Lonely Planet Writer

Tibet closed to foreign visitors until April

Several travel agencies have confirmed the Tibet Autonomous Region is closed to foreign visitors until early April.

Potala palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
Potala palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Image by zhang kan/Shutterstock

The closure will come as no surprise to those familiar with the current travel regulations. Tibet has been closed to visitors outside China for late February and March every year since 2008, when the period was marked by violent uprising. The month marks the anniversary of Tibet Uprising Day on 10 March, commemorating the armed struggle in Lhasa in 1959. 30 March is also a significant date in 1959 as it’s the day the Dalai Lama crossed into India, beginning his exile. As a result, the Chinese government fear unrest around this time.

The opening and closure of the region is controlled by the Tibet Tourism Bureau. However, the government does not post information about the closure online. In fact, officially the region is not closed at all! However, applications simply won’t be processed and the only way to check the current travel regulations is to contact a travel agent.

While there is no official re-opening date for the region, in previous years the Bureau have begun processing applications the last week of March, with the first foreign travellers arriving in Tibet once again between 5 and 12 April.

Even in other months, entry into the autonomous region is strictly controlled by Chinese authorities, with independent travel not permitted since 2008. Travellers wishing to explore muct of Tibet must now join an organised tour facilitated by a travel agency and some areas can only be reached by a group tour. International journalists are also barred from visiting the region.

Read more:

Tibet: travel books to read before you go

Know your gompas: a Lonely Planet guide to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries