginkgo and garlic capsules which can be purchased in advance of your trip.
Can I take photographs anywhere?
Most Tibetans (especially children) are very friendly and open to having their picture taken but do respect them by asking permission. Please ask your guide before taking photographs inside monasteries.
Is there anything I should avoid doing while in Tibet?
Don’t walk anti-clockwise around temples, monasteries or other sacred places. Do not discuss politics or openly talk about the Dalai Lama. It is really important that you don’t put your guide at risk by doing anything that could endanger him or her. Please also avoid touching animals.
Can I bring gifts for the local children?
As a rule, Beyond The Clouds discourages hand outs. Handing out things such as sweets, pens and money only creates a culture of begging and bad teeth in communities with no dentists and few toothbrushes! As an alternative, you may wish to donate to our charity First Steps Himalaya.
How much spending money should I bring?
As all your accommodation and meals is included on these tours you only need to bring spending money for tipping, souvenirs, alcoholic drinks, snacks and any extras such as handicrafts. We would recommend bringing a minimum of US$300. It is a good idea to obtain some Chinese Yuan prior to the trip.
Can I use my credit cards? Are there any ATMs?
Very few places in Tibetan areas take international credit cards. It is very much a cash-based society, so it would be good to have some cash on you throughout the trip for any personal expenses. ATMs that accept international cards are only available in the larger cities of Chengdu, Kangding, Shangri-La, Lhasa, and Shigatse. We suggest getting some Chinese Yuan in advance or at the start of your trip.
How much is recommended for tipping?
Tips are not expected at any restaurants in China, nor at most hotels. Four- and five-star hotels are an exception to this, but tips are certainly not expected at smaller hotels. At the end of your tour, a tip for good service to your tour guide and driver is welcome, though not expected. If you consider your guide’s service to be exceptional, a US$30 per day tip is very generous. If you are happy with the guide’s service, USD $20 per day is still a good tip. As for the driver, a US$10 per day tip is more than enough.
For more information on Tibet:
Visit www.tibetpedia.com, a one-stop resource for all things Tibet. This site was set up to provide travellers with the most relevant and practical insider information on Tibetan travel, and to promote Tibetan owned small businesses of excellence so that visitors can enjoy the best of Tibetan service and hospitality.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions.