Basic Info About Tibet
If you are planning to travel to Tibet, you must properly know the visa processing and documentations along with customs and entry of Tibet. Here is the basic information about Tibet which will be helpful for you while traveling there.
Apart from citizens of Brunei, Japan and Singapore, all visitors to Tibet require a valid China visa. Visas for individual travel in China are usually easy to get from most Chinese embassies, or their associated visa centers. The visa application form asks you a lot of questions (your entry and exit points, travel itinerary, means of transport etc), but once in China you can deviate from this as much as you like.
When listing your itinerary, pick the obvious contenders: Beijing, Shanghai and so on. Don’t mention Tibet and don’t list your occupation as ‘journalist’. You may need to show proof of a return air ticket, hotel bookings and photocopies of previous Chinese visas. You must also have one entire blank page in your passport for the visa, as well as a passport valid for at least 6 months. Note that you must be physically present in the country you apply in (ie. you cannot send your passport back to your home country if you are staying somewhere else). Some embassies offer a postal service (for an additional fee), which takes around three weeks. In the US and Canada mailed visa applications have to go via a visa agent, at extra cost. In the US many people use China Visa Service Center. Express services are available for a premium.
A standard single-entry visa must be used within three months from the date of issue and is activated on the date you enter China. There is some confusion over the validity of Chinese visas. Most Chinese officials look at the ‘valid until’ date, but on most 30-day visas this is actually the date by which you must have entered the country, not the visa’s expiry date. Longer-stay visas are often activated on the day of issue, not the day you enter the country, so there’s no point in getting one too far in advance of your planned entry date. Check with the embassy if you are unsure.
1. Chinese border crossings have gone from being severely traumatic to exceedingly easy for travelers. You are unlikely to even be checked when flying in or out of the country.
2. You can legally bring in or take out ¥20,000 in Chinese currency and must declare any cash amount exceeding US$5000 or its equivalent.
3. It is illegal to import any printed material, film, tapes etc ‘detrimental to China’s politics, economy, culture and ethics’. This is a particularly sensitive subject in Tibet, but even here it is highly unusual to have Chinese customs officials grilling travelers about their reading matter. Maps and political books printed in Dharamsala, India, could cause a problem.
4. It is currently illegal to bring into China pictures, books, videos or speeches of or by the Dalai Lama. Moreover, you may be placing the recipient of these in danger of a fine or jail sentence from the Chinese authorities. Images of the Tibetan national flag are even ‘more’ illegal.
5. If traveling from Nepal to Tibet by air or overland it’s a good idea to bury this guide deep in your pack or sleeping bag (and have a backup on your laptop or mobile phone), as overzealous customs officials have been known to confiscate Tibet guides.
6. Be very circumspect if you are asked to take any packages, letters or photos out of Tibet for anyone else, including monks. If caught, you’ll most likely be detained, interrogated and then probably expelled.
7. Anything made in China before 1949 is considered an antique and needs a certificate to take it out of the country. If it was made before 1795, it cannot legally be taken out of the country.
Extensions are difficult in Tibet (and only likely in Lhasa) so don’t count on one. It is far easier to extend your visa in other areas of China such as Chengdu, Xining or Xian, where a 30-day extension is commonplace. The Waishike (foreign affairs) section of the local PSB handles visa extensions.