Tibet is still very much controlled by the Chinese government and there are many things that the traveller should be aware of. Don’t let these put you off though, the Tibetan people are friendly and welcoming and the country is a sight to be seen. Just having the opportunity to visit the country and travel to Base Camp Everest meant it’s possibly the best trip I have taken so far.
THINGS TO BE AWARE
The country isn’t open to foreign tourists in February or March. The government close the borders in case of any unrest around “Tibet Uprising Day” – the anniversary of the Dalai Lama being banished from the country.
Independent travel is not allowed. Permits are needed for different parts of the country so travelling as part of a guided tour bows well.
Acclimatise to the altitude in Lhasa for a few days. Don’t nap in the day, drink plenty of water, eat simple food, headaches are likely but don’t ignore them, take things slower than normal. There’s no preparation for altitude sickness unfortunately, be aware of the signs and keep healthy.
In Lhasa there is a strong army presence on almost every street corner. Don’t take photographs of the military, this is forbidden and can be punishable.
Be careful taking in versions of Lonely Planet Tibet. My version printed in 2011 was taken from me on arrival at the airport. Those who had previous versions were allowed to take them in. The government don’t agree with the maps printed in the book, showing Tibet and China as two separate countries and the foreword is written by the Dalai Lama. The book was buried deep in my backpack but books were picked up when my bags were scanned on arrival. I wonder what would happen now if you had a PDF version on an iPad?!
Don’t bring photos into the country of the Dalai Lama. I have read recently that the government has loosened the laws on Tibetan people having pictures of the Dalai Lama, but it’s still best not too.
Don’t talk politics or discuss the Dalai Lama. Most “attractions” in Lhasa are linked to the Dalai Lama – Potala Palace, the Summer Palace. Despite this it’s best not to engage in any conversations about him.
This all may seem ever so controlling, but you’ve made the decision to visit the country. Sometimes we just have to heed to the restrictions to enable such visits.
After all of that…….. it is most definitely worth the effort.
Water burials, sky burials, walking the kora, religious prostrations to earn merit, Everest, Himalayas, burning of juniper, debating monks, momos, prayer wheels, roof of the world. It literally is another world.
And of course, the main reason for everyone’s visit – EVEREST!