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Dangers & Annoyances

Tibet is very poor and there is a small risk of theft when travelling here. Trekkers in the Everest region have reported problems with petty theft and pickpockets work parts of Lhasa. That said, Tibet is safer than most other provinces of China. If something of yours is stolen, you should report it immediately to the nearest foreign affairs branch of the PSB.

Being a devout Buddhist region, Tibet has a long tradition of begging for alms. It is unusual to sit down in a restaurant in Tibet without being pestered by women with babies in their arms, wizened old men, urchins dressed in rags, boy monks and even itinerant musicians. Often it is food that is being sought and restaurant owners seem to tolerate this - the instant you push your plate to one side (or get up to leave) anything remaining on it is likely to disappear.

Tibetans with money are generally very generous with beggars and usually hand out a couple of mao to anyone who requests it. If you do give, give the same amount Tibetans do; do not encourage beggars to make foreigners a special target by handing out large denominations. It's worth keeping all your small change in one pocket.

A series of clean-up campaigns in Lhasa and Shigatse has largely done away with the packs of rabid-looking dogs that used to make catching a predawn bus a frightening, even life-threatening experience. Dogs can still be a problem in other towns though, and you should be especially vigilant when exploring back streets or seeking out an obscure monastery. Hurling a few rocks in their direction will let them know you are not in the mood for company, while a hefty stick is good for action at close quarters. The most dangerous dogs belong to remote homesteads or nomad encampments and should be given an extremely wide berth.

Local Health Conditions


Vaccinations for diptheria and tetanus are usually combined and are recommended for everyone. After an initial course of three injections (usually given in childhood), boosters are necessary every 10 years.


The vaccine for Hepatitis A (eg, Avaxim, Havrix 1440 or VAQTA) provides long-term immunity (possibly more than 10 years) after an initial injection and a booster at six to 12 months. Alternatively, an injection of gamma globulin can provide short-term protection against hepatitis A - two to six months, depending on the dose given. It is not a vaccine, but is ready-made antibody collected from blood donations. It is reasonably effective and, unlike the vaccine, it is protective immediately, but because it is a blood product, there are concerns about its long-term safety. Hepatitis A vaccine is also available in a combined form, Twinrix, with hepatitis B vaccine. Three injections over a six-month period are required, the first two providing substantial protection against hepatitis A.

China (although not so much Tibet) is one of the world's great reservoirs of hepatitis B infection. This disease is spread by contact with blood or by sexual activity. Vaccination involves three injections, the quickest course being over three weeks with a booster at 12 months.


This serious, easily transmitted disease is still prevalent in many developing countries, including China. Everyone should keep up to date with this vaccination, which is normally given in childhood. A booster every 10 years maintains immunity.

rabies Officially there is no rabies in Tibet. All the same, there are an awful lot of rabid-looking dogs about. Recent surveys by the Chinese indicate that instances of rabies may have occurred in Qinghai, which borders Tibet. Vaccination should be considered if you are spending a month or longer in Tibet, especially if you are cycling, handling animals, caving or travelling to remote areas, and for children (who may not report a bite). Pretravel rabies vaccination involves having three injections over 21 to 28 days. The vaccine will not give you 100% immunity, but will greatly extend the time you have for seeking treatment. If someone who has been vaccinated is bitten or scratched by an animal they will require two booster injections of vaccine, while those not vaccinated will require more.


The risk of tuberculosis (TB) to travellers is usually very low, unless you will be living with or closely associated with local people in high-risk areas. As most healthy adults do not develop symptoms, a skin test before and after travel to determine whether exposure has occurred may be considered. A vaccination (BCG) is recommended for children and young adults living in these areas for three months or more.


This is an important vaccination to have in Tibet where hygiene standards are low. Available either as an injection or oral capsules. A combined hepatitis A-typhoid vaccine was launched recently but its availability is still limited - check with your doctor to find out its status in your country.

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