There are overall four documents required for foreign tourists to travel freely in Tibet.
1.Chinese Visa, which you can apply from in Chinese Embassy in your country (If you go to Tibet via mainland China).
2.Tibet Tourism Bureau Permit (TTB), which you have to obtain in order to enter Tibet.
3.Alien Travel Permit (PSB) when you are planning to travel to the 'unopened' areas in Tibet.
4.Military Permit, which you have to obtain if you are planning to travel to some military areas.
Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) Permit
It is necessary for entry to Lhasa or any other part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and is obtained as part of tour arrangements for travel to Tibet. When you take a flight or train to Lhasa you will need to show this permit when you check in. Furthermore, whenever you buy a flight or train ticket to Lhasa you need to show this permit. TTB permit is also needed by groups traveling by Land Cruiser but this will be arranged by the travel agency organizing the trip. Here is a picture of TTB permit:
Travel Permit ( PSB Permit)
It is required to visit 'unopened' areas. It is issued by Foreign Affairs Section of the Local Public Security Bureau (PSB). Usually you can apply for it once you arrives at Lhasa. For tour group our guide will ask you for your passport and TTB permit and submit it to the Foreign Affairs Section of PSB. It normally takes several hours and the cost is 50 yuan/person. For individual travellers you need to join the tours to 'unopened' areas, and the local travel agencies will arrange the PSB as well.Note that there is no travel agency can provide 'PSB permit-only' service. A must service includes land cruiser and guide. Here is a picture of PSB permit:
Which parts of Tibet are listed as the closed areas?
At present, you have to apply for a Travel Permit if you are planning to visit the following places:
•Tsedang: Samye Monastery, Tomb of Tibetan King, Trandruk Monastery, Yumbulakhang
•Shigatse: Sakya Monastery, The Mt. Everest, Rongphu Monastery
•Gyangtse: Pelkor Chode Monastery & Kubum Stupa
•Ngari Region: such as Mt.Kailash, Lake Manasarovar, Tsaparang, Ali, ect.
•Nyingchi Region: Such as Basum-tso, Pomi, Rawo-tso, ect.
•Chamdo Region: Such as Chamdo, Riwoche, Tengchen, ect.
It is required if you are traveling to Ngari, Nyingchi, and Nagqu which are regard as the military sensitive areas in Tibet. It is issued by the Military office in Lhasa. Travel agencies will arrange it as you will visit this areas. It usually takes about 3-4 days.
Important Issues about Tibet Permit:
1.Most people can get Tibet permit through a travel agency except diplomats, journalists, and government officials who should travel to Tibet under the arrangement by the Foreign Affairs Office of Tibet Government.
2.Generally it needs three days to get the TTB if you could supply the full necessary documents. After having a permit, a travel agency could buy the air or train ticket for you, and you can pass the check-in with the permit.
3.The details of the travelers are required for TTB Permit: name, nationality, passport number, Sex, date of birth and occupation (The copies of your passport and china visa)
4.No travel agency can provide 'permit-only' service.
5.Only the guide could hold the permit after you establish yourself on Tibet land. You are not allowed to bring with it.