13 October 2007

No Tibet Travel Permit? No Problem.

I'll keep this short and informative, with the hope of saving some of you a big chunk of cash. Since the opening of the train line to Tibet this summer, a lot of people have made the very comfortable journey to Lhasa by rail. The tracks are smooth, the scenery is stunning, and the price is right... except for one little detail. A piece of paper known as the Tibet Travel Bureau (TTB) permit that can cost as little as Y200 (in Chengdu, I've heard) but will more likely end up setting you back between Y800 and Y1000. Most people say that it's an expensive bureaucratic necessity... but is it really necessary?

The train to Tibet. The answer is no. In fact, if you're traveling by train it's downright foolish to fork over that much cash, essentially for nothing. Here's a way to get around the TTB permit. The truth is, you only need a TTB permit to purchase your train tickets. After that, no one cares or will ever ask you to see the document... not on the train, not in Lhasa, not at Everest Base Camp. Nowhere. You should think of it less as a permit for travel and more as a voucher to wait in line at the train station. If you don't want to add 100%-600% to the price of your transportation to Tibet, here's a simple solution: get a Chinese person to buy your ticket for you. You may be able to find a friend to do this, or you may have to pay a migrant worker or restaurant owner to buy them. In any case you'll end up saving a lot in the end.

It's a solution that underage people all over the world have employed outside of liquor stores, and it can work for you at at a Chinese train station. Of course, you should be careful about to whom you give your money and that they don't run off on you... but the risk is certainly worth the reward.
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