Where is Bhutan?
Bhutan, originally known as Drukyul, is strikingly beautiful country nestled in the Eastern Himalayas. It is sandwiched between the two giant regions Tibet in the North and india in the South. It is also known as “Druk Yul” or “The Land of Thunder Dragon”. The small, landlocked country is completely bounded by mountains. The population consists of Buddhist majority. Bhutan stands out for its dramatic landscapes, the well preserved custom and tradition and its distinct art and architecture.
Geographical Area: 46,500 sq.km
Coordinates: 27º25’01” N;90º26’06” E
Major Languages Spoken: Dzongkha, English
Time: 6hrs+ GMT
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Why must one visit Bhutan?
There are countless reasons why one should visit Bhutan. Bhutan is the last Shangri-la lefton earth. It is also tagged as a “special destination” by most privileged travelers. Away from the rest of the world, Bhutan, small and simple, remains secluded, pure and natural with its authenticity still intact. The experience here with the appealing food, alluring sights of the art and architecture and the landscapes, astounding festivals and warm hearted people will be indeed a lifetime privilege. The outside world will stretch distant as you travel around Bhutan and get captivated by the charm of its rusticity and simplicity. Therefore, one should visit Bhutan to get the idea of what a happy life is with an authentic vacation in the land of “Happiness”.
What are your recommendations to a person who is visiting Bhutan for the first time?
There is nothing to worry about your visit being the first time. Our destination specialists will make the best recommendations as per your travel preferences. Many travelers include Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Trongsa and Bumthang. But you can also travel solely for trekking in the Himalayas if you want.
Do I need to use a Tour Operator to book my travel in Bhutan?
Yes. It’s a must that you have to be abided by the government regulation. Anyone visiting Bhutan must use a licensed Bhutanese Tour Operator like Bhutan Corinthian Tours and Travels or one of their international partners to book your travel to Bhutan.
Is travelling independently allowed in Bhutan?
Independent travel is not allowed in the country. The Royal Government of Bhutan is reserved and quite cautious about allowing visitors into the country. Every tourist needs a tourist package tour from any Bhutanese tour operator like Bhutan Corinthian Tours and Travels. After that, if the visitor wishes to travel alone, he or she can do so with his or her own independent guide and vehicle. You can also customize your own itinerary depending on your choice.
Why is Bhutan considered as an expensive tourist destination?
The cost is $200 USD per person during the low season months (Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug and Dec) per day and on the high season months (Mar, Apr, May, Sep, Oct and Nov), it costs $250 USD per person per day, for groups of three or more. It costs $280 USD for groups of two, for a person per day and it is $290 USD for single travelerper day.
There is a big misconception that Bhutan is an expensive destination than elsewhere, but it’s actually not at all, if one really considers the fact and logic of what actually happens in the levied rates. This fee actually includes a 3 star accommodation, a private guide and a driver for transportation, entrance fees to sites and all meals for your entire stay in the country. $65 per day is included as royalty which goes to the government towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation. The philosophy behind the binding minimum fee being that it creates a “high-value/low-impact” tourist environment, as proposed by the government of Bhutan. The government executes and controls this minimum fee in order to manage tourism in a more sustainable way, to grow and blend sensibly with the world, without taxing the local environment and more importantly, highlight and conserve the unique ‘culture and tradition” of the country.
What are the visa procedures?
A passport and an entry visa for Bhutan are must to enter Bhutan. The passport should have the validity of 6 months longer than the visitor’s journey. The entry visa must get pre-approved prior to your arrival to Bhutan. You should provide your tour operator with a quality scan (or photo) of your passport photo page so that they can prepare your Bhutan visa. Please be sure you carry the same passport that you submitted for your Bhutan visa or you will be denied entry.
The cost of Bhutan visas usually depends on your travel package. Otherwise the normal cost is one time US$ 40. After prepayment for your travel arrangements a visa authority letter is issued. After that the actual visa comes into your passport on your arrival at Paro Int’l Airport.
Indians, Bangladeshis and Maldivians need just a travel permit unlike other nationalities.
How does one get to Bhutan as a tourist?
Paro Int’l airport is connected to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bagdogra, Buddhagaya, Guwahati, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Bangkok and Singapore.
Your approved visa authority letter for Bhutan is required (that has been sent to you via email) When you arrive at the airport starting in Bangkok, Singapore, Delhi, or Kathmandu. And your fingerprints and facial image are taken when you arrive at Paro Int’l airport. The process does not take long and you’ll get through smoothly.
Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar are the land borders along the south to India from where you can travel overland.
What is the baggage limit for a single traveler on Druk Air?
Druk Air provides the standard baggage allowance of 20 kg for economy class travelers and 30 kg in business class. The allowance for carry-on bags is 5 kg
What currency is used in Bhutan?
Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum (Nu). A ngultrum is tied to the Indian rupee and has the same value.. An Indian rupee is legal in Bhutan. However Indian Rupee notes in 500 and 2000 denominations are not acceptable.
The US Dollar (USD) is also accepted in the country for any purpose. An ngultrum’s worth is only about 60-64USD. Many prices at tourist locations and shops are priced in USD. There is an advantage in carrying USD in lower denominations for small purchases. Credit cards are increasingly being accepted for bigger purchase. But you will be charged higher by 3-7% as an extra fee.
The main banks now have ATMs and you can withdraw local currency via Visa & Master Card credit & debit cards & Cirrus/Maestro endorsed bank debit cards. But the ATMs here are not always reliable and usually you’ll only be able to draw small amounts in a single transaction. Therefore it is always advisable to have back up cash in USD or Indian Rupees.
Here are some useful tips on currency & credit cards.
Consider a budget of US$30 per person per day to cover tips, drinks & handicrafts.
US$100 bills do receive a better exchange rate at local banks.
US dollar bills issued before 2000 will often NOT be accepted!
If taking in Indian Rupees please note 500 or 2000 rupee notes are not accepted.
It is best to obtain some Bhutanese notes from the Paro airport ATM (right of exit door).
ATMs accept Visa & MasterCard (debit & credit).
Traveler’s Cheques (Amex) are accepted, exchange rate isn’t very good.
Visa, Master Card & American Express is now frequently accepted in the larger handicraft shops and in most hotels. When using your credit card please ask the merchant if there is a fee surcharge (usually 3-7%).
What is the tipping system in Bhutan?
Tipping is at your discretion. However, the guide, driver and cooks (in case of trekking) do expect tips at the end of your trip.
Your driver and guide are the main people who will accompany you throughout your stay. Therefore, we suggest that you give them:
1-2 people in your group: US$ 8-9/person/day for your guide and $5-6/person/day for your driver
3-8 people in your group: $6-7/person/day for your guide and $4 – 5/person/day for your driver
8-16 people in your group: $5-6/person/day for your guide and $3-4/person/day for your driver.
Tipping When Trekking:
The trekking cook(s) and horsemen are also entitled for some tips at the end of each planned trek component. Your trekking guide will be your guide throughout your entire journey so wait and tip guide and driver at the end of your stay in Bhutan using the previous formula.
Recommendations for tipping trekking crew: These figures below are the total tips to be offered and not per person. You can arrange to pay these tips via your trekking guide who will assist with this process.
Private treks of 5 trekkers or less:
Treks of 4 nights or less: Total US$100 to the 2 cooks & total US$80 to the 2+ horsemen.
Treks of 5 nights plus: Total US$150 to the 2 cooks & total US$100 to the 2+ horsemen.
Group Treks of 6 trekkers or more:
Treks of 4 nights or less: Total US$150 to the 2 cooks & total US$120 to the 4 horsemen.
Treks of 5 nights plus: Total US$200 to the cooks & total US$200 to the 4+ horsemen.
Please note that you should pay each individual directly in either USD or Ngultrum
How are the people, the culture and traditions in Bhutan?
Bhutanese people are regarded as friendly people in the country or elsewhere. They are by nature, physically strong and independent. They also carry an open mind and ready sense of humor. Hospitality is an in-built social value in Bhutan. People from any part of the world can get along fast and well with a Bhutanese.
Bhutanese lead a unique lifestyle and have manners and customs still intact from thousands of years ago. Majority of the population is Buddhist. Their strong belief in “karma” prompts them to show compassion and practice good deeds. Language and literature, the arts and crafts, ceremonies and events, and basic social and cultural values draw their essence from Buddhist religious teachings. The live tradition of fine arts is exhibited in wonderful traditional paintings which can be noticed in monasteries and houses.
Music, dance and handicrafts play a very important role in both by the clergy and the lay population. And one of the most distinctive features of Bhutanese is the dress. The textile tradition here has distinctive skill, shade and style which is progressively being esteemed by textile specialists and users.
What type of cuisine and delicacies are served in Bhutan?
The typical Bhutanese meal is rice (Indian white rice, or the indigenous red variety), with chillies and vegetables three times a day. There will be servings of different side dishes of beef, pork and chicken spiced with of course Bhutanese chillies and veggies.
Chillies are an essential and prominent spice for almost every dish. A Bhutanese will remain incomplete without chillies.
Emadatshi is the national dish which is available in every hotel, restaurant and home. It is prepared with chilies and cheese. It’s spicy and is typically eaten every single day. Veterans say you haven’t really visited Bhutan unless you’ve tried emadatshi. Your guide will know the best to arrange for you when you want to try the special dish.
Salted Butter tea (suja) is prepared with salt and butter. It is served on all social occasions. In traditional homes in the Bhutanese hinterland, the serving host will sit beside you with a jar full of the butter tea and will almost instantly fill your cup to the brim after you have had a sip! That’s part of the Bhutanese tradition, of course.
Chang and Ara is a clear local alcohol distilled from grains.
Is smoking cigarettes allowed in Bhutan?
It is against the law to sell or purchase cigarettes or tobacco products in Bhutan. It is, however, not forbidden to smoke in appropriate areas. You may carry a small supply for personal use. Please note a 200% duty applies to all imported tobacco products and you must show a valid receipt of purchase to avoid confiscation.
What are the duty-free allowances?
The following are the allowances per person when entering Bhutan:
1 liter bottle of spirits or wine (rigidly enforced)
250 ml of perfume
200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250grams tobacco ** A 200% duty fee will apply to bring cigarettes and tobacco products into Bhutan. If you do not have your receipt, you will not be able to bring it into Bhutan.
Currency – no restriction
Gifts/Souvenirs – no restriction
What are hotel accommodations like?
Most visitors to Bhutan take the standard tourist tour package which includes Bhutanese style 3-star hotel accommodation with private bathroom. In order for you to get the best from your Bhutan experience, we urge you to consider the following points.
Please don’t expect your hotel to be any more than a basic 3 star property, and you won’t be disappointed. Rooms with double beds are somewhat rare. We can request one for you but please expect twin beds in many hotel rooms. All hotels offer private bathrooms, however the hot water supply can be ‘erratic’ in some valleys in Bhutan.
Farm-stay accommodation offers shared western style toilet and very limited washing facilities (no showers!) and we do recommend you carry a hand towel with you on farm stays as towels are not always available.
It is possible to stay in very luxurious 4 and 5 star hotels, however; we can work with you to determine the level of luxury you’d enjoy on your trip at an extra cost!
What will be the mode of travel in Bhutan?
Bhutan Corinthian provides Toyota Land cruiser/ Hyundai Santa Fee/ Creta /Tucson for Smaller groups of 1 to 2 people. For groups of up to seven, you will be provided comfortable Toyota Hiace buse / Hyundai H1. Luxury Toyota Coaster buses for groups of eight or more.
What is the climate and weather like in Bhutan?
Bhutan faces four distinct seasons:
- Spring (March, April and May)
- Monsoon (June, July and August)
- Autumn (September, October and November)
- Winter (December, January, February and March)
Climate in Bhutan varies depending upon the altitude. The northern part of the country remains colder than other parts of the country. The west and the central part is cool in summer and gets colder towards winter. The eastern part of the country is considerably warm. The southern in the lower belt is hot and humid in monsoon but has pleasant climate in other seasons.
Climate in Bhutan in general remains favorably pleasant through the year. The only wet months where there is substantial rainfall is in mid-June till early September. The hotels here will adequate you with space heaters in your room in cooler times. Air-conditioning is seldom used though a few hotels have it.
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Bhutan (end of Feb till Mar) and (Sep till Nov).
You can also enjoy the best of wild flowers in May, June and July. This is the time when the nature offers here when mountain slopes are adorned with in plentiful colors.
Nov, Dec, Jan and Feb too provides breathtaking views of incredibly beautiful Himalayas during the sunny days.
When is the time Bhutan offers its best to the visitors?
The seasons and the climate in Bhutan have its own beauty and charm to bargain. Therefore, you are welcome anytime, all the year round. But the best time to visit also depends on what you are looking for. The places here are never crowded with tourists which mean you can always have a comfortable and advantageous tour.
What should one pack to wear in Bhutan?
For tourists we recommend casual travel wear, which are comfortable modest for you and in public. It will be advisable to check out the type of weather we will have here during your visit. You can carry warmer clothes for the evenings and maybe a 2nd pair of shoes for your walk around.
In Bhutan it is mandatory that the nationals follow the national dress code while working visiting at any office or the religious sites.
Dress Code for Entering Dzongs& Monasteries:
The following guidelines should help you in planning what you wear. Your guide will assist you to check the appropriate outfit according the type of visit you have planned for.
Long sleeved trousers with collars are recommended while you visit religious sites and dzongs.
Women can wear a pashmina shawl or scarf in lieu to cover neck & shoulders.
You are advised to wear Full long pants or long skirts which covers your ankles.
Things like hats, umbrellas, t-shirts without collars, knee length/short skirts, ¾ length (capri) pants or shorts should be avoided.
It is safer to dress up in smart modest casuals. The religious sites here also demands that you remove your shoes as you enter. You pack some pairs of thick long socks to be used in such sites on the often cold stone floors.
How is the availability of Internet & wifi in Bhutan?
There is never a problem about internet and wifi in cities, hotels and business centers.And the good news is WiFi is free for a few hours use. Guests are even provided with computers while you are inside. But networks be likely toto be weak and feeble if you travel to the remotest part of the country.
Purchasing a local SIM card for your smart phone or ipad will give you connectivity outside the hotels or when you are travelling. Preactivated 3G/4G Bhutanese SIM cards are available at a SIM counter located in the post office (to the right of the terminal exit door) at Paro Airport. The cost for the SIM is approximately US$2.00 plus call credits.
What is the electricity status in Bhutan?
Bhutan has clean and green energy generated by hydropower in the country. It supplies 230 volts, 50 cycles AC system, which is very reliable. Almost all corners of the country have the connectivity to electricity. The standard socket is the Indian-style round pin socket.
What about the Personal Security Issues in Bhutan?
Bhutan is considered as one of the safest destinations for tourists. You can totally rely on the tour operator here for trouble free stay. We assure you an extremely low menace of theft or any kind of harassment. Foreign tourists are usually held in high esteem. However, it is always safer to be cautious with your cash and other valuables. You can either keep on your person or in your vehicle where they will be safeguarded by your driver whom you can have full trust on.
How safe is it for a solo traveler (lady traveler) to travel in Bhutan?
Bhutan is a place where the people do not face any discrimination on gender, race, class etc. Bhutanese women are offered the equal rights as men for education, voting and holding positions in government. Women are always given the first preferences over all the opportunities. Any lady from anywhere can travel here without worrying about any kind of harassment. Bhutanese are very helpful to come to aid to anyone in trouble or distress. Women are respected. Young men have a reasonably liberal attitude towards their relations with women. Nevertheless several misunderstandings can yield if you don’t make your purposes pure from the very beginning. As with any countries you have been to, you cannot be silly and do all the things you won’t do otherwise in your home. It is always safer to exercise general caution.
Are there any restrictions to photography in Bhutan
Some sacred places like alter rooms of Dzongs and Lhakhangs are not open for photography by any one. Even visits by tourists are prohibited around here so that the monks can continue their practices without interruption. Parts of many monasteries and temples do not allow photography. Generally Bhutanese people do not mind their photos to be taken, yet it will be always appropriate to take their consent.
What is the road condition like in Bhutan?
Bhutan is a mountainous country; hence the roads are like any other road in Himalayas. All roads are in good condition. Lot of road widening projects is going on to lift the road conditions. Of course there are times when road blocks in account of natural hazards or the repairing work.
What makes Bhutan a tourist attraction?
Bhutan bids a countless attractions in series. It is made of diverse altitudes, pleasant climate and untouched green vegetation. Bhutan has amazing culture and tradition which will remain etched in your heart once you know its essence coming. Bhutanese are warm, loving and hospitable. Active Buddhist temples, monasteries, historic Dzongs and monuments add to the nation’s treasure, many of which date prior to 17th century which are still very interesting to see. The architecture of Bhutan is so irreplaceable with colorful and well maintained arts and paintings. The beautiful and colorful attire Bhutanese wear is certainly eye catching. Interesting and lively festivals wait for you in rows. Bhutan, the land of spirit and dream, is always mysterious for trekkers. Climbing the hills and enjoying the views of the untouched mountains will provide you a cleansing experiencing. The routes through the remote villages, Circling around the holy lakes and the sacred sites has something for you. There are so many attractions in Bhutan which make the place worth visiting.
Some words in Dzongkha
Kuzuzangpo La – Good morning/ Good afternoon/ Good evening/ hello
Tashi Delek – May all good things come to you. (Use this as a farewell)
Kardenche La – Thank you.
Goempa – Meditation Centre.
Lhakhang – Temple.
Chapsa – Toilet