Into Tibet – 50 essentials before you go (I)

 1. What is Altitude Sickness and the Symptoms?

Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or altitude illness is common at high altitudes, and depends on the elevation, the rate of ascent and individual susceptibility. Most visitors to Tibet will suffer from at least some symptoms that will generally disappear through acclimatization in several hours to several days. Symptoms tend to be worse at night and include headache, dizziness, lethargy, loss of appetite, nausea, breathlessness and irritability. Difficulty sleeping is another common symptom, and many travelers have trouble sleeping for the first few days after arriving in Lhasa.

2. Acclimatization

The major cause of altitude illnesses is going too high too fast. Given time, your body can adapt to the decrease in oxygen molecules at a specific altitude. This process generally takes 1-3 days at that altitude. Prevention of altitude sickness falls into two categories, proper acclimatization and preventive medications. Below are a few basic guidelines for proper acclimatization.

The most important thing is that you should never be nervous or worried about your trip. Regard the trip to Tibet like a trip to any other cities. You should always be optimistic.

  • Keep in mind that different people will acclimatize at different rates.
  • Take it easy; don't over-exert yourself when you first get up to altitude. Light activity during the day is better than sleeping because respiration decreases during sleep, exacerbating the symptoms.
  • Do not over-exert yourself or move higher for the first 24 hours.
  • The acclimatization process is inhibited by dehydration, over-exertion, and alcohol and other depressant drugs.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol and other depressant drugs including, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills. These depressants further decrease the respiratory drive during sleep resulting in a worsening of the symptoms.
  • If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude illness, don't go higher until symptoms decrease (Don't go up until symptoms go down).
  • If symptoms increase, go down, down, down!
  • Stay properly hydrated. Acclimatization is often accompanied by fluid loss, so you need to drink lots of fluids to remain properly hydrated (at least 3-4 quarts per day).
  • Eat a high carbohydrate diet (more than 70% of your calories from carbohydrates) while at altitude.
  • Turn to your doctor for more professional advice, especially for the visitors having a record of heart, lung, other organ problems or anemia, the altitude in Lhasa is 3650m around

3. Who can't go?

We will suggest the clients who suffer from high blood pressure and severe heart disease not travel to Tibet. If you have respiratory problems, we advise you to postpone your trip till you are fully recovered.

4. What to do if I catch an AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) ?

Major towns in Tibet have hospitals with basic facilities. Western pharmaceutical treatment, Tibetan herbal remedies and Chinese herbal remedies are also accessible. Honjingtian and Gaoyuan’an (Rhodiola Eoccinea and Hippophae) have very good preventive and treatment effects for Altitude Sickness and AMS.

You should not do anything strenuous on the first day. Brisk walking and running are not advised. We suggest that you do not smoke nor drink alcohol too. Do not eat too much for dinner.

It quite often happens that people feel short of breath. If it is not serious, please do not rely on oxygen equipment all the time so that you can acclimate yourself to the high altitude as early as possible.

If you feel very uncomfortable, you need to tell your guide about this. You guide could send you to the best hospital available in the area. Or we may book you the earliest flight to out of Lhasa.        

 

5. Is it convenient to bath in Tibet?

Major towns in Tibet (such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Tsedang, Gyantse, Lyche, Zhangmu, Naqu) have places for bathing. Hotels usually have private bathrooms. For hostels in other areas there are public bathhouses and hot water is available at certain time. Generally there’s no problem for a bath, however you are not suggested to take showers or bathes too frequently especially on your first night in Tibet. This will help you avoid catching severe colds or aggravate the AMS.

 

6. Better to come by train or air?

Usually we will not suggest you take the train in. If you really would like to enjoy a train experience, you are suggested to take the train out.

The train ride into Lhasa may not relieve the tiredness and mountain sickness as much as people think. First, it is a long trip in an airtight cabin. It is like on the plane which can not let the outside air in, so it does not do much good for the acclimatization, because you will feel probably the same way in the train as when you are in a lower altitude place. Secondly, a long time in a not so comfortable compartment, not sleeping well on the train may increase the sickness.

Some people may ignore another important point. That is what people often call low altitude sickness or oxygen-drunk. The symptoms are vomit, laxness, dizzy and sleepy. If you take train out, it can somewhat relieve this kind of syndrome.

The most beautiful scenery is from Lhasa to Golmud, the train departing from Lhasa in the morning would ensure the beautiful views along the trail.

 

7. Tight time, how to arrange the tour itinerary?

You are suggested to take a flight in and out of Tibet. 3 nights 4 days holy city tour in Lhasa or 5 nights 6 days golden tour route of Lhasa Gyantse Shigatse would be very good choices. Or you may contact the local tour agency for a tailor-made tour program. This is very convenient and also more comfortable.

 

Into Tibet – 50 essentials before you go (I)
Into Tibet – 50 essentials before you go (II)
Into Tibet – 50 essentials before you go (III)