Since the Tibet permit regulations were put in place, traveling to Tibet has always been considered to be an expensive trip. However, in comparison with a holiday in other places around the world, traveling to Tibet only appears to be more expensive. But, with all of the inclusive items in the Tibet Tour packages, it is well worth the cost.
General Cost of Touring in Tibet in Different Seasons
The cost of traveling to Tibet can differ from season to season, with summer being the most expensive and winter being the cheapest. Travel to Tibet in the winter months is still possible, and you can still visit most of the stunning attractions of the plateau, including Mount Qomolangma Base Camp. The advantage of winter travel is that many things are discounted in price, from train tickets to accommodation, making the entire trip cheaper.
Travel in the summer months, from June to September, is more expensive due to the high season and the number of travelers. With summer being the most popular time to go, prices are often increased to meet the demand. However, this is true of every holiday destination in the world, so it is not only Tibet that is more expensive in the peak season.
Cost of Entering Tibet
There are costs involved to get into Tibet, and the main one is the cost of the tour. Without a pre-booked tour with a registered tour operator, you can’t get the Tibet entry permit. There are also costs for the visa, train or flight tickets, etc.
Chinese Entry Visa
Applied for before booking your tour, the Chinese Entry Visa is only used for entering Tibet from mainland China. Visas can be obtained from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in your home country, and the cost does vary depending on the country of origin. Below is a list of some of the latest visa costs by country:
Country Single Entry Visa Cost
Australia * AUD 109.50
Canada * CAD 142.00
France * EUR 126.00
Germany * EUR 125.45
Ireland EUR 40.00
Italy * EUR 127.10
Netherlands * EUR 126.55
New Zealand NZD 140.00
Singapore * SGD 85.00
Spain * EUR 126.55
United Kingdom * GBP 151.00
United States of America USD 140.00
(Countries marked with an asterisk (*) are required to apply for the Chinese Entry Visa via the local Chinese Visa Application Service Center (CVASC). Cost includes the CVASC fees.)
Travel Costs from Inland China to Lhasa
Train tickets to the plateau from the seven gateway cities across China vary depending on the season. The prices increased in the peak season of summer based on the higher demand. Once again, it is cheaper to take the train to Lhasa from inland China in the low season (winter months). Train fares vary depending on the departure city, with Xining being the cheapest, with fares that start from around US$74. The most expensive ticket in the low season, from Guangzhou in Southern China, starts from as much as US$129.75 per person.
It is generally cheaper to get to Tibet by trains than flights to Lhasa from inland China, and while the cheapest low-season train ticket is less than 80 US dollars, the cheapest low-season flight will still cost more than 200 US dollars per person for a one-way economy flight. Even in the low season, flights from Beijing can still cost more than 500 US dollars.
Tibet Permits and Passes
Contrary to some information available on the web, the Tibet permits and passes that you will need for entering and traveling in Tibet are included in the cost of the tour. While some tour operators may charge an additional fee for the processing of the Tibet Travel Permit which is against the Tibet tourism policy. When you book with an authorized Tibet tour company, all of your permits – which include the Tibet Travel Permit, Alien’s Travel Permit, Restricted Areas Permit, and Frontier Pass – are included in your tour cost.
Chinese Group Visa from Kathmandu
When entering Tibet from Kathmandu in Nepal, the standard Chinese Entry Visa is not used. Instead, a different visa, known as the Chinese Group Visa or Group Tourist Visa, is applied for on your arrival in Kathmandu – the capital of Nepali. This is applied for by the tour operator on your behalf, using your original passport, and is a separate document, instead of a stamp in your passport. Approximate costs for the Chinese Group Visa are:
Nationality Processing Time Cost (US$)
American 3 Working Days $180.00
Other Nationalities $48.00
Note: The Chinese Group Visa for Tibet can be applied for from Monday to Friday from 9:30am-11:30am (except Chinese holidays).
Inclusive Tour Items
The standard Tibet tour comes with inclusive items, which are covered by the cost of the tour that you pay. Some of these items, such as the cost of the driver and guide, are what makes Tibet a little more expensive for tourists. Currently, the inclusive tour items are:
All necessary travel permits to Tibet
Entrance ticket fees for all the sight spots listed in the itinerary
Private transportation in Tibet with experienced local Tibetan driver (gasoline is included)
Private English speaking local Tibetan guide
Lodging in comfortable accommodation of your choice
Free shuttle Pick-up and send-off services at the beginning/end of the tour
One mobile phone with a local SIM card for the tour group during the tour (it can receive international calls and text messages)
Oxygen tank in the car
Meals: only breakfast is included as part of the accommodation cost
First aid kit in the tour vehicle
Other Personal Expenses in Tibet
There are items that are not included, such as meals other than breakfast; alcoholic drinks and other personal expenses for laundry, phone calls, etc; gratuities for the guide and driver; and the cost of travel insurance to cover trip cancellations and emergency evacuation from Tibet. These are normally shouldered by the tourist, so it is essential to bring enough money to cover your own personal expenses.
Travel insurance is essential for any tourist traveling globally, and should be obtained from your home country before leaving for Tibet, as it is cheaper than arranging travel insurance in China. You should ensure that the travel insurance covers emergency evacuations from Tibet and/or China, as some standard travel insurance policies will not cover this.
Gratuities, or tips, are not actually a requirement of your travel in Tibet, but are a common way of showing your appreciation of the professional and friendly services of your guide and driver. In general, tipping is not part of the Tibetan culture, and travelers should not feel pressured to provide a tip. Much of the information on tipping in Tibet is misleading, giving inappropriately high amounts for the guide and driver. Tip what you can afford, if you are happy with the service that your guide and driver provides for you.