First it is important to remember that the terms “Tibet” and “Tibet Autonomous Region” (TAR) are two different. The term “Tibet” generally refers to TAR by travelers, which consists only the 6 Prefecture that Chinese government calls it “Xizang”. Whereas the greater Tibet region that the Tibetan people call Tibet is vast area that consists of all 6 prefectures of the TAR as well other regions such as 6 Tibet Autonomous Prefectures of Qinghai, 2 Tibet Autonomous Prefectures of Sichuan, Tibet Autonomous County of Sichuan, the Tibet Autonomous Prefecture of Gansu, Tibet Autonomous County of Gansu, and the Tibet Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan, The Tibetan regions outside of the TAR are nearly all open and do not require any travel permits with just few exceptions where permits are obtained from Police. However, all foreigners going to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) need to have a Tibet Travel Permit along with a Chinese visa.
The permit is not stamped on your passport, but it is a separate paper. This is the general permit that you need to enter anywhere in the TAR. There have been many rumors that this permit will be lifted soon after the start of the train to Lhasa, but as of today it is still required. The Tibet travel permit is obtained by the local agencies in Tibet from Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB), Lhasa. Tour Operator such as ours obtain your passport copy with Chinese Visa and send them to our counterpart in Lhasa for this permit. There is a fee and lots of paper work to obtain this permit but no one will just do the permit alone, unless there is travel service. This permit is handed over to your before your travel into TAR in one of the major cities in mainland. Your names name and passport information should be correct. People are almost always checked when flying into Lhasa or certainly for sure when traveling across the border from Nepal and you could also be checked taking the train. If you are caught trying to sneak into the TAR without a permit, you can expect to be detained at the police station, fined and sent back. In addition to this Tibet Travel Permit, Alien travel Permit and Military permit may also require for travel in many other places beyond Lhasa.