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Travel to Tibet from Nepal

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Question for Nepal/Tibet veterans: I am planning overland trip into Tibet from Nepal in August. I have read that there is a requirement for obtaining Chinese Visa and Tibet travel permit at Chinese consulate in Katmandhu and that a standard Chinese visa obtained here in the States would be useless as you would have to repeat the process in KTM. Or does having the Chinese visa first expedite getting the Tibet travel permit once in KTM? Don't want to dish out $130 and have it be wasted.
Also, are there any "tour groups" offering Tibet travel permit services only? Don't want to go with a tour- and plan to do much more trekking than being in a car or minivan. Thanks.

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