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Tibet General Information For Traveler

GETTING ACQUAINTED

Rightly called the ‘Roof of The World’ as Tibet is home to the four of the world’s ten highest mountains and is the highest region on earth with an average elevation of 4900metres.It covers an area of 1.2 million sq km and shares its border line with Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.

Government: Tibet is today under the control of People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Communist Party of China rules occupied Tibet. However Tibetans, both inside Tibet and in exile, recognise the Tibetan Government in Exile based in Dharamsala, India as their legitimate government.

Population: The total Tibetan population in Tibet is 6 million. Out of this 2.9 million live in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and the remaining in the Tibetan areas outside the TAR. The ethnic groups found here are Menba, Lhoba, Mongols, Hui and Han Chinese.

Religion: Tibetan Buddhism and Animism.

Climate: Average temperature is 28 degree Celsius in summers and -15 degree Celsius in winters. Atmosphere is extremely dry except in the rainy season months of July and August.

When to Come: The pleasant time to visit Tibet is between May and October. After October the weather becomes too cold for a pleasant journey. Rainfall occurs mostly in the month of July and August. The best time to undertake journey to Tibet is from April to October. The major cities in Tibet have mild weather all year round.

Visa & Permit: Chinese Visa is a must to enter Tibet. Visas can be obtained by contacting the embassy in your home country or may be arranged through your tour operator. While 30-day visas are generally quite easy to obtain, visas for longer periods may be difficult to arrange.

Currency, Money Exchange & Credit card: In Tibet only Chinese Currency Yuan or Kuai & in foreign currency only US Dollar is accepted. All other major currencies can be exchanged for Yuan at the Bank of China branches available at the Gonggar Airport, Lhasa & Shigatse. Major Credit Cards like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diner’s Club and JCB card of Japan are accepted only in major places like Lhasa and Shigatse that too in bigger hotels and Shops. ATMs are not readily available.

Health: Relaxation for acclimatization is recommended especially on the first day as most places in Tibet are at 3600m and above and lack of oxygen may lead to pounding of heart and shortness of breath. These are normal responses but if the mountain sickness is acute with symptoms like headache, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting you should immediately consult a doctor.

Food: The Tibetan cuisine is fairly basic consisting mainly of Tsampa (roasted barley flour) and endless cups of butter tea. The main alcoholic drink is Chang a fermented barley bean drink. Momo, steamed dumpling and dried raw meat (beef, yak) is nations favourite. Tibetans seldom eat fish because of their religion. Due to shortage of agricultural season choice of vegetables are limited. Restaurants serve Tibetan, Chinese and even western food.

Water: Drinking water should be purified with purification tablets. Better to buy bottled water from large stores. If you plan to use boiled water make sure it boils at least for 10-20 minutes to kill the pathogens. Do not drink alcohol until acclimatized else you will get headache.

Photography: Be careful not to take pictures of sensitive objects or anything military. Usually it is forbidden to take pictures inside monasteries may be permitted for some fee but you should ask the authority first. Always ask first when photographing people.


COMMUNICATION FACILITIES

Telecommunication Services: There are telephone services between Lhasa and Tsetang, Gyantse and Shigatse and within each of these towns. Lhasa hotels offer International Direct Dialling (IDD) communication, fax and telex facilities.

Postal services: This service is available but is very slow.

Internet services: There are private internet cafes and business centres of Chinese telecom office so it is possible to send and receive emails in Lhasa, Tsetang, Shigatse and Chamdo

Time Difference: Time in Tibet is 8 hours ahead of GMT.


HOW TO REACH

Air: When planning a short holiday its best to fly to Lhasa directly and enjoy a visual impact of the bird’s view of the mysterious landscape of the Tibetan plateau. Direct domestic flights from Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongging, Xian and Kunmingto are available. International route is from Kathmandu in Nepal.

Land: Xining, Qinghai via Golmud to Lhasa, this bus trip is tough and takes minimum of two nights and three days along the Quinghai Tibet Highway. Although uncomfortable this is still the most popular route for travellers seeking land transportation. Another popular route is the Kathmandu via Dram (Khasa) to Lhasa as you come across famous sites of Shigatse, Gyantse and the Everest base camp. It takes five to seven days crossing the Tibetan highlands.


WHAT TO BRING

Clothing: Warm and casual clothing is recommended. Climate in Tibet is unpredictable with temperatures varying greatly in a single day with the difference of sometimes 20 degrees; therefore it is better to carry a light jacket, few woollen sweaters in summers also. Bring gloves and a hat too. Also bring a raincoat if you are travelling to Tibet from august to September.

Shoes: A comfortable walking shoes for simple trips and if you plan to trek then a hiking boots which are sand proof, water proof and warm. And don’t forget to carry a few pairs of warm cotton socks.

Sun Shields: Due to high altitude and thin atmosphere, the sunshine in Tibet is very harsh and the strong Ultraviolet rays may cause damage to the eyes and skin, therefore it is better to carry sun hats, sunscreen, sunglasses etc.

Medicines: Consult your Doctor or Pharmacist and carry some normal travelling medicines like Aspirin, Antibiotics, Flu/Cold tablets, throat lozenges, vitamins and anti-altitude sickness tablets etc.