Travel advice & practical information for travelogue:
'Bicycle vacation Tibet'
Consulate General of People's Republic of China in New York
520 12th Avenue
New York, NY 10036-1003
Tel.: 212-244 9456
49-51 Portland Place
London W1B 1JL
Web Site: Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the UK
11, Avenue George V
Tel: +33-1-49521950 Fax: +33-1-47205946, 47202422, 53758914
Web site: Ambassade de la Republique Populaire de Chine en Republique Francaise
You need a visa for China and a permit for Tibet. Your passport should be valid until six months after leaving China again.
Tibet was annexed as a Chinese province in 1950. For many years no Western tourists were allowed into the country, but since the early 1980s Westerners can, usually accompanied by a guide, travel in Tibet. You are not allowed to drive a car, so you'll always need to hire a driver. And always through official tourist agencies.
Tibet has a population of 3.4 million people. They are hospitable and friendly. They often live in extreme circumstances, especially in the villages at high altitudes. In most monasteries it's easy to get contact with the monks, especially one who speak some English.
There are many nomads in the mountains. They wander with their yak and sheep herds from winter to summer pastures. The yak is well adjusted to the altitude and has a very thick coat. They produce milk, which is processed into yoghurt and butter. Their hides are used for tents and the faeces are dried and used as fuel.
There are also many Muslims in Tibet. They are recognizable by their headgear. Men wear fezes and women headscarves. Tibetans are very religious and make the pilgrimages to monasteries hundreds of times. During pilgrimages they spin their prayer wheels or cover the distance standing, kneeling, lying.
Climate and Nature
Tibet sits at an altitude of 3,000 to 5,000 meters and consists mostly of mountains and plateaus. The landscape is impressive. The air is stil clean and the views are overwhelming.
Because of its altitude, Tibet has a dry mountain climate. It has relatively little rain and if it falls, it's usually during the summer. Also because of the altitude, the difference in temperatures between summer and winter. During the summer (June through August), the daytime temperatures lie around 20 degrees centigrade in the sun. In the shade, temperatures are remarkably lower. At night the average temperatures are between zero and eight degrees.
In the wintertime there is a chance that passes are closed. Because of the often bad weather in the winter period, there are many landslides. These can completely erase parts of roads.
Travellers checks can only be exchanged in Lhasa and Shigatze.
Safety and security
Traveling in some countries or regions can be dangerous. That isn't always a reason not to go there, but part of preparing well for a trip includes finding out about possible risks.
The CIA World Factbook: Tibet is a good place to look. Of course you always should consult your own country's Foreign Department web site.
Health and altitude sickness
There is a serious chance that you'll suffer from altitude sickness in Tibet. Being in good shape doesn't guarantee it won't affect you. At 3,000 meters altitude, there is already one third less oxygen in the air your breathe. Altitude sickness occurs when you ascend faster than your body can adjust. It's good sense to spend a few days to acclimatize before you do anything strenuous at this altitude. It is also very important to drink a lot of water, preferably 5 liters a day.
The most effective way to deal with altitude sickness is to descend. If the condition is serious, the patient should get extra oxygen.
An important rule of thumb: Always sleep below the highest altitude that you have reached that day.
Find current information on the web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tibet. Always consult your family doctor and your country's Health Department web site.
Plan your trip to Tibet online
Through online reservation systems like À la Carte Vacations you can book airline tickets, hotels, rental cars and holiday houses. You can build a fly-drive itinerary with maximum flexibility, book a flight plus a hotel hotel for a night or weekend. Without the limitations of package deals from travel organisations and most times for a much better price.