One of the rules that universally applies to all foreign travelers to Tibet is the rule that foreigners can only tour Tibet on an organized tour. There is surely no exception to this rule. Hence, around five to six weeks prior to your scheduled date of travel to Tibet, you should have already availed of the service of a legitimate travel agency. This travel agency could provide you with an organized travel tour of Tibet. Moreover, it is important to take note that foreign tourists can never tour Tibet without travel permits, a private tour guide, and a vehicle with a driver.
Understanding Organized Group Tour
Most foreign travelers to Tibet think that organized tour means group tours. On the contrary, organized tours do not necessarily refer to group tours. In fact, you can travel to Tibet via Nepal even if you are alone as long as your tour is organized by a legitimate travel agency. The travel cost, however, of an organized solo tour is more expensive than that of an organized group tour, for in a group tour, the cost of hiring a travel guide, vehicle, and a driver is usually subdivided among the group members. Hence, if you are traveling on a budget, your best option will be that of the organized group tour.
By Plane or By Overland Route
If you travel to Tibet from Nepal, you can have two travel route options: either you can take an overland trip from Nepal to Tibet or you can board a plane from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport to Lhasa’s Gonggar Airport. Both of the ways require your China Group Visa. Each of these two options has its pros and cons.
- Nepal to Tibet by Plane
Your first option to reach Tibet from Nepal is by a flight to Lhasa Gonggar Airport from Tribhuvan International Airport which is around 5.56 kilometers from Kathmandu. Take note that before you can board a plane to Tibet, you will need to present your Tibet Group Visa to the custom authority at the airport. Your travel agency usually secures for you this travel permit prior to your arrival at Kathmandu. Upon arrival at the Lhasa Gonggar Airport, you will be fetched by your tour guide and whisked to your designated hotel.
The flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa is the only direct international flight to Lhasa, and there is a daily flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa operated by Sichuan and Air China. The plane usually leaves Kathmandu at 10:45 and arrives at Lhasa at around 14:05. Your travel agency usually books your flight and sends you the detailed flight information prior to your travel to Tibet. The ticket price of this flight is usually around 4,410 CNY (economy class).
- Via Overland Route to Tibet
Tibet shares boundaries with Nepal, and for this reason, you can reach Tibet overland via Nepal. The Nepal-Tibet border is just 115 km from Kathmandu, and by car or bus, you can travel to the border via the Araniko Highway. This highway passes by Kodari, the last town of Nepal prior to entering Tibet. The end of the Araniko Highway is the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge. This bridge is connected to China National Highway 318 that goes directly to Lhasa. This route option is a more adventurous option compared to that of the plane option, for despite the steep climb, perilous turns, and sharp bends along the way, it also affords you the best scenic views along the Nepal-Tibet Border. This route, however, had been closed several times in the past due to landslides. In the Earthquake of April 2015, for example, this route was closed to traffic for almost four months and was reopened only during the early days of August of that year.
As mentioned above, it would be impossible for you to travel to Tibet from Nepal if you are not traveling on an organized tour. At the Chinese Custom Office along the border, you will be asked to present your Tibet Group Visa. If you belong to an organized tour and have all the necessary travel documents, you can surely go on with your travel to Tibet via the China National Highway 318.