A valid Chinese visa is required. A Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) permit is also required to enter Tibet.
For most international travellers, getting to Tibet will involve at least two legs: first to a gateway city such as Kathmandu (Nepal) or Chengdu (China), and then into Tibet.
The most popular options from the gateway towns into Tibet are as follows:
At the time of writing, bureaucratic obstacles to entering Tibet from China were many and involved signing up for a preplanned and prepaid tour. The situation from Nepal is even trickier because of group-visa requirements. Political events, both domestic and international, can mean that regulations for entry into Tibet change overnight. Nerves of steel are definitely useful when arranging flights and permits. Always check on the latest developments before booking flights.
Note that it can be very hard to get hold of air and train tickets to Lhasa around the Chinese New Year and the week-long holidays around 1 May and 1 October.
Flights, hotels and tours can be booked online at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings.
Tibet’s transport infrastructure has developed rapidly in recent years. Most of the main highways are now paved. Airports are springing up across the plateau and the railway line is slowly extending beyond Lhasa. In 2011 Tibet’s Metok county was the very last of China’s 2100 counties to be connected by road.
Car The only way to travel around Tibet at the moment, since foreign travellers have to hire private transport as part of their obligatory tour.
Train Great for getting to and from Tibet but of limited use inside Tibet, unless you are just taking a short trip from Lhasa to Shigatse and back.
Bus Lots of services, but foreigners are currently not allowed to take buses or shared taxis in Tibet.