Tibet developed a distinct culture due to its geographic and climatic conditions. While influenced by neighboring countries and cultures, including Nepal, India, and China, the Himalayan region’s remoteness and inaccessibility have preserved distinct local influences, and stimulated the development of its distinct culture.
Buddhism has exerted a particularly strong influence on Tibetan culture since its introduction in the 7th century. Buddhist missionaries who came mainly from India, Nepal and China introduced arts and customs from India and China. Art, literature, and music all contain elements of the prevailing Buddhist beliefs, and Buddhism itself has adopted a unique form in Tibet, influenced by the Bön tradition and other local beliefs.
Several works on astronomy, astrology and medicine were translated from Sanskrit and Chinese. The general appliances of civilization have come from China, among many things and skill imported were the making of butter, cheese, barley-beer, pottery, water mills and the national beverage-tea.
Tibet’s specific geographic and climatic conditions have encouraged reliance on pastoralism, as well as the development of a different cuisine from surrounding regions, which fits the needs of the human body in these high altitudes.
It can be quite cold through April and from early October.
Whilst it is almost always quite warm (often hot) during the day due to the intensity of the sun (Lhasa, whilst high in altitude is at the same latitude as Cairo) temperatures can drop abruptly at night. The wind chill factor is of much greater importance than actual air temperature and icy winds can blast off the mountains at any time of year. Ensure you bring warm clothing as well as sunscreen, sun glasses and hat regardless of the time of year you are traveling.
Time & Date: GMT +8
The use of historical money in Tibet started in ancient times, when Tibet had no coined currency of its own. Bartering was common, gold was a medium of exchange, and shell money and stone beads were used for very small purchases. A few coins from other countries were also occasionally in use.
Coins were first used in a more extensive way in the 17th century: these were silver coins supplied by Nepal. There were however various difficulties with this system. In 1763/64 and 1785 the first silver coins were struck in Tibet. In 1792 the first mass-produced silver coins were created under joint Chinese and Tibetan authority. Coins bearing Tibetan inscriptions only were subsequently replaced by issues which had Chinese and Tibetan legends. This lasted until the 1830s. In 1840 purely Tibetan coinage was struck under Tibetan authority, and this coinage continued being made until 1954, with only two short interruptions when Sino-Tibetan coins were issued.
In 1910 the Tibetan government started producing a large range of copper and silver coins of different denominations, and in 1918 to 1921, gold coins were struck. Tibetan banknotes were first issued in 1913. From 1955 to 1959 no more Tibetan coins were created, although banknotes were still being printed, and by 1959 all of the money was gradually being replaced with renminbi yuan
The Tibetic languages (Tibetan: བོད་སྐད།) are a cluster of Sino-Tibetan languages spoken primarily by Tibetan peoples, who live across a wide area of eastern Central Asia bordering the Indian subcontinent, including the Tibetan Plateau and the northern Indian subcontinent in Baltistan, Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan. Classical Tibetan is a major regional literary language, particularly for its use in Buddhist literature.
The Central Tibetan language (the dialects of Ü-Tsang, including Lhasa), Khams Tibetan, and Amdo Tibetan are generally considered to be dialects of a single language, especially since they all share the same literary language, while Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Sherpa, Ladakhi, and Balti are generally considered to be separate languages.
The Tibetic languages are spoken by some 8 million or more people. With the worldwide spread of Tibetan Buddhism, the Tibetan language has spread into the western world and can be found in many Buddhist publications and prayer materials; with some western students learning the language for translation of Tibetan texts. Outside of Lhasa itself, Lhasa Tibetan is spoken by approximately 200,000 exile speakers who have moved from modern-day Tibet to India and other countries. Tibetan is also spoken by groups of ethnic minorities in Tibet who have lived in close proximity to Tibetans for centuries, but nevertheless retain their own languages and cultures.
Although some of the Qiang peoples of Kham are classified by China as ethnic Tibetans, Qiangic languages are not Tibetic, but rather form their own branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
Classical Tibetan was not a tonal language, but some varieties such as Central and Khams Tibetan have developed tone registers. Amdo and Ladakhi-Balti are without tone. Tibetic morphology can generally be described as agglutinative.
When buying your travel insurance, always check the small print – some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which could be anything from scuba diving to horse riding. You should check whether the medical coverage is on a pay first, claim later basis and, more importantly, ensure that your medical coverage includes the cost of medical evacuation.
All travelers will require visas for The People’s Republic of China and permits for the Tibetan Autonomous Region – these include TTB permit (needed to enter Tibet), PSB permit and up to 5 others ( inc. military & foreign affairs) depending on your itinerary.
This itinerary is specified in your paperwork so last minute changes to your planned route are generally not possible. Permits are issued to the agency arranging your travel for your specific group & itinerary – not to you as an individual. Your TTB permit will be sent to your arrival city (unless Kathmandu) for you to show to board flight/train to Lhasa. It will be collected back by your guide on arrival and your guide will carry all permits throughout your trip and is responsible for all local registrations. We will need scanned copies of your passport photo page and of your Chinese visa (except if entry from Kathmandu) at least 2 weeks prior to your arrival in Tibet in order to apply for all permits and approvals.
Whilst Chinese visa regulations don’t actually change often, the severity with which they are enforced does. Regulations for arriving in Tibet from Kathmandu are different from arrival from within China.
Arrival from within China
You will require a single entry China visa to cover the entire length of time you intend to remain in China (including Tibet). This should be arranged in your home country or Hong Kong.
Standard visas are valid for 3 months (ie you must use the visa / enter China within 3 months of issue) and good for a stay of 30,45 or 60 days from date of entry.
Depending on the embassy at which you apply for your visa, on the visa application form you may be asked to list the places you intend to visit. Do not mention Tibet on this application, as the visa will be refused. The reason for this process is that regulations have changed and are now contradictory so embassies take the safe/easy option and say ‘no’.
Simply list major cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, Suzhou, Guilin, Chengdu. There is no reference on your visa to places you intend to travel.
Most embassies now require a return flight ticket in/out of China. If you do not have a ticket out of China, state you will be exiting to Hong Kong by land – include Guangzhou on your “itinerary” and train to HK.
For address / inviting organization use hotels you have bookings for in your arrival city and any other places you will visit in China outside Tibet.
Entering China/Tibet from Nepal
To enter China from Nepal your visa MUST be pre-authorized in Lhasa and issued in Kathmandu.
We must have your confirmed itinerary & passport copy at least 2 weeks before your arrival in Kathmandu in order to make the authorization. Then is visa issued in Kathmandu takes 2 business days. This is a group visa and is issued on a separate paper, not stamped into your passport.
You cannot enter China/Tibet from Nepal with a visa issued by any other embassy.
Only authorized agents are allowed to the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu (no individuals). Passports + 1 photo must be submitted at our office by 09:00 (Mon-Fri). We will receive the visa on the next working day after 16:00.
Nepal visas are available at Kathmandu airport and at the Kodari border for all travelers entering Nepal from Tibet. USD30 in USD cash + 1 photo per person.