Choosing a Reliable Tibetan-owned Agent

In this post, you will learn how to choose a good Tibet travel agency, and then how to connect with a reliable Tibetan-owned agent.

What do you eat Tibet?

If you want to skip the explanations, click here to fill out a Tibet travel inquiry form so that we can introduce you to an excellent, trustworthy Tibetan-owned agents >>

As you probably know, travel in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the “T.A.R.” region that includes Lhasa, Everest and Mt. Kailash, requires that you be accompanied by a guide through a registered agency for each day of your trip to Tibet. (And also by a driver for all the days when you venture outside of Lhasa.)

Even in the non T.A.R. regions of Kham and Amdo, where it is not required that you travel with a guide, it is advisable to hire one. These regions are not set up for backpackers the way that many of us are familiar with.

The big question then is how to choose a good Tibet travel agency. 

To start with, did you know that it’s best to choose a Tibetan-owned agency?

Why Choose a Tibetan-owned Agency?

It’s a win-win, for you and local Tibetan businesses. You will have a more authentic experience traveling with a Tibetan guide and driver on your trip. The great majority of travelers love their Tibetan guides, because they tend to be kind, fun-loving people who know their country and take good care of their guests.

There is the huge advantage, too, that when you hire a Tibetan-owned agency, you are spending your tourism dollars supporting local Tibetan people and businesses. You may not know how critical your support is to Tibetans. As of January 2015, there were 150 registered tourist agencies in Lhasa. 110 of those agencies were authorized to serve international travelers. Of those 110 only about 20 were Tibetan owned.

In general, the Chinese-owned agencies serve Chinese travelers, bringing them to Chinese-owned restaurants, hotels and shops. Since over 95% of travelers to Tibet are Chinese, the Tibetan-owned agents tend to work only with the much smaller number of international travelers.

But not all international travelers choose Tibetan agencies, mostly out of ignorance. It’s hard to tell online which agencies are actually Tibetan owned, especially because the Chinese owned agencies actively try to look and sound like they are locally owned.

The bottom line is that many Tibetan-owned agencies rely on international travelers to sustain their businesses, and that by choosing a Tibetan-owned agency, you are supporting not only the owners of the agencies, but also guides, drivers, cooks, Tibetan hotel owners and Tibetan restaurant owners.

How to Choose a Good Tibetan-owned Guide

It is surprisingly hard to pick out good Tibetan-owned agencies from online searches. The Chinese-owned agencies work very hard to appear local and Tibet-friendly — even the Chinese government-owned CITS ones like Tibet Vista. A CITS agency once emailed us, asking to be put on our list of recommended Tibetan-owned agencies in Tibet, no joke!

The popular travel forums (like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet) can help somewhat, but the information is a bit tainted by the number of travel agents in there promoting their own stuff.

It’s frustrating for a traveler, but the only way we know of is to get a recommendation or two for Tibetan-owned agencies from a trusted source, and then research the companies’ reviews online.

We’ve been working in the Tibet travel space since 2013, and you can benefit from our connections and experience if you wish. Early on we connected with one of the top agencies in Lhasa, through a friend, and now have excellent relationships with a handful of the best, most reliable and service-oriented Tibetan-owned agents.

To be connected to one of our trusted Tibetan-owned agents, fill out the travel inquiry form here, as best you can. (It’s okay if you don’t know when or where you want to go yet, they can help.) We’ll then match you to one or two agents and they will get back in touch with you shortly.

In the spirit of full disclosure, we may get a commission if you decide to purchase your trip through the agent we refer you to. We value your trust, and our reputation and good word, and so only give referrals to companies that we consider to be among the very best in Tibet.

If you would like us to match you with a competent, trustworthy travel agent who will plan your dream trip to Tibet, sign up here >>

Disclaimer: YoWangdu makes every effort to find you superb, trustworthy travel agents, but we can’t and don’t guarantee the services provided by these agents. We are not part of any agreements you may make with the travel agents and we have no responsibility for any loss or damage of any nature that may result due to your agreements with the agencies, or for any aspect of your trip to Tibet.

Sources for Tibet tourism information:

Updated on February 9, 2020. First published on July 19, 2016.

Your Tibet travel advisors, Lobsang and Yolanda

Most people who want to go to Tibet don't know how to get there or who to trust for help. We’re Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon, and we help make Tibet travel more simple, safe and ethical so you can feel peace of mind about your trip. Learn more about us and YoWangdu here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Rachel hazan says

    Hi , I am going alone to XIAN china december 12 and have contacted tibetan tours to schedule for me a trip starting the 17 of december for 8 days. I got an offer from Dhondup Mima [] which offers a solo trip as they can’t find other people to go. Day 1: Lhasa arrival [3650m] Overnight at Shangbala hotel which is located in the old town 3* Day 2: Lhasa sightseeing Drepung Monastery Sera Monastery, Overnight at Shangbala hotel which is located in the old town 3*Day 3: Lhasa, Potala and Jokhang temple. Today we visit potala Palace, Potala winter palace was built in the 17th century by the fifth Dalai Lama. Provides amazing views of the entire city and houses the private quarters of the Dalai Lama, numerous grand state rooms and chapels, afternoon continue visiting Jokhang Temple, the most sacred monastery in Tibet. It was founded in the 7th century by the first great Buddhist king Songtsen Gampo. Later you can explore the surrounding Barkhor old quarter and spend time walking around Jokhang Temple following pilgrims from all over the Tibetan plateau.Overnight at Shangbala hotel which is located in the old town 3* Day 04 Lhasa – Gyantse – Shigatse 370Km (3840m) cross Kampa-la Pass [4797m] and then Karo-la Pass [5050m], where Mt. Noijin Kangsang [7206m] glacier lies near the road. holy lakeYamdrok-Tso. Finally, we arrive at Gyantse town, where we visit the considered best tibetan art paintings in Kumbum Stupa inside Pelkor Chode Monastery, then drive to Shigatse about 1 hr overnight Gesar hotel, which is a very good hotel4*, only a little bit far from center city. Day 5: Shigatse – Gyatso La Pass – Everest Base Camp Distance: 350kms Elevation: 5250m. You will
cross over the 5248 meter high Gyatso La Pass, which
offers a sweeping view of the rolling Himalaya Mountains.
You will continue on to the Everest Region crossing over another high pass. This pass, the Geu La, offers a panoramic view of the glacier- covered Himalaya. From
here, you can see 5 of the world’s 15 highest peaks, including Everest. From the Geu La, you will then go to Rongphu, the highest monastery in the world at just under 5000 meters in elevation. The iconic view of Everest from here will be a high point of your journey Over night at Rongbuk monastery Guesthouse dorm bed without bathroom. Day 6: Rongbuk – Shigatse [370Km, 3840m] After spending some time at the base of Mt. Everest we visit Rongbuk Monastery and then drive back to Shigatse.Overnight at Gesar Hotel Day 7: Shigatse – Lhasa. 270k In the morning Shigats visit Tashilunpo monastery and koara around monastery also walk around local market and drive back to Lhasa along the yarlong zangbu river by the way, in the afternoon you can explore around the city by yourself Overnight at Shangbala hotel which is located in the old town 3*
    Day08 Enjoy your last hours in Tibet exploring Lhasa by your own until your guide and driver meet you at the hotel to transfer you to the airport.End of our services. .
    Total cost for this trip is 1980USD for 1 Pax.

    The second offer is Catherine [] to join a group with Day Route Attractions & Activities Accommodation Meals
    1 Arrival in Lhasa (3680m) Pick up and transfer to the hotel. Lhasa, 4★  
    2 Lhasa Suburb Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery Lhasa, 4★ B,D
    3 Lhasa City Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street Lhasa, 4★ B
    4 Lhasa- Gyantse(4040m)- Shigatse(3840m), 360km, approx 7hrs Yamdroktso Lake, Karola Glacier, Simila Mountain Pass, Pelkor Chöde Monastery, Far view of Gyangtse Fortress Shigatse, 4★ B
    5 Shigatse – Tingri – EBC(5100m), 350km, approx 8hrs Rongbuk Monastery, Sunset of Golden Everest Peak Rongbuk guesthouse B
    6 EBC – Shigatse, 350km, approx 8hrs Sunrise of Golden Everest Peak, Everest Base Camp Shigatse, 4★  
    7 Shigatse – Lhasa, 300km, approx 5hrs Tashilhunpo Monastery Lhasa, 4★ B
    8 Depart from Lhasa Send off to train/airport   B
    Here is the price list, Tour Price USD930 p.p.

    I am dreaming to visit Tibet, which of the tours do you suggest????!!!! Thank you!

    • yowangdu says

      We have never worked both of them. We can’t say anything. If I were you, would go with Dhondup. He sounds pretty. Maybe other company owner Chinese. I hope that helps.

Leave A Reply