Tibetan people are friendly and easy to get along with and Tibet is rich in tourism resources. However, there are lots of local customs and taboos you should pay attention. If you do not do enough homework before traveling to Tibet, you may land in various troubles in the journey. Here are 10 etiquettes and taboos for reference.
1. Don’t take photos without permission
2. Don’t touch temple statues
Don’t enter temples without permission. Don’t touch statues & scriptures, take photos and smoke without permission. You should walk counter-clockwise around Buddhist temples. Please be aware that some chapels forbid women to enter. Do not use paper printed with Buddhist scriptures to rub something. Overall, visitors need to respect and abide by local customs.
3. Smoke as less as possible
Tibetan lamaists don’t smoke, and smoking is banned in temples. However women or even young girls in pastoral areas usually smoke, it is also polite to offer cigarettes when asking for directions. Of course, it is better for tourists to smoke less and breathe air to avoid the lack of oxygen.
4. Do not drive worshipped cattle or sheep
In Tibet, if you find cattles or sheep in red, yellow and green cloth roaming in the countryside, do not drive or hurt them, the animals are Tibetans’ offerings to their god. Eagles are seen as deity birds by Tibetan, do not hurt them.
5. Do not go to Tibet without permit
All non-Chinese passport holders do not try to enter Tibet without legal documents. Foreigners to travel to Tibet must get the approval of tourism or foreign affairs departments and apply for a permit. In addition foreign travelers must take part in an organized tour including permits, a tour guide and a private vehicle with a driver.
6. Do not touch Tibetan’s head
In traditional Tibetan culture, other people should not touch one’s head casually except for monks and the elders. Touching head is a very rude behavior in Tibet.
7. Male and female visitors can’t sit together in Tibetan houses
When visit Tibetan homes, men should sit on the left and women on the right, male and female visitors should not sit together. Don’t enter the house when finding a burning fire or a branch with red cloth on its top in front of the door, which indicates that the family has a patient inside.
8. Do not buy wild animal skins, skulls, etc.
Do not buy any wild animal’s furs, wild Tibetan antelope horn, and wild yak skulls in Tibet. This kind of act is meat to support of rampant wild animals poaching in Tibet. In fact if the visitors are found to carry these items when they leave Tibet, it is likely to face a lot of trouble.
9. Avoid catching cold or respiratory problems before entering Tibet
Avoid catching cold before entering Tibet, if you already have it, postpone your travel because of cold isn’t easily gone in plateau area and may also cause severe pulmonary edema and many other complications. So, preparing some cold medicines and intestinal medicine is very necessary. Secondly, the Tibetan climate is characterized by dry air, lack of oxygen and low air pressure. Therefore, before entering Tibet you should carry some topical external nasal ointment and throat tablet to relieve dry nose and throat. Moreover, considering the strong ultraviolet rays on the plateau, travelers should take sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
10. Don’t go to watch sky burial
Tibetan government and tourism agencies do not encourage visitors to see sky burial, especially the deceased’s family don’t want others to watch, this is a national habit as well as human nature. If you happen to encounter celestial burial, please avoid it consciously.