Tibet Travel and Tour Shopping Tips
Do some shopping on your own in the Lhasa Open market or Supermarket.
There are vast and rich varieties of local Tibetan arts and crafts in many different shops. Just walk around the famous Barkhor streets in Lhasa or other walking streets in every city or towns, you could easily find the Tibetan carpets, carvings, local snacks, as well as Buddhist items, local Tibetan clothes. So, it could be said that Tibet is a great place for shopping. For visitors to Tibet, there are numerous specialties for them to choose from.
What are the most famous local products in Tibet?
Tibetan Crafts: Normally crafted from such raw materials as gold, silver, copper, wood, bamboo, as well as bones, Tibetan crafts are not only useful, but aesthetically pleasing. Tibetan silver crafts make great souvenirs from Tibet. Tibetan silver ornaments make use of precious stones like agate, rubies and sapphires, and are usually carved with Sanskrit.
Thangka: A thangka is a Tibetan scroll painting that has strong ties to Buddhism and features distinctive ethnic flavor. They have been popular in Tibet for many centuries. Some Thangkas are charming portraits of a Buddha, some are colorful representations of Tibetan customs, and some are portraits of the history of Tibet. Thangka paintings can be made using a wide variety of techniques: silk tapestry with cut designs, hand painted, color printing, embroidery, brocade, and pearl inlayed.
Tibetan Carpets and Textiles: Woven with bright and harmonious colors, Tibetan carpets are durable and beautifully crafted. The hand woven, Tibetan woolen Pulu cloth comes in many colors and is used for making clothes, shoes, and caps. It is incredibly warm, as well as beautiful. In the meantime, tourists need to have some basic understanding on the carpets, such as the fur, the knots, the products factory location, etc. To find the quality handmade stuff, you'd better search around and find the local Tibetan owned carpets shops.
Tibetan Knives: Tibetan knives, the daily kitchen or dining table tool and weapon for Tibetan local people, are also an important adornment. This traditional handicraft is an integral part of Tibetan's daily lives. This is especially true when knives are carried by women who tend to be more decorative and delicate. However, it is not suggested for travelers to buy because it is prohibited to take it out of Tibet. You cannot pass through the securities for flights or train travel as well as land driving.
Tibetan Medicine: Tibetan medicine, known as Sowa Rigpa in Tibetan language, is an ancient form of natural medicine indigenous to the Tibetan people. It is still practiced today throughout Tibet, the Himalayan regions, India, Mongolia, Siberia and in the Western world where ever Tibetans overseas live.
Lots of tourists like to buy traditional Tibetan medicine for its herbs such as saffron, aweto and snow lotus. Tibetan doctors and their traditional medicines made by secret methods attract much curiosity, and some tourists also like to pay the traditional doctors a visit for treatment during their Tibet tours.
Tibet tour shopping tips
Be sure to buy whatever practical items you need in Lhasa, before you leave for more remote towns. There are department stores, mostly on Yuthok Lu (road) that will supply your everyday needs. Lhasa Department Store, a general department store, is located on the west end of Yuthok Lu. It is the largest and best-known department store in Lhasa. It sells such practical items as cotton clothing, mugs, canned food, towels, and toothpaste, plus local handicrafts. There are also supermarkets in Lhasa.
Barkhor is a more traditional Tibetan shopping market. It is a market where shopkeepers with small shops and stalls on the street sell many unusual and fascinating items, for both religious and secular uses. Shopkeepers sell items such as prayer flags, Buddha figures, conch-shell trumpets, rosaries, amulets, fur hats, horse bells, bridles, copper teapots, wooden bowls, inlaid knives, and jewelry inlaid with turquoise and other gems.
Tourists should carefully evaluate the jewelry quality. While much jewelry of excellent quality is available, some is coarsely done and is of poor quality. Tourists can easily find items that are uniquely Tibetan and that will appeal to them. Exotic Tibetan opera masks and costumes are interesting items. Brightly colored, beautifully homespun Tibetan rugs and khaddar are also popular souvenirs. Tibetan carpet can be bought at the Lhasa Carpet Factory. Tibetan tents can be bought at the Lhasa Tent and Banner Factory.
There are three Xinhua bookstores in Lhasa. One is on Yuthok Lu. Another is on east Barkhor. The third is on Beijing Zhong Lu, west of Tibet Hotel. They sell maps of Lhasa, Tibetan primers, Tibetan-Chinese dictionaries, and Tibetan and Chinese books. There is also a bookshop that carries Tibetan literature on north Barkhor.
Barkhor's Window of Tibet
As in traditional markets throughout much of the world, you can bargain with the local people and buy nice things at lower prices. Just cut their asking prices by 50 percent! Not everyone in Barkhor will be shopping. You may be accompanied by hundreds of prostrating pilgrims. This is a thrilling experience that will certainly remind you that you are in Lhasa.
More info on Lhasa's Barkhor Street: it is located in the center of Lhasa. The street circles the Jokhang Temple and has been an essential pilgrim route since the foundation of the temple. Buddhist pilgrims can be seen throughout the day and night walking or prostrating themselves clockwise along Barkhor Street spinning their prayer wheels and chanting sutras. There is more to Barkhor Street than just a place for pilgrims to walk. Barkhor Street, often called the "Window of Tibet" is famous for its shopping.
Barkhor Street gives visitors a great insight into traditional Tibet culture by selling it to them. The shops and booths along the street are filled with all sorts of items unique to Tibet. There is a large variety of Tibetan Buddhist articles including: Thangkas, Buddhist statues, prayer wheels, butter lamps, prayer flags, sutras, beads, incense. There are also shops that sell house wares, but Tibetan house wares are also unique, and often beautiful: cushions, aprons, leather bags, quilts, shoes, knives, hats, butter pots, wooden bowls, and dried meats. There is also an abundance of souvenirs available on Barkhor Street.
Besides the shopping and location for pilgrimages, Barkhor Street has a lot of historical interest. A small building that used to be Lhasa's Yamen is located on the Barkhor Street. It used to be the office of Lhasa's magistrate. A small lane going north from Barkhor street leading to a market is the oldest street in Lhasa. There is a small three-story temple which is located at the Barkhor Street and it is said that Tibetan characters were invented in the temple. There is a unique yellow building standing on the southeastern corner of the Barkhor Street. All of the buildings along the street are white. Read more about Jokhang Temple.
Where to do daily shopping in Lhasa Tibet? Can I have an overview of all supermarkets in Tibet?
1. When walking around Barkhor Street, always walk in a clockwise direction.
2. It is recommended not to visit Barkhor street in the evening. Every evening at six o'clock, Barkhor Street turns into a market selling small articles for daily use, and the labyrinth of lanes surrounding the street are very easy to get lost in.
3. It is important to bargain on Barkhor Street. The given price is often many times more than the price the shop keeper will accept. It is best to shop around. Many shops will sell similar items, and it is the best way to ensure you get the cheapest price. Sometimes if visitors find something they really want, it is acceptable to pay a higher price because many of the items found on Barkhor Street cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
4. According to tradition, Tibetan shop keepers will offer discounts to the first and last shopper of the day.