View Full Version : Tibet Travel

18-Jun-2004, 08:41
Planning to travel to Tibet in September, 18 days in Tibet. Wanting to take my 4x5 equipment and 40,000 sheets of film. :-)

My question is about Tibet travel and permits. It appears that I will need a special permit AND have to travel with a group tour, travel alone appears to be restricted to foreigners. best quote I have is about $260 per day!! My travels in China are 1/3 or less. Is there any way to travel in Tibet without a jeep, driver and a guide? Kind of difficult to be creative on the ground glass with other people waiting for you to finsih your "snap shot".


Michael Chmilar
18-Jun-2004, 13:01
I have some information that may be useful to you. I travelled in China two years ago. I did not go to Tibet, but I stayed in Chengdu, which is the "gateway" to Tibet for most travellers.

At Sam's Guesthouse (sometimes called "Chengdu Sam's Guesthouse"), they can arrange for travel into Tibet. Officially, all foreigners travelling to Tibet must be part of a group. However, Sam can arrange to put you in a "group" where you will never meet the other travellers, ie. you are on your own.

I doubt that you can make arrangements like this through any tourist travel bureau. It is likely that you can save a lot of money by dealing with Sam.

Contact Sam by email (samtour@yahoo.com) or phone (+86 28 86154179) to discuss arrangements. Sam speaks English very well.

You will probably have to wait in Chengdu for a couple of days while arrangements are made. While waiting, you can go see some Sichuan Opera, or go see the big Buddha in Leshan.

Brian Ellis
18-Jun-2004, 16:40
I think you probably should be talking with a travel agent rather than here but when I was in Tibet a few years ago we had to be with a guide/driver at all times, i.e. we weren't supposed to explore on our own even in Lhasa. I don't recall that a "group" was required though I was in a "group" that consisted of me, my girl friend, and one other couple. I don't know where you plan to go but if you're thinking of exploring the country I'm not sure I'd want to do that without a guide or at least someone who knows the country very well.

Our guide was accompanied for the entire trip by a guy who never spoke a word in our presence. We assumed he was there to keep tabs on our guide and make sure he didn't say or do anything that the Chinese would disapprove of. The Chinese have come close to ruining Lhasa with all of their "Communist Drab" buildings but much of the countryside remains as it always has been. I've tavelled a lot of places and Tibet remains the nicest of them all in terms of the people and the scenery, it's just an absolutely magnificent country.

Travel rules to Tibet change frequently depending on how paranoid the Chinese are at any given time but when I went we had to stay in Kathmandu for three days to make the final visa arrangements. Not that three days in Kathmandu is any great hardship.

Janko Belaj
18-Jun-2004, 16:53
Kreig, I don't know for China, but I now that 10-15 years ago you couldn't "import" big amount of photography material in european socialistic/comunist countries. Check what number of sheets you can bring with you, maybe they still have some limits?

Michael Chmilar
18-Jun-2004, 17:42
I sent 400 sheets (20 boxes) of Quickload to myself in Shanghai by FedEx. I could not take this box on the airplane - it was too big to carry on, and checking it means it goes through powerful x-rays, which would ruin the film.

I had to go the FedEx facility to explain what it was. I brought along one ruined Quickload packet, so they could examine it, and show it to the customs inspector. I also brought 11 rolls of 36exp in 35mm format and said, "That box contains the same number of pictures as this handful of film, except each picture is bigger."

They requested that I bring my camera, so I could demonstrate its operation. In the end, I did not have to do the demonstration.

It took another two days to clear customs, and deliver it to me.

Jonathan Kott
18-Jun-2004, 18:16
If plan to stop by Chengdu give me a call. I have lived here for over six years and have helped out other photographers, too. Here you can view some of my most recent 35mm work: http://www.photo.net/photodb/presentation.tcl?presentation_id=250405 kottjn@hotmail.com

Michael Chmilar
18-Jun-2004, 19:10
Hi Jonathan,

Perhaps you can answer a question that is useful to anyone travelling to Chengdu:

Is 4x5 film available in Chengdu? In my case, I shoot Fuji Provia 4x5 in Quickload packets, but other readers will want to know about other brands and types.

It would be nice to have confidence that film can be purchased in Chengdu, rather than dealing with the hassles of flying/travelling with a lot of film. I know that most types of 35mm are readily available in Chinese cities, but 4x5 is more "specialized."

Hopefully, with cameras like the Shen-hao, the large-format community in China will grow, and film and other resources become readily available.

Jonathan Kott
18-Jun-2004, 21:44

The pro dealer in Chengdu had some 4x5 Kodak 100VS and Fuji Velvia a few months ago. Now they are sold out but have those emulsions in 120 film. I'm sure they could special order more 4x5 film atleast in 10 sheet boxes. I don't know if they can get quickloads or not. I can check on it maybe tommorow. At any rate, the pro dealer and lab in Chengdu is Jing Mei, At #55XieYueLongJie. The telephone # in China is: (028) 86765273

Jonathan Kott
22-Jun-2004, 02:26
I checked at the said dealer and they once again have 4x5Kodak 100VS in 10 sheet boxes instock. He said he could NOT order most pro films! He told me to pick up more film in Hong Kong next time I go...Maybe you could check in Beijing or Shanghai?

Jonathan Kott
23-Jun-2004, 02:13
I also checked the largest Fuji lab in town. It's located in the southeastern part of Chengdu in the same intersection as the Chengdu music & arts center. They carry Fuji Provia, velvia 50, and Velvia 100 in 10 sheet boxes. Their prices also apear better than the kodak pro shop that I had already mentioned. But no quickload to be had.

Michael Chmilar
23-Jun-2004, 16:01
Thanks for the Chengdu film information! Thanks for taking the time to investigate.

I wish I could say that am planning to visit soon, but unfortunately I am not. I would like to visit again. Maybe in two years I can wrangle the time.

In October 2002 I used Chengdu as the starting point for a trip to Jiuzhaigou, in northern Sichuan. The timing was good, because the fall color was happening. The 12-hour bus trip (each way) was not so much fun.