Travel guide

Travel 2.jpg

Should I go to Tibet?

Arguments for:

  • The Dalai Lama has encouraged foreigners to visit Tibet and to inform others of their experiences on their return.
  • Tourism provides a window to the outside world for Tibetans.
  • Tibetans welcome the presence of (non-Chinese) tourists.
  • Tourist expenditure can help Tibetan communities, though only in certain circumstances

Arguments against:

  • China has no right to determine who enters Tibet and visiting provides legitimacy to China's occupation.
  • Most of the money you spend will go into the pockets of Chinese enterprises.
  • Travel in Tibet is conducted on the terms laid down by the Chinese, not by Tibetans, and always involves some degree of compliance with policies and security measures of the Chinese regime.
  • Tibetan culture is used as an exploitable resource by China to attract tourist income for the benefit of the Chinese state. In reality, China has attacked Tibetan culture for decades.
  • Some Tibetans complain that their culture is being "Disneyfied" for the benefit of tourists (especially Chinese tourists) .
  • Although signs of repression can be obvious, many are not and because Tibetans risk persecution if they speak freely, visitors may leave with a false sense of the situation in Tibet.

There is no simple answer. Ultimately, it is up to the individual traveller. If you would rather not travel, consider going to a Tibetan area of India, such as Dharamsala or Ladakh.

Current situation

  • Foreigners are allowed to travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region under certain restrictions.
  • There are restrictions on travel to many other parts of Tibet.
  • There is a military or security presence on the streets of many Tibetan towns.

Know before you go

Be aware that any restrictions in place may change dramatically and without prior warning.

It is also important to plan your itinerary, particularly if you are going to the Tibet Autonomous Region. Up-to-date information on visa and permit restrictions may be found on travel forums such as Thorntree.

If you do decide to go to Tibet it is most important that you should be as informed as much as possible, so that you can see through the propaganda that you will inevitably encounter.

What endangers Tibetans?

  • Do not take pictures of the Dalai Lama into Tibet. Possession of such photographs is banned and Tibetans can be detained for possessing one.
  • Do not engage in any discussion on political topics, such as mention of the Dalai Lama or protests.
  • Do not hitch-hike as heavy fines may be given to drivers found giving lifts to tourists.
  • Do not depart from your official itinerary as this can cause huge problems for any Tibetans you may have met.

How can I maximise the benefit of my trip for Tibetans?

Help to keep Tibetan culture alive. It is very important to use Tibetan-owned and ran businesses, including hotels, restaurants, guides and souvenir stalls.

When visiting temples, monasteries or shrines you may wish to leave a donation. It is best to give it directly to a monk or nun.

We would love to hear more about your trip if you do go to Tibet and see any photos you would like to share; get in touch with us by emailing mail@freetibet.org.

Free Tibet has launched a global boycott of Intercontinental Hotels Group, who are building a luxury hotel in Lhasa. This development will not benefit local Tibetans and its conference facilities may even be used by Chinese authorities to plan further repression.
Join the boycott
See our Intercontinental campaign website for more details and join the boycott now - Intercontinental must not profit from China's tyranny in Tibet.