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Public Holidays

Chinese New Year, otherwise known as the Spring Festival, is definitely not the time to travel around China, cross borders (especially the Hong Kong one) or be caught short of money.

Serf Emancipation Day was introduced as a public holiday in Tibet in 2009 to commemorate 50 years of Communist Chinese control in Tibet and what China says was the freeing of one million Tibetan ‘serfs’. Don’t expect much in the way of celebration among the ex-serfs.

Many Tibetan businesses, restaurants, shops and travel agencies are closed on the days of Losar and Saga Dawa. Tibetan festivals like these are held according to the Tibetan lunar calendar, which usually runs at least a month behind the Gregorian calendar. Ask around for the exact dates of religious festivals because monasteries often only fix these a few months in advance. Check Tibetan lunar dates against Gregorian dates at www.shambhala.com/tibetan-lunar-calendar.

China has several traditional and modern national holidays. They mean little to many Tibetans, but government offices and banks will be closed on many of these dates. Note that the length of holidays is subject to change.

New Year’s Day 1 January

Chinese New Year 5 February 2019; a week's holiday for most

Serf Emancipation Day 28 March

Qing Ming Jie (Tomb Sweeping Festival) First weekend in April; a three-day holiday; not really observed in Tibet

Labour Day 1 May; a three-day holiday

International Children's Day 1 June

Dragon Boat Festival 7 June 2019

Mid-Autumn Festival 13 September 2019

National Day 1 October; a week-long holiday

Sensitive Dates

The following are politically sensitive dates, as are 5 March, 27 September, 1 October and 10 December, which mark past political protests. It may be difficult for travellers to fly into Tibet for a few days before these dates. Tibet generally closes to foreign travellers for the entire month of March.

10 March Anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising and flight of the Dalai Lama

23 May Anniversary of the signing of the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet

1 September Anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)