Work and Travel in Tibet

work and travel in tibet
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VOLUNTEER AND PAID WORK OPPORTUNITIES IN TIBET FOR TRAVELLERS

Tibet is the fabled home of the Dalai Lama. But travel in Tibet is not easy as it’s currently under occupation by China and they carefully control the activities of both the local people and foreign visitors.

This is not a region for the faint of heart.

But there are still volunteer opportunities in Tibet. You’re not going to be able to work in Tibet at a monastery or anything to do with the spiritual heart of the region without incurring the wrath of the watchful authorities. However, you can still make a difference.

Our travel guide to Tibet is going to show you what you can do and how you can go about getting in.

1. Teach Local People How to Read in Tibet

Literacy rates in Tibet are low because of how poor the region is. Access to higher education is difficult for the locals as the region is so poor. Plus, again, China carefully controls access to higher education.

Most local Tibetans are farmers and so they never learned to read. There is organisations setup for teaching local people how to read.

If you want to work and travel in Tibet, you can make a real difference to people’s lives by teaching them how to read with the help of a Tibetan translator.

2. Teach English in Tibet

You may not think that teaching English in Tibet is in high demand, but many young people want to learn English. Like with the rest of China, young people want to plug themselves into Western culture and the wider world.

Native English speakers with a TEFL qualification may be able to find both volunteer and paid English teaching work in the area.

Take note that you will need a formal qualification to land a job here. As in the rest of China, organisations highly value paper qualifications and simply being a native English speaker isn’t going to cut it.

3. Helping Out on a Homestead in Tibet

As we mentioned, Tibet is a place that relies on agriculture. To really connect with the culture of Tibet, a homestay at one of the local homesteads is a great way to do this.

You’ll be placed with a local Tibetan family and you’ll help them out with the tasks of the day. It could involve repairing items in the house, helping out with the animals, or just cooking your own food for the family after a long day.

There’s no better way to get to know Tibet.

VOLUNTEER WORK VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR TIBET

To begin with, you will need a visa for China to get a visa for Tibet. We’re not going to discuss the visa requirements for China on this page as we already have a dedicated page for work and travel in China.

Tibet has additional requirements for all nationalities that you must adhere to.

The main permit you need is a permit from the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB). The TTB requires you to book a guide for your whole trip and pre-arrange any private transport outside of Lhasa. Foreigners are technically banned from using public transport outside of the city.

In practice, this is rarely enforced and plenty of travellers use it anyway. However, you do so at your own risk.

Your host or volunteer organisation will need to arrange all the necessary permits for you. Foreigners can’t have a private agreement with local people to work for them.

The rules are far stricter on this than the rest of China so it’s highly recommended that you obey the rules on this as penalties can be severe, including deportation, being banned from China for a few years, or even detainment that can stretch into weeks.

Bear in mind if you’re entering Tibet from Nepal you can only do so on a short-term group visa.

The rules for visiting Tibet don’t differ based on nationality. Every nationality must adhere to the same rules when they’re planning to travel in Tibet.

SEASONAL BACKPACKER SKILLS NEEDED IN TIBET

SPRING WORK

To begin with, March is the month where Tibet is typically closed to all tourists due to Tibetan New Year.

The majority of volunteer opportunities in Tibet are available throughout the summer months from May until November.

These volunteer roles don’t change throughout the year and there are no seasonal skills here. That’s because anything a foreigner is legally allowed to do is generally not seasonal.

SUMMER JOBS

The majority of volunteer opportunities in Tibet are available throughout the summer months from May until November.

These volunteer roles don’t change throughout the year and there are no seasonal skills here. That’s because anything a foreigner is legally allowed to do is generally not seasonal.

As written above, the majority of volunteer roles in Nepal are restricted to teaching English, homestays for cultural reasons, and teaching local people how to read.

Independent travel is difficult here and you’re entirely reliant on when international organisations in Tibet want to operate.

You should also bear in mind that you must apply for volunteer positions well in advance of when you actually want to go as the process can take months, particularly when it comes to getting the necessary permits.

AUTUMN

Autumn volunteering opportunities in Tibet are exactly the same as the summer. Please refer to the previous section.

WINTER

From around November until April the country is covered by ice and snow. Few people who want to work and travel in Tibet will think about visiting the country at this time of year.

ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING IN TIBET

Now that you know how tricky it can be to work and travel in Tibet you have to decide whether you’re tough enough to do it. The local people are friendly and warm, but the Chinese authorities are a big problem here. They’re extremely suspicious of foreigners and penalties for not obeying the rules are harsh.

This is far from the place to adopt your free spirit. However, if you’re willing to take on the challenge you’ll uncover one of the most ancient cultures in the world, whilst helping the Tibetan people with vital skills.

It’s one of the most rewarding travel experiences you’ll ever have. So do you have what it takes to work and travel in Tibet?

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Recent Contributors

  • Edited on May 23 2018 by Roman

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