How to avoid High altitude sickness in Tibet is the second biggest hindrance and most underestimate topic, when it comes to many travelers whom i have either met or tours i have organize. please remember, high altitude sickness serious, no matter the level of your fitness is. even fittest person might get effect by it if its not consider serious and didn’t follow the recommendation of Tibet travel and tours experts or the advice from medical community.
I do have many visitors, who are very excited and makes lots of activity in Tibet, without having any knowledge or little knowledge about the high altitude. Many of them ends up accomplishing nothing as they plan. So it is must for every travelers to understand it and then learn to over come it. If you listen to the advice of your doctor and your travel agency, you will have a great tour in Tibet without worrying anything about it. So i always tell my prospective clients to listen to me and follow the first three days as i would plan for them. Many don’t want to listen to me, and i loose many of prospective clients on this matter. Since i look for quality over quantity i don’t make tours for such clients. But trust me, I am born in Lhasa and even i too feel the altitude sickness when i do move the higher altitude. When ever I am driving across the high mountain pass I could dare to move out of the car in this fear.
So it is must for ever travelers to understand what is it? and how can you over come it.
What is the High altitude sickness?
High altitude sickness maladjustment of body to the high alleviation of mountains. The body of many travelers are custom to the air pressure of low altitude. This means your body get abundance of air in low area. When you move to higher alleviation, this changes would make your body not adjust with the amount to Air due to lack of air density in High altitude. This makes your feel uncomfortable and even sick. Please understand this. High Altitude sickness is serious and could even lead to death.
How to cope up with the high altitude sickness?
My sincere advice is as soon as check in your hotel on the first day in Tibet. Drink plenty of waters and take a nap or rest in your hotel room. Do not go out for first six hours and you can even ask your tour operator to bring you an oxygen cylinder if you think you would need it. Please avoid direct sun for first two days, due to high altitude the sun in Tibet is super strong. Many faint in sun stroke.
Many good travel agency would already assign an oxygen cylinder in your car, like we do. If there is one in your car, ask the guide if you can take it to your room. Many hotels do provide oxygen but at the ten times more then market price. Travel agency provides free, and some good travel agency even refill the tank for the entire tour. The cost of refilling the medium size tank would be less then five dollars but hotel could charge you 50 Dollar.
Take your first day in slow. Do not take a bath on the first day. Taking bath dehydrate your body. And if you are taking bath in later days, please drink plenty of waters before hoping into the bath room.
If you are feeling uneasy and uncomfortable, please try to sit back in the nearest shadow and talk to you guide. Good guide will communicate with you and will try to make the best solution out of the situation. Which is why guide plays a very crucial role.
Please avoid drinking any alcoholic drinks.
Preparation before coming to Tibet.
First thing i would recommend you to do is, make yourself fit, go to a doctor tell them about your plan and ask for they recommendation. Eat a lots healthy food and do lots of exercise. On the eve of your arrival, eat salty food. I don’t know the scientific reason behind it. But i think, there is some reason, why all Tibetan foods are salty, some time super salty. We even feed our animals with salt to keep healthy. Eat wheat, energy from wheat says in your muscle for longer period. In nut shell ask your tour provider what we eat, there is some unknown reason behind why we do it.
Things to consider before planing your tour?
Please consider the time of visit, Winter, late Autumn and the early Spring are very dry in Tibet. Summer in the month of June, July and August are the best time to visit.
You may also need to consider the alleviation and the weather of the place of visit. There are great diversity of alleviation for different attractions you will visit. Specially when you are visiting the Everest north base camp and Kailash region. Please check the alleviation of Different attraction in Tibet at the end of this post.
You may also need to consider the distance you might cover per day. Some times your tour might have lots of coverage per day. I don’t suggest every travelers to cover many distance for first some days.
There are lots of beautiful high altitude mountain pass. We Tibetan believes one should not get out of the car as we would lose the air pressure inside the car. This believe comes with experiences and i think you should consider that too. So try to avoid getting out of the car at the high mountain passes if you are not acclimatize properly.
Suggest route in getting into Tibet
- The number one route to avoid sudden shock of Tibetan high altitude, is taking train from other parts of china. I know the train across from even higher altitude, but the trains are pressurize and gradual one day train journey gives you are great opportunity to acclimatize to the high altitude. Train to Tibet is also staffed with doctors and also equipped with the facility like oxygen supply for every travelers.
- If you are coming into Tibet from Nepal. Please stay a night in Nyalam for a night and then proceed gradually to the altitude.
- When you are in Everest base camp, and if you are feeling unwell please do go back to the lower altitude of Thingri. You will need to tell your guide that you have to go back. Tent hostels in Everest Base Camp are not booked in advance so there is no need of worrying about loosing money.
- If you are traveling to Kailash region, the best option would be traveling China to Lhasa and then gradually proceeding to Kailash region. This route gives you the best opportunity to get well acclimatization before traveling into the higher altitude in Kailash region. but please let me warn you, it would be super expensive.
Here are the altitude of some most popular attractions in Tibet
Lhasa: 3650 Meters
Shigatse: 4000 Meters
Tsedang: 3580 meters
Everest Base Camp: 5200 meters
Yamdrok Lake: 4700 meters
Gyantse: 3.977 meters
Average high of Kailash region: 4700 with highest at Drolma La Pass at more then 6000 Meters
Namtso: 4718 Meters
If you are looking for the medication for High Altitude Sickness (AMS) please consult your doctor. I dont have any authority in medical field. And i would not suggest any medication. But please stay claim and do not worry about any thing. Just follow the advice given by your guide and your doctor.
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