If you’re planning a trip to Tibet from another region of China, you’ll need to get your hands on a Tibet travel permit. In this article, I’ll tell you how to obtain this important document during the final leg of your journey to Lhasa.
The Tibet Travel Permit is a mandatory travel document you must obtain after getting your Chinese Visa. This permit allows you to visit Tibet, and it’s issued by the Tibet Tourism Development Committee in Lhasa. You won’t be able to get it anywhere else, not even at Chinese embassies or authorities in other parts of the world.
The permit will only be issued within a week of your arrival in Lhasa, can only be obtained through an authorized travel agency, and the agency that will help you to get it will have a limited amount of time to send it to you. Keep in mind that Tibet has its own travel policy called Tibet Travel Regulations, which requires all international visitors to organize tours with a local travel agency in Lhasa. This local travel agency will arrange tour services, including a tour guide, a private vehicle for the tour, and the Tibet entrance permit. I wrote an extensive Tibet travel guide in a previous post. You can read it here.
Let’s talk about how to obtain a physical permit based on your mode of transportation.
Flying to Lhasa
If you’re taking a flight to Lhasa, you’ll need to show the original copy of your permit before boarding. Note the emphasis on the word ORIGINAL. I’ve heard stories of people being refused to board the flight because they only had a copy of the permit.
Generally, you’ll have two options for obtaining the permit:
- The agency can send it to your hotel in a transiting city in China. Just give the hotel’s address in both Mandarin and English, their phone number, and your hotel booking number to the agency, and they’ll send you the original copy. It’s recommended to inform the hotel that you’re expecting a package from Lhasa and remember to pick it up at check-in.
- Have an agent deliver the permit to an airport. If you don’t want to stay overnight in a hotel during your transition, I recommend choosing Chengdu as your transition city. The delivery agent will meet you there, holding your name as you walk out from the arrival gate. Make sure to send your phone number and messaging app details (preferably WeChat) to the agency so that they can contact you in case there is any issue at the airport.
Taking the train to Lhasa
If you’re taking the train to Lhasa, you’ll need to show a copy (in this case the original is not required) of your permit twice: once at departure and the other on arrival to Lhasa. The agency will send you a scanned image of the permit via email. Make sure to have a VPN before traveling to China because most websites, including Gmail, are censored.
For those taking the train from Chongqing to Lhasa, things are a bit different: you’ll need the original copy of the permit at the Chongqing train station. The agency can send the original copy to your hotel in Chongqing, so they’ll need your hotel address, phone number, and your hotel booking number.
Overland journey to Tibet
If you’re traveling to Tibet overland, you’re not allowed to take any public transportation. However, if you arrange a private vehicle and tour guide with any agency, you can travel overland to and from Lhasa. Your tour guide will meet you with the Tibet travel permit at the TAR border or the departing city on the mainland.
Personally, I recommend booking your trip to Tibet with Wonders of Yunnan, a travel agency based in Yunnan that specializes in arranging trips for foreigners in Yunnan, Tibet, and Guizhou.
That’s it. With this information, you’re now ready to get your Tibet travel permit and explore this incredible region. If you want to have an idea of a basic itinerary to Tibet check out my guide. Here you can find my travel guide to China.