Saturday, February 28, 2009
Most of the traditional Tibetan regions of Amdo and Kham have been incorporated by the Chinese into the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. Most of these areas are now open for foreign tourism. By travelling into areas away from the sinicised larger towns, it is possible to see Tibetans still living comparatively traditional lives. Villages tend to retain at least some of the traditional style housing of the region, though religious activities may still be restricted, and local festivals prohibited or curtailed.
Most of this area is easily accessed by independent travellers holding a China visa. Sensitive areas - such as mining and 'development' projects, prisons, military bases, and sites of recent political unrest - are either permanently or temporarily closed to foreigners both within and outside the 'TAR'.
In the open areas, travel is permitted on local buses or by paying for a lift on a truck or hire vehicles.
Enforcement of accommodation restrictions varies from location to location. In some areas there will be only one hotel where foreigners are permitted to stay, whereas in other areas it is possible to stay with local Tibetan families. However, you should be aware that foreigners staying with local Tibetan family will be under official surveillance.
INSIDE the ‘TAR’
Entry and travel within the Chinese designated "Tibet" is definitely restrictive and expensive, and rules and laws often change without warning and are subject to individual application.
There is a zone around Lhasa that does not require additional permits. Outside of these areas is another matter. Other than the direct run down the 'Friendship Highway' to the Nepal border, all areas require an official tour group - with driver, guide and hired jeep, and up to four permits. Not all areas are accessible even with applications for permits.