Tibet - tips
|In short||Remote and big - and very beautiful. Lots of highland desert and (still) a lot of Tibetan Buddhism, despite decades of Chinese attempts to destroy it. A great place.|
|Highlights||Lots!! In the west, the rarely
visited highland desert of West Tibet and the holy Mt. Kailash are places not to be
missed, and in the east, the old city of Lhasa (especially the Jokhang Temple),
the Ganden, Drepung and Sera Gompas, and the
Everest Region attract thousands of tourists every year. There is a reason for that!
Lots of other places to bee seen, in particular along the Friendship Highway in between Lhasa and the Nepalese border, and rumours claim that the train from Golmud to Lhasa is worth the trip. Just sad that it's made for the benefit of tourists and Chinese rather than Tibetans.
|Places to avoid||Not exactly, but avoid the Chinese officials and the Tibetan police, at least if you are straying around or hitch-hiking. In particular the police are very eager controlling the various permits, so if you don't have one, stay clear of these people. The good thing is that not even the craziest police officer will ever harm you - just deport you from the region or even Tibet.|
|Seasons||The European summer is best. Fall is acceptable, while the Tibetan winter is blistering cold.|
|Do's and don'ts||Very easy to cope with the local customs. The Tibetans are very tolerant, and you are unlikely to run into problems similar to those in the Islamic world. Still, even if you should decide to bring a bikini, the cold doesn't really encourage fashion.|
|Visa||Chinese visa required, however,
despite what all the officials in Golmud and Cheng-du tell you, you don't need a
"special permit" to visit Tibet. Still, you have to pay for one but you are
unlikely to ever see one. It's just an official way to extract a 10 times higher price for
the Golmud bus from foreigners, showing that "We don't want you, but your wallet is
very much welcome". Getting into Tibet illegally dodges this "rule" very
efficiently, so at least give it a try.
Try to get the Chinese visa from home as you may get 3 months rather than just one if you are applying from abroad. Just another stupid "rule".
Should you need an extension, the Shigatse police office is very friendly as opposed to the Lhasa department. The situation may change, so check with fellow tourists in advance.
|Value for money||Avoiding the official hotels,
great value, and I managed my way all through Tibet from west to east (seven
weeks) for less than 10 USD a day
- including one fine of 300 Yuan.
Camping wild is a fine and cheap and very safe option. Otherwise stay at villages; just take care that the Chinese officials don't see you, as it's officially forbidden to house foreigners.
|Others||Still one of my most amazing travel
experiences, in particular in the west. Do whatever you can to support the Tibetans and
avoid supporting the Chinese system. Unfortunately, all transport seems to
be run by the Chinese, even the Sky Train, so it's really hard to avoid it
altogether. And if you do, you might get arrested :-(
Bring a tent and a warm sleeping bag. Tibet is a stunningly beautiful place to go trekking and there are no regulations saying that you can't do camping. The worst thing which is going to happen to you is that you'll be invited to have a taste of the national "dish": Tsampa and butter tea. Definitely an acquired taste.