This is a guest post by Francis Dimaano, a freelance writer and an Info-Tech graduate student. When he’s not writing, Francis spends time reading books, travel around his country, volunteering, and feeding street children.
The Potala Palace is the highest and one of the most magnificent palaces in the world, an important symbol of Lhasa and even Tibet, and of course a must-see attraction in Tibet. The Potala Palace was originally built by Songtsen Gampo of the Tubo dynasty to marry Princess Shakyamun and Princess Wencheng, and after 1300 years of continuous construction, it has become as majestic as it is today.
Just like not visiting the Great Wall if you’re in Beijing is something one would regret, or Tiananmen Square, skipping the Potala Palace would leave your on your journey incomplete.
The Potala Palace, a fortress-like complex, is quite well-known both at home and abroad, and you can’t miss it if you’ve come a long way to Tibet in search of spiritual support. But you are bound to have several questions – what about transportation? How to buy the tickets? Read on to have your questions answered.
How can I get to Potala Palace?
If you’re using public transportation, take bus No. 8 / 17 / 24 and get off at Baita station OR take bus No. 1 / 12 / 17 / 24 and get off at La Bai station.
If you’re taking a cab, the general starting price is 10 yuan (3 km), and the price increases by 2 yuan per kilometer later.
How hard it is to get a ticket to the Potala Palace?
This depends on the time of the year when you visit. High season is May 1 to October 31 and the the full price of the Potala Palace tickets is 200 yuan per ticket. Low season is November 1 to April 30 and the full price of the Potala Palace tickets is 100 yuan per ticket.
November – April: no queues, no reservations, just buy tickets and visit
May – June, September – mid to late October: considered a pre-season or out-of-season period, when reservations are made 1 day in advance at the palace itself or the same day on the official website.
July-August: this period, especially during the Snowdon Festival, is really hard to get a ticket! So if you are traveling during the peak season, it is recommended that you find a travel agency online to purchase tickets, or participate in activities such as half-day tours.
Because the number of individual tickets for the palace in the peak season is only 300 per day, even if you queue early in the morning to get a reservation, it is quite difficult to buy tickets eventually. But the ‘group tickets’ are still quite a lot, 2,000 or so a day, so if you join a group, you will have a better chance to enter the Potala Palace. Another advantage of joining a group tour is that there will be professional interpreters to tell you the story of the past, which is worthwhile.
Can I reserve my own tickets?
Step 1: Make a reservation one day in advance with a valid ID: The Potala Palace has a ticket reservation system during the peak season (May 1 to October 31), and all visitors during this period need to get a reservation (free of charge) on site with their ID card, active military ID card or passport (except for online reservations), and the reservation time limit is only one day in advance for the next day’s tickets.
Reservations open at 9:00 a.m. and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. It is recommended to go to the reservation line one day in advance after arriving in Lhasa, and the reservation place is at the Potala Administration Office, which is the only ticket reservation window. Especially in July and August, it is recommended to go there at 5 am, because there are many people and few tickets, the earlier you make a reservation, the better the chance of success.
Step 2: Keep the reservation ticket and buy the actual ticket on the spot when you visit the next day: On the day of visit, enter the Potala Palace through the main gate on time with the reservation ticket and ID card, and when you get to the ticket window of the Potala Palace, you can buy the ticket for visiting the Potala Palace with your ID card and the reservation ticket, and then you can visit the Potala Palace after completing the ticket inspection.
If you need to reschedule your reservation, please change it in time. If you cannot visit the Potala Palace on the same day or on time due to personal reasons, you need to go to the reservation window to apply for an extension or cancel your reservation in time. Otherwise, the ticketing system will automatically add your ticketing information to the blacklist and you will not be able to purchase tickets again for one week.
One person can make a maximum of four reservations: Each person can receive a maximum of four reservation tickets with a valid ID, including yourself, and each ID can only be reserved once in a week.
What are the precautions for visiting the Potala Palace?
1. There are tips on the prohibition of photography in the main hall, please observe.
2. Do not wear shorts, skirts, slippers, or a hat; please carry a jacket in winter.
3. Do not bring liquid drinks into the palace, nor fire, oxygen, knives and other items; you can not smoke or use open flames in the palace.
4. Please pay attention to the uneven road surface and steep and slippery stairs when visiting the palace, so as to avoid accidental injuries such as slips and falls.
5. You can enter the palace through the main gate (the first gate) 2 hours before the specified visiting time, during which you can visit the Snow City and Treasure Museum at the bottom of the hill for free, or go to the Snow City Qiangcang food and leisure area for a short rest.
6. There is a time limit of 1 hour person to visit the Potala Palace. This time starts to be counted only after you enter the Palace Gate to the White Palace and Red Palace.
Travel permit to Tibet
All foreigners need special travel permit to entry Tibet, you can contact the local Chinese travel agency to help you to obtain the permit. You can also visit visaexpress.com, they specialize in Chinese travel visa, and China embassy authentication service.