While the majority of visitors to Tibet apply to enter the region from China, it is also possible to enter through Nepal, from Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital. Visitors who want to enter from Nepal have different requirements for visas and permits, although the rules on traveling independently in Tibet are still the same.
All travelers wishing to enter Tibet through Nepal are required to apply for a Group Tourist Visa at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. The Group Tourist Visa is the same as the Tibet Travel Permit and allows travel to certain parts of the region outside Lhasa, that do not require other permits to enter. Although it is called Group Tourist Visa, it is not a requirement to be part of a group to apply and obtain it, and it works as a single entry visa for Tibet Autonomous Region only. This visa is only valid for up to 20 days, and is not valid for further travel into China. A separate visa will be needed to enter China, which will require you to exit Tibet first, and apply for entry into China from Kathmandu, unless you have already applied for the Chinese Entry Visa before entering Tibet.
Step 1: Find a recognized Tibet Tour operator
Applications for the Group Tourist Visa must be made through a recognized and reputable travel agency, as neither the Tibet Tourism Bureau nor the Chinese Embassy permits the application for the visa by individuals. Explore Tibet is one of the main tour operators that regularly deal with the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, and can make all the arrangements easily for you.
Step 2: Application to the Tibet Tourist Bureau
Once you have decided on your tour and the dates you require, you need to book your trip and arrange your itinerary with us. Once that is completed, you need to send us a photocopy of your passport, so we can make the application to the Tibet Tourism bureau on your behalf for your Tibet travel Permit. We will also make the applications for the various other permits that are now required for travel to Lhasa from Kathmandu, whether by flight or overland.
Once we have received the permit to travel from the Tibet Tourism Bureau and the other permits, we will forward the documents, including a letter of invitation, to Kathmandu. It is our representative in Kathmandu that will make the application for your Group Tourist Visa.
Step 3: Complete the Visa Application Form
At this point, you need to travel to Nepal to complete your Group Tourist Visa through our local, Kathmandu branch. For this step, you need to be in Nepal to make the application at least 3-4 business days before your intended date of travel. This is required to allow enough time to secure your Group Tourist Visa before you travel. Once in Nepal, our representative will contact you to fill in the application form, and collect your original passport. We will then submit your documents to the Chinese Embassy on your behalf, on the first weekday after completion of the application form (i.e. if you complete the application early in the morning, it will be submitted the same day, as long as submission can be made before 11am. For applications made later than 11am, submission will be the next business day).
Step 4: Collect your Group Tourist Visa
The Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu requires at least 3 business days to process your visa application form. As stated previously, for an application submitted before 11 am, the visa will be available for collection on the third working day from the application (application day included).
Once the visa has been issued, we will hand deliver it to your hotel, along with all supporting documents. You will receive:
• Your passport
• Group Tourist Visa
• Photocopy of the original Tibet Travel Permit from the Tibet Tourist Bureau
• Photocopy of your visa application form
• Visa Invitation Letter
• Military Permit
• Frontier Pass
• Alien’s Travel Permit
All of the documents must be provided for examination upon checking in for your flight to Lhasa, or for travel across the border into Tibet, as well as at various Chinese government, military, and police checkpoints throughout the region. Please ensure you keep all documents on your person, in a safe and secure pouch. Belt-bags, fanny packs, and hidden money pouches are ideal for this, as they are easily accessible at a moment’s notice.
Nepal Entry Visa
For most nationalities, an application for entry to Nepal can be made on arrival. Cost of the visa varies, depending on the required length of stay, and its payment is preferred in US dollars. Currently, all tourist visas for Nepal permit multiple entry and exit during the visa validity period. An extension of the Nepal visa can be requested from the Nepal Immigration Office in Kathmandu.
To apply for the visa on arrival, the following documents are required:
Recent passport-sized photo
Tourist Visa Form (available for printing from the official website for Nepal Immigration or on the flight into Nepal)
Traveling from Nepal to Tibet
You can take a flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa Gonggar Airport, which takes just a few hours, or you can take an overland route crossing the border at Gyirong port and taking the highway to Lhasa.
Flights leave Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport several times a day and take just 90 minutes to get to Lhasa Gonggar International Airport. The flights are a spectacular experience, and you get the chance to see Mount Everest from an aerial perspective through the windows of the plane as it flies close over the mountain’s high summit.
The original border crossing was at the Sino-Nepal Friendship Bridge at Kodari, Nepal. However, after the earthquake in April 2015, this was closed and the border crossing was moved to Gyirong Port. The border crossing at Gyirong Port is now open for international travel , and can be reached by bus from Kathmandu, which costs around 2,500 rupees. The road to the border checkpoint in Nepal at Rasuwagadhi Fort is around 120 kilometers and takes around six hours. The roads are a little rough, and narrow in places, and it is an exciting yet arduous trip. The buses do stop along the way for a break and some food.
At the border, your bus or car will drop you on the Nepal side of the Resuo Bridge, which spans the Trishuli River Gorge, and you can walk the short distance across the bridge to the Chinese checkpoint on the other side. Once through Immigration, your guide will meet you at the office and take you to Gyirong Town for your first night in Tibet.