Tibet is a beautiful country with rich traditions. When visiting it is important to respect Tibet tradition and religious practices that are generally unfamiliar to westerners. Everyone will want to avoid offending, even unintentionally, the friendly Tibetan people or the potentially not so friendly authorities.
Here is a list of things to do or avoid when enjoying time in this country.
- Don’t discuss political topics such as the status of Tibet or the Dalai Lama.
- Don’t step on a threshold when entering a home or monastery.
- Do not take photos inside the rooms of a monastery or temple.
- Always ask permission before photographing Tibetan people. Providing a small gratuity or gift may be expected.
- Wear modest clothing in monasteries and religious site. Shorts or skimpy clothing are viewed as disrespectful.
- Always walk clockwise around monasteries, pagodas or other religious structures. This practice is known as a kora.
- Turn prayer wheels clockwise, never counterclockwise.
- Be wary of souvenirs or gifts made from animal skin or bones. If the animal is from an endangered species, there could be problems at the airport or train station when leaving.
- Never enter or photograph military areas.
- Do not touch the heads of children with your hands.
- Many lakes are holy. Swimming in them is prohibited.
- Let older people go first when walking in a group.
- When being handed an object hold it with both hands as a show of respect.
- Foreigners are strictly prohibited from watching sky burial. Sky burial is a religious funeral practice being used in decreasing numbers where a corpse is left on a mountain to decompose or be consumed by vultures or other animals.
- Always have your passport and Tibet Travel Permit when traveling.
- Keep clothes on in front of the four holy mountains.
These tips will help foreigners enjoy the beauty of Tibet in a respectful manner. Are there other items you would add to the list?