To expand on the topic of Tibet travel that we began last month with the Top 10 Places to Visit in Tibet, we want to provide you with the best resources for planning your trip to Tibet.
Below is a “cheat sheet” of 9 great blogs, blog posts, books, reports, websites and agencies.
- The first and easiest thing you should do is to check out our free and ethical Tibet Travel Service in which we match you with hand-picked, top Tibet travel agents dedicated to supporting the local Tibetan economy and culture.
- After that, start getting some information. Start with the Land of Snows blog post on Travel in Tibet
- Lonely Planet discussion forum on Tibet
- Lonely Planet Tibet guide books
- Find a good-quality, Tibetan-owned travel agency on your own
- International Campaign for Tibet’s PDF Report: Ethical Guide to Travel in Tibet
- Kham Aid Foundation’s page on Travel in Kham
- Life on the Tibetan Plateau blog’s pages on travel in both Amdo and Kham
- Gary McCue’s Trekking in Tibet guide
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1. CONTACT OUR TIBET TRAVEL SERVICE
We know what it’s like to try to find a good Tibet travel agent, and here’s nothing more valuable than having a Tibet travel insider just connect you to the very best. It’s really, really tough to know who the best Tibet travel agents are, and we’ve done all the legwork for you. Our service is totally free to you — we match you with our hand-picked travel agents that we go to great pains to be sure are either Tibetan-owned or dedicated to supporting the local Tibetan economy and culture.
2. LAND OF SNOWS BLOG
Your agent will help you in a million ways, but you will also want to do your own research. There is an excellent long post on Travel in Tibet from Jamin “Losang” York’s Land of Snows blog.
This post is a fresh, generous collection of things you should know before you head out, including:
- Travel Permits
- Getting to Tibet
- Transportation in Tibet
- Tour Guides
- Travel agencies
- Entering Tibet from Nepal
- Visiting the Kham and Amdo Regions
Also, check out Losang’s reassuring post, Arranging Travel to Tibet.
And be sure to note his comments on permits:
All foreigners going to Tibet must have their travel arranged through a travel agency before arriving in Lhasa. The days of arriving in Lhasa and putting together a trip to Everest Base Camp or Mt. Kailash are long over. Everything now has to be arranged in advance. All foreigners must have travel permits, a tour guide and a private vehicle and driver (if you are only staying in Lhasa, no private vehicle is required). Absolutely no independent travel is allowed in Tibet. Any rumor you may have heard that foreigners can travel on their own in Tibet is not true.
3. LONELY PLANET ONLINE FORUM
Lonley Planet’s “Thorn Tree” forum always has fresh questions, answers and comments, with decent moderation to keep touting and fake recommendations to a minimum.
Importantly, there seem to be a fair number of experienced Tibet hands around for advice and to keep it real. (It’s in the Asia – North-East Asia – Tibet section of the forum)
4. LONELY PLANET (LP) TIBET AND CHINA GUIDE BOOKS
I always like to have a physical book when I travel, and the LP Tibet guide is pretty much the definitive one, along with LP China, if you wish to visit Kham and Amdo.
Individual Digital Chapters of the Guidebooks
I have not tried these myself yet, but the selection of digital (PDF) chapters from the Lonely Planet site look great as a way to get just the areas you want.
The downside is that you don’t then get to get inspired to try other areas.
And it looks like they just chopped up the current edition of the book into chapters instead of offering updated versions of the chapters as PDF’s, which would be useful.
Lonely Planet is a trusted, valuable resource for travel in Tibet in general, both for books and online resources, but both can also feel a little out of touch, due mostly to the rapidly changing situation in Tibet, and the difficulty of having guidebook writers on the ground long term.
I used a Lonely Planet Tibet guide for both my visits to central Tibet (2002 and 2007), and think it steered me in the right direction for the most part, but ended up taking specific hotel and food recommendations with a grain of salt, and often felt the monastery descriptions were hit and miss.
I would recommend exploring both their online resources and the guidebooks, but to also supplement them with the other resources on this list.
5. FIND A GOOD-QUALITY, TIBETAN-OWNED TRAVEL AGENCY
If you intend to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region (T.A.R.), which includes Lhasa, you’re going to have to have a travel agent to help with your permits.
We strongly recommend hiring a good quality Tibetan-owned agency with experienced Tibetan guides and drivers, to support the local Tibetan economy.
We recommend you make your life simple and contact us to connect you to a great agent through our Tibet Travel Service, but if you prefer to do it on your own, you can get our invaluable list of recommended Tibetan-owned travel agents here.
Sadly, you have to beware of fake Tibetan guides.
Some Chinese guides pretend to be half-Tibetan, since they know travelers often prefer Tibetan guides.
If you have doubts, you might ask on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum on Tibet.
Take care even there, as it seems that some unscrupulous agencies provide negative reviews about other agencies to bring them down.
If you want to know specifically about anyone or any agency, just openly ask on the forum and you are likely to get a lively, informative discussion that will at least help you get a sense of the truth.
6. GUIDES TO ETHICAL TRAVEL IN TIBET
There is an argument to be made that traveling in occupied Tibet supports the Chinese government, but we, as well as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, disagree.
We believe that if you inform yourself about the situation in Tibet before you go, keep your eyes open to the truth, and make every effort to patronize only Tibetan-owned travel agencies, shops, restaurants, and hotels, that you are serving Tibet and Tibetans.
As one way to inform yourself before you go, try the 2007 International Campaign for Tibet’s (ICT) PDF report — Interpreting Tibet: A Political Guide To Traveling In Tibet
7. TRAVEL IN KHAM INFO FROM THE KHAM AID FOUNDATION
The travel information on Kham Aid’s site is extensive and helpful, but note that it seems to have been last updated in Spring 2007.
8. LIFE ON THE TIBETAN PLATEAU BLOG POSTS ON KHAM AND AMDO
Before he started the Land of Snows blog, Losang York ran this extensive site, chock full of great info on travel all over Tibet.
This site is still on the web, and until he moves the Kham and Amdo information over to the new site, you should check it all out at the old Life on Tibetan Plateau blog.
9. TREKKING IN TIBET GUIDE BY GARY MCCUE
Gary McCue’s Trekking in Tibet guide, updated in 2010, is widely considered the definitive guide for Tibetan trekking.
Those eight resources are really all you need to plan a fabulous trip to Tibet, but if you would like to do a little more research, check out these sites, too:
Lonely Planet: Destination Tibet
This can be helpful as a general overview to Tibet travel, but as of this writing (January 2012) the website info is woefully out of date. The “getting there and around” information, for example mentions 2009 as a future date…
Footprint Tibet Handbook
We have not used this, but it is well regarded, as a complete guide to the whole Tibetan plateau.
TripAdvisor Visiting Tibet
Generally speaking, a decent secondary source to Lonely Planet online.
TripAdvisor Tibet Travel Forum
There’s a lot of activity here, though I think it lacks the depth of experienced commentators that the Lonely Planet Forum offers.
Wikipedia Tibetan Journeys
Not user friendly, but shows some itineraries
Wikitravel on Tibet
Some useful info, but not user friendly, and while some sections are updated, not all of them necessarily are.
A Guide to Traveling Ethically and Responsibly in Tibet
From the UK-based Free Tibet organization
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy’s Briefing paper for travelers to Tibet
This is great, and includes a section called Should I visit Tibet? but seems to have been last updated in 2003 or 2004
Tibet Online’s Travel in Tibet
Tibet Online was among the first if not the first Tibet resource site, and still offers valuable links to just about everything in the Tibet world, including a small travel section.