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Tibet travel clothing and gear discussion
The crux of knowing what take is knowing what to expect. Please discuss with us anything you are not sure about.
Some people start from Kathmandu, so Nepal first.
Dress standards in Kathmandu
Cultural sensitivity is the hallmark of considerate travellers. Dress standards vary considerably around Nepal - eye-popping halter tops and loincloth-clad saddhus to the Victorian ankle standard, but foreigners are judged differently. Being tidy with covered shoulders and long pants or a long skirt earns the most respect, skimpy tops and tight leggings invite unwarranted attention.
From April to the end of October it is warm, even hot during the day. Cool, light clothes are best, longer shorts are acceptable, bring or buy an umbrella. November thru to the end of March, it is still often warm during the day and a single layer will often do, but in the evenings you will want a jacket, and during late December thru to February, a light down jacket is better for eating/drinking outside. The hotel stores free of cost whatever you don't take to Tibet, and of course they have a laundry service. You might want to plan with a clean set of clothes for your return from Tibet.
Money in Nepal
Kathmandu has cash machines and the daily limit is Rs10,000 to 40,000. There are banks for changing money in the airport but not yet a cash machine.
Being in the center of Asia, Tibet has very much a continental climate, with hot summers and extremely cold winters. Add to this a minimum altitude of around 3600m/12,000ft and crossing passes of over 5000m/16,500ft and you have an extreme range of climates.
In summary you should be prepared for all sorts of conditions, carry snacks and water in case of a vehicle breakdown. (Even good vehicles occasionally break down or get a punctured tire...)
Summer in Tibet
These are mostly warm, but with a huge range in elevations you will experience all sorts of temperatures and quite possibly all sorts of weather. Strangely enough the first six times that I visited Gyantse it sunned, snowed, hailed and sleeted (each time)!
People say that it does not rain in Tibet, don't believe this. It doesn't rain often and usually it doesn't rain hard, normally only light drizzle, but it is not fine all the time. It can be extremely windy and cold on top of the high passes but you are travelling in good vehicles that have heaters.
Spring and autumn in Tibet
In Lhasa although the temperatures are mostly moderate during the day it can be very cold at night, requiring several layers or much better, a light down jacket to walk around. The wind at Everest BC can be very cold. At altitudes higher than Lhasa the nighttime temperatures will invariably be below zero centigrade.
Winter in Tibet
Although it is mostly fine and sunny the day time temperatures rarely make it above zero centigrade. Evenings are extremely cold and he even to go outside for a short while you need gloves, a hat, thick warm pants and a good down jacket.
What you are planning for
In Lhasa you will spend much of your time sightseeing and walking around the markets. Inside the gompas and palaces it can be dark, gloomy and sometimes cold; outside can be extremely bright, dry and hot in the sun.
Once you leave Lhasa you will be traveling by jeep for much of the time, with breaks for meals and sightseeing. The Landcruisers all have heaters and so are comfortably warm inside, although much of the time you will probably want to wear a light jacket. Normally at the top of passes the stop and have a look around, and conditions here can be extremely variable. It can be chilly but fine and sunny, it can be horribly cold and snowing.
At Rongbuk and Everest BC you will probably want to spend some time walking or at least being outside for the sunrise and sunset. It is cold! Have a thick, windproof jacket, gloves and a warm hat. I recommend a thermal top, if you already have, and light windproof pants but only if you like being outside and already have them.
Because of the altitude the air is mostly extremely dry, and dries your skin out and often leaves you with a runny nose for the whole trip. You should bring moisturizer for well cared for skins and also plenty of tissues. Bring a good sun hat and good sunscreen.
Although they will be time to wash clothes there are generally better things to do and most people will not wash anything for the entire tour. Pre-moistened wipes are handy.
Although the eleven days overland trips involve no trekking, the section of road around the China-Nepal border occasionally gets washed out by huge landslides, especially during the monsoon (July, August and September). This means that you may have to trek several kilometers, crossing small streams and occasionally deep mud. You should have stout walking shoes, or even better, trekking boots.
Your gear will usually be carried in the back of the Landcruiser, or occasionally on a roof rack. It will get dusty and thrown about a bit. If the border section of the road is washed out we hire porters to carry the gear across. A tough duffel bag or backpack is best, although almost anything will do.
Breakfast is included at the hotel in every style of trip that we run. However, the breakfasts are often very ordinary. For lunch and dinner we eat in the travelers and Chinese restaurants in Lhasa and in all other places eat in Chinese restaurants. The meals are generally OK but can seem monotonous often quite oily. So it is a good idea to take plenty of snacks. In Kathmandu you can buy a huge variety of chocolate bars but healthy snack foods are hard or impossible to find. In Lhasa there is a lagre, curious variety of Chinese snacks such as spicy prunes, sunflower seeds and wafer bars. If you are a fan of Clif or Power bars, etc, then bring these from home. Soft drinks are available everywhere.
What you don't need
You do not need a sleeping bag or Thermarest because bedding and the quilts are provided by every hotel. Since these are not always particularly clean in the small places, a sleeping sheet is useful however. It can be useful to bring your own cup and cutlery, although this is not necessary. Disposable chopsticks are provided everywhere.
Money in Tibet
There are ATM cash machines in Lhasa and also the Bank of China can give cash off your credit card. The transaction limit is Y2000 at one time, and a daily limit of Y5000, although you bank may have a lower limit. There are no other cash machines en route; only Lhasa (but there are ATM's in Kathmandu).
Beware of dogs in Tibet
Dogs occasionally attack tourists, especially in Tingri, but can happen anywhere. If you are worried, carry a stone and don't hesitate to throw it hard, and if a dog is threatening, don't hold back and make sure you can get more ammunition.
Matthew Thornton, Tibet 2006, writes:
"The Tingri dogs were an intelligent bunch. The sun was setting right on the horizon on the Friendship Highway towards Tingri, and I had just stepped foot on the road to take an amazing sunset shot of Cho Oyo and Everest when I heard a pack of dogs barking as if the world was going to end but could not see them. Turning round I could just make out the figures of about 15 dogs coming from out of the sun about 100 yards away, it's a classic fighter pilot technique so they must be well trained. The bastards made me blur my picture of Everest before armed only with my cunning and one stone I ran back to the hotel and struggled with the door lock. Turning round I realized I had been rescued by the fat, lame hotel dog who just lay in the way of the pack dogs and they wouldn't come close to him. Nice one!
For the first section of the trip you will be in Lhasa then driving and staying in hotels, so please read the above sections. Once we turn off the main Lhasa-Kathmandu highway we will be camping each night. You should bring plenty of warm gear, no matter what season.
For the trek around Kailash you will need real trekking gear so please have a good look at the Ladakh trekking gear list (which is also found under the 'Our treks' heading).
In short you need a sleeping bag and lots of warm clothing including a down jacket. You can rent down jackets and sleeping bags in Kathmandu. You also need sturdy boots and some sort of camp shoes.
What we provide
We provide tents, a foam mattress each; all the cutlery and utensils, cooking pots, stoves; candles/kerosene lantern, tables and stools, kitchen tent, dining tent and toilet tent; all the main meals but not snacks; and the best service we can manage.