Tibet is a dream location with a great culture, tradition, scenery, and food. However, there are a few things to note and be aware of before travelling to ensure your Tibet tour is as safe as possible for you to enjoy each moment during your visit to Tibet.
Avoid drastic ascent on Tibetan plateau
The Tibetan Plateau is high up in the mountains, and thus risks of altitude sickness can arise.
Altitude sickness can become more severe as the days go by if no proper medication is taken. However, the best is to prevent altitude sickness altogether by the right way of acclimatization.
The average elevation exceeds 4,500 meters in the Tibetan Plateau, with many sites such as Qinghai Lake and Yushu at altitudes above 10,000 feet.
Thus headaches, dizziness, and acute mountain sickness will not favour you to enjoy the lovely sites on the Tibetan Plateau.
The primary cause of altitude sickness is going up way too fast.
The body needs to get used to the decrease of oxygen molecules as the height increases. Thus this process is called acclimatization and takes around 1-3 days to get used to a certain height.
Therefore an essential rule is once you go above 10,000 feet increase your altitude by 1000 feet per day and for every 3000 feet take a proper rest day.
Avoid the alcohol and drink as much of water as possible during acclimatization as the body needs to be well hydrated.
It may be fun to jump and run around enjoying the beautiful scenery, try not to overexert your body. Rest as much; otherwise, the next few days will be tiring.
Medicines like Diamox should be kept handy as it helps increase oxygen absorption in the blood, and is best taken few days before travelling.
If you feel sick similar to symptoms of altitude sickness, quickly descend to a lower height as that will help you recover back to normal. Even a 100 to 200 feet lower altitude will help you get back stability.
Avoid the religious taboos
Tibet has a culture of unique etiquettes, which are not very important but is best to follow.
Tibetans love it when their etiquettes are imitated by tourists and will bring about a smile on their faces.
If you love to talk loud and eat, try to tone it down. Tibetans love to eat and drink quietly while chewing their food in small bites. Also if you are eating Tsampa, use your right hand and don’t forget to wait until everyone’s served until you eat.
You will be invited to plenty of Tibetan houses.
If you do visit a Tibetan family always let them walk ahead of you which is a sign of respect. Also, avoid touching the heads of children as it is meant to be taboo.
If you decide to take a gift for the family, present it with both hands and with the gift above your head bending your body slightly.
Tibetan Monasteries are religious places that need to be respected as they are holy to the locals in Tibet.
Show respect by removing your hat or cap and always ensure that you don’t show too much skin. Try not to wear shorts or short skirts while entering a temple; it is disrespectful.
You will be tempted to take pictures, however many if not most monasteries don’t allow photographs inside the temple. Don’t forget to donate a little in the donation boxes to show how much you appreciate the religious ceremonies
If you are talking with a local Tibetan, you might end up debating about certain topics.
It should be avoided at all costs as Tibetans similar to the Chinese don’t like losing face. Be patient and avoid being aggressive when speaking. Enjoy your conversation instead of trying to prove your point.
Never travel alone, especially venturing into unknown or remote places
If you love being in solitude, and an introvert or you like the adventure of going to places alone try to avoid it.
Tibet is a safe place however when not in groups you might run into unnecessary troubles. With no mobile signals available on most of the sites, it will be hard to find yourself back with the group.
Tibet is a vast country filled with nature, and so wild animals could try to attack you. Tibet is home to more than 800 species of wild animals from snow leopards to bears.
Always be in the company of your travel guide and group. Read the other solo travel safety tips here.
Do prepare proper personal medicine
Although you get medicines in Lhasa, you may have issues trying to buy some while traveling to remote parts of Tibet. Hence it is suggested to carry medication in a separate pouch in case of need.
Since the most dangerous illness is altitude sickness, it is best to carry paracetamol or acetaminophen for the painful headaches.
Diamox which is acetazolamide is recommended for the prevention of AMS, and so the dosage of 125mg should be taken at least twice a day. However, if you are allergic to sulphur avoid taking Diamox.
Avoid Tibetan medicines such as solomano which helps treat altitude sickness as you will have no way of ensuring if it suits your body.
As Tibet is extremely cold, especially during winters developing hypothermia is possible. Thus warm liquids and a blanket to cover the body is best recommended.
If you have a messed up stomach and are vomiting, it might be due to bacteria in the local food. Pack up tinidazole or metronidazole which can help you in such cases.
Keep a first aid box which contains bandages, sterile gauze dressings, safety pins, tweezers, scissors, alcohol-free cleansing wipes, thermometer, skin rash creams such as hydrocortisone, cream or spray to relieve insect bites, antiseptic cream, and painkillers.
Pay attention to food hygiene
The food in Tibet is delicious and hygiene most of the time.
However, street vendors tend to use tap water for most of their cooking and thus is not the most suitable to eat. Some of the street vendors may have stale meat or food that might have hygiene issues.
The smell may tempt you, try to munch on the delicacies at a decent restaurant to avoid falling sick.
Don’t drink the tap water at all costs in Tibet.
It has been a major talking point with suggestions to tourists of even brushing their teeth with bottled water. The tap water is not purified, and if given no other option, drink it with iodine added or purification tablets.
Carry as many bottled drinking water as possible while travelling in Tibet.
Stay away from the homeless Tibetan dogs and Tibetan mastiffs
It’s difficult to stay away from dogs, when you are an avid pet lover and missing your dog back at home.
However, please don’t feed or pet the local street dogs (Tibetan Mastiff) as they can get aggressive when hungry. These dogs are not vaccinated and can carry diseases such as rabies which might pass on to you if they bite.
Remember emergency phone call numbers and contact person
Carry your mobile phone and store all necessary contacts in it including emergency numbers.
Along with this carry, a piece of paper with essential numbers in case your mobile runs out of battery or gets lost.
Tibet is a safe place, however sometimes the unexpected happens, and you can get lost or face a particular problem that moves you far away from your group.
Don’t panic; if there is no mobile signal, a local will always help you in calling the necessary number.
Keep the tour guides number in handy, contact details of the hotel you are staying at and some of the group member’s mobile numbers.
Overall Tibet will be the best place you ever visited, ensuring you follow the safety tips above.
Remember it’s always better to Travel safe than sorry!
A guest post by Stephanie Lee