Tibet, a rich and beautiful land, is located at the main part of Qinghai-Tibet plateau, in the southwest of China, has long enjoyed reputation of being “the Roof of the World”, where Tibet Autonomous Region with an average altitude of over 4,000 meters and an area of 1.2 million square kilometers occupies a major portion. The majestic Tibetan highland stands on top of the world and its unique cultural tradition has an international fame. This is a land of vast contrast with snow-capped mountains offering beauty unsurpassed and deep tropical rainforests in another, and with open pastureland against imposing mountains and cornier forests. The great Himalayas lies in its south with the towering Mt. Qomolangma (Mt. Everest) standing above all world’s peaks.
Geographically, Tibet can be divided into three majoy parts, the east, north and south. The eastern part is forest region, occupying approximately one-fourth of the land. Virgin forests run The entire breadth and length of this part of Tibet. The northern part is open grassland, where nomads and yak and sheep dwell here. This part occupies approximately half of Tibet. The southern and central part is agricultural region, occupying about one-fourth of Tibet’s land area. with all major Tibetan cities and towns such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse ad Tsetang located in this area, it is considered the cultural center of tibet. The total area of the Tibet Autonomous Region is 1,200,000 square kilometers and its population is 1,890,000. The region is administratively divided into one municipality and six prefectures. The municipality is Lhasa, while the six prefectures are Shigatse, Ngari, Lhaoka, Chamdo, Nakchu and Nyingtri(kongpo). The People’s Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region exercises the hightest adminis-trative authority in Tibet.
The climate in highland Tibet belongs to the typical downy special climate. Climates are much different in different areas in Tibet and temperatures vary greatly within a single day. Climate in southeastern Tibet (e.g. Nyingchi) is gentle and temperate with the average temperature of eight degrees; In western Tibet (e.g. Nakqu), the average temperature is below zero degree; While in Lhasa and the central part of Tibet, the climate is normal and nice for traveling. Visitors would not feel cold in winter nor hot in summer, especially from March to October, the best seasons for traveling. Most annual rainfall comes in the rainy season that starts from May to September, when the precipitation covers 90 percent of the whole year. Usually it rains at night in Lhasa, Shigatse and Chamdo area. The precipitations gradually decrease from 5000 millimeters in the lower part of southeast to just 50 in the northwest.
High Altitude Sickness: Most of Tibet is high enough to produce some adverse reaction in most people. For the majority of people, the reaction will be a matter of discomfort, breathlessness, poor sleeping patterns or limited capacity for physical exertion. In some, more serious reactions can develop. These can be potentially life-threatening conditions that may only be relieved by moving to a lower altitude; travelers should inform themselves about the symptoms so that they can recognize them.
According to the health sector and medical experts’ suggestion, if you are going to travel to Tibet plateau, you’d better take a medical examination. People who suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease or chest problems should seek medical advice before going to Tibet.
How to prevent high altitude sickness? Here we have some precautions and tips to lessen the effects of altitude sickness and prevent acute mountain sickness, according to previous experiences in Tibet.
1. Before you visit Tibet, ensure you are in good health.? Avoid catching a cold before entering Tibet, for it is difficult to recover from a cold on high altitude and it might lead to more serious illnesses. Mentally adjust yourself to the forthcoming trip and don’t feel too nervous or worried.
2. In addition to the normal medications for traveling, like the Aspirin and Ibuprofen etc, it is advisable to bring high altitude medication. Some visitors take Diamox pills one day before you ascend to Lhasa. However, you’d better ask your doctor for suggestions.
3. Many visitors who have been to Tibet suggest flying to Xining (the capital city of Qinghai province) and then taking the train to Lhasa from there, instead of taking a direct flight up to Lhasa.? Getting acclimatized in Qinghai can be a wise decision and will make a big positive change. For comparison, the elevation at Lake Qinghai is already 3200m compared with the 3700m at Lhasa that will greatly help when you arrive in Lhasa. Besides, you can have the opportunity to enjoy the unique high plateau scenery passing by the train windows.
4. Upon your arrival, just? take a good rest, drink more water, and? don’t take shower at the 1st day, usually you will be fine in following 2 days. It is better to spend the first two or three days at ease to get accustomed to the high altitude in Tibet. Lhasa lies considerably above the altitude at which one’s body begins to feel oxygen deficiency. Headaches, vomiting and heart palpitation are common ailments that appear in the first two or three days. That’s why most travel agencies do not arrange any activities for their guests on the first day upon arrival.
And whenever you feel shortage of breath, just drink more water, or the dry air and evaporation of sweat may cause dehydration.? Avoid alcohol as it may increase the risk of dehydration, and? don’t smoke to prevent upper respiratory infection.
Please don’t take shower at the first two days, for it is easy to catch cold and make you feel exhausted.
5. Remember to? take things a little slowly when climbing stairs etc.
6. If you lack of oxygen, you can take the oxygen in the hotel, clinic or hospital. Oxgen canisters are easily available in Tibet and can be purchased from hotels. However, if you do not feel too bad, it is suggested to try to avoid take any oxygen and adapt to high altitude by yourself. Because there is still a long way to go, and if you quite depend on oxygen, you will find it harder to adapt to higher altitude at Shigatse, Rongpu Monastery and Everest, which are above 3400m.
Proper clothing: Situated high above sea level, Tibet has fairly cold weather even in summer. Air temperature falls as the elevation rises and differs dramatically between daytime and night. Lhasa, the capital city, could have a temperature during daytime of around 10-25 Centigrade, but at night, temperature may plummet to 0 Centigrade or lower. You had better bring thick, warm coats when traveling Tibet. The roads are very dusty so consider wearing dark colored clothing. Do not forget a pair of durable and comfortable shoes, a backpack and a waist bag, which will make you move more freely.
Sunglasses: Sun radiation is extremely strong in Tibet because of its high altitude and the atmosphere. The sunlight in Lhasa is so intense that the city is called Sunlight City. Strong UV is harmful to both eyes and skin, so don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, sunglasses, lip creams and sun block.
Learn before leaving: Equip yourself before setting out with a basic knowledge of Tibetan folklore, customs, religious beliefs, life style, natural and cultural sights, which will make for a smoother visit.
Currency: Tibet uses the Chinese Renminbi (RMB), or Yuan. The current rate of the yuan is about 8.3 to the US dollar, however, the rate changes often so check the current rate before you go.
Money Exchange: Obtaining RMB from automatic teller (cash) machines in Lhasa is now possible. There are ? ? ATMs in the central Bank of China branch and in a bank not far from the tourist center in the Tibetan quarters. If you are bringing foreign currency to exchange outside of banks (ie when traveling outside Lhasa), it should be US dollars and you should plan to have small denominations (twenties or lower) to change in local hotels. There is no blackmarket for currency exchange in Tibet.? Credit Cards: Credit cards are accepted at the more expensive hotels in the large cities such as Lhasa and Shigatse. Other than that, credit card acceptance is rare. This will undoubtedly change in the future but,
right now, it means that you need to use cash for most transactions.
Shopping: Be sure to buy whatever practical items you need in? Lhasa, before you leave for more remote towns. There are department stores, mostly on Yuthok Lu that will supply your everyday needs. Lhasa Department Store, a general department store, is located on the west end of Yuthok Lu. It is the largest and best known department store in Lhasa. It sells such practical items as cotton clothing, mugs, canned food, towels, and toothpaste, plus local handicrafts. There are also supermarkets in Lhasa.
Barkhor is a more traditional Tibetan shopping market. It is a market where shopkeepers with small shops and stalls on the street sell many unusual and fascinating items, for both religious and secular uses. Shopkeepers sell items such as prayer flags, Buddha figures, conch-shell trumpets, rosaries, amulets, fur hats, horse bells, bridles, copper teapots, wooden bowls, inlaid knives, and jewelry inlaid with turquoise and other gems.
Tourists should carefully examine jewelry for quality. While much jewelry of excellent quality is available, some is coarsely done and is of poor quality.Tourists can easily find items that are uniquely Tibetan and that will appeal to them. Exotic Tibetan opera masks and costumes are interesting items. Brightly colored, beautifully homespun Tibetan rugs and khaddar are also popular souvenirs. Tibetan carpet can be bought at the Lhasa Carpet Factory. Tibetan tents can be bought at the Lhasa Tent and Banner Factory.
Visa obtained from Chinese Embassy / Consulate is good to travel China but not to Tibet.
If one traveling Tibet from Kathmandu, it’s better to get China visa from Kathmandu because no matter one have already got the visa in your country or not, you must get visa in Kathmandu, which is regulated in an official memo between China and Nepal.
Visitors cannot apply for the Tibet Visa themselves (one must go through authorized Travel Agency). In order to apply / obtain the Tibet Visa, the Tibet Travel Permit and Visa approval documents (issued by Tibet Travel Bureau) are compulsory to submit to the Chinese Embassy.
Visa section is open on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday only from 10:00 hrs. to 11:30 hrs. for submitting and collection of visa and passport will be in the evening 16:00 hrs. to 17:00 hrs.
Passport details (full name exactly like in passport, Sex, Date of birth, Occupation, passport number, date of expiry and nationality) should reach to us along with scanned copy of passport at least 3 weeks prior to the commencement of tour. Passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date entry in Tibet.
One passport size photo along with individual filled up form along with original passport is require at the time of applying Visa at Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu.
- Celine Sharon [Assistant Manager Leisure] Travel Air Pvt Ltd, Bangalore, India