Tibet is a place that can raise you spiritually and artistically. It’s all about reaching inner tranquility and respecting the beauty of the world. Because of these qualities that it possesses, Tibet has always been a place that can get tough to get to. If you are planning a trip to nirvana itself, you should know what documents you will need and the proper etiquette to follow.
The Needed Documents
The Chinese Government regulates that non-Chinese citizens, foreign visitors, Taiwan visitors and overseas Chinese people must have a Tibet Travel permit, along with a valid passport and a visa in order to step one foot in Tibet. These regulations are completely understandable, considering the cultural relics, special ethnic traditions and environmental protection of Tibet, along with the transportation capacity.
If you are a foreign journalist or a diplomat, you are not allowed to go to the famous region as a visitor. If you aren’t either of the two, you can get a visa from the Chinese consulate in your country.
There are also strict rules to who has to have the Tibet Travel Permit with them at all times.
The list includes non-Chinese passport holders, Taiwan visitors and overseas Chinese who do not have the Chinese passport.
Hong Kong and Macau citizens who have a SAR passport, Home-Visiting Certificate or Permit to Traveling to and from Hong Kong and Macau don’t need the Tibet Travel Permit.
However, the Permit can be issued only to groups travelling with a Chinese tour operator. It’s issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau, and it doesn’t cost anything. Travel agencies usually represent their customers, and facilitate the application process.
If you are an overseas visitor and wish to travel to Tibet as an individual, the administrative offices of the Tibet Tourism Bureau in Beijing, Golmud, Shanghai and Chengdu will answer for the whole deal.
You should always learn some local proper etiquette before travelling to a new region. In Tibet, presenting a Hada (Khatag) is a traditional practice of respect and hospitality. It will be appreciated by your host. A Hada is a long, narrow scarf made of raw silk fabrics.
The Tibetan people think that the white Hada is a sign of purity and good fortune, so most of them are in fact, white. If you’re presenting a Hada to a statue or a high lama, you should raise the Hada above your shoulder and bow. In return, when a Hada is presented to you, you should receive it with both of your hands.
When talking to people, always add a “La” after a person’s name as a sign of respect. A high lama should be addressed with “Rinpoche” and a common lama with “Geshe,” even if he might not be one.
When visiting a monastery, always walk clockwise around the religious shrines, stupas, prayer wheels and Mani stones, but when visiting a Bon monastery you should walk counterclockwise. The monks take their shoes off before entering a chamber, but you do not have to if you don’t want to. Don’t forget to offer some money or butter fuel when visiting a monastery.
In the monastery, you should not, under any circumstances: smoke, drink alcohol or make unnecessary noise; touch, sit on or walk over to any religious text, object or prayer flag; cause anything to be killed; take photographs without permission; harm vultures or yaks; spit in front of somebody; display your affection to someone; place trash in the fire.