Traveling from Nepal to Tibet: during monsoon season? Seeking tour and advice
April 26, 2011 2:49 AM   Subscribe

Traveling from Nepal to Tibet: during monsoon season? Seeking tour and advice

I'm going to Nepal! I will be attending meetings in Kathmandu in June and would love to be able to travel on from there to Tibet. However, it's the start of monsoon season and from the searching I've done so far, many routes are closed and tours don't run from June onwards. I am quite happy to just fly to Lhasa and take a 2-3 day tour there before returning home. Unfortunately I don't have enough time for the 2-3 week trips offered by many of the tour companies.

I am no stranger to monsoonal weather in Asia, but I have mostly only traveled in more developed countries at that time of year.

Is it at all feasible to travel around these areas (even if I fly between the cities) in June?

Would I only need visas/permits for Nepal and Tibet (not China)?

Are there any recommended short tours that I could do in Lhasa, including flight bookings and guide if necessary? I like to visit temples, historical buildings, eat local cuisine etc. I'm a solo female traveler.

If it would not be possible to go to Tibet, how should I spend an extra day or two in Kathmandu, given the weather?

posted by wingless_angel to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: And since I didn't mention it: budget - since it would be a short trip I can afford $100+ for hotel, tour, local transport per day, with flight extra. I am not a five star fan but I am also kind of over fleapit hotels.
posted by wingless_angel at 3:01 AM on April 26, 2011

Best answer: If you're talking about Lhasa, you're out of luck if you want to get in independently. See this summary of the situation, last updated in January 2011.

I'd recommend getting in personal contact with a tour operator. In my experience, they're usually willing to set up whatever you want. Just be aware that you're going to be paying quite a price for just two or three days: a Chinese visa, the Tibet Travel Permit, the Alien Travel Permit if you decide to leave the Lhasa-Shigatse region, your required guide, an often unusually expensive flight, etc.

As far as Nepal goes, you'll be okay with just the visa. There are some areas that require permits, but they're the more remote treks that take you into restricted areas. This probably doesn't apply to you.

I have no personal experience with monsoons in that part of Asia, but I've heard of people who have done Nepalese trekking in the rain. I would assume things would be fine if you were just planning on staying in Kathmandu and Lhasa.

Finally, I'm pretty sure I know what you mean by Tibet, but just in case: Do note the difference between the modern Tibet Autonomous Region in China and "Tibet" as a whole. You'll be able to find Tibetan culture in less restrictive areas of China (such as in parts of the Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces), in the Ladakhi region of northern India (a great escape from the heat and the monsoon of the rest of India), and so on.
posted by SpringAquifer at 3:25 AM on April 26, 2011

Please also be aware that it can take weeks to obtain the Tibet Travel Permit. Start as soon as you can to collect the permits.
posted by txmon at 9:48 AM on April 26, 2011

Best answer: well, I haven't done the Nepal-Tibet trip myself, but when I was in Lhasa in 2007 (July or Septemberish) I talked to some people who had reached there overland from Nepal, and they said that for the entire trip they had seen nothing but a thick fog that obscured everything more than a couple of meters in front of them. In which case, since you're not seeing anything, you might as well fly.

Getting in to Tibet is a major pain in the ass, especially from across the Nepalese border. You will need to join a tour group to be allowed in (it doesn't need to be a real tour group, but you'll have to have your name down with them). I'm sure there will be places in Nepal who can arrange all this, but be prepared for it being expensive and time-consuming.

Also, if you haven't been anywhere similar before, be warned that you or somebody with you may get high altitude sickness, which can really be a motherfucker. don't wash your hair for the first few days up there, I don't know why, but washing your hair can bring it on bad.

Don't expect to get inside the Potala Palace. I'm not sure if the situation has changed, but you'll need to start queuing up at the ticket office literally from about 1am in the morning until it opens to have a hope of getting a ticket, and even then they might all be taken by scalpers.

I totally recommend you visit Namtso Lake, a couple hours drive out of Lhasa. It is just otherworldly.
posted by moorooka at 4:58 PM on April 26, 2011

Don't even think of missing Potala Palace! the easiest way to get in is to hire a guide for the day. Arrange for the guide the day before you want to go. Use the concierge at a hotel that caters to foreign tourists (whether you stay there or not) to make the arrangements. The tour guide will stand in line early in the morning and collect the tickets that admit you at a specific time for a specific period of time (was it 2 hours? maybe 4...can't remember).
posted by txmon at 12:57 PM on May 1, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses: I think Tibet will have to wait but it remains high on my list of places to visit. Some very useful information here.

Instead I will spend a few days longer in Nepal. Not such a hardship!
posted by wingless_angel at 4:47 AM on May 4, 2011

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