Tibet or not Tibet…that is the question

If you spent any time taking a gander at my RTW Itinerary, you know that our plan included a one week trip to Tibet after our time in China before we head to Nepal for our hike up to Everest Base Camp.

Isn’t there some saying like “want to hear god laugh, tell him your plans?” Tibet was like one long illustrated version of that saying. Except, to make it slightly more relevant it was more like “Want to make the Dalai Lama laugh? Tell him your plans to visit Tibet.”

Can I just go ahead and apologize ahead of time for any accidental culturally insensitive related hurt feelings my random use of gifs might inspire? Obviously I don’t think the Dalai Lama is laughing at us. In fact I like to hope he would be very happy to have us come visit.

So anyway, what happened? Well first this:

There were three of us planning to go to China and onwards to Tibet. When we researched Tibet everything seemed in order – there were some regulations but it all seemed doable:

  • We would need special Tibet permit on top of our China Visa in order to enter the country
  • We would need to visit through a tour company and be with our guide during the whole trip

This all seemed okay and we found a company we liked we good reviews. We booked our Nepal tour and our train tickets to China based on our assumption that we would spend three weeks in China and then on in Tibet. We had a good plan.

Then in May this happened:

We got an email from our Tour Operator saying that we would need to travel in a group of four. Not three. We had to have four people be in our group for the entire tour (entering and leaving Tibet) and they must all be the same nationality.

I dunno about you, but its hard to get a group of four people together for a dinner outing, let alone a trip to Tibet. So we were facing a challenge to say the least. We started looking around at other options for things to do if we couldn’t make it into Tibet.

Then in a stoke of amazing luck, our friend Steve said he would be able to go. Just like that, we had a group of four. We were back on track. Our Plan was back in place.

Then in early June this happened:

We saw a news article online stating that china had totally closed Tibet to foreign visitors. There was no hope of entry. They were reportedly going to re-evaluate the situation in late September – likely too late for us to make a change in our schedules and get permits if it was opened.

That seemed to be that.

Then in July this happened:

We noticed a posting on lonely planet that said Tibet was back open with some new regulations. After confirming with our tour operator we found out that to get permits we would not need FIVE people. Not one, not two, not three, not four but FIVE (That’s an actual quote from email we got).

Yeah, because finding a group of FIVE people to travel halfway around the world shouldn’t be a problem at all. We asked around, we posted on forums..nothing.

Once again, it seemed almost all hope was lost.

Well then LAST WEEK this happened:

We found not one but TWO other people to come to Tibet with us. That’s right. Now we have six people on our epic Tibet adventure. Shannon’s former roommate and Steve’s brother will hopefully be joining us as we journey in the world’s highest railroad to the real forbidden city of China.

Well Maybe.

Will our heros ever reach Tibet? Will Tibet change its regulations once again? Will this trip ever actually start? Stay tuned next month for the exciting conclusion of this “Bird Meets World” episode.

Have you ever been to Tibet or another hard to visit destination? What was your experience?

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6 Responses to Tibet or not Tibet…that is the question

  1. Well, it would seem like Tibet has the trump card when it comes to ticking all the boxes for visiting… kind of puts Russia to shame!

  2. memographer says:

    This is crazy! Good luck! Hope Tibet will be still open for you.
    My favorite part, however,- “its hard to get a group of four people together for a dinner outing, let alone a trip to Tibet” LOL

  3. I was in Lhasa, Tibet, in May–it was amazing and totally worth it. Yes, I was with a group (and guide) the whole time. Yes, I heard that requirements to get in (group size, a special dot on your passport, etc) change constantly and without warning. Again, it’s totally worth it. The people are amazing and, as an American, it was a huge eye-opener being in what is, essentially, an occupied country.

    Drink lots of water, take a couple of aspirin if you start to get a headache (Lhasa is 12,000 ft above sea level, after all) and have an amazing time!

  4. Cameron says:

    I’m so proud that I ALMOST got mentioned in this post!

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