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“We are a boutique travel company specialising in adventure travel.  By adventure, we simply mean going above and beyond one’s normal known area, seeking out experiences which are unfamiliar.  It can be a hiking trip to beautiful Mount Rinjani in Indonesia or a cultural trip to mysterious North Korea.  Life is short and we hope to help you make the best out of it.” – IWT 

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FAQ for Tibet

QUESTIONS PERTAINING TO PERMIT 

1. Do I need a Chinese tourist VISA to enter China and Tibet?
Singaporeans do not require a visa for China (including Tibet) for up to 15 days. For nationalities of other countries, please refer to the link here: https://www.visaforchina.org/SGP_EN/generalinformation/visaknowledge/258911.shtml

2. What travel documents do I need to visit Tibet?
To visit Tibet, you need to have a valid passport, a Chinese tourist VISA and a Tibet Travel Permit. You can apply for the Chinese tourist VISA by yourself via the Chinese VISA Application Center in your home country (http://www.visaforchina.com.sg/). As for the Tibet Travel Permit, only a travel agency can arrange this for you as part of an organized tour. Certain areas of Tibet (for example Gyanste, Shigatse, Everest Basecamp etc.) also require an additional permit called Aliens’ Travel Permit which can be easily applied by the guide at the Public Security Bureau when you arrive in Lhasa. When you book the tour with us, we will obtain the Tibet Travel Permit for you. You just need to email us the scanned copies of your passports and Chinese tourist VISA and we will take care of the rest for you.

3. What exactly is the Tibet Travel Permit?
In addition to a Chinese tourist VISA, all foreigners travelling to any part of Tibet must also have a Tibet Travel Permit (TTP). The TTP is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau (a Chinese government agency) in Lhasa. The first page lists your itinerary, travel destination and travel dates within Tibet while the second page lists the travellers’ particulars (name, gender, date of birth, nationality, passport number, profession). TTP is only valid for the duration of your stay in Tibet. You will be asked to show the TTP during your flight or train check-in. During your travel, you might also be asked to present the TTP at the various security checkpoints within Tibet.

4. How do I collect the TTP before taking the flight or train?
If you are taking a flight from China into Tibet, you should have the original TTP in order to board the flight. Our local representative in China will send the original TTP via EMS (Epress Mail Service) registered mail to your hotel in China. The delivery time takes about 24-72 hours. You can collect the mail from the hotel reception when you check-in. If you do not have a long layover in China, we will arrange a dispatcher to deliver the TTP to you at the airport. If you are taking the train into Tibet, you just need to have a copy (not original) of the TTP. We will email you a copy of the TTP which you need to print out and bring along to check-in at the train station.

5. Are there any restrictions on group size and nationality?
As of 2016, there is no restriction on number of travellers in a group and nationality. You can travel alone in Tibet with the company of a local tour guide and driver (for travel outside Lhasa) as long as you have all the valid travel documents (passport, VISA and TTB). However it will be very pricey to travel alone in Tibet. For cost saving, you might want to get some friends to form a private group or join an existing open group tour.

6. Is it possible to travel free and easy in Tibet?
No one is allowed to travel free and easy in Tibet. Everyone has to be accompanied by a local tour guide in a private or open group tour. Other than a tour guide, you will also need to have a private vehicle and a driver (not the same person as the guide) if you are visiting areas outside Lhasa.

7. What is the difference between private group tour and open group tour?
For private group tour, you will form your own group with your friends or family with no other strangers. There is no minimum or maximum size limit for private group tour. However the package price per is generally lower for bigger group size. You will have the flexibility to decide on the details of the itinerary like places of interest to visit, tour commencement date and duration etc. For open group tour, you will be part of an existing group with guaranteed departure date. Your fellow travel companions could be from any countries in the world. All open group tours have fixed itineraries and departure dates which usually cannot be changed. All our open group tours have a maximum group size of only 9 pax. There is no minimum group size, the tour will still proceed at the stated price even if only 1-2 people sign up for the open group tour.

8. What is the latest time we have to confirm our trip?
During the peak travelling season from June to October, you should try to confirm the trip with us no later than 2 months before your trip commencement date. Outside the peak travelling season when travel resources are not so tight, it should be fine to confirm the trip at least 1 month before commencement date.

QUESTIONS PERTAINING TO TRANSPORT

1. What are the main gateway cities to Tibet?
Chengdu is the main gateway city to fly into Lhasa. You can also fly into Lhasa from other cities like Chongqing, Xian and Shanghai. However flying from Chengdu (approx. 2 hrs) will be the most convenient as there are more than a dozen flights per day connecting Chengdu and Lhasa (more than 30 flights a day). A number of airlines like SilkAir, Air China and Sichuan Airlines fly direct (approx. 4.5 hrs) from Singapore to Chengdu.

If you have more time and do not mind long distance train ride, you can consider taking a train into Lhasa. The 1956 km Qinghai-Tibet Railway link, which passes through some of the best sceneries in Qinghai and Tibet, begins in Xining and ends in Lhasa. Other than Xining, you can also board the train in other cities (which also connect to the Qinghai-Tibet Railway) like Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. However, in terms of ease of securing tickets, travelling time and scenery, Xining is widely considered to be the best place to start your train journey to Lhasa (approx. 22 hrs).

2. How do I collect the air ticket or train ticket if I book the tour with you?
For air travel, we will email the e-ticket to you, which together with the TTP, are the only documents you need to exchange for the boarding pass at the airport. For train travel, we will arrange for the train tickets to be delivered to your hotel in China. If you do not have a long layover in China, we will arrange a dispatcher to deliver the train ticket to you at the train station.

3. Is it difficult to secure the train ticket to Tibet?
Train tickets to Tibet are in very high demand and is extremely difficult to acquire them yourselves without going through a travel agency. First there are limited trains to Tibet and each train has only two soft-sleeper coaches and eight hard-sleeper coaches which translates to a total of 64 soft-sleeper berths and 480 hard-sleeper berths. A few hundreds sleepers is really negligible considering that thousands of visitors enter Tibet each day. Secondly, most of the available slots, especially soft sleepers, are reserved for officials from government and its related organizations. Thirdly, the tickets are always and quickly snatched up by numerous travel agencies and ticket-dealing agents the moment they are released for sales. Due to this market’s dynamics, train ticket to Tibet invariably comes with a high surcharge usually at least RMB 300 more than its face value. The average prices of one way train tickets (before surcharge) from Xining to Lhasa are around RMB 450-500 and RMB 750-800 for hard-sleeper and soft-sleeper respectively. Train tickets are released for sales 60 days ahead of departure date. To increase your chance of getting train ticket, we strongly encourage you to confirm the trip with us at least 2 months in advance.

4. What if we do not manage to secure the train tickets?
If you do not manage to get the train tickets, you will have to travel by air. There are more than 30 flights a day between Chengdu and Lhasa so getting a seat on the plant should not be much of a problem (provided you confirm the trip in advance). Nevertheless, we will try our very best to secure the train tickets for you if you would like to travel by train.

5. How much is the airfare from Chengdu to Lhasa?
The average airfare for a one way flight from Chengdu to Lhasa is about RMB 1600-1700. We do not impose any surcharge for flight booking.

6. What are the coach classes available on the train?
There are three coach classes on the train; soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper. Soft seat is just a normal seating coach where passengers sit next to one another. Most of the local Tibetans and Chinese (except for the more affluent ones) travel in this class. The soft seat coach is usually crowded with passengers and their luggages, so travelling in this class will not be so comfortable. In hard sleeper, there are 6 sleeping berths to a cabin: an upper, middle and lower berths on each side of the cabin. In soft sleeper, there are 4 sleeping berths to a cabin; an upper and lower berths on each side of the cabin. The cushion used in soft sleeper is softer than that used in the hard sleeper, but the hard sleepers are reasonably well padded and comfortable enough for a good sleep. Soft sleeper is about 50% more expensive than hard sleeper, therefore if you can consider hard sleeper if you are tight on budget.

7. Are there meals provided on the train?
Meals are not included in the package but there is a restaurant in the train where you can purchase your meals. The restaurant usually serves egg, bread and milk for breakfasts and an assortment of Chinese and Tibetan dishes with rice or noodles for lunch and dinner.

8. Is boiled water available on the train?
Boiled water is available for free on the train.

9. Are there shower facilities in the train?
Shower is not available in the train so you have to wait till you arrive in Lhasa.

10. What time should i arrive at the train station?
You should arrive at the train station at least 2 hrs before the train departure time for the check-in process.

11. Are foreigners allowed to take public transport in Tibet 
It is perfectly fine for foreigners to take public transport like buses and taxi within Lhasa (with the exception of train station and airport transfers). Public transport is relatively cheap and readily available within Lhasa. However, outside of Lhasa, all foreigners must travel together with their with their driver and tour guide in private vehicle.

QUESTIONS PERTAINING TO ACCOMMODATIONS AND MONEY

1. What are the accommodations in Tibet like?
There is a wide range of accommodations in Lhasa, ranging from luxury 5-star international hotels like Saint Regis, Shangri-La and Sheraton to locally owned and managed standard 3-star hotels. Choice of accommodation outside of Lhasa is limited and will be simpler, but it is still relatively easy to find private room accommodations with attached toilets and hot showers. At the Everest Base Camp area, the only accommodations available are the EBC tent guesthouse and the Rongbuk Monastery Guesthouse; both of which are without attached toilets and hot showers.

2. What are the food options in Tibet?
Lhasa has a good selection of restaurants ranging from Italian, American to Indian. There are also some fast food restaurants in Lhasa. Outside Lhasa, most of the restaurants and eateries serve only Chinese or Tibetan dishes. Traditional Tibetan food is pretty basic and consists mainly of barley, meat and dairy products. The most common dishes are Tsampa (roasted barley), Balep (Tibetan bread), momos (steamed dumplings filled with meat or vegetables), and Thukpa (noodle soup). Meat dishes are likely to be yakgoat, or mutton, often dried or cooked in a spicy stew with potatoes. Yak yoghurtbutter, and cheese are also frequently eaten.

3. What is the approximate cost of a meal in Tibet?
A simple Tibetan or Chinese meal costs about RMB 15-20 per pax while dining at a restaurant serving international cuisine will cost about RMB 50-75 per pax.

4. What is the currency of Tibet?
As in the rest of China, the Chinese Yuan (RMB) is the legal currency in Tibet.

5. Are there any Automated Teller Machine (ATM) in Tibet?
International access ATMs dispensing RMB can be found in Lhasa and Shigatse but not in other smaller cities or towns. However, we would not recommend you to rely on ATM for your cash withdrawal as ATM breakdown is not uncommon in Tibet and the exchange rate may not be good.

6. Is credit card acceptable in Tibet?
Major Credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and JCB are accepted in most upscale shops and restaurants in Lhasa and Shigatse but not in other smaller cities or towns.

7. Is it customary to tip while traveling in Tibet?
Tipping is not an established practice in China. You will not be expected to tip service staff who provide only one time short service like taxi driver, waiter, hotel porter etc. However as a token of appreciation, we do encourage you to tip service staffs like guide and driver who provide round the clock services especially for good services. A good ball park figure would be about RMB 50-80 per day for a guide and RMB 30-60 per day for a driver for the whole group.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

1. When is the best time to visit Tibet?

Tibet can be visited any time of the year, though depending on your interests, certain times may be better than others. Most people visit Tibet during the summer and autumn months from June to early October as the weather is more soothing. This is also the peak period where prices are higher and availability of train tickets can be a challenge. The rainy season is from July to August but this is also the time when the mountains are lush and filled with blooms of wildflowers. The plus side is: it usually only rains at night rather than in the day. The winter months from November to February are the coldest with night temperatures hitting sub-zero. However, the skies are exceptionally clear, giving spectacular views of the Himalayas. There are also lesser tourists thus the travelling cost is lower.

2. When should I avoid visiting Tibet?
Due to concerns of political protest, the Chinese government closes Tibet to foreign visitors every year from mid February to end March. Tibet will be also be crowded with Chinese tourists during the Golden Week holidays which fall on 1st week of May and 1st week of October.

3. What is High Altitude Sickness?
High altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness is an illness that can affect mountain climbers, hikers or travellers at high altitudes, usually above 2400m. It is caused by reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. Any travellers who flies or buses into Lhasa, where elevation is around 3600m, is likely to experience some symptoms of high altitude sickness. Symptoms from mild to moderate altitude sickness may include dizziness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, nausea. Altitude sickness can further progress to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), which is potentially fatal.

4. How do I prevent high altitude sickness?
The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to ascend gradually so that your body can become acclimatized to the changing altitude. If you fly into Lhasa, take it easy for the first 2 days in order to get acclimatized to the high altitude in Tibet. For more info on high altitude sickness; its symptoms, prevention and treatment, refer to the link here: http://www.traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm

5. Is travel insurance provided in the package?
Travel insurance is not included in the package. We strongly recommend you to procure your own travel insurance before embarking on the Tibet trip. You may also procure travel insurance through us: http://iwannatravel.com.sg/aigtravelguard. For more information, please refer to the brochure (http://iwannatravel.com.sg/downloads/AIG_TravelGuard_Brochure.pdf) and policy wordings (http://iwannatravel.com.sg/downloads/AIG_TravelGuard_PolicyWording.pdf

6. What do I need to pack for the Tibet trip?
Warm clothings will be needed even in summer as the night temperature can get pretty cold. Sunglasses and sunscreen will be needed to block off the harsh sun rays at the high altitude. As a lot of walking will be expected, you will need a good pair of comfortable covered shoes. High altitude sickness medication is also recommended especially for people who have not travelled to high altitude places before. A detailed packing list will be provided to you upon trip confirmation.

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