Since the ‘liberation’ of Tibet in 1951 the country has been officially designated an autonomous region of China.
This controversial status and the subsequent relocation of large numbers of Han Chinese has led to the gradual dilution of Tibetan culture.
Guides in Tibet
We use only Tibetan guides and focus your itinerary on Tibetan culture and traditions, giving you an insight into the country and everyday life. Some of the more remote areas involve adventurous journeys, but we will tailor your itinerary to suit your preferences.
Whereas most operators will only take you to Tibet as part of a fixed-itinerary group, our tours are fully tailor-made to your own specifications. We will also take care of all necessary paperwork and bureaucracy.
While ethnic Tibetans speak Tibetan, many of the new Chinese residents of Tibet speak only Chinese. Guides now need to speak Mandarin in order to be included in the official pool. In addition official signage is mostly in Chinese characters.
Food and drink
Tibetan food is traditionally quite bland and the diet based on animal products due to the difficulties of growing fruit and vegetables in such climes. Some good Tibetan dishes to try are bobi (similar to stuffed tortillas) and momo (dumplings). Many people will also want to try the famous yak butter tea, although please note that this is very much an acquired taste! You should avoid the tap water, including ice cubes, buy only peelable fruit and do not eat uncooked vegetables.
In general tipping is not expected but international hotels operate on more Westernised principles, and small tips for bellboys, waiters in restaurants and cleaning staff is the norm. Tipping does constitute a recognised part of your guide and driver's income, but this is, of course, discretionary.
The currency of Tibet is the Chinese Renminbi (RMB), more commonly known as the yuan. It is possible to use foreign bank cards in Bank of China ATMs, but these are few and far between in Tibet. Currency is by far the easiest way to manage your money — it is now possible to buy Renminbi in this country and bigger hotels will change US dollars and sometimes sterling.
Please be aware that conversations about the political situation in Tibet can be sensitive, and may cause trouble for those you are speaking to, so you should restrict any public conversations accordingly. You should also be careful about taking photos of military installations, government buildings, soldiers or other possibly sensitive subjects. You may find that you will be asked to refrain from taking photos, visiting sights or even stopping in certain places without any clear reason why — in these situations it is best to accede to the request with good grace. Always walk clockwise round a temple or other religious establishment. It is perfectly acceptable to spin prayer wheels, join pilgrims in their temple circuits and so on, but if you do so please respect that these are religious practices.
Our country specialists can advise on any safety concerns you may have. For current information, please refer to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office website.
When to go to Tibet
You'll find temperature and rainfall information, together with a month-by-month guide on visiting, on our guide for when to go to Tibet.
17½ hours (Lhasa via Beijing)
British Airways, Cathay Pacific