Cost of the trip is one of the determining factors for anyone who is traveling. Regardless of where you travel, you want to get value for the money you spent.
For visits to Tibet, this is always the case. Whatever your Tibet tour cost, you always get a trip worth your money.
To make it easier to understand the cost of a visit to Tibet, given below is a breakdown of the basic costs of different aspects of a Tibet tour.
This can help you understand or at least provide a guideline for the total cost of your trip to Tibet.
- Cost of Permits
- Travel Seasons
- Transportation To and From Tibet
- Cost of Hiring a Tibetan Tour Guide
- Entrance Fees
- Vehicle and Driver Costs
- Other Costs
- Total Cost
- Tips for Bhutan Tour
- Final Say,
Cost of Permits
Regardless of where you go to Tibet, you need to get permits.
You will need 2 or more permits to do your tour. The number of permits required depends on the routes you take and the places you visit.
Chinese Entry Visa
To visit Tibet, you need to first get the Chinese Entry Visa. You can get this from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in your home or resident country before traveling.
China does not offer an online visa application, E-visa, or Visa On Arrival service. You must apply for all visas through an embassy with a personal visit to most countries.
For tourists visiting China, the standard visa category is the “L” category visa. You need this visa to apply for other permits for Tibet.
The cost of the visa does vary according to your nationality and the country you are applying in. It also depends on the number of entries required and whether you want an express service.
The cost for a Chinese Single Entry Visa for regular service is:
U.S. Passport Holders – US$ 140
Canadian Passport Holders – US$ 75
Other Nations Passport Holders – US$ 30 to US$ 155 (depending on country of origin)
Some countries do not need to pay the Chinese Visa fee. These countries include Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Maldives. It also includes Micronesia, Pakistan, Slovakia, and the Republic of Montenegro.
For express service, you need to pay US$ 20 per visa extra.
For rush service, you need to pay US$ 30 extra per visa.
Note: Cash or personal checks are not accepted as modes of payment for Chinese Visa.
The only permitted payment is by Money Order, Cashier’s Check, Company Check, or Credit Card. MasterCard and VISA are the only credit cards accepted by the Chinese Embassies.
They also do not accept any incorrect amounts on checks or money orders.
Tibet Travel Permit (Tibet Visa)
Tibet Travel Permit is also known as Tibet Visa. The Tibet Tourism Bureau in Lhasa issues this.
Independent travelers cannot apply for this.
To apply for this permit, you need to follow the given steps:
- Book and pay for a guided tour service through a reliable tour operator.
- Provide scanned copies of your original passport and Chinese Entry Visa to your tour operator.
After this, the tour operator can apply for your Tibet Visa. You need to have the original permit to enter and travel within certain areas of Tibet. You cannot board a flight or train to Tibet without it.
The cost for Tibet Permit is around 250-450 CNY per person. This is around US$36-67 per person.
Alien’s Travel Permit (PSB Permit)
You need to apply for this permit if you visit areas outside the general area of Lhasa. This includes areas like:
Tsetang: Samye, Yumbulagang, Trendruk
Shigatse: Sakya, Mt. Everest, Rongbuk Monastery
Gyantse: Pelkor Chode Monastery, Kumbum Stupa
Ngari: Mt. Kailash, Lake Manasarovar
Nyingtri: Draksumtso, Pomi
Chamdo: Chamdo, Riwoche
You can apply for this once you arrive in Lhasa. Your tour guide will apply for the permit on your behalf.
The cost for Alien’s Travel Permit is 50 CNY or around US$ 6 per person.
Restricted Area Permit (Military Permit)
You need to apply for this permit to visit the border areas and the military sensitive areas of Tibet. Areas that need Military permit are as follows:
Ngari: Mt. Kailash, Lake Manasarovar etc.
Nyingtri: all the places you may want to visit like Pomi and Draksumtso
Chamdo: Chamdo, Riwoche, Rowak Lake
You also need this permit for an overland tour to Tibet from Sichuan, Yunnan, Xinjiang, and Qinghai.
The cost for the military permit is 100-300 CNY per person. It is around US$15-45.
Note: The process of applying for this permit can take a long time. Hence, let your tour operator know in advance so that they can start the application for you before your travel to Tibet.
Tibet Border Pass (Frontier Pass)
If you travel to remote areas in Tibet that are close to China’s borders with Nepal and India, you need this pass. The Tibet Armed Police Border Corps in Lhasa issues this.
Individual travelers cannot apply for this pass. You need to have your tour operator arrange this pass for you. Places, where you need the Tibet Border Pass, are as follows:
- Shigatse: Sakya Monastery, Mt. Everest Base Camp, Rongbuk Monastery, etc.
- Ngari Region: Mt. Kailash, Mansarovar Lake, etc.
- Nyingchi Region: Basum Tso Lake, Pomi, Rabotso Lake, etc.
- China-Nepal Border: Gyirong
If you are flying or traveling overland from or to Nepal-Tibet, you need this with you. Your tour operator should give you a scanned copy of this pass before you leave. For other areas, you get the permit once you arrive in Tibet.
Group Tourist Visa
The process for applying visa for entering Tibet from Nepal is different than for those who enter through mainland China. Travelers who enter Tibet from Kathmandu, Nepal have to apply for a Group Tourist Visa.
The Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu issues this and this replaces the standard Chinese Entry Visa. If your passport already has a Chinese Entry Visa, the Visa gets canceled. You will instead get a Group Tourist Visa in its place.
The Group Tourist Visa is a single entry visa valid for 30 days from the date of issue. You can again apply for this visa through your tour operator. The cost of the Group Tourist visa is as follows:
- American: US$162
- Canadian: US$ 92
- Nepali: US$ 45
- Romanian: US$ 90
- Serbia: US$ 85
- Others countries: US$ 85
- Pakistan, Albania, Bosnian, Herzegovina, Micronesia, Maldives: US$26
The Embassy also adds US$ 30 to the cost the Group Tourist Visa as a service fee.
Note: The above Tibet Group Visa cost is subject to be change without prior notice by the Embassy of China. So, please check with your travel consultant for the latest visa costs.
Depending on the season you travel to Tibet in, your cost for the tour can change. Tibet has two different tourist seasons:
High (Peak) Season
This season lasts throughout the months from April-October. These months see a much higher cost than the low season.
Mid-June to early September is monsoon season in Tibet. Yet, it overlaps with summer break in China. Hence, this season is not an off-peak season. These months actually mark the most expensive months to travel to Tibet.
These months sees a large influx of Chinese travelers and travelers from the rest of the world.
Low (Off-Peak) Season
The low season begins around the end of October and lasts to early February.
8-day Lhasa-EBC group tour (3-star accommodations) costs:
- Mid- June to August: US$ 1000- 1200
- April to Mid-June and September to Mid-November: US$ 900-1000
- Mid-November to February: US$ 800-850.
Transportation To and From Tibet
There are different ways to enter Tibet. The cost depends on which mode of transport you choose and also the season you travel in. It also depends on your choices of Tibet entry cities.
Traveling to Tibet via China has more alternatives for travelers. It also has a wider range of costs and interest.
For traveling from China to Tibet, you need to first figure out these two things:
From which city do you leave for Tibet
Mode of Transportation- Flight or Train or Road
There are only two countries that have international flights to and from Tibet- Nepal, and China.
Flights from China to Lhasa can cost between US$ 350 to 500. This depends on where you fly from in China.
You can enter Tibet through China from these places:
Mega metropolitan cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
Inland cities like Chengdu, Xining, Xi’an and Chongqing, Kunming.
The cost of flights to Tibet is less from the inland cities. Even daily expenses such as meals, accommodation, transportation are less here.
But, these inland cities have a fewer international flight to mainland China than Chengdu. So, Chengdu is the ideal choice for less flight cost and daily cost.
Some of the budget airlines in China are Spring Airlines, 9 Air and China United Airlines, and Ruili Airlines.
You can also take a train to Tibet. The train journey takes you through some of Tibet’s most breathtaking landscapes, and over some very high mountains.
On average, the flights cost more than the train (soft sleepers). For trains, the cost also depends on the cabin you choose, as well as the berth you book.
Trains to Tibet have three main types of tickets: soft sleepers, hard sleepers, and hard seats.
- Soft sleepers: More room in the bunk and in the cabin. You will have 4 berths in the soft sleeper.
- The cost of the lower berth is more costly than the higher berths.
- Hard sleeper: Has 6 bunks in 3 tiers.
- Hard seats:
The price range for train tickets from China to Tibet can be as follows:
- Lhasa- Shangai (3 days): Hard Sleeper 262.5 (US$ 39) and Soft Sleeper 793.5 CNY (US$ 117)
- Lhasa-Xian (30 hours): Hard Sleeper- 611.5 CNY (US$ 90) and Soft Sleeper- 969.5 CNY (US$ 143)
- Guangzhou-Lhasa (52 hours): Hard sleeper- 865 CNY (US$ 127) and Soft Sleeper- 1468 CNY (US$ 216)
- Chengdu-Lhasa (36 hours): Hard sleeper- 627.5 CNY (US$ 92)and Soft Sleeper- 997.5 CNY (US$ 147)
- Beijing-Lhasa (40 hours): Hard sleeper- 720 CNY (US$ 106) and Soft sleeper- 1144 CNY (US$ 168.45)
Note: The given prices are the net price. The price does change with the change in seasons. It also changes when the demand exceeds the supply of tickets. Hence, you may have to pay more than the given price.
Of all the means of transportation to Lhasa from mainland China, traveling by road is the most expensive. This includes self-driving or hiring a vehicle.
The exact cost for the road trip is hard to calculate. Yet, travelers need to prepare at least US$ 17,000 for a tour by road.
The only roads available for international tourists to travel to Tibet are:
- Qinghai-Tibet Highway
- Xinjiang-Tibet Highway
You need around 7-15 days to complete the road trip. The cost should include the cost of fuel, hotel, meals and drinks, entrance fee, tour guide, and other supplies.
You can also enter Tibet via Nepal. You can book Tours to Tibet via Kathmandu with us. The modes of transportation available for the average traveler are:
Kathmandu has the only international airport of Nepal. Hence, any international flights will leave and land in Kathmandu.
Flying from and to Kathmandu-Lhasa is a popular way to reach Tibet. This flight takes around 1 and a half hours.
- One way flight ticket during peak season is around US$ 283- 603
- One way flight ticket during off-peak season is around US$ 233- 263
During the peak season, there are more popular months to travel and less popular months. The more popular month like October is when it peaks at US$ 603.
Traveling to Tibet via overland takes more time and is much more expensive. This is due to the inclusion of the cost for hotel, tour vehicle, attraction fee, and meals during your road travel. Yet with the higher cost comes the stunning trans-Himalayan journey. You cover over 1300 km. You get views of alpine scenery and get a chance to explore Buddhist culture.
- Due to the steep rise of altitude from Kathmandu (1400m), you will make several stops on both sides of the border. You need to do this to avoid acute mountain sickness before reaching EBC (5200m).
- For travels with your young kids or the elderly, flying can be the ideal choice.
Cost of Hiring a Tibetan Tour Guide
All visitors to Tibet must have a registered tour guide with them at all times during your tour in Tibet. These private guides get training and license from the Tibet Tourism Bureau.
The guide service fee can be around US$ 44- US$ 80 per day. You can split the fee between your group members.
The range of the fee is due to some factors:
- Language Skills: An English or Chinese speaking guide is less costly and easier to hire. The fee for hiring a guide who speaks other languages besides the two is higher.
- Services: A regular tour guide is less costly than a versatile tour guru-guide. A versatile tour guide is perfect for those who have a customized tour.
The guide’s service will include the regular tour services and others. This can include a cycling or trekking tour, cooking tasty local cuisines and others that are part of your customized itinerary.
While in Lhasa, you have a variety of hotels to choose from. These can be 2-3 star hotels. These provide comfortable, cozy and quiet rooms. It can cost around US$ 10-32 per night per person. The cheaper end includes a dorm room with a dorm bed.
There are also choices of 4-star hotels that will cost you around US$ 50-60 per person per night.
Once you leave Lhasa to explore the untouched and remote areas of Tibet, you have fewer choices for accommodation. The accommodation facilities in these areas like Everest Base Camp, Western Tibet are more humble and basic.
This will cost you around US$ 22 per person per night. You get rooms on a twin sharing basis. This includes shared bathrooms, no shower facilities.
The cost of meals is higher in Tibet compared to mainland China. This is due to the difficulty and cost of transportation.
In Lhasa, you have a wide range of choices in your meals and drinks. You can choose cheap meals around US$ 2-5 per meal. Else, you can indulge in high-class dining that cost around US$10-15 per person per meal.
Beyond Lhasa, your choices in meals decreases. The menu usually includes local Tibetan food and Chinese dishes like fried rice, soup noodles, and others.
Note: Try the local Tibetan food. This can include Tibetan noodle soup, Tibetan momo, and drinks such as sweet tea, butter tea. You can also try some local snacks.
Most of the tour companies do include the cost of all your entry fees. These can include entrance fees for the monasteries, temples, and other places that you visit during the tour.
For reference points, here are the entrance fees to some popular sites:
Potala Palace: US$ 29 ( 200 CNY)
Jokhang Temple: around US$ 7 or US$ 12.3 per person ( 50CNY or 85CNY)
Sera Monastery: around US$ 7 (50CNY)
Drepung Monastery: around US$ 4 or US$ 9 ( 30CNY or 60CNY)
Yamdrok Lake: around US$ 9 (60CNY)
Karola Glacier: around US$ 4 or US$ 7 ( 25CNY or 50CNY)
Palcho Monastery: around US$ 9 (60CNY)
Tashilhunpo Monastery: US$ 15 (100CNY)
Rongbuk Monastery: around US$ 4 (30CNY)
Everest Base Camp: around US$ 13 or US$ 26 ( 90CNY or 180CNY)
Note: The two different prices for some of the places is due to different prices for peak and off-peak season.
Vehicle and Driver Costs
These are the cost of transfer service from one attraction to another for the duration of your tour. Generally, these costs are a part of your total cost for your Tibet tour.
As a common practice, the tour operator charges you per km for the cost of your tour vehicle. So, the longer you travel, the expensive it will be.
Many of the attractions beyond Lhasa are far away from each other, so long drives are a part of your Tibet tour. The cost also changes based on the season you travel in.
You can reduce the cost per person by traveling in groups. Bigger groups can take a 20-seat vehicle or a tourist bus. This decreases the per head cost. Smaller groups travel in either a 5-seat vehicle or a 9-seat vehicle.
Hence, the size of the group you travel can impact your tour vehicle’s cost.
The price per kilometer for road travel is as follows:
- 4-6 seat vehicles: 4.5-5.5 CNY per kilometer during the months of May, June, October.
- 4-6 seat vehicles: 4-5 CNY per kilometer during the months of January-April, November, and December.
- 4-6 seat vehicles: 5-6 CNY per kilometer during the months of July, August and September.
Note: The higher range is for the specific model of Toyota 100.
Tipping is not a custom of Tibet. A guide, tour driver do expect tips for their service.
Guides do not get a guide service charge. You can tip around US$6-8 per day.
You can tip as a group. You can do the same for the tour driver and tip the same amount.
This includes shopping in general and souvenirs. There are many good markets in Tibet to buy things. You need to haggle in most places to get the best price.
Some things made in Tibet that make for good souvenirs are small Thangka paintings and local handicrafts. Local handicrafts include hand-carved knives, masks, fine jewelry, carpets.
If you don’t want a room on a twin-sharing basis, you can opt for a single room. This comes with a supplementary cost of US$ 80-400 depending on the hotel you stay at.
Tibet tour cost depends on several different factors like
- Pickup, drop service from the airport.
- All necessary Tibet travel permits.
- Chinese Visa, Nepali Visa, and Tibet Visa
- Accommodation for the entire duration of the trip
- Meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
- Everest National Park admission fee and Grass dame charge
- English speaking Tibetan guide
- All fees for sightseeing and Monasteries included in the itinerary
- All applicable taxes and service charges
- International flights to-from Kathmandu and Lhasa
- Travel insurance
Tips for Bhutan Tour
- You do not need to be a part of a group to apply for the ‘group’ visa. You need to be a part of an organized tour.
- Sometimes, there won’t be a huge price difference between flight and Tibet train for travels in and out of Chengdu Road.
- You can not travel to Tibet from mid-February to March. The time of restriction does change. Contact us or your tour operator to get the latest updates.
- Be careful of what you buy when in Tibet. You can not take some artifacts and antiques out of Tibet and China.
The major differences in the cost of a Tibet tour are on where you want to visit and travel to, group size and the standard of accommodation you use.
Hence, for budget travelers, the off-peak season is the best time. If budget is of no regards, then the months of September, October, April, and May are the best.
The costs mentioned are estimates and a guideline. You may find some differences depending on your tour operator and the services provided.
If you have any further questions or queries related to the cost of a Tibet tour or any tour in Tibet or Nepal, feel free to contact us.