Money and Currency in Tibet

Tibet Travel Currency and Money Tips

As in the rest of China, Renminbi or Chinese Yuan (RMB & CNY) is the legal currency in Tibet. Only the Bank of China and certain up market hotels (Lhasa Hotel, the former Holiday Inn, and Tibet Hotel) offers foreign exchange services and facilities in Tibet. The Bank of China has a main office (0891-6835078) and several sub-branches in Lhasa, which all cash travelers’ checks while only the main office offers cash advances on major credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club and Amex). Its main office is located on Lingkhor Bei Lu 28 9 (behind of Potala Palace), north of the Yak Statue and its hours of operation are 9:30 am – 1 pm and 3:30 – 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday. Another convenient sub-branch lies on Beijing Dong Lu, between the Kyri Hotel and the Banak Shol Hostel. Its hours of operation are 9:30 am-6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, and 11 am-3 pm, Saturday and Sunday. The Bank of China Shigatse office, near the Shigatse Hotel, can provide travelers’ checks exchange services also. Cash advances on credit cards are not available here. Zhangmu has two sub-branches also. Due to a lack of conversion outlets, visitors may have to change their extra RMB on the black market before their exit.

Important Notes: Credit card use is not so popular in Lhasa as well as other parts of Tibet. On the one hand, almost 99% of shops just accept cash or bank wire transfer, travelers’ checks. Only a few high standard hotel or super markets accept credit card payment. On the other hand, paying by credit card is more expensive due to 3-4% processing fee. This overhead cost also happens when you withdraw cash from ATMs or Counter desks if you use your CREDIT CARD.

Use money on a tour in Tibet

Use Money in Tibet! By being aware of the situation in advance, travelers can avoid many of the most common last minute hassles. First and foremost, the local currency is the Chinese Yuan (RMB). With the exception of a few high-end hotels in Lhasa, travelers should not expect credit cards to be accepted. ATMs can be found easily in Lhasa and are, for the most part, reliable.
Many travelers choose to withdraw cash at major banks such as Bank of China. Several travelers have reported luck using Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) ATMs while some foreign ATM cards have been rejected at banks such as the People’s Bank of China and China Construction Bank (not to be confused with ICBC). At Bank of China it is possible to take out cash advances via Visa/MasterCard, although this may not be possible at other banks. To avoid problems, it is best to visit the bank before a group’s Tibet Tour leaves Lhasa.
If arriving in Tibet from outside of China, travelers can exchange currency at the major banks mentioned above. A passport will be required and, if necessary, a group’s native Tibetan guide can assist travelers with the exchange procedure. Many hotels also offer currency exchange, however, the currencies accepted may be limited and the exchange rate may be lower rate than the rates at a bank. When purchasing items on a tour of Tibet, coins are generally not accepted. Travelers with coins from other parts of China may want to spend them before entering Tibet.
It is important to remember that credit cards are, in most cases, not accepted. Many ATM/debit cards have security features that require the bank to alert before the card is used internationally. Since this can be easy to forget, most cards have an international collect phone number in addition to the regular customer service phone number. Tibet Ctrip’s native Tibetan guides are happy to show travel groups to an ATM or help with currency exchange. To save time, it is best to let them know upon arrival in Lhasa. By taking the time to prepare accordingly, visitors can enjoy travelling in Tibet without worrying about money related hassles! Read more about money and currency in Tibet.