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Respect and Taboos11/2/2010

  • Travelers to Tibet usually find Tibetans to be friendly. It is appreciated when you try and use the local Tibetan dialect when communicating with Tibetans. The further from Lhasa you travel, the more often Tibetan is used.
  • Avoid placing any Tibetan at risk by discussing political matters or associating with other pro-Tibetan anti-Chinese foreigners / guides / agencies - this includes anything about the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. These topics are quite sensitive especially following the recent pro-independence demonstrations in Tibet, which cost more than two-hundred lives.
  • Religion is extremely important to the majority of Tibetans, and travelers should endeavor to respect their customs and beliefs. Always walk around Tibetan Buddhist religious sites or monastery in a clockwise direction, and when in a monastery do not wear a hat, smoke or touch frescoes. In addition, refrain from climbing onto statues, mani stones or other sacred objects.
  • Don't photograph people without permission, and be aware that some locations prohibit photography without a fee. Sky burial sites are obviously off-limits.
  • Tibetan Buddhism and its impact of Tibetan culture is a major draw for tourists. Be aware that funds used to pay entry fees at major religious sites will probably go into the coffers of the local Communist Party and its Chinese members. Funds donated directly to individual monks and nuns and left on altars will remain and be used to maintain and support the local religious infrastructure. Appreciate the work of the monasteries and those within and help support these great institutions with non-monetary donations and by attending the festivals and just spending a little time getting to know the monastic community.
  • Supporting the Tibetan economy by purchasing from Tibetans is a great way to help. Pay a fair price while bargaining. Beware that some vendors may try to swindle tourists by selling at very high prices.
  • Try to eat more genuine Tibetan dishes. On the edge of the Plateau this becomes more difficult.
  • Antiques, family or religious items should not be purchased as this destroys the culture.
  • Help protect Tibet for future generations by not purchasing products made from wild animals. Many items are made from endangered species. Remember to leave only footprints and take lots of photographs while visiting Tibet. Take the initiative and pack out trash and recyclables you see around while traveling outside of urban Tibet. The ecosystem in the Himalayas is very fragile due to the weather being so cold, so be careful of where you hike and try to keep erosion down.
  • Help to keep Tibetan culture alive. It is very important to use Tibetan resources such as hotels, restaurants, guides and souvenir stalls, as Tibetan culture is gradually being erroded. It is also important to benefit financially the Tibetans, who are rapidly becoming a disadvantaged minority in their own country. When visiting temples, monasteries or shrines you may wish to leave a donation, which will help their upkeep. It is best to leave it on the altar or give it directly to a monk or nun. This will ensure it stays in the temple. You may also wish to give a small donation to pilgrims from rural Tibet.