Packing and preparing for your Tibet tour can be one of the most exciting yet baffling activities as the land of the plateaus, tucked away in the south, has been a mystery to the rest of the world. Tibet is unique in the sense of culture, religion, and landscape. There are many things to consider while packing your bag to the brim for your Tibet tour. From weather, climate, season, to travel region, you need to be mindful of not missing out on any essentials and not carrying along with useless items.
Many people believe that Tibet, sitting at a high altitude, is cold and harsh all around the year, which is a common misconception. Different seasons bring about different weather conditions, determining the kind of clothes you need to pack. Furthermore, while some areas of Tibet are remote, many counties and cities are primarily developed and have proper facilities. Hence, depending on your place of travel and the route your tour follows, you need to plan what to pack for the Tibet Tour.
You are required to pack all the essentials, including the appropriate clothing as per the season, personal hygiene products, documents, medical kit, bags, gear, and snacks. The changes in clothing and gears are based on the season, while the rest remain the same. It is common for many tourists to overpack their bags with items of no use during their trip. The decision to let go of some items is a tough one, and we understand that, which is why we have prepared the ultimate packing list for your Tibet Tour and some valuable advice.
Recommended Read: How to Travel to Tibet?
Packing for your Tibet Tour can be very interesting if it is the first time traveling to the 'roof of the world.' Although, it can also prove to be a hassle as Tibet is distinct in many ways by culture, religion, climate, and landscape. Hence, before you jump on your flight to the Tibetan Plateaus, deciding on the packing checklist is essential. Keep in mind the city you are traveling to, the season, weather, altitude, and several days before you begin your packing.
Tibet is a misunderstood holiday destination, as many tourists believe that the country is freezing and constantly witnesses terrible weather. It is why tourists often carry heaps of luggage, even what is not needed. So to ease this process, we have presented the ultimate packing list below to make sure that you carry only the essentials and have an excellent beginning to your long journey in this mystical country.
Depending on where you are traveling, you need to carry different articles of clothing. Altitude, season, and climate are good indicators to show what you need to be packing, whether warm or light clothes. In many of the hotels in remote counties of Tibet, there is no central heating, and air conditioners are frequently not working, so you might witness some cold nights in higher altitudes and need to prepare accordingly.
Also, almost all Tibet tours include visits to the religious palaces, monasteries, and temples in Lhasa. It requires you to wear respectful clothing according to the Tibetan Buddhist culture, which should also be considered while packing.
Make sure to carry a cap to avoid sunlight directly falling to your face. If you are traveling to colder regions, you can also bring a headscarf and a beanie to keep warm. You can wear sunglasses with UV protection.
It is best to layer the upper body with multiple thin layers of clothing as Tibet is cold in many places. It is best to pack at least 4 to 5 short sleeve and long sleeve T-shirts that are quick drying. Carry one hoodie, one fleece, and one long sleeve windbreaker or jacket during all seasons. At Least a sweater is recommended to keep you warm at night if the temperature falls down. A down jacket or an insulated jacket is highly effective, mainly when your tour takes you to places like Everest Base Camp, Mount Kailash, Ngari prefecture, which is beyond 4500m or so.
Keeping the lower body warm is also equally important, so make sure to take at least 3 to 4 windproof pants, which are quick drying. Try not to pack denim pants, instead carry cotton pants that are much lighter and dry quickly.
Take at least five quick-drying breathable underwear that makes you comfortable throughout the tour.
Having comfortable shoes can be a huge blessing during tours. You would require to wear a durable pair of sports shoes which can be suitable for all occasions. Additionally, if you plan to take a trekking tour in Tibet, then it is recommended that you also carry a sturdy trekking boot. Make sure that you carry 4 to 5 breathable pairs of socks for your feet. You can wear casual shoes while visiting the city streets for comfort and are better during the summer season.
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While a suitcase might seem ideal for tours, it is not a good option for travel on the Tibetan plateau. We recommend that you carry a duffle bag, a backpack, and a small day pack. If your tour is longer than a week, we advise you to carry a duffle bag with all your clothing. You can leave the duffle bag/ heavy bag in the vehicle during travel, so ensure that you don't leave your valuables there. The backpack has an utmost 50L capacity, carrying your snacks and essentials. In the smaller bag, you can bring your essentials, documents, and digital equipment.
Sleeping bags are only essential for tours that include a stay in Everest Base Camp or that includes a trek around Mt. Kailash.
To stay protected from the monsoon weather, it is best to carry some weatherproof gear/clothing. Make sure that you carry waterproof clothing like raincoats, rainproof jackets, pants, and bag covers if you are taking a short trek along with the tour during the Tibetan monsoon season.
You must have been planning to take photos during your trip to one of the most majestic countries in the world, so make sure you carry your camera, tripod, spare batteries, and enough memory space. Carrying a power bank or small solar panels is helping to keep your electronic devices charged up because you will mostly be traveling in a vehicle from one location to another. You would also require an adaptor as Tibet only uses three plugs; Type A, Type B, and Type C.
If you are one of those avid readers, you should know that there is strict control over bringing books to China, particularly those having sensitive issues. So you can carry a kindle with downloaded digital books instead of a physical book.
It can be useful while going to public toilets at night in remote destinations like Namtse Lake, Mt. Kailash, Everest Base Camp, and more where there can be a frequent power outage.
You need to carry the toiletries like shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, and more on your daily amenities list. Females are suggested to carry the required sanitary napkins as they might be challenging to find in remote areas. Also, during the pandemic surge, it is highly recommended to carry hand sanitizers and masks daily. Also, it will be difficult to find a decent restroom in remote areas with not many accommodation facilities nearby. Hence you need to carry toilet paper, wet wipes, and paper soaps.
In the larger cities, the hotels have all these basic facilities. Carry skincare products like lip balm, at least SPF 30 sunblock, and skin creams as most counties of Tibet fall in high altitude and would require all the products to protect your skin from cold and harsh conditions.
It is best to buy the disposable items in small packs, which can be thrown after use to save space. Many personal hygiene products can be purchased from larger cities in China, Nepal, or Lhasa, depending on where you are starting your tour.
Lhasa and other major tourist and residential destinations have drug stores with basic medication. However, it might be challenging for you to collect the desired medicine during desperate times due to the language barrier. Hence, it is better to keep some basic medicines. Diamox can be used for altitude sickness. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic for any internal issues or external wounds. Ibuprofen for headache and cold and Diarrhea and vomiting medicine.
However, before you take all these medications, check with your doctor to make sure that you can consume them during times of need. Also, if you have any particular or specialized medicine that you need to carry along with you, make sure you get a prescription paper from your doctor.
Food and Drinks include the basic snacks that you can carry along with you during the tour. You can purchase snacks in any city area with a decent grocery shop, and we suggest that you carry dry fruits with high protein and low calories. Having a healthy sugary treat can also boost your energy quickly. Cookies can also be packed and munched on when you are hungry during the tour. In particular, if your tour includes a couple of days of the trek, then it is better to carry some heavy snacks because you are bound to get hungry and lose your energy after all the walking.
In Tibet, you will mostly find tea and butter tea. If you are not a fan of tea, it is best to carry a small sachet of instant coffee and stir it with hot water, which can be found in almost any restaurant/hotel/accommodation. On tours, it is essential that you keep yourself hydrated, which is why we highly recommend that you drink plenty of water and carry a filled bottle in your backpack. You can purchase bottled water from any store or carry a reusable water bottle to fill water from any clean source. Make sure to carry a water filtration tablet or tool if you carry a reusable water bottle.
One of the significant things when it comes to travel is certainly the documents. As Tibet is an autonomous region of China and has often been claimed as a disputed territory, specific permits and documentation are issued to travel. Below are the documents that need to be carried on hand to Tibet with the facilitation of our tour operator:
This is mandatory if your travel route to Tibet passes by Mainland China. It will be required at the airport in China and also for acquiring your Tibet Travel Permit.
If your travel route to Tibet passed by Nepal, you require this visa instead of the Chinese Visa.
This is a crucial permit required while entering the Tibet Autonomous Region. You are required to show it while taking a flight or train to Tibet. It can be acquired only after getting your Chinese Visa or Group China Visa.
Besides the mandatory permits for all travelers, the following are some of the permits required if you are traveling to certain restricted or special areas of Tibet:
Alien's Travel Permit: This will be needed if your Tibet travel takes you to the unopened regions like Everest Base Camp in Shigatse, some places of worship, and tourist sites in Gyantse, Tsedang, Chamdo, Nyingchi, and Ngari regions.
Military Travel Permit: This is an additional document required to travel to remote military sensitive regions like Mt. Kailash, Tholing, Tsaparang, Nyingchi, and Chamdo regions.
Foreign Affairs Permit: This permit is essential if you are traveling to some region in Tibet close to the border like Mt. Kailash, Tholing, and Tsaparang.
You can find more details about acquiring these visas and permits in our How to Get A Tibet Travel Permit blog, which is beneficial information before you visit Tibet.
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Following are some of the further suggestions we have regarding your packing list which will be useful to you during your trip to Tibet:
Not everything needs to be carried from your home to Tibet during the trip. Most of the heavy equipment, gear, and clothing can be bought or rented from the local stores in Tibet. To not overburden yourself with multiple bags in the airport, you can visit the local stores in Lhasa or other tourist destinations in Tibet for the necessities. You can buy snacks, drinks while you can rent sleeping bags, down jackets, insulators, trekking poles, and more.
Tibet is known for its Buddhist values and beliefs, and you will experience their conservative way of dressing. The locals prefer that you cover yourself fully when you visit their places of worship and tourist destinations, Hence make sure that you cover your shoulder, remove your hat while visiting monasteries and fortresses. Don't pack skirts and short dresses because the weather is cold, and wearing such clothing can be disrespectful to some locals.
Additionally, you can get yourself a traditional dress in Tibet if you would like to intermingle with the locals and click some pictures during your tour, but that is entirely optional.
Make sure that you don't overpack your luggage and check the weight limit regulated by most airlines in Tibet, China, and Nepal, depending upon your travel route. The baggage limit is no more than 20 Kgs with additional two carry-on bags weighing 5 kgs each. But you can exceed that to a certain limit with extra charges.
As the weather is cold, the air humid in the Tibetan Plateau, and you would be traveling a lot each day, your body might get easily dehydrated. Hence, always make sure that you carry a water bottle with you on each day's tour. Some tour operators offer bottled water each day on their own, and one to five liters of water is recommended each day.
As ATM card facilities will not be available in all regions, particularly difficult in remote regions, it is highly suggested that you carry some cash rather than relying on credit/debit card facilities.
The best months to visit Tibet are April, May, September, and October, which fall in the spring and autumn seasons, respectively. During these months you will witness the grand views of high standing mountains, the weather is pleasant. It is best for overland tours in Mt. Everest, Gyantse, Chamdo, and other high-altitude areas. Moreover, during the spring season, you can take part in Nyingchi Peach Blossom Festival, while the autumn season welcomes the harvest festival and Horse Racing festival.
The winter season falling from November to March is also good to travel but in major city areas in lower altitudes like Lhasa, where it is not the coldest. The summer season from June to August is also a popular tourist season, but there are chances of rainfall in the evening. It is better for cultural tours around the Tibetan cities. More about the places to travel in Tibet during different seasons can be found in Best Time to Visit Tibet.
The weather condition in Tibet varies in four different seasons, namely Spring, Autumn, Summer, and Winter.
The average temperature fluctuated between zero to 16 degrees Celsius during the spring, depending upon the altitude. The mornings and evenings are relatively pleasant, but the nights can get cold. Rainfall is rare during the initial phase of spring, but you may witness slight downpours in May.
During autumn, the average temperature fluctuates from 5 to 16 degrees Celsius, and the days are warm while the nights get cold. During November, you may also witness temperatures as low as -5 degrees celsius.
Summer brings about rainfall in certain areas, so the climate is cool but at times humid. The average temperature is between 8 to 15 degrees celsius. The weather is cool even at a higher altitude, so this is also a peak season.
The Winter season brings harsh cold weather with temperatures ranging from 1 to -12 degrees Celsius. The nighttime is the coldest so bear in mind to pack heavy and warm clothing.
Your packing must also be done around the climate and weather conditions during the different seasons.
Getting prepared for a trip to one of the most unique and beautiful places in the world, Tibet, is a delight. You need to be conscious of many things, among which the most important is your packing list. It is advised that you neither overpack nor under-pack your bags. Carry all the necessary items listed above, and you would be good to take your next trip to the Tibetan plateaus.
For more information on the packing list, travel arrangements, and a properly organized tour, you can always contact our experts from Third Rock Adventures. We assure you of a well-organized tour and offer all the relevant information to pledge that you have the best time of your life.
Looking for more information for your trip to Tibet? Here is a collection of articles about tibet that might help you with your trip planning:
How to Get a Tibet Travel Permit? How to Travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa? How to Travel to Tibet from the United States 15 Best Itineraries for Tibet Everest Base Camp Tours