High up in the Himalayas are two amazing places in the highest regions in the world. Sharing a border that crosses directly over the summit of Mount Everest, Tibet and Nepal are neighbors in more than one sense of the word. Not only do they share Mount Everest, by they also share many other high Himalayan mountains, since their border follows the line of the Himalayas from north to south. Therefore, more and more tourists choose the Nepal Tibet Tour and experience the subtle differences between them.
They also share parts of each other’s cultures and trade between nations. If you want to tour China Tibet, Nepal is the only place outside China where you can enter Tibet. With foreign visitors not permitted to travel unaccompanied in Tibet, it’s a requirement for a registered travel agent to organize the tours and permits for you. Nepal is an important partner in Tibet’s tourism industry, aiding in the travel of foreign tourists across the border into Tibet, who often visit after spending time in Nepal.
Just as Nepal is an important partner with Tibet, the reverse is true as well. Tibet is also an important ally to Nepal, with trade passing across the China border. China has also given help to the Nepali government in times of need. The two are also working together on the extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which is planned to run on across Tibet and down into Nepal, ending at Kathmandu.
Where to tour in Tibet and Nepal
These two regions have very similar tourist activities, from trekking in the mountains and visiting the stunning lakes, to lower lands with lush valleys and a beautiful river which flows for thousands of miles to the oceans.
For trekkers, there are mountain treks available in the higher areas of Nepal, such as to Everest Base Camp (south) and the Annapurna Range, as well as areas such as Manaslu and Mustang, which have arid desert-like landscapes ideal for high-altitude trekking. In Tibet, there are treks to Everest Base Camp (north), the Everest Advanced base Camp, and other places such as the Gama Valley for the trek from Sera to Ganden. While many treks in Nepal are concentrated in the mountains, Tibetan treks also cover lower areas, through valley and across vast plains, and can be found across the entire region. Read more on the Himalayas.
Mountaineering in Nepal is also limited to the Himalayas, as it is in Tibet, although Tibet has a longer line of the Himalayas, which extends far to the east and almost into Sichuan Province of China. This gives more selection of mountains to climb, and allows less experienced climbers to get in some practice on Tibet’s lower mountains before attempting to scale the 8,000 meter peaks in the region.
Many people visiting Nepal tend to focus on the trekking and adventures, and less on the cultural and religious side of the country. Nepal has many monasteries and gompas of both Hindu and Buddhist origin, and a few that have been both over time. With so much to offer, Nepalese culture can be seen if you know where to look.
In Tibet, the culture surrounds you and with tours by Tibetan guides, who know all about the culture and religion of their own people. Because of this, there is a better opportunity to experience the celebrations of the Buddhist festivals, and the uniqueness of the Tibetan culture. You also have more opportunity to get closer to the Tibetan people, and learn more about their ancient ways of life on the harsh Tibetan plateau.
Deciding where to tour can be a challenge, as there is so much to do and experience in both places. However, unlike in Nepal, where you can go where you like, in Tibet you are restricted to a specified tour that has a pre-defined itinerary, and it is best to work out your plans in advance. When traveling to both places one after the other, a visitor can choose to start or end their tour in Nepal, and with the land border at Gyirong Port now open, the option of traveling overland from Lhasa to Kathmandu is an enticing option.
Find a reliable tour operator
For tours in Tibet, you first need to find a good tour operator that is both reliable and trustworthy. With many years experience in taking visitors to Tibet, Tibet Vista can provide you with the best tours and the very best guides, all of whom know their country inside out, and can give great insights into the people, culture, and sights of the Tibetan Plateau.
Finding a good tour operator is important, as they will be the ones handling all of the official paperwork in order to allow you to enter the region. Travelers to Tibet are not permitted to travel alone, and are required to have various permits in order to visit the different places within the region. The tour operator arranges all the permits, hotels, accommodations outside Lhasa, entry to the various sites you will visit, and the vehicles and gasoline needed to ensure that the tour is a success.
With their experienced tour advisors, Tibet Vista can also recommend the best places to visit for those who have never been to Tibet before, or who do not know where they might want to go. They offer a free service to help people better choose where they will travel to during the tour, and are knowledgeable in all the different places you can visit while in Tibet. A good tour operator is indispensable for tourists to Tibet, and only with a good tour operator like Tibet Vista can you be guaranteed to have a fulfilling and hassle-free trip.
Travel documents you need
When traveling from Lhasa to Kathmandu, there are certain permits you will need, not only to get into Tibet in the first place, but also to travel outside the capital city of Lhasa, and on to other regions of Tibet which are restricted as either “open” or “closed” according to government decisions and restrictions.
The first thing you need to get into Tibet, is the Tibet Travel permit, which is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa. It can only be obtained by a registered tour operator, once the tour has been booked. The Tibet Travel Permit allows you to enter Tibet from China, which is one of only two places from where you can travel to Tibet. It requires a copy of your passport, and will be applied for by the tour operator and forwarded to your hotel in China, ready for your arrival. It is an important document, as you cannot get onto a plane or train to Lhasa without it, and it will be needed to apply for the other permits you will need once you get to Lhasa.
The second permit you need is the Alien’s Travel Permit, which allows you to travel accompanied to the “unopened” areas of Tibet, such as Mount Everest, Rongbuk Monastery, Pelkor Monastery, etc. This is applied for by your tour guide once you reach Lhasa, and takes around two days to process. The guide will require your original passport and the Tibet Travel Permit in order to apply for the Alien’s Travel Permit, and by the time you have acclimatized to the high altitude and finished touring the beautiful sights of Lhasa, it will be ready for you to collect so you can move on.
If you are traveling to some of the more remote and “closed” areas of Tibet, you will need to have the Military Permit, which allows access to certain Military Restricted areas of the region. The permit allows visitors to travel to certain parts of the restricted areas of Ngari, Nyingchi, and Nagqu, which are regarded as “military sensitive” areas of the region. Trips to the sacred site of Holy Mount Kailash and lake Manasarovar also require this permit. The permit is applied for once again by your tour guide when in Lhasa, and again requires your passport and Tibet Travel Permit for the application. Again, this will also be available before you leave Lhasa.
Tip: For access into Nepal across the border at Gyirong port, you will need to have two passport-sized photos with you, for the application for your Nepal Entry Visa.
Best time to visit
Tibet has a typical, four-season plateau climate, and the best times to visit are in the Spring and Autumn, from April to June and September to November. This is the time when the skies are at their clearest, and the weather is mild and comfortable to travel in. It is warm during the day, though a little chilly at night, and is perfect for trekking, photography, climbing, and general tours of the amazing sights in Tibet.
Winter and Summer in Nepal are not the best times to visit. Summer is the rainy season, and Nepal gets more rain than Tibet during the monsoon. While it is not always heavy, and often only happens during the afternoon and evening, the humidity is higher, making the views of mountains less frequent due to cloud cover. Winter is also a cold time for trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal, and is not recommended. In the lower areas it is not as cold, but is not a good time to tour Tibet.
Spring and Autumn in both places are the best times to visit on a joint tour of the region, as they are the optimum times for tourist travel with good weather. Also, while Summer is the peak season in Tibet, Autumn is a better time to visit as there are less tourists and travel can sometimes be a little cheaper.
Dos and Don’ts when preparing
Tibet and Nepal are beautiful places to visit, and if you follow the rules of each culture (your guide can help you if you are not sure what is right or wrong), then your trips to both Nepal and Tibet will go without a hitch and be the most enjoyable travel you have ever experienced. there are also a few things to remember when preparing for your tour that are important.
Do not assume that just because a tour operator has a website that they are a good operator. Anyone can open and fill in a website, and it takes no real skill these days to have a site that looks professional. Check on the credentials of the company that you are using, and make sure that they can give what they are offering. Checking previous reviews in independent sites such as Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet, and checking if they are recommended by the more popular guides (of which Lonely Planet is the best) is a good way to make sure you have found a good tour operator.
Some operators are still telling tourists that they can obtain the Tibet Travel Permit without booking a tour, and that you can arrange your stay in Tibet yourself. This is not true, and only with a confirmed itinerary can a Tibet Travel permit be approved. If you are offered a permit only, decline and look elsewhere. Tibet Vista only provide permits for their booked clients.
Choose whether you want to travel to Tibet by flight or by train. There are pros and cons for both methods of travel, and your tour operator can help with making the decision. Tibet Vista’s website has a lot of information on the train to Tibet, which travels along the scenic Qinghai-Tibet Railway, as well as information on flights from the gateway cities in mainland China to Lhasa Gonggar International Airport.
Make preparations for any medications you take regularly with your doctor, as prescription medication is often not available in Tibet. You should also discuss with your doctor whether you can take any altitude sickness medication while you are in the region, as it can have some harmful effects if mixed with prescription medication.
Travel insurance: simple & flexible
You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
Looking for more of our tips on Travel within Asia?