Getting Ready to Come to Tibet


Because so many people have varied travel options (including upgrades, free miles, special travel agencies and contacts), our journey will begin upon your arrival in Chengdu, China (Western China). If you are a bargain shopper, try contacting local Chinese restaurant and stores in your area or a major city nearby and asking them what travel agency or airline they recommend. They will know the cheapest and best way to get to China, as thousands of Chinese citizens travel back and forth daily from the United States and Europe. Many major airlines fly from western cities to China, including American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, China Airlines, Korean Air, Northwest Orient, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and United Airlines. All of these have mileage partnership agreements with US–based Airlines. Star Alliance has several partners flying here.

Travel Insurance:

We want you to be anxiety-free about the “possibilities” if you should become ill and need to leave Tibet, if your luggage is misplaced, or if an emergency at home dictates you must leave the tour early. We want to be anxiety-free, too! For this reason, we require that you show evidence of travel insurance with an emergency evacuation rider. Although there are excellent medical facilities in China, with oftentimes Western-trained physicians on duty, there is always the possibility of emergencies. Travel insurance is considered to be one of the bargains in travel and will cover not only your health requirements, but will usually cover lost or stolen property along the way and emergency cancellations you may have to make. Please check with your travel agency, usual insurance provider or on the Internet to find out about travel insurance that will work for you.

What about travel to Tibet, is it safe?

The United States government routinely advises its citizens about travel to various countries in the world, based on the current world conditions. They currently have no travel warnings to China or Tibet. United States embassy employees and their families are in residence in Chengdu.

Altitude Sickness:

We will ascend to the Tibetan Plateau over a two day period of time to allow for altitude acclimatization. Once we are on the Plateau, we will stay at tent camps for three days each, allowing our bodies to gradually adjust to the altitude before we go on. Please read the tutorial from the International Society for Mountain Medicine at the following website. It has a great deal of information you will need to know about altitude sickness. It presents the lightest and the worst case scenarios — best to be prepared for all possibilities and primed and well-educated about the need for a slow ascent (which we will do).

Not everyone gets altitude sickness. It is only marginally correlated with your physical fitness--even high altitude mountain climbers may come down with altitude sickness on their 10th climb, when they’ve had no symptoms on the previous 9 climbs. Symptoms may include headache and nausea and vomiting. Some people have respiratory problems. For most people symptoms pass after 12-24 hours. There are a number of ways to address altitude sickness. Different recommendations include 1) Taking an aspirin once a day for two weeks prior to beginning the trip and continuing during the journey 2) Taking Dramamine (frequently used for motion sickness) 3) Diamox - a prescription drug which increases your blood’s ability to use oxygen; usually start out with ˝ a Diamox per day for two weeks before and continue during the journey, increasing to 1 tablet if symptoms appear; those with sulfa allergies cannot take Diamox; 4) Herbal, non-prescription remedies, such as Altitude Adjustment are highly recommended. Tour guests who have continuing problems will be taken back to a lower altitude. Severe symptoms necessitate leaving Tibet and returning to Chengdu, China.

Vaccinations / Inoculations:

For information to guide your personal decision on inoculations and vaccinations, we recommend that you contact:

  • Your primary physician.

  • Local county health department.

  • Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Do check with your physician early if you think you will want to get vaccinations/inoculations, as some require a booster a few weeks apart.

What to bring to Tibet:

Each international passenger is allowed to bring one carry-on bag plus a purse (camera bag, etc), plus two check in bags that weigh about 50 pounds. Most people find they can buy everything they need in China and Tibet (including favorite toothpastes and shampoos), as well as clothing of all sorts.  We certainly suggest bringing a good camera, plus batteries for your camera, or your camera charger - - Tibet is one of the most photogenic locations on earth. We will have a solar charger to charge batteries.

If you are a light traveler, we suggest packing your carry-on bag with your personal items, and then filling the two remaining suitcases with things to give away in Tibet:

  • Medical Supplies (medicines, bandages, etc): We will be happy to give you a list of needed supplies from the local hospitals.  You can then contact your physician or other medical care professionals, and see is they have supplies they can donate. 

  • Toys for children - especially small stuffed animals to be given away to village children and also to children on the streets.

  • Clothing: In general, clothing is quite inexpensive here in Tibet, but local clothing is usually considered to be inferior (poorly made) compared to Western clothes.  Other visitors have stocked up on kids’ jeans and t-shirts, sweaters and jackets to give away.  If you have a special leaning toward monks and nuns, you might want to bring maroon clothes (sweaters, long underwear, down vests, socks, etc).  Socks are a good item - people tend to have one or two pairs of holey, deteriorating socks.  Dianne brought stacks of maroon clothes for a monastery and a nunnery one year — all gathered up at thrift stores for a few dollars.