Is It Possible to Travel to Tibet Without Tibet Permit

Tibet is definitely the ideal dream place for backpackers who are fond of Tibetan Buddhism and natural landscapes. Endowed with unparalleled attractions, Tibet is named “the place people most want to visit” by many travelers. Due to its special political background, Tibet is never fully open to foreign travelers. Travelers must apply for the Tibet Travel Permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau before entering, and travelers will still be subject to some local government regulations. Therefore, due to various limitations, the chances of getting into Tibet without a Tibet Travel Permit are extremely slim.

Limitations of Tibet Travel

1. Travel areas in Tibet are limited. Foreign tourists can only visit the “open areas” of Tibet, namely Lhasa, Shigatse, Lhohka, Nagri and Nyingchi and are prohibited from visiting Chamdo. Even in the “open areas”, places such as border areas and military regions are restricted. For example, Gyirong County and Yadong County in Shigatse, border regions in Lhohka Prefecture, the Brahmaputra River Grand Canyon and Medog County in Nyingchi are off-limits to foreign travelers.
2. Tibet Travel Permit is required for foreign visitors to travel in Tibet. Before entering Tibet, foreign travelers need to apply for the Tibet Travel Permit. They need to provide detailed information for the application and provide a confirmed tour itinerary with tour dates and hotels. If the tour itinerary includes any above-mentioned “closed areas”, or if the itinerary is not intact, the application is very likely to be rejected. 
3. The travel mode in Tibet is limited. Independent travel is not available for foreign tourists in Tibet. All travel services, including guides, ground transportation, drivers and hotels must be arranged by a Tibet travel agency. Based on the tour confirmation from the local agency, the government will have a clear idea of your travel information: where you will go, how long you will stay, what you will do in Tibet, etc.
4. The choice of accommodations in Tibet is also limited. Only some hotels in Tibet are authorized to receive foreigners, especially 3-star hotels and above. If there is no hotel in remote areas, travelers can stay at local inns or monastery guesthouses. Outdoor camping is also allowed. All accommodations must be listed in the application form, which will be verified by the local government.

5. The Functions of Tibet Travel Permit: A Tibet Travel Permit can help you board a flight or a train to Tibet, find a place to stay in Tibet and pass numerous checkpoints in Tibet. Without showing a valid Tibet Travel Permit, travelers won’t be allowed to board a flight or a train to Tibet. Even if someone somehow sneaks into Tibet miraculously (which is very unlikely) without obtaining the proper permit, they won’t be able to find a place to stay without the permit. In addition, there are numerous checkpoints in Tibet, at which everyone, even Chinese travelers, is required to register.

According to the above limitations, It is scarcely possible to travel to Tibet without Tibet Travel Permit. However, if foreign tourists want to visit other Tibetan cultural areas bordering on the Tibet Autonomous Region, like Ganzi and Aba in Sichuan Province, Diqing in Yunnan Province, Gannan and Guoluo in Qinghai Province, the aforementioned restrictions are not applicable. Even if there are some temporary regulations from time to time, those places are still far more unrestricted than Tibet itself. 

Relative Regulations for Foreign Tourists to Tibet

1. According to national laws, in view of Tibet’s special ethnic traditions, cultural relics and ecological environment protection needs, and also because of Tibet’s traffic conditions, tourist service facilities and reception capacity, the government stipulates that non-Chinese citizenship holders, that is, foreign tourists, must handle the “Tibet Travel Permit” issued by the Tibet Autonomous region Tourism Bureau before entering Tibet. At the same time, it is also stipulated that foreign journalists and diplomats cannot enter Tibet as tourists. 

2. According to the regulations of the National Tourism Administration, foreign tourists, Taiwanese tourists and overseas Chinese(except those from Hong Kong and Macao holding Chinese Special Administrative region passports or Home Return Permit) are not allowed to travel on their own during the period of their stay in Tibet, regardless of the number of visitors, the travel must be organized and planned.

3. For any organized overseas tour team,  its authorized travel agency shall apply for Tibet Travel Permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau and its local offices.

Please note: 

1. Whether a guest needs to apply for a Tibet Travel Permit mainly depends on what passport they have. Even if he or she is a Chinese, he or she must also apply for a Tibet Travel Permit if he or she holds a passport from another country.

2. People from Taiwan, China need to submit Taiwan compatriot travel certificate to the Taiwan Affairs Office of the Tibet Autonomous region to get approval letter of Taiwan compatriots to Tibet.

3. It has now abolished the requirement that people from Hong Kong and Macao regions must provide Tibet Travel Permit for entering Tibet for tourism. Visitors from Hong Kong and Macao are allowed to travel to Tibet on their own with the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative region passports and Home Return Permit or Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macau Residents.