Last Modified: 04 Aug 2016
Mountains & Monasteries
Trip code: CBST
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 16 Nov 2016
Satisfy your sense of adventure and spiritual curiosity on this overland journey. From the capital of China, travel across the vast Tibetan Plateau, through remote villages and into the mountain kingdom of Nepal. Riding the world's highest railway all the way to Lhasa, witness the intense spirituality of the Tibetan people in remote monasteries, high mountain passes, traditional homes and colourful marketplaces along the way. Immerse yourself in atmospheric monastic rituals and marvel at the might of Mt Everest on this extraordinary journey.
TRIP CHANGES FOR 2016:
As a result of the Nepal earthquake that occurred in April 2015, the Kathmandu-Tibet highway near Lamosanghu remains closed. Unfortunately word from our local suppliers and authorities is that this road will remain closed for the majority of the 2016 season. This means that no overland travel between these two countries is possible in 2016. All CBST trips will be re-routed to fly between Lhasa to Kathmandu resulting in a increase in cost. Trip Notes have been updated to reflect the new itinerary. Changes in flight scheduled throughout the year have lead to some adjustments of which day of the trip we fly from Lhasa to Kathmandu. From 1st August we will arrive in Kathmandu on Day 16 of the trip.
TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
From 1st January 2017 this trip will change due to the China/Nepal border remaining closed for the foreseeable future. In order to be able to plan consistent itineraries for 2017 we will end the trip in Chengdu, where there are many international connections, replacing the need to fly to Kathmandu. We will also remove one day in Lhasa leaving us with 4 nights in this location. More details will be published in coming months, with the new itinerary outlined below:
2 Overnight Train
3 Overnight Train
12 Everest Base Camp
15 Chengdu (Flight Lhasa to Chengdu)
The new code and name for this trip will be CBSC Tibetan Adventure
Table of Contents
Is this trip right for you?
- This trip visits places that are over 3,500 metres/11,500ft in altitude, and as a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.
- Though there is a long overnight train journey on this trip, it is through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. The train to the roof of the world on Day 3 takes place at high altitude, including the Tanggula Pass (5,072m), Fenghuahan tunnel (4,095m). Altogether over 80% of the section between Golmud to Lhasa is at elevations of over 4000m.
- As important cultural and historical sites, there are visits to many monasteries and temples on this itinerary. Some travellers find that they can get 'templed out' quickly as there's just so much information to take in. We suggest you take your time, and ease into it
- Though this trip is not wholly overground from 2016 (with a flight from Lhasa to Kathmandu on Day 17), it still does include long driving days in Tibet. The Himalayan scenery that’s traversed is stunning.
Why we love it
- Experience one of the world’s greatest train journeys – the railway to the roof of the world, crossing incredibly mountainous and remote terrain
- Like everything it does, China’s ancient history is on an epic scale – see it first-hand with hours to explore the Great Wall
- Explore Lhasa, from the architectural wonder of the former home of the Dalai Lama to the incredible atmosphere of the pilgrim-filled Jokhang Temple, the holiest in the Tibetan Buddhist world
- Every drive in Tibet seems more stunning that the last. Climb phenomenal passes, twist up thrilling peaks, and take in incredible views of skies and lakes, where the only way to tell their perfect blue apart is the towering mountains that separate them
- Meet monks at temples and cliff-side monasteries where the scenery will quite literally leave you breathless
- Stand in the shadow of the mightiest mountain of them all with a trip to Everest Base Camp
Day 1 Beijing
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places that give an insight into the nation's ancient past, as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where the meeting will take place – if you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. Any free time today in Beijing is at your leisure, so you can start your explorations of this vast and amazing city. Perhaps track down a bargain at one of the many markets, see the hutongs and back lanes of Beijing by rickshaw, or find a great restaurant for Peking duck.
Notes: As Beijing as so much to offer, arriving a few days early to give you time to explore is highly recommended. In this extra time you could explore Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, wander the Temple of Heaven Park, visit the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour, cycle round the city, head out to the Summer Palace, watch a performance of ‘The Legend of Kung Fu’, or explore the beautiful Tibetan-style monastery of Yonghegong (the Lama Temple).
- Informal Chinese language lesson
- Beijing - Tian'anmen Square & Forbidden City - CNY60
- Beijing - Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY530
- Beijing - Kungfu Show - CNY180
- Beijing - Lama Temple - CNY25
- Beijing - Summer Palace - CNY40
- Beijing - Beijing Foodie Walk Urban Adventure - CNY360
- Beijing - Temple of Heaven - CNY40
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Beijing - Great Wall
No trip to China would be complete without a visit to the Great Wall. Today you’ll take an early morning visit to one of the best-preserved areas, the Mutianyu section (approximately 2 hours), featuring guard towers dating back to the Ming dynasty. An incredible piece of engineering, the wall stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it is still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements, and an iconic destination. It's a 30-minute climb up some steep steps to the wall itself, but it’s well worth the effort. There’s also the option of taking a chair lift or cable car to the top and back if you’re after a more leisurely experience. It’s possible to feel like you have the whole wall to yourself as spend a few hours strolling, the wall snaking through the hills and seemingly endlessly into the distance. Head back into the city in the afternoon, then this evening take taxis to the Beijing West railway station, one of the biggest and busiest in the world, to board the train to Lhasa (approximately 45 hours). This first night you'll pass through provincial towns, through Xi'an, and plummet directly into the mountains – through tunnels that can last for minutes at a time.
Notes: The wall is quite steep in places so make sure you have some appropriate footwear for this activity.
- Beijing - Great Wall Excursion
Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt)
Day 3 Train to the Roof of the World
The train to Lhasa is truly one of China's greatest recent engineering feats. It’s the highest railway in the world, traversing some incredibly mountainous and remote terrain. The journey takes you through the major cities of Xi'an, Lanzhou and Xining, and across the Qinghai Plateau before arriving in Lhasa. Luxuriate in the feeling of accomplishment without having to do anything – go to bed and wake up 1,000 kilometres away. Stop briefly in Lanzhou, the crossroads of journeys along the Silk Road and the Tibet-Qinghai plateau, and head on past the immense city of Xining. On this second night you’ll climb in altitude and your breath with likely be taken away by the landscape outside the windows – snow-dappled black cliffs and mountain peaks illuminated by the moonlight.
Notes: Train travel in China/Tibet may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people, as it's the main form of transport for locals. The Beijing-Lhasa train is one of the newest and best in China. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound – compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Wherever possible, we will group our travellers together, but this will depend on group size and ticket availability. Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe, hot drinking water is always available. It is a good idea to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins). The train has a dining car; meals are of better quality on the first day, as by the second day we are travelling at altitude, which makes cooking difficult! You may wish to purchase extra snacks of your choice before the journey to supplement food available on the train. Basic bathroom facilities with toilets and washbasins are situated at the end of each carriage. As toilet paper isn't always available, it's best to bring an emergency supply. On rare occasions it may be possible to upgrade to a different carriage class once on the train itself (for an additional cost paid to the train conductor), but this cannot be guaranteed and should not be relied on as an option.
WARNING: Much of the train journey takes place at high altitude, including the Tanggula Pass (5,072 metres) and Fenghuahan tunnel (4,095 metres). Altogether, over 80% of the section between Golmud to Lhasa is at elevations of over 4,000 metres. As a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this. Compartments have a oxygen supply for each passenger and there is a doctor on board each train in case medical assistance is required.
Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt)
Day 4 Lhasa
The train will travel through a wide, brown grassland complemented by terracotta foothills, with a speckling of grazing yaks, sheep and goats and the occasional punctuation of lakes and streams. This same landscape, only sparsely populated by clusters of brick village houses, treeless and vast, will accompany you nearly all the way to Lhasa, where you’ll arrive some time after lunch. The colourful and historic holy city of Lhasa is situated in a small valley, and for many years it was a mysterious place, virtually unknown to the outside world. Even the most adventurous and hardy of explorers rarely reached the city without being turned away, either by the treacherous terrain or the fierce warrior monks that protected Tibetan territory from intruders. While now welcoming tourists and much modernized, Lhasa remains an intriguing city with a deeply fascinating culture, sights and stories.
Notes: Lhasa’s elevation is 3,940 metres. We have five days here to allow for appropriate acclimatisation. Due to Chinese government regulations, an official licensed Tibetan guide must accompany all foreign tour groups in Tibet. Depending on the departure, you will either have a Tibetan Intrepid leader from Beijing to the Chinese border and a Nepalese Intrepid leader after making the crossing (as Tibetans are not permitted to travel outside of China), or a Chinese Intrepid leader for the duration of the trip, accompanied by a local Tibetan guide during your time in Tibet. In this case, while we try to request experienced guides with a good level of English, but please note that we often have no control over which guides are assigned to our groups – some may be very new to guiding or have limited English skills.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5 Lhasa
Take five full days to explore this once-isolated city, with its monasteries and markets bulging with pilgrims and traders. Start the day with a Tibetan lesson, where you’ll learn some basic greetings, numbers and phrases from your Tibetan guide. Today you will visit the holiest temple in the Tibetan Buddhist world, Jokhang Temple. The spiritual heart of Tibet and one of the region's most active religious sites, the atmosphere amongst visiting pilgrims is much of the temple’s appeal. Surrounded by the smoke and smell of incense, and by the murmuring of prayers from the faithful, explore the ‘House of the Buddha’ and witness the devotion of the pilgrims who spin the mantra wheels and bow around the temple. You’ll then have free time for the rest of the day, and there are many activities to enjoy in this holy city. Just one might be to join the crowds and interact with the pilgrims as they shuffle around the Barkhor pilgrim circuit, and stop to shop for souvenirs at some of the many market stalls. You might want to explore Lhasa's quaint backstreet craft workshops, bakeries, tea shops and tiny alleyways as you wander the Old Town, or relax with a traditional Tibetan massage.
Notes: Inside many of Tibet's monasteries and temples, including the Potala Palace, photography is not permitted. In buildings where it is permitted, this often requires the purchase of a photo permit. Your guide can obtain this photo permit for you for an additional fee.
- Lhasa - Tibetan language lesson
- Lhasa - Jokhang Temple
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 6 Lhasa
This morning you’ll travel the short distance out to the base of Pubuchok Mountain to visit one of the most important university monasteries in Tibet. The name Sera means wild rose in the Tibetan language, and the monastery is said to have taken the name because when it was built, the hill behind it was covered in wild roses in bloom. The impressive Sera Monastery is best known for its dramatic daily debates between monks – as part of their training they come together in a central courtyard to contest the finer points of Buddhist learning. Junior monks sit on the floor while senior monks drill them on their knowledge, dramatically slapping their hand in a signal to respond, which makes the temple much livelier and noisier than many others. After Sera Monastery, you will learn how to make momos (steamed dumplings) in a cooking demonstration and class. Momos are one of the staples of Tibetan cuisine, and these delicious little parcels of meat are often served with a tomato-based chutney dipping sauce or a hot sauce called C-momo.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 7 Lhasa
Today you will tour the incredible Potala Palace, the former home of the Dalai Lama that’s perched 130 metres above the city. The palace is divided into two parts, the White Palace (secular and used as offices etc.) and the Red Palace (home to chapels, shrines, and tombs of Dalai Lamas). Although the palace is not freely explored, and a strict guided-viewing schedule must be adhered to, this in no way lessens the impact of seeing what is truly a wonder of the architectural world. As you witness the gold and jewel-filled rooms and take in the views from the roof, you’ll rub shoulders with excited Tibetan pilgrims making offerings at the altars. Please note that this is the most popular attraction in Lhasa, especially among Chinese tour groups, so it can be very crowded and tickets are for a limited time period only. For the rest of the day you can deepen your perspective of Lhasa's holy sites with a trip to the Ganden or Drepung Monasteries. Alternatively, perhaps visit the Norbulingka, the Summer Palace of Dalai Lamas.
Notes: As the majority of the cultural and historical sites in Tibet are temples and monasteries, it’s advisable to both choose carefully which activities you do in your free time, and pace yourself in order to enjoy the sites group-visited as much as possible. Tibetan Buddhism is a fascinating part of the region's culture, however some travellers find that they get ‘templed out’ quickly with so much information to take in. Take your time, ask your local guide about what interests you most, and if you’d prefer your own time rather than visit a religious site with the group, please let your leader know.
- Lhasa - Sera Monastery
- Lhasa - Momo (Tibetan dumplings) Cooking Class
- Lhasa - Drepung Monastery - CNY60
- Lhasa - Ganden Monastery - CNY145
- Norbulingka - CNY60
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 8 Lhasa
Today you’ll climb up to an altitude of 4,800 metres when you visit the majestic Drak Yerpa Monastery. You’ll get away from the crowds when you travel to this lesser-visited monastery, 30 kilometres northeast of Lhasa (approximately 1 hour). Drak Yerpa, known variously as Brag Yer-pa, Yerpa, Dagyeba, Dayerpa or Trayerpa, is one of the holiest cave retreats in Tibet, the “life tree” of Lhasa. As the saying goes, “Lhasa is the shrine of Tibet, Drak Yerpa is the shrine of Lhasa. Not seeing Drak Yerpa in Lhasa is just like making a dress without the collar.” It’s located in the spectacular limestone cliffs of the Yerpa Valley, with stunning views of prayer flag-covered mountains. Noted Tibetan Buddhism practitioners have long visited and meditated in the caves of this peaceful place, including Atisha (a Buddhist leader who inspired the religion through the country) and the founder of the Tibetan Empire, Songsten Gampo. Here you can explore some of the caves, including ones where pilgrims sip holy water or slip through a small gap in the rock, and perhaps talk with the few remaining monks that live there. Monks have begun to return to Yerpa, but numbers are strictly controlled by the government, which carries out regular patriotic study sessions. Return to Lhasa for the night.
- Lhasa - Drak Yerpa Monastery
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 9 Samye
Travel deeper into Tibet to Samye today (approximately 5 hours). The walled temple complex of Samye sits at over 3,600 metres on the north bank of Yarlung Tsangpo River, and is the oldest and one of the most enchanting monasteries in Tibet. It has withstood centuries of invasion and other threats to remain standing, imposing and immense beside the river. The building was constructed in line with Buddhist cosmology, with towers, walls and gates representing continents, oceans, mountains and the centre of the Tibetan Buddhist universe. Explore the magical structures that make up the Monastery, with your local guide explaining the complicated religious symbolism and rituals. Go through the statue-filled assembly hall and continue to the Jowo Khang inner chapel. Some of the murals here are amazingly vivid and detailed, although you'll need to purchase a permit to take photos. The entire Samye complex is huge, so you can take some time to make your own discoveries, or continue to walk with the guide if you’d prefer. In the afternoon, perhaps make the 30-minute climb to the top of one of Tibet’s four sacred hills, Hepo Ri, complete with prayer flags and a spectacular view of Samye. You’ll spend the night in Samye, in a hotel with private bathroom facilities. Please note that hot water is available, but only at certain times.
Notes: Samye’s elevation is 3,700 metres. As per the local laws, for the Tibetan part of the tour a local guide must accompany the group. As foreigners are not permitted to travel by public transport in this region, you will have a private van and driver for the journey. Driving times will vary and any times listed are approximate only. While much of the infrastructure in Tibet has been improved in recent years, it still lacks regular maintenance, and so travel time will rely heavily on weather and road conditions. The distances that we travel are large and police speed checks have been implemented to ensure safety of tourist vehicles, so most days are long travel days. As we have our own vehicle it may be possible to make some stops along the way for photos, meals or to chat with locals, however we need to aim to complete our drives before nightfall for safety reasons. Accommodation in Tibet outside of Lhasa can be of a very basic standard, and with limited options. The region is still hurting from the riots in 2008, which lead to tourism practically being halted for over a year, and many hotels and other businesses are still struggling with the financial loss, unable to pay for regular maintenance or sufficient staff to keep things in good condition. Hot water, when available, can be sporadic and in some destinations, hot water and showers are not available at all. Many hotels have shared bathroom facilities and unreliable plumbing. Most places we stay will have twin-share rooms, although on occasion we'll stay in multishare rooms on a same gender basis.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 10 Gyantse
The drive to Gyantse today is spectacular, with unforgettable views around every bend. You’ll cross over several stunning passes, twisting through the thrilling mountains as the peaks dramatically tower over the road. You’ll enjoy incredible views of Yamdrok Lake, a mystical perfect mirror of the sky above, climb Khamba La pass (4,794 metres) and see yaks plodding along the mountainside. Pass sheep herder villages scattered along the lakeside and be confronted by the soaring Noijin Kangsang, the peak of the Lhagoi Kangri mountain range. Stop at the town of Nangartse for lunch before climbing up to the Karo La pass (4,960 metres), and then descending down to the town of Gyantse. The drive should take around 6 hours. Gyantse is a small agricultural town set at 3,950 metres above sea level, and is famed for its wool carpets. While there’s still a feel of tradition and life continuing much as it has for centuries, Gyantse is also a great place to see contemporary Tibetan life in the backstreets, where pilgrims, pop music, cows, “cowboys” on motorbikes, kids and monks all mingle in a lively mix of cultures. There are a number of interesting buildings in the town, including the Pelkhor Chode Temple complex, a unique structure built in 1414 that brought together 15 monasteries and three different orders of Tibetan Buddhism.
Notes: Gyantse’s elevation is 3,980 metres.
- Gyantse - Tibetan family visit - CNY10
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 11 Shigatse
This morning you’ll spend time in the unique Gyantse Kumbum, an impressive layered stupa designed as a kind of 3D mandala (symbol that represents the universe) as well as a model of the Buddhist universe, with each storey representing a step to enlightenment. If you have a head for heights you can wind your way up the pilgrim circuit, passing dozens of tiny painting-filled chapels, the passages steadily getting narrower as you get higher and the air becoming more and more intoxicating with incense and smoke from yak butter lamps. You will then drive to Tibet's second-largest city, Shigatse (90 kilometres, at least 2 hours). Encircled by mountains and whose name translates to ‘all fortune and happiness gathered here’, Shigatse is a busy, buzzing and dusty city that’s rapidly modernising. There are still strong reminders of Tibetan culture though, like the Tashilhunpo Monastery, one of the few in Tibet to have come out of the Cultural Revolution virtually unscathed. With its expansive territory inside thick stone walls, it’s almost like a town in itself; you’ll visit with your local guide. In the evening you could perhaps join the pilgrims on their kora (prayer circuit), spinning prayer wheels on a 1-hour walk around the perimeter of the monastery and taking in the great views and atmosphere.
Notes: Shigatse's elevation is 3,850 metres.
- Shigatse - Tashilhunpo Monastery
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 12 Sakya
Continue west to the town of Sakya, (approximately 3-4 hours). Sakya's monastery and town buildings are quite unique. Originally, there were two monasteries in Sakya – the Northern and the Southern – but the former was completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The Southern Monastery is built in a medieval 'Mongolian' style, and rather than being whitewashed, the secular buildings are painted in red and while stripes. With its high imposing walls, the monastery is sometimes nicknamed the ‘Great Wall of Tibet’. You’ll have time to explore inside the Sakya monastery. At first the halls may seem similar to other monasteries you’ve visited, but spend some time here and soak in the atmosphere, and you'll soon realise that Sakya has a subtle ancient beauty that is unlike any other. After the monastery tour, you can choose to climb the hill through the Tibetan Village to see what's left of the original Northern Monastery complex. Make sure you pick your way through the ruins and remaining buildings in a clockwise direction as this is a kora route (a circumambulation around a sacred site). You can also hike a little further to visit the friendly nuns at the Nunnery high on the hill overlooking the town. Tonight for dinner, why not try some spicy food at one of the little restaurants run by Sichuanese immigrants.
Notes: Sakya’s elevation is 4,280 metres.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 13 Everest National Park
With an early start today, travel to Everest National Park, (approximately 5-6 hours). Cross the spectacular 5,050 metre Pangla Pass on the way to Rongphu Monastery. On a clear day, you’ll have giddy views of the Everest range. Rongphu Monastery is the highest in the world. On a clear day you may even get a photo of the monastery's chorten against the backdrop of mighty Everest, or Qomolangma as it is called in Tibetan. A relatively modern monastery by Tibetan standards, Rongphu was built in the early 1900s and originally housed more than 500 monks. Today around 50 monks and nuns remain. Unusually they share the same prayer hall, although they have separate residences. Enjoy a very warm welcome from the monks and nuns here, where it's often possible to join them for their evening prayers. Stretch your legs and lungs on the gentle two hour return hike up to Everest Base Camp. Follow the prayer flags up the slope, and hope for a clear sunny sky for amazing photos (you could even post a picture to social media when you reach the camp. Yes, there's mobile reception even here!).
Notes: Everest National Park’s elevation is 5,150 metres. Please note that Everest Base Camp can close without any prior notice because of political issues and/or bad weather. We will always try and give our passengers prior notice where possible, but please prepare yourself that this can happen without any notice. In these cases, passengers will stay in Old Tingri, where you will still get a view of Everest on a clear day. In the summer months, you stay near Rongphu in the Tent City that lies along the road to Everest Base Camp. Here nomad-style tents accommodate up to seven people with basic mattresses and bedding provided, but a sleep sheet and warm clothes for cool evenings are recommended. There are basic pit toilets nearby. A yak dung stove in the central open area of each tent provides heat. Being so close to the tallest mountains in the world more than makes up for the basic sleeping conditions. In colder months when the Tent City is not operational, you’ll stay in the monastery guesthouse or in a nearby town. Rooms here are quad-share with very simple, shared facilities.
- Everest NP - Rongphu Monastery
- Everest NP - Base Camp visit
Camping/Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 14 Shigatse
Today you will return Shigatse (approximately 7-8 hours), which will feel like a bustling metropolis after the remoteness of the last few days. Today will be a long day of traveling, but the constantly incredible scenery will make the journey worthwhile. There will be plenty of stops along the way for photo opportunities and to stretch the legs. If you have the time and energy when you return to Shigaste, you can head once more to Tashilhunpo and discover the intricate decorations, legends and religious imagery of the monastic buildings. Or perhaps ask your leader for directions to the tranquil Chapel of Jampa and meditate on the world’s largest gilded statue. The courtyard outside of the Kelsang Chapel meanwhile, is one of the best places to observe the pilgrims and monks preparing for ceremonies.
Notes: Shigatse's elevation is 3,850 metres.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 15 Lhasa
Today you’ll make the return trip to Lhasa (approximately 6-7 hours). You’ll drive on the same jaw dropping road that you took a few days ago, allowing you to experience the incredible scenery of Yamdrok Lake and the Khamaba La Pass from every angle and confirm that yes, this amazing view is in fact real and you weren't dreaming. There’ll be stops along the way for lunch and to get those last photos of the mountains. When you return to Lhasa, the rest of the day is free. Take some time to gather up the Tibetan atmosphere in your last stop in this incredible country. Perhaps pace the pilgrim path around the Potala Palace or take photos of the busy scene from the main square. You’ll spend your last Tibetan night here in Lhasa.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 16 Kathmandu
Say farewell to your Tibet leader today and fly to Kathmandu. On arrival in Nepal meet your Nepalese leader and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the bustle of downtown. Step out into the streets of Kathmandu, whose mixture of ancient architecture and modern development, and rich artistic and cultural heritage, means it remains the legendary destination it has been for decades. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life and the narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows.
Hotel (1 nt)
Please note that the flight from Lhasa to Kathmandu will be unaccompanied.
Day 17 Kathmandu
Some great ways to spend your time today include:
Check out Durbar Square, the vast plaza opposite the old Royal Palaces chock full of Newari architecture.
See the ancient Swayambhunath Stupa (known to tourists as the Monkey Temple) - Kathmandu's most important Buddhist shrine. The sleepy, all-seeing Buddha eyes that stare out from the top have become the quintessential symbol of Nepal.
Join the pilgrims at Bodhnath Stupa - the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It's the centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism.
Head to Pashupatinath - a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati River in Deopatan, a village 3 km north-west of Kathmandu. It's dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals).
Or ask your leader about joining one of our Urban Adventures!
- Kathmandu - In Focus: Cook in Kathmandu Urban Adventure - USD93
- Kathmandu - Kathmandu Living Urban Adventure - USD80
- Kathmandu - Exploring Patan & Bhaktapur Urban Adventure - USD141
- Kathmandu - In Focus: Handmade Kathmandu - USD93
- Kathmandu - Kathmandu by Bike Urban Adventure - USD89
- Kathmandu - Rickshaw Night Explorer Urban Adventure - USD68
- Kathmandu - Path to a Hidden Monastery Urban Adventure - USD83
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 18 Kathmandu
This Mountains and Monasteries adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
You will be expected to carry your own luggage, including moving about busy public transport hubs, up stairs and escalators and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. Good general fitness and mobility plays a big part in making your trip more enjoyable In some locations it may be possible to hire porters at extra expense paid locally. Please ask your trip leader for help to arrange this if possible but be prepared to manage your own luggage.
Informal Chinese language lesson
Beijing - Great Wall Excursion
Lhasa - Tibetan language lesson
Lhasa - Jokhang Temple
Lhasa - Potala Palace
Lhasa - Sera Monastery
Lhasa - Momo (Tibetan dumplings) Cooking Class
Lhasa - Drak Yerpa Monastery
Samye - Samye Monastery
Shigatse - Tashilhunpo Monastery
Sakya - Sakya Monastery
Everest NP - Rongphu Monastery
Everest NP - Base Camp visit
1. In order for us to apply for your Tibet entry permit and purchase your train ticket to Lhasa you must provide a scanned, colour copy of the personal details page of your passport and Chinese visa to your booking agent no later than 30 days prior to the start date of your trip.
2. Please be aware that in recent years there have been times when restrictions on nationalities being able to travel on specific departures have been implemented or Tibet has been closed to foreign tourists without warning.
3. Please note this trip has an increased deposit due to non refundable train tickets into Tibet.
4. Due to the demands of travelling at high altitudes a Passenger Self Assessment Form is required for this trip.
5. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
6. Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 6-berth ‘hard-sleeper’ class. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilet facilities (usually one with a toilet seat and one squat-style in each compartment) are available on all trains, but there are no showers or baths.
7. Please note while traveling through mainland China you will not be able to access some popular internet websites.
It’s important to let your family and friends know that you might not be able to stay in touch over your usual methods, be it – social media or email. Or let them know if you have set up a new email address in which you can access in mainland China.
The Chinese Government control and restrict certain websites. Websites on the blocked list could change at any time, any site could be restricted at any moment. Here are some of the most popular websites around the world that are blocked in China: Google, Dropbox, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, WordPress, LinkedIn,Yahoo Hong Kong, Yahoo Taiwan, Wikipedia and many more.
8. ** IMPORTANT ITINERARY CHANGE FOR 2016 TRIPS **
As a result of the Nepal earthquake that occurred in April 2015, the Kathmandu-Tibet highway near Lamosanghu remains closed. Unfortunately word from our local suppliers and authorities is that this road will remain closed for the majority of the 2016 season. This means that no overland travel between these two countries is possible in 2016. All CBST trips will be re-routed to fly between Lhasa to Kathmandu resulting in a increase in cost. Trip Notes have been updated to reflect the new itinerary.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Guesthouse (3 nights), Hotel (11 nights), Overnight Sleeper Train (2 nights), Permanent Tented Camp (1 night)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
HOTEL ROOMS IN CHINA:
Some travellers have reported that hotels/accommodation in this region tend to have harder bed mattresses than those they are used to at home. You may like to request an extra quilt or bedding from the hotels if you find this an issue/
Smoking is prevalent in China and hotels generally do not offer specific non smoking rooms. Larger hotels with central air conditioning will sometimes transport the smell of smoke between rooms. While we ask our hotels to ensure our rooms are well cleaned and ventilated well before occupation in some cases this is not possible, and the smell of smoke may linger. Please speak to your leader about the possibility of changing rooms if you encounter this.
WiFi is often available in hotel reception areas and sometimes in rooms. Your leader will be able to advise on the best places to get connected.
HARD SLEEPER TRAINS CHINA:
We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys in China. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded berths (6 to a compartment) and sheets, a blanket/quilt & pillow provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet if you are concerned about the quality/cleanliness of sheets being not what you are used to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals or snacks are available and all have hot water in each carriage for tea and instant noodles. While we aim to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. Those travellers opting for a Soft Sleeper Upgrade (where available) may need to board the train from a separate waiting area and be in another carriage from the rest of the group. While railway services are rapidly being modernised in China, some train journeys on less frequented routes may use older rolling stock and the carriages of a more basic standard.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
The official currency in China is the Yuan or Renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao).
ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit/debit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Look for ATMs with your card logo.
Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.
The official currency of Nepal is the Nepali Rupee (NPR).
ATMs can only be found in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Bhaktapur. Money exchange facilities are available in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan (only outside the park) and Bhaktapur.
The Government of Nepal has banned the import, export and use of 500 and 1000 Indian rupee notes in Nepal. You should ensure you are not carrying these notes on arrival in Nepal as they will be confiscated and you may be fined.
While travellers' cheques have security advantages exchanging them can be a lengthy process, commissions can be high (up to 10%) and they can be difficult to change in rural areas, on weekends and public holidays. If you choose to bring travellers' cheques, make sure they are a major brand and major currency.
Please note that most establishments in Asia will not accept foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded and they can be very difficult to exchange or extra fees added when exchanging at banks. Please ensure that you have new, clean notes.
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
TIPPING IN CHINA:
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.
In China tipping is not compulsory, but has become expected in the travel industry and is considered a way of showing appreciation for great service.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
- Restaurants, markets, and taxi drivers - tipping is not customary and is not expected by the locals.
- Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$5 per day for local guides depending on their service and their involvement with the group.
- Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$2-US$4 per day for drivers.
- Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$4-US$6 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
At your group meeting on Day 1, your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your group leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent. The record can then be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Budget for meals not included: 180.00
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
The Chinese authorities sometimes suspend issuing Tibet Entry Permits to foreign nationals, and may also restrict travel to Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures in neighbouring Provinces by those who have already obtained a permit. These restrictions can happen at any time, but in particular during sensitive periods or major religious festivals - especially around February and March, coinciding with the Tibetan new year festival and the anniversary of certain uprisings in Tibet. Travellers to all Tibet areas should check with tour operators or travel agents and monitor this travel advice and other media for information about travel to Tibet.
Ongoing political and ethnic tensions can lead to unrest and violent protest in Tibet. While foreigners are not normally targeted during unrest, you should be alert to the possibility of being caught up in any unexpected demonstrations or outbreaks of violence. Security measures are tight around any large public gathering and unauthorised gatherings may be dispersed by force. There have been a large number of self-immolations since 2011, including in Tibetan areas outside of the Tibetan Autonomous Region itself. The Chinese authorities tend to react quickly to these incidents and will increase the security presence in the area. Avoid becoming involved in any protests or calls for Tibetan independence. Don’t film or photograph any such activities.
Your leader will conduct a brief safety discussion before our trekking activity.
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Some hotel balconies don't meet western standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Pay attention on all roads, even small streets and alleyways. Vehicles find their ways into impossibly small passages leaving no room for both you and the traffic. Traffic can be very noisy and horns are used to signal turning, overtaking and to announce going through intersections.
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
SCAMS IN CHINA:
While China is generally very safe to travel around, there are a couple of common scams to avoid, especially in major tourist cities. If any young people (usually in couples) around tourist sites claim to be Art Students and want to take you to their "special exhibition", they may end up aggressively selling overpriced prints in their 'showroom'. Also, if you find you are approached by young people who say they want to practice their English, be wary if they suggest going to a Chinese tea ceremony or go for a drink, where a few small cups of tea/coffee/beer may end up costing you several hundred US$. Always ask the prices before agreeing to any service. And if you are to refuse, just say no gently and firmly, avoid eye contact and walk away.
There are problems with counterfeit notes, especially ¥50 and ¥100 bills in China. Try to take smaller denominations with you or give exact change to avoid the possibility of getting fake money in return. Does the note feel thin or slippery? Does the watermark look kosher? If it feels or looks wrong, don’t be shy about rejecting it (a common practice in China). If necessary, cancel the transaction and demand your money back.
King Parkview Hotel (Huayu Hotel) 北京华育宾馆
55 Shatan Hou Street 地址：北京东城区沙滩后街 55号 (近五四 大街，在景山公园东门对面的胡同里)
Dong Cheng District
Phone: +86 (010)58757888
Joining point description
King Parkview Hotel is centrally located in Beijing, close to many historical and cultural landmarks, including Jinshan Park, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square and the National Art Museum, and the hutong areaThe hotel offers comfortable rooms including en-suite bathroom, TV & AC. Hotel rooms may include a vanity pack which are not complimentary. You will be charged at checkout if you open or use the vanity pack.
For more information, please go to http://pephotel.com/en
Phone: +9771 4700105
Finish point description
Hotel Marshyangdi is situated in the heart of Thamel, Kathmandu’s tourist mecca. Its variety of restaurants and shops, pulsing nightlife and easy access to major tourist sites and the airport make it a convenient place to stay.
Finishing point instructions
A taxi to the airport will cost about NPR400 from 06.00-20.00 and NRP500 from 20.00-06.00. Hotel reception or your leader can help you organise a taxi.
Normal check out time is 12 noon. If you are departing later in the day or evening, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
CHINA & HONG KONG:
Most nationalities require a visa for mainland China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival. You may be able to apply for your visa in Hong Kong If you have time here before your trip departs. You will need a Single Entry Tourist for your trip valid for 30 days. Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China for immigration purposes and most nationalities do not require a visa. Please check with an embassy for specific requirements. Tibet is is a province of mainland China.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.
Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
Intrepid Travel Beijing Co. Ltd.
606 InterChina Commercial Building
33 Dengshikou Street
+86 10 6406 8022
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
* Hotel List - this will be sent to you by Intrepid or your travel agent at time of booking. If you do not receive this please email us with your booking number and trip details. Please tick the hotels in all destinations that the provided itinerary indicates your trip visits
* Official invitation from licensed Chinese tourism company - this will be provided together with the Hotel List to all travellers regardless of whether it is required by the embassy or not
* Itinerary - this forms part of the Hotel List document from our office in China. Please note that this itinerary may not reflect your actual journey, but is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel in China
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photo (up to 4 may be required)
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR TIBET PERMIT & TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS
Tibet permits are be arranged en-route with the help of our local partners. If you are travelling on an itinerary that visits Tibet you will need to email the following documents to us as soon as possible after booking and no later than 30 days before departure:
* Clear, colour scanned copy of the personal details page of your passport
* Clear, colour scanned copy of your Chinese visa
Please make sure that this copy is of the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip as well. This may also cause significant delays in obtaining your Tibet permit so please plan ahead. If we do not receive these documents from you in time, your name and passport details will not be listed on the group permit and you will not be able to board the train to travel to Lhasa with the group.
WARNING – TRAVEL TO TIBET
Please be aware that this is a politically sensitive area of China which has in the past been closed to foreign travellers without warning. A change in the political situation can also lead to unforeseen delays in issuing visas and permits. We aim to keep our travellers as up to date as possible with any changes, however these are often made without any official announcement by authorities and as such are out of our control.
As your China visa won't specify the areas which you'll be visiting in country it's sufficient to list Beijing as your destination in China on your application form. Your Chinese visa needs to be valid until at least Day 16 of the tour.
IMPORTANT - TIBET PERMIT:
Once you have obtained your Chinese visa you must provide a clear colour copy of your passport page and Chinese visa to your booking agent. This should be in JPEG format and Intrepid must receive this at least 30 days prior to travel in order to apply for your group's Tibet permit. Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport please bring your old passport with you as well. If we do not receive these documents from you by this time your name and passport details will not be listed on the group permit and you will not be able to board the train to travel to Lhasa with the group.
Due to the political sensitivity of this region it is important to understand that there are sometimes unexpected difficulties in obtaining Tibetan permits which are out of Intrepid's control. Three times during 2011 and 2012, and without official announcement by the government authorities controlling permit issue, the region of Tibet has been closed to visitors, or permits denied. It is impossible to predict when or if these sudden changes will occur again in the future. Of course Intrepid and our local ground teams will do everything we can to obtain permits or warn our travellers if they will be affected by last minute closures.
NEPAL - FROM TIBET
Australia: Yes - on arrival
Belgium: Yes - on arrival
Canada: Yes - on arrival
Germany: Yes - on arrival
Ireland: Yes - on arrival
Netherlands: Yes - on arrival
New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
South Africa: Yes - on arrival
Switzerland: Yes - on arrival
United Kingdom: Yes - on arrival
USA: Yes - on arrival
Most nationalities can apply for the visa on arrival at the land border crossing from Tibet to Nepal. Please check with your embassy to ensure that this applies to you. Current cost of visa on arrival is US$30, depending on your nationality. You will need 2 passport photos for your application. You may need to know your exact departure date in order to apply for the correct length Single Entry Tourist Visa.
Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip should you wish to apply for your Nepal visa in advance:
Day 16 - Enter Nepal at Kodari
To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website to be very useful - http://www.timeanddate.com.
We advise against any mention of entering Tibet on your Chinese visa application form.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary that your luggage gets stowed separately (and unattended). The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas inside the bus or your cabin. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage during included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
CLIMATE & CLOTHING:
The mountainous areas we visit on this trip can be very cold. Bring a warm jumper/jacket, thermals, warm hat and gloves no matter what time of the year, as we travel at altitudes above 5,000 m.
IMAGES FROM HOME:
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
There have recently been a number of isolated cases of Bird Flu in Asia. While the risk to travellers is very low, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of local authorities and the World Health Organisation. WHO recommends basic hygiene practices to limit the risk of infection:
• Avoid visiting live animal markets and poultry farms
• Avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces
• Do not eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry, egg or duck dishes
• Do not attempt to bring any poultry products back
• Do not pick up or touch dead or dying birds
• Exercise good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing
For further information please visit: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/avian_influenza/en/index.html
WARNING - HIGH ALTITUDE TRIPS (sleeping over 3500m):
This trip includes one or more overnight stays over 3500 metres/11500ft, where there is a genuine risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). If left untreated AMS can be life-threatening. We would expect the majority of a group to notice the effects of being at high altitude, and while most will only feel discomfort, it is not uncommon for a small number of people to need extra care which will be provided by our leaders and local staff. All our trips that spend time at High Altitude follow our standard altitude safety measures.
A number of medical conditions or medications can also reduce your body's ability to acclimatise, and thus will affect your performance at altitude and make you more susceptible to AMS. If you are worried about any pre-existing condition (e.g. heart problems), or unsure of your physical ability, you must seek medical advice prior to booking. You may also wish to discuss medication such as Diamox that may help aid acclimatisation.
Please note that while we endeavour to assist all our clients in achieving their goals, there may be times your leader makes the decision to either delay or stop your ascent based on your medical conditions and AMS symptoms.
On some days this trip may ascend faster than commonly published recommended ascent rates at altitude. However, based upon an assessment by our external safety and medical advisors, and in conjunction with our own risk assessments we consider that the ascent rate is acceptable due to the additional safety measures that are in place for our customers. If you have concerns about this, please speak to your booking representative.
Please read the following document carefully and, during your trip, utilise the table on the back daily to record your own perspective of your general health and any symptoms you may experience:
AIR POLLUTION IN CHINA:
The high levels of air pollution in major urban and industrialised areas in China may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. Please ensure you bring the required medication with you if you have any of these type of medical conditions.
You can check the pollution index levels for many cities on the following website: http://aqicn.org/city/beijing
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees for men and women.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Tibet include:
* Braille without Borders was Tibet's first blind rehabilitation and training centre. With four major project areas, it aims to implement a blind preparatory school, produce educational materials, facilitate social reintegration programs and conduct vocational training to enable the integration and acceptance of the blind in Tibetan society.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.