People traveling to the plateau will inevitably face the risks of being afflicted with altitude sickness. Generally speaking, when you’re 2000-2500 meters above sea level, chances are high that you will suffer from mild altitude sickness. More than 3000 meters will be noticeably more severe.
Whether your state of health enables you to take on the challenges posed by the environment or not is a question that you need to ask your doctor. Your doctor should do some basic tests and make sure that you are in proper health.
Before embarking on the journey, avoid any diseases that may compromise your respiratory functions.
A number of people arriving in Lhasa will have some symptoms of altitude sickness as a result of the great change in altitude. People with mild altitude sickness should have a good rest and walk slower; people with more serious symptoms should go to the hospital.
For travelers in poor physical condition, it’s necessary for you to take some preventative medicine before your trip to avoid altitude sickness. Options include Chinese patent medicines such as Rhodiola and American ginseng. As for western medicine, it’s generally acknowledged that Nuodikang Capsule is a good choice. But a few people may have some side effects (headache) after taking it., so take it under the guidance of your doctor. While in the plateau, you can take the following medicines if necessary: Saridon Headache Painkiller, Vitamin B6 (for vomiting). If you still don’t feel right, go to the hospital immediately.
Equipment for Traveling
When it comes to traveling to Tibet, the less baggage the better. Carrying a huge knapsack in the plateau will be a heavy burden on your back. You ought to make full use of the local facilities and services available if you can in order to avoid carrying unnecessary items with you. For the sake of convenient travel, you should bring no more than two pieces of baggage.
A hard suitcase is not suitable for traveling in the plateau. It’s best for you to have a backpack to contain all your items. The size of your backpack is usually determined by the environment of your destination. If it’s not a long trip, a backpack with the capacity of 45 L is okay. If your destination is remote, or you are planning to go outing in the wild like hiking by the lake, then bring both a big and a small backpack.
Bringing a Small Lock with You
You’re supposed to bring a small lock with you to Tibet. When you entrust your baggage to others, you can lock up the baggage. In addition, in some small towns, there are no locks installed in the doors of the small hotel rooms. As for important travel documents, we suggest you bring a small bag so you can carry them with you at all times.
Travelers in Tibet can be found dressed in various ways. In the summertime, you can find people dressed in either down coats or shorts. Certainly, you can also find people in both down coats and shorts at the same time. The clothes that you bring and the places you plan to go have a direct bearing on the seasons there. If you’re underprepared, it will be definitely hard for you handle the situation once you bump into bad weather. In plateau areas as Qomolangma and Ali, it is not uncommon to encounter a snowy weather in July.
Here are the suggestions for your wardrobe:
Down Coats: Unless you intend to travel to Lhasa or Shigatse as a part of the group in July and August, bring a down coat. Even in summer, the hottest season, the temperature during the nighttime is around zero in Qomolangma and Ali. In the base camp in Mt. Qomolangma there is always snow in July. Meanwhile, there is a great difference in temperature during day and night and it’s rather cold in the morning and evening. If you don’t go to the plateau area in summer, a warm down vest or a sweater is enough. If you still feel cold, a windproof and waterproof coat should suffice.
The clothes should be waterproof. This includes a coat, trousers and shoes. In Tibet, it usually rains or snows every day in July and August. In the rainy seasons, sudden rainstorms during the nighttime are quite common in many areas of Lhasa. It also rains a lot in Nyingchi.
Underwear: If you go hiking or climbing in Tibet, you’d better prepare a set of underwear that is good for perspiration. In the wilderness, sweat causes you to lose heat quickly. This can be very dangerous. Generally speaking, while in Tibet, underwear that’s good for perspiration and thermal underwear are quite necessary.
Apart from these items, we suggest you prepare the following items before your trip: flight ticket, photos (for attending to credentials), down coats, coats, woolen sweaters, woolen underwear, underwear, athletic suit, trousers, hiking shoes or sneakers, woolen socks, raincoats, sunbonnets, gloves, knapsacks, sabers, maps, folders, cash, bag containing your passport, credentials, flashlight, food and water, articles for washing and brushing, toilet paper, skincare wipes, plastic bags, razors, pens and paper, battery, sunglasses, skincare creams, chopsticks, thread, lighters, medicines and apparatus for photographing.
Due to the language barrier, bring a small gift is a good way to show your hospitality to the local people. Candies and pencils are the best gifts for the children. In isolated areas like the Himalayas and Ali districts, practical gifts like dried meat, canned food and elaborate handicrafts will win the affection of the locals.
Cigarettes, of course, are considered decent gifts just like anywhere else. When you are faced with difficulties or you just want to make friends with the local people, cigarettes will do the trick.
Essential medicines: Saridon, aspirins, patulins, Niuhuang Jiedu Pills, antitussives, Vitamin C, white flower embrocation, medicine for enterogastritis and antibiotics.
Sunglasses and sunbonnets are essential. The intense sunlight and ultraviolet radiation in the plateau will harm to your eyes, especially in the Himalayas.
Sun creams, skincare creams and chapsticks are also essential. The air is so dry and the sunlight is so intense in the plateau that you can always see some tourists leave Lhasa with their cheeks and noses burnt in the Gongga Airport.
Contact Lenses: It’s quite dusty in Tibet and the sanitary condition is harsh, you’re suggested to wear disposable one-day lenses. The contact lenses are available in Lhasa and the price is pretty much the same as that in the mainland.
Customs, Rituals and Taboos
If you happen to see flocks and herbs in red, yellow or green ribbons, don’t drive them away or hurt them as they are the sacrifices of the local Tibetans. Do not aim your shotgun at the eagles because the local Tibetans abstain from shooting their holy bird (the eagle).
Do not enter the temples without permission and no smoking once inside. Look but don’t touch the statues of the Buddha and the scriptures and don’t take unauthorized photos. You cannot walk in a counter-clockwise direction in some places. And some esoteric places are off-limits to women.
No stepping on the thresholds when you enter the tents and houses of the local Tibetans. No spitting in front of other people.
When the local Tibetans put out their tongues, they are showing respect. Putting the palms together is considered to be another sign of respect.
All sorts of cigarettes are available in Lhasa. The percentage of fake cigarettes is nearly the same as that in the inland. The price is a little bit more expensive.
The Tibetan drivers prefer Yunyan or flue-cured tobacco and they are not used to the cigarettes that the inland drivers favor. When it comes to offering cigarettes in the car, such brands of cigarettes as Honghe, Hongmei and Shilin are recommended.
Disciples of Lamaism are forbidden to smoke. No smoking in the cloisters.
In most cases, women or even young girls in the pastures have the habit of smoking. Offering cigarettes when asking for directions and offering cigarettes when you drink some tea are highly recommended.
You should cut down the amount of smoking as the air is thin in the plateau.
Celestial Burial: The local government and travel agencies do not encourage the tourists to watch the celestial burial. The Tibetans, especially the relatives of the dead, are reluctant to allow the Han to be there. This is considered as an ethnic custom and it’s natural and normal for the local people to try and preserve it. If you do have a chance to witness it by yourself, please behave appropriately.
Don’t purchase any fur products of wild animals or other animal products like the horns of wild Tibetan antelopes and yaks. If you do, you are actually supporting the increasingly rampant poaching of wild animals in Tibet. If you’re caught carrying the fur products with you when you are leaving Tibet, you will be in great trouble.
Don’t pay the local people whom you take photos of and don’t take photos of the things that they are reluctant to show you. You can present them with some food or medicines to increase their trust on you. Don’t try to help foreigners enter Tibet without the proper procedures.
Preliminary Instruction to Taking Photos in Tibet
Bring as many RAM cards and rolls of film as possible.
Take good care of your camera and don’t expose it directly to the sun for a long time. Watch out for the wind borne sands in Tibet and don’t use your camera in harsh environments.
Bring spare batteries because the low temperature in Tibet will reduce the service life of the batteries.
You should show due respect to the people whom you take photos of and avoid agitating them. You can give them some small gifts but don’t offer money. When you take pictures of the animals, avoid disturbing them.
If possible, bring a tripod with you as it will make the photos you take more beautiful.
If you’re just an amateur photographer, a light pack should come first. Get rid of all the unnecessary items.
For the photographers with clear purposes, you need to consider what you want to photograph and bring the appropriate items accordingly. You should bring all the items that you need. And you are strongly recommended to buy a hard case to protect your equipment during transportation.
For many travelers, their main purpose of going to Tibet is photography. They need to check other small items before their trip: lens cap, spare batteries, lens paper, air blast, brush, flashlight, long splice, shuttle release, dustproof and rainproof plastic bag, cleaner, maintenance tool, photographing vest, black pocket, close-up bellows, polariscope, leading device, films, tripod, tripod bag, and so forth.
In many parts of Tibet, sandstorms are quite rampant in the morning and evening in both the cold and dry seasons. Sand is likely to get in your equipment. Here are some suggestions for you:
- Purchase a dustproof photography bag or box;
- Thoroughly clean of your apparatus every night. Clear the apertures inside your camera and lens;
- Don’t hang your camera around your neck unless necessary;
- The bellows effects of your zoom lens for internal zooming should be minimized;
- In addition, many photographers have noted that you should be on the watch for the local children who will touch your lens and spit on it.
Taking Photos in the Temples
There are no restrictions for taking photos in the open-air places inside the temples. But in the hall of the temple, you need to pay extra fees for taking photos. The fees range from a few to a few dozens bucks. You need to ask for permission and be clear on how much they charge for permission in advance.