Hendrik Heyne, founder of Tibetmoto, with overlander travellers in China from around the world
China Overland Group Tour
KYRGYZSTAN – CHINA & TIBET – LAOS
04.09 – 29.09.2023
Embark on an unforgettable journey to discover the fascinating highlights of Tibet. Experience the vastness of the Tibetan high plateau and marvel at the sacred Mount Kailash. The journey continues to the base camp of Mount Everest and on to Lhasa before venturing into the eastern foothills of the Himalayas. Explore the old towns of Lijiang and Dali and enjoy the captivating subtropical landscapes on your way through Yunnan province to the Laotian border. As private China overland tours can be too expensive for some, we have created this affordable China overland group tour from Kyrgyzstan to Laos for this very reason.
Check out numerous Highlights for China Overland Tours
Questions & Answers
The new border crossing near Gyirong (Girong) replaced the old border at Zhangmu/Kodari after the 2015 earthquake, but was closed again due to construction until spring 2018. The new exit border is also called Jilongzhen, Jilong or Kilong and will permanently replace the old border crossing at Zhangmu/Kodari. In 2018 we were the very first company applying successfully exit papers for a large overland group from Germany.
…working for a TV production company or directly for the ARD or BBC, and want to shoot a documentary/movie/series/reality show in China or Tibet, and wish to enter the country overland with my own vehicle. Is this possible?
In addition to the normal transit papers you must also have film permits, such as permits issued by CARFTE. In such a case, we work with partners who can help with getting the necessary permits. Close cooperation between Tibetmoto, the film production company and our partner is necessary, as well as a preparatory period of three to four months for planning and implementation.
Bringing in special communication gear such as radio equipment or satellite phones have never been a problem before. However, it depends on the individual case and the specific border. Therefore, we can’t answer this question categorically. Please notify us beforehand and we will inquire with customs and police at the entry border.
I want to travel in China more than 30 days, but I can only apply for a 30 days tourist visa. What shall I do?
It is the very best if you can obtain a visa with the correct time window for your journey through China. Please inform yourself about Chinese tourist visa validities in your country before you apply for your Chinese visa. Many visa agencies offer comprehensive visa services for a small fee and can arrange a visa with a longer validity. In some cases you can get an extension for your visa for another 30 days after you arrive in China. In some places, it will only take 24 hours. It is important to choose the right place to apply so it doesn’t take too long and we can help you finding out.
The only option is to leave the country on day 90 and re-enter afterwards. A prolongation of the transit time is not possible without leaving the country.
All vehicles imported temporarily into China must be declared, even if they are not driven during the journey or are broken down and can not be operated. This may be the case if a small motor vehicle is transported by a 4×4 truck or on a trailer. There are no exceptions to this rule.
China is a country featuring vast distances. In the remote areas of Western China towns and villages are often far apart with very little infrastructure in between. Your vehicle should have an appropriate range of at least 350 to 400 kilometres. Especially in Tibet there are stretches where are no petrol stations in between settlements. See also the questions about petrol canisters.
This depends on the province. Full fuel canisters are officially prohibited in the provinces Xinjiang and Tibet. When you enter China, your fuel canisters should be empty since customs has the right to confiscate them if they find them filled up with fuel. Please send us an email if spare fuel in canisters are absolutely necessary for the successful completion of your trip.
Although many drones are manufactured in China, it is not allowed to bring a drone into the country. If you do, the drone can be confiscated. Foreigners are generally not permitted to fly a drone in China.
After booking with us, but not longer than three month in advance prior to your China Overland entry date, we will provide you with an official hotel booking list as a reference for the application of the Chinese visa. You will also need other supporting documents. To better understand the process you will receive further information after booking.
It is generally possible to apply for a Chinese visa without an agent and by yourself. However, many people prefer to use an agent because they feel its more convenient. We also strongly recommend to use an agent since the application procedure is frequently changing. In the past it was possible to obtain a Letter of Invitation (LOI) for the Overland traveller, but unfortunately not anymore.
When traveling to China, an advance visa is always necessary. A visa on arrival will not be issued at any Chinese land border.
You should apply for a Chinese visa in your home country and not in a third country on the way to China (which has become increasingly difficult in resent years, depending on the country of application). Once the Chinese tourist visa is issued, you have 90 days to enter China. For example you plan to enter China on September 15; in this case, the earliest application date for your China visa is June 15. Exeptions to this rule are made for business visa holders who can apply for their business visa six month prior to the planned entry. Please note that in some countries it is not possible to apply for a Chinese visa if you are not a resident of this country. For example, its not possible to apply for a Chinese visa at the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan if you are not a resident of Kyrgyzstan or have lived there for at least six month and hold a residence permit. In 2019 it was very easy to apply for a Chinese visa in Tbilisi (Georgia) on the way to China, even for non-residents (however, this can change any time). We need your Chinese visa scan at least 35 days in advance (before you enter as a China Overland traveller with your own vehicle).
Generally, it is possible to enter on a working day (Mo-Fr), but not on weekends or public holidays. If you decide to enter on a Friday, you can only receive your necessary documents at the traffic administration such as provisional Chinese driving license and provisional number plate on the next working day (Monday, if Monday is not a holiday). As well, the vehicle check can only take place on that day. However, there are some exceptions. Some border can be crossed on a Friday and you can receive the necessary documents on the same day (not at borders in Xinjiang province).
This is not possible. Those who enter China with their own vehicle must leave the country again together with the same vehicle.
There are a few exceptions of this rule, for example if you ship your vehicle from China to another country and you fly out.
Your guide will wait for you at the entry border and we will change the entry date on the permits and paperwork for you. Please understand that there are additional costs involved with this procedure and also the guide expects payment for additional days and for the waiting time. Generally speaking, punctuality is a prerequisite for a smooth journey.
There are many reasons why this could happen, for example you have become sick and need some time or your vehicle broke down and the repair shop has difficulties to fix it right away. In such cases -if you have to stay in China longer than planned- we need to calculate the additional guide costs and expenses for changing the permits (if necessary). Whatever happens, your local guide will offer you support and assist you in every possible way. And people say that our great China based office can also work miracles.
We often receive curious enquiries regarding the mandatory guide. Many Overland travellers think the guide is a government liaison or in another way directly associated with the authorities.
This is not the case:
All of our guides have many years of experience and will assist you the best way possible during your China Overland Tour. In addition, our guides have the national guiding license which enables them to be your guide. They are private persons who make a living with guiding. They are not hired nor payed by the authorities not will they they report your activities to the authorities. Your guide is hired by Tibetmoto and he/she receives the salaries for their work from us. Your guide also makes sure that you respect the agreement and the itinerary which is base for your China transit. He is also liable for you and can lose the national guiding license if you deviated from the agreed-on route or violate Chinese rules, regulations and laws.
You have to consider that you enter with your vehicle China as part of a group. This means that on all official transit papers the group size with all vehicle specifications are mentioned. This means that we have to change the permit for you if one vehicle in your group will not enter China. For example, it is possible that a part of the group for various reason can not make it to the border in time to enter China. Please tell us in advance so we can make necessary changes and inform the authorities beforehand.
There may be various reasons why you don’t like to drive your vehicle in China. Your time schedule or the desire to find a cost effective way to cross China may be the reason. In this case you can enter China with your own vehicle overland, and we arrange the logistics within China. Motorcycles can be crated and send by truck to the exit border, cars can be put on a car carrier trailer and send directly to the exit border or sea port where you receive them. However, all vehicles have to undergo customs procedures and need to be correctly temporarily imported and exported. We handle all paperwork and permits for you.
Yes, no problem. We work with specialised logistic agents and logistic providers who offer the best logistic solutions for shipping motorcycles and cars from China around the world since many years. Take a look at our dedicate vehicle logistic page here for details. Options include logistic services from mainland Chinese cities such as Beijing, Xian, Chengdu or Kunming within China (for example to the next sea port for ocean freight) or from a harbour at the Chinese east cost to ports around the world.
A new freight possibility is the so called “New Silk Route” from European cities via freight train to the Chinese city of Xian.
We can also receive your vehicle by air or ocean freight. Popular ports include Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing beside others.
We need about 50 days to prepare your China Overland trip and apply for all permits. This is why we need all papers and information well in advance. In addition you should allow for some time for detailed consultation. We are there for you when it comes to first hand advice of routes, itineraries, sights and road conditions. We use our knowledge to plan your perfect trip according to your requirements. Most people start the booking process six month or longer in advance. So we all have planning security.
No, there is no need to arrange hotel bookings in advance. You can either book directly in the town or village where you stay for the night or in advance with the help of your guide or using an online booking engine. If you want to book hotels in advance, we can offer you a comprehensive tour package including accommodation from a category of your choice: from budget to five stars, we know the best hotels for your Overland tour through China.
We need an advanced payment of 20 percent once you are committed to book your China transit with us. After receiving the invoiced amount we send you a receipt from our bank and initiate your booking. Six weeks (42 days) prior to your arrival at the Chinese border we need to receive the remaining amount of 80 percent.
When entering China, you will meet your guide/border fixer at the pre-decided border/day. The fixer will help you with the formalities and communicate with the border officials. He will carry all necessary documents and permits in the original. Without those documents the border crossing is not possible.
Afterwards, you will proceed to the next town to where the border checkpoint (administrative division) belongs to. In most cases this is the biggest town close to the border. It is for example Jinhong/Xishuabgbanna if you arrive from Laos or Kashgar if you arrive from Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan/Pakistan. On the following working day after your entry you need to visit the traffic administration with you vehicle and undergo customs procedures (this depends on the border). The traffic administration will check you vehicle and issue your provisional driving license and provisional number plate beside other documents. The waiting time is often quite long. Plan accordingly. Once all documents have been issued, you can start your Overland journey in China.
Together with the initial invoice for the deposit payment we will invite all group members to a shared dropbox folder. Dropbox is a free cloud service and in the app you will find folders labelled with your name and sub-folders labelled with the documents which need to be uploaded (in addition to the form which you also need to fill out). Since dropbox is a cloud service, your group and the Tibetmoto team will have shared access to all documents at all times – which comes in handy also for you if there is need to access those files during your journey. We will also have the advantage that insufficient files can be easily re-uploaded, replaced and we all know what is online and what is missing. Note that dropbox is synchronised: Never delete any files – they will be deleted for everyone sharing the folder – also for us. If dropbox does not work for you, the group members can send me their files as a zip file with the free service wetransfer.com. But due to the size please not by email.
This depends on the exact routing. Let’s say your China transit starts at the Kyrgyzstan/China border and you travel all the way to Laos via Tibet. In this case you would have a guide for the Chinese province of Xinjiang (normally an Uighur guide), a different guide for Tibet (a Tibetan) and another guide for the Chinese province of Yunnan (a Yunnanese guide; normally a member of Yunnan´s many minority groups). This way you always travel with somebody who can speak the local languages (not everywhere Mandarin Chinese is spoken), knows the local customs and traditions and the area very well. All of your guides are hand-picked by us and have a national guiding license.
This depends on the province. While some provinces do not prohibit camping, others do.
For example, it is at present not allowed to camp in Xinjiang province and Tibet province in most places. In those provinces are regulations in place making it for foreign foreign visitors mandatory to be registered in hotels. While you can not camp in the wild, you are permitted to stay overnight in your vehicle on hotel parking lots in case the hotel can do the registration of the foreign traveller with the local police. Usually, they charge a small amount for this and also parking fee.
Chinese driving license: Is there an age limit for obtaining the provisional Chinese driving license?
Chinese national law allows China overland travellers to apply for a provisional Chinese driving license for motorbikes and trucks until the age of 60 and for regular cars until the age of 70. This law is also valid for Chinese citizens, not only for foreigners. This means that drivers above the age of 60 can not operate certain vehicle and drivers above the age of 70 are not permitted to operate any vehicle.
Normally, traffic administrations will not issue Chinese provisional driving licenses for drivers or riders above this age. However, exceptions are being made upon special requests. If those special requests for drivers above 60/70 are being granted depends on the traffic administration in charge of the border of entry. Please contact us for further details. Chances are high that we will find a way for you to get your Chinese driving license for your China overland tour.
After booking we will send you a form to fill out. This takes you about 30 minutes. Furthermore, we require a handful of documents. Those documents include scans of your passport, driving license and vehicle information such as vehicle registration, vehicle photos and passport style photos of all participants. We only need scanned copies and no originals. After booking, we set up a cloud service (Dropbox) for you to upload all necessary documents.
Having a guide during your self-drive transit from the day of arrival to the day of departure from China is prescribed by law and also mentioned on the overland travel permits. Please understand that this is therefore currently not possible. As organisers, we are legally responsible for our China Overland travellers. The legal risk for us would be too great if you got lost without a guide and got away from the agreed-on route.
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