The 5 Tibet Travel Permits and Visas You’ll Need to Explore Tibet

Mt Everest, seen from Rongbuk Monastery

Traveling to Tibet can seem as daunting as climbing Mount Everest. Since the social unrest in 2008, any form of travel in and out of Tibet has been closely monitored. Visitors must now arrange travel plans through a Tibetan tour agency to obtain the necessary permits and visas.

To check off everything off your list, you’ll need up-to-date information and a clear understanding of the different Tibet permits and visas involved in your trip.

We’ve prepared this outline to get you one step closer to touching the snow at Mt. Everest Base Camp.

1. Chinese Visa

Tibet is officially a province of China, so every traveler must have a valid passport and Chinese visa to enter Tibet (except if you are entering from Nepal). You can apply for the visa at most Chinese embassies and consulates in your area.

View a larger version of the Chinese Tourist L Visa

Chinese Tourist (L) Visa

Since Tibet is a politically sensitive area, the Chinese Consulate or Embassy may refuse your visa application if you list Tibet as a travel destination. We recommend choosing an alternate city in mainland China such as Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, etc. as your destination.

For further details about obtaining a Chinese visa, please visit the Chinese Embassy website HERE

2. Tibet Group Visa

If you are entering Tibet from Nepal, you will need to obtain the Tibet Group Visa from the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. It is an A4 size sheet of paper with the name, sex, nationality, passport number, date of birth and occupation of each member listed in your group.

View a larger version of the Tibet Group Visa

Tibet Group Visa for a group of 2

All travelers in the group must enter and leave China together. The dates of entry and exit are precisely recorded.

To apply for the Tibet Group Visa, you will need a visa invitation letter from the Tibet Tourism Bureau sent by a tour agency in Tibet. Our office in Lhasa can prepare the necessary arrangements and send them to our local agent in Nepal to help travelers apply for the Tibet Group Visa.

3. Tibet Travel Permit (TTP)

View a larger version of the Tibet Travel Permit

Tibet Travel Permit with an itinerary

Often mistakenly known as the “Tibet Visa,” the Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) is actually the entry permit to enter the province. TTPs must be applied through a local tour agency in Tibet. It is impossible for foreign tourists to board a train or flight to Tibet without a TTP.

The permit specifies every destination and attraction you will visit on your tour and cannot be changed once you arrive in Tibet. Therefore it is essential that you finalize your itinerary with your tour operator before they apply for the TTP.

If you hold a visa different from the (L) Tourist visa, such as a student or work visa, you will need a letter from your school or company to clarify the purpose of your visit.

4. Alien Travel Permit (ATP)

View a larger version of the Alien Travel Permit

The Alien Travel Permit

If your itinerary includes passing through a restricted area, you will need an Alien Travel Permit (ATP). The ATP is a travel document issued by the Public Security Bureau, a branch of the police that handles affairs with foreigners.

Upon your arrival in Tibet, your tour guide will take your original passport to the local Public Security Bureau and apply for the ATP on your behalf.

While you are in Tibet, your tour guide will carry all the permit. When staying overnight at a hotel or guesthouse, your tour guide will use it to register you with the proper authorities.

5. Military Permit

View a larger version of the Tibet Military Permit

Military Permit

The military permit is a travel document issued by the military authority in Tibet. You need it to enter politically sensitive areas and border regions where territory is disputed between China and India.

Border Regions:

  • Kailash trekking
  • Guge Kingdom
  • Lake Manasarovar
  • Ali
  • Tsochen
  • Kyirong
  • Nyima County
Everest Base Camp-Explore Tibet

Everest Base Camp

For your trip to Tibet, your main responsibility is to secure the right visa to enter China and send the proper documents to your tour agency. From there Explore Tibet will apply for any necessary permits on your behalf.

Mt. Everest doesn’t seem so far away now, does it?