Tibet Travel Permit Update, Bad News For Solo and Budget Travellers Planning to Visit Tibet in 2012

As the title states, Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa has changed rules regarding issuance of Tibet entry permit. It’s been hard to get there already, but now things will get even worse.

 

What are the new rules?

Himalayas, Lhasa. Image taken from WikipediaFrom May 2012 all foreigners wanting to visit Tibet will have even harder time getting the permit. At least five people with the same nationality will have to apply at the same time for the application to be successful, unless they are spouses. What does it mean? Simply speaking, if you want to go via any agency, you will need to come with your husband/wife of the same nationality and prove it with a marriage certificate or find another 3 people from your country to travel with you. In some cases it is possible that agency will do it for you, i.e. you come from a country from which there’s more people who want to travel via the same travel agent as you do.

How does it affect people who booked their tours in advance?

To make things even worse, Tibet Tourism Bureau will only accept applications one week in advance, so even if you booked your tour long time ago, you still have to adhere to the new rules. It’s advisable that you consult your agent. Agency representatives across Tibet and China are now pulling their hair trying to find people of same nationalities in order to apply for permits simultaneously.

Me, Agness and Tibet…

Well, we were contacted by our travel agent today about it and it seems that unless they find three Poles travelling to Tibet when we do, or at least copies of their passports and Chinese visas, we are not going. It’s terrible and we hope that it will change or somehow can be sorted, but for now, we’re already thinking of alternative destinations…

Update: We have already visited Lhasa in June. Tibet Tourism Bureau has stopped issuing new permits soon after, but they have started again now. As much as it is still hard to get a permit, please do not give up! It is worth the hassle. Tibet is unforgettable… 

You can find out about our Tibet experience here.

If you have any questions or more info please share it in comments.

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60 Comments

    • It’s quite disappointing as we were so excited to go there. Still waiting for our agency to sort it out somehow. Will keep you updated.

    • Yes, it is a bad news. Not only for as we were to go there, but for all the people who wanted to visit Tibet. Especially, it is effective straight away. Imagine you’re on your way to China now and had booked a tour… Feel sorry for those people

    • Hi Bea,

      Thanks for your comment and recommendation. Firstly, we will wait few days to see if our agency can solve it. If not, then we will contact other agents, like China Horizon Travel, and see whether they have any other people from Poland going to Tibet.

      It’s funny, but the harder it is to get somewhere the more we want to do it!

      Have you visited Tibet? If so, how was it?

      Thanks,
      Cez.

  • Hi there,

    A few other posters have mentioned contacting agencies on the east coast of China.

    I’d strongly advice anyone wishing to visit Tibet in the near future to contact agencies based in Lhasa. After living, Travelling, and running a business in Tibet since 2005, I’ve found that agencies on the east coast often don’t ‘get the memo’, if you will. Also, the Beijing Tourism Bureau will often report it is safe to Travel into Tibet only to have the tourists ripped of at the gate and not be able to travel into Tibetan areas (ie, paid for plane tickets & travel permits).

    I’ve worked hand in hand with many of the agencies in Lhasa, and the best one that I’ve found is Tibet Highland Tours. They have a few employees that work in the actual governmental tourism office, so they are often the first to get any new news.

    Also, my business partner, Lobsang, runs an extremely up-to-date blog on travelling in Tibet. Check him out as well: http://www.thelandofsnows.com/

    The 2012 regulations have truly caused major issues for me running a business and I hope beyond hope that things return to normal soon.

    Thanks,
    Bhirschyphoto

  • Getting info on travel in the TAR is a moving target at best…

    After living and working in Tibet since 2005, I’d strongly suggest contacting agencies that are in Lhasa proper. Many of the east coast agencies are late to have news about policy changes and often times this results in people being denied at the airport/train station after having paid for the tickets as well as the permits. I know of two instances of this happening already in 2012.

    The address I listed above is the best agency to contact in Lhasa (again, I’ve worked w/ many of them… the recommendation doesn’t come lightly). They have employees who work directly with (and in) the TAR toursim bureau so they are usually the first to get the news. (Not that east coast agencies are bad by any means, but getting news straight from the horses mouth is generally the best).

    I’d also suggest checking out http://www.thelandofsnows.com for really up-to-date info on travelling in Tibet. (This is my business partners site who has lived there for over a decade and guided for Discovery, Animal Plaent, Lonely Planet, Frommers, Fodors, BBC, etc).

    Hope this doesn’t come across as spam or self promotion, but this is truly the best advice I can give people!

    The regulations in 2012 have been a huge headache for me and I really really hope things return to normal soon. Again, good luck to all and if anyone has any questions, my contact info is posted below.

    Cheers,
    Brian
    @bhirschyphoto
    brianhirschy.com
    plateauphototours.com

    • Hey Brian,

      Thank you for your comment and all the info in it. This is a great help for everyone concerned with their permits, like me and Agness. I was really hoping to get such response to this article and am very grateful.

      From your comment, it seems that we are in pretty good hands. The agency has contacted as shortly after the new rules were introduced, which shows their professionalism. Obviously, finding another two people from Poland nay be something out of reach for them, so we will contact your recommendation next.

      By the way, you have a very impressive portfolio and the fact that you live in Tibet since 2005 is plain awesome :) I can see that they are also big on baozi there. Agness loves to take photos of them, so you may find some in her gallery. I just love to eat them (nearly every day).

      Once again, thanks for your input! Keep us posted if you find out of any developments with new rules.

      Best of luck,
      Cez.

      • My pleasure – If you can’t get into the TAR, maybe look into taking a trip in QingHai and northern Gansu. Those areas should be open this year, despite having quite a few problems as well in 2012, which is abnormal.

        Sichuan and Ganzi prefecture will be a bit tougher to get into at this point (Kanding, SongPan, Daersendo, etc) just because of the sensitive nature of that area (blame Aba prefecture).

        If you need help planning trips in any of those areas, do let me know.

        Thanks,
        Brian

      • Hey Brian!

        Thanks for your help. If we need anything we will definitely let you know. We are still waiting for the response from the travel agency :).

      • Hi, I’m polish in Canada. I planned the trip to Tibet for September, but all these changes make me sick.

        I don’t know if I will be able to find 3 canadians for a trip I want – All major cities, Mt. Everest Base (at least one night stay at Rongbuk), plus Mt. Kailash trek.

        It would be great to spend no more than $3,000 for 2-3 weeks trip starting in Beijing and ending in Kathmandu.

        If I could not find canadian partners, I can go to Poland and visit Tibet as Polish. May I know when do you do to Tibet and what is your trip schedule?

      • Hi Wanda,

        What’s your nationality, is it Polish or Canadian? In terms of finding companion or fellow nationals to apply for permit together it is more than likely you will find them. It’s good not to have chosen agency first, you are more flexible then. Once we get to Tibet and everything works out fine we will be able to recommend our agency.

        We are going to Tibet on the 4th of June and unfortunately won’t have time to go to the Mt. Everest base.

        Please forward some more info to us, so that we can put you on the list and help you find travel companion.

        Good luck,
        Cez.

  • It’s so hard to believe that they make so many difficulties for tourists who want to visit this area. Wish you good luck and all the best with discovering the world

  • Did you find your travel mates? I have 1 Polish person who wishes to travel 30 June to 8 July. please do not post my email address.

    • Hi Susan!

      Thanks a lot for your comment. Yes, we are still looking for another Pole to join our trip to Tibet. I have just sent you an e-mail where you can find all info.

      Have a great day.
      Agness

  • Hello Cez! I’m an American traveling to Tibet as well during the same time you’re suppose to be there. From around June 2nd to the 10th. But we are coming from Kathmandu to Lhasa… at least we hope. We have been looking for Americans to go with but haven’t found anybody yet for those days. Plus they would have to leave with us to mainland China or wherever. Hope this clears up soon….

    -Shawn Blair@liikkua.com

    • Hey Shawn!

      It’s great to hear from you. Although I don’t think that’s the best circumstances. It’s really bad news for all of us and I hope we will all be able to go there in the end.

      We have contacted our agency to see if they have any other Americans and whether they can help. I will send you direct email as soon as they come back to us on this.

      Good luck with your trip and I hope to see you there!
      Cez.

      • Hi Cez!

        That is very nice of you to do that for us. I hope everything works out for y’all as well! We are still trying our hardest but now I have heard they have up the nationality thing to 5

      • Hi Shawn,

        Not a problem, I really hope that it will all work out for you in time (only around 2 weeks left). I have updated my agent with your email address, so now she will get back to you very soon. And sorry for not replying, as I said in another comment, we had some issues here.

        Remember, once we sort everything out, we need to arrange a meeting place and time :)

        Good luck,
        Cez.

  • New rule from today, 15 May 2012, you now need 5 people in your group all of the same nationality!

    My husband and I have been planning our trip in first 2 weeks of September for months now and are a mixed marriage, he’s British, I’m Dutch, so we’re screwed! Well, unless we find 4 British and 4 Dutch travellers going at the same time!

    • Thank you for an update Nicolette! I am really sorry to hear that. It seems that they want to limit foreigners in Tibet to minimum. Our trip is even less likely too.

      I hope it’s gonna change soon (but for better this time) or you find another 8 people to apply for permit with.

      Good luck!
      Cez.

      • Thanks, Cez, do you have any idea why they keep doing this?
        All websites inform about the changes, but no-one is explaining why this is happening.

        I read on a Lonely Planet forum post that in April 2012 they would allow married couples (with different nationalities) to be part of groups as long as they could show their marriage certificate. Not sure if that still applies today, we’re waiting to hear back from our agent on this.
        Another post mentioned to wait until after 20 May as rules are likely to change again by that date.

      • Hey Nicolette,

        Firstly, sorry for the late reply (we had some traumatic hospital experiences, maybe we will write about it soon). Thanks again for keeping us updated.

        When it comes to reasons as to why they are doing it, well it’s China. Nobody knows, but there are surely some tensions in the region, of which they don’t want the world to know. It’s certainly not helping anyone, but they don’t seem to care.

        I’ve read it too, but I’m not 100% sure about it. I will contact my agent and ask her about it. She seems to be well informed about the new changes, so maybe she’ll be able to help. I will get back to you as soon as she replies.

        Once again, I hope everything will be fine with your trip. Especially it is in September, so it’s possible everything will go back to normal by then. For our trip, which is due in 2 weeks, the chances seem to be remote, but who knows.

        Best of luck,
        Cez.

  • Like I said, it’s a moving target.

    Btw, if you are looking to go the marriage certificate way, you will have to have it certified by your home government and then certified by the Chines government. Having done this for the majority of my documents, it’s a real pain and can take up to four months.

    Good luck all!
    Brian

    • Hi Brian,

      Thank you for info! It’s great to have an expert on board here.

      Is there any chance you could check whether spouses from different countries can join groups for us with someone official? Also, if the documents need to be certified by Chinese government for this purpose?

      Thanks,
      Cez.

      • I checked with a few people.

        Most agencies are requiring 5, some are still requiring 4. I’m yet to get a clear answer as to the nature of this change. Also, the agencies were not sure about the marriage certificates, but at a minimum you’d need it officially translated and there is a good chance that they’d deny it w/o having all the certifications. They could be fine w/o any of this, but it gives them a reason to deny your entrance, which this year, I personally feel like they would take. Again, most agencies don’t really know about this, but my advice is to do your due diligence.

        The TAR government is trying to make it as hard as possible for tourists to enter this region w/o having to close it entirely due to international pressures. This is weird because the Tibetan Autonomous Region is one of the more peaceful areas when it comes to conflict in Tibet and has actually seen nothing thus far this year. Aba, Ganze, QingHai, and Gansu have all seen significant ‘action’ but there has been mostly nothing in the TAR.

        This is the nature of travel in this area. You can do everything right and they still might not let you in!

        Again, all the best
        Brian

      • Thanks a lot for your help and quick response.

        I feel you’re quite right, they will try everything just not to allow outsiders in. When we were first planning on going to Tibet we heard the rumours that from June 2012 they will not require permits any more. It’s the other way round, so I think it’s my crossed-eyed luck…

        All we can do is wait now (and look for others from our countries to join the group).

        Thanks,
        Cez.

  • https://post.craigslist.org/manage/3017496999/593s4
    [b]Trip to Tibet (California)
    [/b]
    Date: 2012-05-21, 12:49AM PDT

    I am going to Tibet and am looking for 4 other people to go at the same time, in order to qualify for a Tour Group Permit. I have already been to Tibet twice so my agent who makes my arrangements is very reliable.

    If you are interested, we would need to arrive and depart at the same time. I am arriving in Chengdu, China on June 9 so the permit to Tibet would be June 10 (preferred).

    You would need to pay for all of your own expenses, but if you have interest in going to the “top of the world” this would be a great opportunity.

    Contact: jthinlay@hotmail.com or newmanesque@hotmail.com

    Please let me know and thank you for your interest.

    • Hi Jt,

      Thanks for your comment. I think you are quite right to post it here. Many people read this post when looking for more info about recent changes, so you might just find the group going at that time.

      Good luck,
      Cez.

  • Hi Cez

    I know exactly how you feel. We are 3 Australians due to arrive in Lhasa on June 10th. If anyone knows of any Australians flying from Chengdu to Lhasa on this date please get in contact with me.

    Good luck Cez, i was lucky enough to visit Lhasa last year it is so beautiful i hope you get to see it.

    nicarnna@hotmail.com

    • Hey Nicole,

      I think you’re quite lucky to have 3 people on board from the same country and I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of Australians going to see Tibet, so you’ll be fine. If you want I can contact my agent to ask if she’s got another 2 Australian passport holders, so that you can all apply together.

      I believe you when you say it’s beautiful. I can’t wait to go, our agency will give us final results of their search for 2 Polish people in 2 days. Then we will know whether we will go or get refund.

      Good luck!
      Cez.

    • Nicole,

      Here’s the details for our travel agent:
      Emma Yang
      Sales Department
      http://www.tourthetibet.com
      Tel: 0891-6824726
      Fax: 0891-6837297
      Cell phone: 18702874221

      Thank you very much for the link. It’s a great idea what they’ve done. I can see 4 Australians travelling on the 10th and 11th, so as I said before, you have a great chance of finding a way.

      Good luck and have fun in Tibet!
      Cez

  • as stupid as it is but it seems that now you can not travel to tibet with a group of mixed nationalities. we are 4 Germans and one Polish Traveller and they spoiled our travel plans, guess it will be anything but China in the future. Slowly but surely we understand that no one likes the Chinese over there. If all China is one family, how can this be and how can this be tolerated. Sad but sure not to ever try it again and avoud China in the future by all means!

    • Hi Petere,

      I’m really sorry to hear about your situation. As you said, it’s terrible for people from different countries to go there together. I can see it’s very bitter for you now. When were you planning to go? Maybe there is still a way to sort it out.

      Good luck,
      Cez.

  • It is pointless indeed Petere. For some reasons they don’t want anyone to travel there :( and make everything harder and harder every day. We are given different info every hour and it’s so annoying!

  • hi there,
    Together with my wife we are two Polish nationalites and are looking for other 3 Poles to apply for Tibetan visa to travel this July.
    We are rather flexible, but the trip has to be between 10-29.07.
    Let us know if you know anyone.

    Cheers,
    Lukasz

    • Hey Lukasz,

      In response to your comment I have created a section in this post where people can add their names to find more people of their nationality. We will let you know once someone else from Poland express their interest.

      As to me and Agness, we (hopefully) are going to Tibet at the beginning of June so we can’t join your trip.

      Good luck with your trip,
      Cez.

    • We are Polish couple and we are looking for Polish travelers to Tibet in July.
      Lukasz – ja tez szukam chętnych. Mam bilet na przylot do Lhasy na 22.07. Potem mielismy jechac do Nepalu. Umiesciem tez ogloszenie na travelbicie.
      Daj znać jeśli możesz.

      • Hi Cezar, so we are 4!

        If I understand correctly we need 2 more people.
        Anyone else with Polish passport to join us for Tibetan visa in July?

        Lukasz

      • I’m not sure – my travel agent said we need 5 Polish pax.,
        So, we need 1. Could you modify your arrival date, or no?

  • Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people think about worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  • My brother recommended I might like this website. He was entirely right. This post actually made my day. You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

    • We are even more happy to help you! :) You can leave your contact info and we will try to find travel companions from the same country for you so it’s easier for you guys to apply for the visa permit. We will keep you posted. Best regards!

      • Are you still taking names to help find travel companions to go to Tibet? I am a single person from USA (working in Thailand right now)and I will be arriving in Chengdu on June 9, 2013. I fly out of Chengdu on July 6. I am hoping to join a group to go to Tibet during this time. I understand that I have to be in a group of 5 going in but once we are in, do we have to stay together and go out together? I hope to travel around Tibet for about 15 days. I would like to fly one way and go by train the other way. I have already tried one travel agency in China and they couldn’t help. I hope you can. Thanks much, Kristina

      • Hi Kristina. Thanks for the info. We are also in China, but don’t take names anymore. We stopped doing it last year but we will be more than happy to help you out. We have no idea if there are still the same rules when applying for Tibet permit. I will contact one of the travel agents located in Beijing and ask her about it then will get back to you asap. Have your e-mail! Keep in touch.

    • Sorry, we have your contact details already (e-mail) and all we need is your trip details (dates, nationality, etc.)

  • Hey Agnes,

    We are two portuguese, looking for another 3 people to go to tibet. we can depart from chengdu (preferencially by train) somewhere between 31st of may -10th of june

    thank you

    • Hey David,

      Thanks for your comment. I see that you work for this travel agency. I just want to draw it to the attention of our readers, so they are aware of this.

      Can you tell us how the new rules affect your work? Do you cooperate with other agencies? For example, can you apply for travel permits for travellers who do not go with your agency and booked with another one with which you cooperate?

      Thanks,
      Cez.

  • Well for my work not much effect because our work not only depend on Tibet tour as we do other country too.
    very few authorize agency are based in Kathmandu so we do cooperate with each other for same nationality group.
    We cooperate for finding group as we are few company but we can’t apply for travel permits for travellers who do not go with our agency this is true.
    Thanks
    David

  • News of a foreign tourism ban to Tibet risks raising concerns of a repeat of 2008, when travelers were twice banned from visiting the destination.

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