Tibet held a special interest to my friend and I, but as Americans traveling to Tibet is full of challenges. Tibet Highland Tours arranged our VISAs and train tickets relatively quickly considering all the red tape they had to cross. We are very thankful we were able to come. Tenzin is a more than hospitable host and checked on us throughout the trip to make sure we were taken care of, but he needn't worry; our guide Jampa was incredible. She was sincere and really lended necessary insight for non-Buddhists (my friend and I). It is hard to describe the boundless friendliness of the Tibetans, which extends to Jampa and Tenzin. They both made it their mission to help us understand their beliefs when we had questions, and Jampa made the temples in Lhasa much more accessible.
The price seemed fair compared to the competition and everything was well itemized. Both Lonely Planet and Fromers recommend them for a reason; there are no hidden costs. You pay, they take care of all the arrangements (housing, food, entrance fees, etc). Most important they are very good at arrranging VISAs within the context of travel restrictions--namely some foreigners are allowed and some aren't, it depends on the year.
They make good suggestions about itinerary, but they are very flexible and are very accomodating to your opinions. Additionally, they are aware of the challenges for most visitors at elevation; Lhasa is very high and it can be hard to even climb the temples at times. They are open to input from you. I would add that if you are the type of visitor who expects a hard and fast itinerary, this may not be the place to visit. Changing ordinances, new laws, new regulations for visitors will almost inevitably change the order of the itinerary. You just have to roll with it. We covered everything they suggested on our itinerary, but not in the same order--no problems.
Coming to Tibet seemed ambiguous at first. We weren't sure if it was going to happen until about two days before we boarded the train. But I want to assure you that the fault did not lay with Tenzin or Tibet Highland Tours. They kept us informed throughout the VISA process and helped arrange our travel to Lhasa. It seems ambiguous because Tibet is sensitive. Tenzin delivered everything he promised and tried to reassure us throughout the wait. We wouldn't have made it here without Tibet Highland Tours.
Coming to Tibet was an amazing experience. It was worth everything we invested (time and money) to come. It is the most unique culture and landscape in the world. My friend and I were not coming for religious reasons, but I can say that I am leaving happier (in the Buddhist tradition).
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