China eases Tibet travel restrictions (April 2013)

China-Tibet-Potala-Palace-2-e1317115021551[1]Earlier this month the Tibet Tourism Bureau loosened the travel restrictions that have been in place since June last year. This means that as of April 1st, you can once again book tours to Tibet. The change marks a return to the (relatively) easy travel processes of 2011 that you may be familiar with. You still need to apply for a Tibet Travel Permit (TTB permit) in addition to your China visa and you will still need to book through a travel agency. However, “Travelers should make sure to allow enough time, at least 10 days, to apply for their travel permit. Though applications are now being accepted, it’s still Tibet so there are no guarantees,” said Catherine Xu, Ctrip’s Ctrip’s Tibet tour specialist. This echoes the fact that with regard to Tibet, nothing is ever truly set in stone.
So what do the changes mean? Solo travel (via travel agency) is now allowed and you can also now travel with someone who has a different passport than you, making it a lot easier to travel as a group with your international friends, or maybe even that cute French girl you met in a hostel. To reach full zen Tibet travel permit enlightenment, refer to our comprehensive Tibet travel how-to guide.
Of course, there’s never any give without a little take and to balance out the easing of Tibet travel restrictions, China’s Ministry of Culture recently denied Kraftwerk entry into China to headline the three-day Strawberry Music Festival in late April, allegedly because of a 1999 Free Tibet concert that they never ended up attending because it was canceled by a thunderstorm.
I hope you’re happy, Tibet travelers; you’ve denied the Chinese people of inoffensive German electronica. Then again, somehow Sex Pistols co-founder, John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) did manage to secure a visa to perform with his new band Public Image Ltd. so there’s likely little logic behind it all.
Make sure to take advantage of the regulation changes and see Tibet now, while the gates are open; you never know when they might close again.

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