What to expect on arrival
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A trip to Tibet is likely to cause a sense of culture shock as you journey in this under-developed region. Here are some important things to bear in mind as you travel through this fascinating country.
- Tourism is a relatively new industry in Tibet, and a seasonal one. For this reason English is not widely spoken, even in tourist restaurants and hotels. Guides in Tibet get more limited exposure than in other countries, and they may struggle to provide fluent answers to more complicated questions. Please be patient with your guide in these situations, and understand that your conversations will help them improve their English.
- The tourist infrastructure in Tibet is relatively undeveloped so you should not expect the same levels of comfort as you would when travelling in other parts of the world. Be prepared for some long journeys, poor road conditions and very basic facilities in more remote hotels. You will however be rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
- Tibetan people are deeply religious. Please respect their traditions and keep to the proper dress-code when visiting temples - remove your hat, do not wear shorts or revealing clothing. Refrain from smoking in temples, avoid pointing to or touching any holy objects and do not interrupt prayers. Do not touch, walk over, or sit on any religious texts, sacred objects or prayer flags. Remember that eagles are sacred birds in the eyes of the Tibetan people, so try not to disturb any you come across. The same applies for any sheep or cows decorated with red, green or yellow cloth.
- When walking around monasteries, shrines or Mani piles it is important to walk around in a clockwise direction. If in doubt, just watch the local people and follow their lead.
- It is polite to use both hands whenever you are giving or receiving something, particularly things like money and business cards. Another common practice is to attach prayer flags or Lungta sacred script (string of prayer flags) to high mountain passes and temple for good fortune and long life.
- The political situation in Tibet is highly sensitive. As a general rule it would be best to refrain from discussing political issues with local people, especially in ear shot of others. Taking photographs in sensitive areas, particularly check points and army areas, is prohibited. If you wish to take a picture and are unsure if it would be inappropriate, ask your guide.
- Do not take any images of the Dalai Lama or anything with the Tibetan flag on with you to Tibet, these are both strictly prohibited by the Chinese authorities.
- China’s expanding middle class is now the main source of tourists in Tibet. In some popular locations you will find yourself surrounded by large groups of Chinese tourists.
- Government action, weather and local conditions can sometimes disrupt itineraries. It helps to be flexible and patient if such situations arise.
- Never drink tap water, bottled water is available everywhere. However ice in hotels is generally safe.
- Always keep a copy of your Tibet Entry Permit with you.