Tourism in Bhutan is unique as it is referred as the “ Switzerland of Asia” from quant farming villages to magical forests to mountains where yeti’s supposedly live, Bhutan is a place which has escaped the civilized touch of the rest of the world, It is The land of “Gross National Happiness” whose philosophy is being practiced worldwide.
With its beautiful and largely unspoiled Himalayan setting, its rich flora and fauna, the mesmeric rolling hills and towering crags magnificent mountains, dense forests, oure air, delightful people and its vibrant Buddhist culture, Bhutan the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” or “Druk Yul” has become an increasingly popular destination for international tourists. Bhutan often revered as, is still regarded as one of the last “Shangri-La’s” in the Himalayan region because of its remoteness, its spectacular mountain terrain, varies flora and fauna and its unique ancient Buddhist monasteries besides timeless images of its history.
The tiny kingdom of Bhutan shares with Nepal the world’s greatest concentration of mountains and living heritage of Buddhism. Flight to Paro can truly be described as a flight into fantasy. During the flight, a firsthand close up view of Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga and other famous peaks of the Himalaya range become a reality.
Important Information of Bhutan
Facts and Figures
Land Area : 38,394 square kilometers
Forest area : 72.5 %
Altitude : between 240 meters and 7541 metres above sea level
Inhabitants : 700,000
Language : official language “Dzongkha”, English widely spoken
Religion : vajrayana stream of Mahayana Buddhism (Also known as Tantric Buddhism)
Currency : Ngultrum (Equal to Indian Rupee)
Capital : Thimphu
National Bird : Raven
National Tree : Cypress
National flower : Blue Poppy
National Sport : Archery
National Animal : Takin
Local Time : Six hours ahead of GMT and half an hour ahead of Indian standard Time and one hour behind Thailand, Bhutan is eleven hours ahead of New York City.
Country code : The Country code is 975
Legal formalities of Bhutan:
Visitors are required to complete a passenger declaration form on arrival.
The formal articles are exempted from duty:-
Personal affects and articles for day use by the visitor
- 1 liter of alcohol (Spirits of wine)
- 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200% ( on MRP printed on pack)
- Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
- Photography equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.
Visa Requirement & Procedure
Bhutan Visa & Procedure
In order to process Bhutan visa clear readable color copy of passport (page containing passport no and face picture in Jpeg or PDF format) is required at least 30 days prior to date of entry into Bhutan. Remaining validity of passport should be at least 6 months from the date of entry into Bhutan (excluding the travelling month).
Tourism Council of Bhutan issues visa clearance letter closer to travelling date which will be emailed or faxed or provided to local travel agent, Travelers are required to produce aforesaid visa clearance copy at the time of check-in for Druk Air flight while those entering Bhutan by surface via Phuentsholing or Samdrup jonkhar, they are required to produce this Visa Clearance letter at the Immigration Actual visa is stamped on passport on arrival in Bhutan.
Visa fee of USD 40 (effective from Jan 2013) is required to be paid in advance along with tour package cost.
Guests are required to have multiple entry visa for India if they are travelling to Bhutan from India and again re-entering into India from Bhutan, 2 months re-entry restriction in Indian visa is required. If restriction has been stamped in Indian visa, get ot endorsed by Indian embassy in Thimphu also on working days, Mon-Fri during office time excluding Government holidays, to allow re-entering India. Always carry the proof of Bhutan Travel (Druk Air booking etc.) to provide when needed.
Health and Vaccination
No vaccination is currently required for entry into Bhutan. If the guest is arriving from a country infected with yellow fever, then a vaccine for the same is required to be taken. In case of arrival from a Cholera infected area then officials may ask evidence of Cholera vaccination, Anti malarial medication is recommended for all travelers to Bhutan who are visiting rural areas in the districts that border India.
It is suggested that to assemble a traveler’s medical kit appropriate to destinations, length of trip and general health. On a tour in Bhutan, there are long drives, and roads are winding so medication for motion sickness is strongly suggested. One should also pack an adequate supply of any prescribed medications you may require while traveling.
Travelers who plan to visit Bhutan should consult a physician about high-altitude travel. After a brief period of acclimatization, most people do not suffer from altitude sickness; but elderly travelers or those with high blood pressure or heart conditions need to exercise caution at high altitudes.
Health Precaution :
Avoid tap water and stick to mineral water, easily available everywhere. Roads between cities are winding so medication for motion sickness is strongly suggested. Kindly carry an adequate supply of any prescribed medications while traveling.
Adequate travel insurance is important for your personal safety. Mountain and other adventure sports enthusiasts should have insurance that covers trekking, climbing and mountain biking.
Weather in Bhutan
Autumn (Late September to Late November) is the ideal time for trekking and for travelling throughout the country, when skies are generally clear and the high mountain peaks rise to a vivid visible against clear blue sky.
Spring (Mid-March to May, is recognized as the second best time to visit Bhutan for touring and trekking. Although you may experience more clouds and rain than in the autumn, you can also get good view of the high Himalayan peaks. The magnificent rhododendrons, magnolias and other wildflowers are in bloom and bird life is abundant.
The monsoon usually arrives in early June and lasts till mid-September. Light to heavy rain expected mainly in the afternoons and evenings.
Winter (December to early March), the sky is bright and sunny but cold, especially when the sun hides behind the mountains in the mornings and evenings. At night, the temperature falls below zero.
Dress code and etiquette
Bhutanese by and large are conservative in their thinking. Please avoid body hugging, sleeveless Tops or short skirts while walking around public areas. Shorts and Tank Tops are strictly no allowed inside the temples, monasteries and Dzongs. One has to wear temple socks while entering the monasteries and temples also has to wear collared shirts at Paro Dzong (Ta Dzong). Hats need to be takeoff while entering religious site.
Avoid smoking while visiting the Dzongs, temples and Monaseteries.
Always walk in a clockwise direction while visiting religious places or objects like temples, monasteries, Stupas, prayer flags etc. Please do not point a finger at a scared object or place. It is considered being disrespectful.
Tourism council of Bhutan(TCB) has now started categorizing hotels into their respective stars. Though some of the hotels are categorized into 4 star or 3 star but the actual service standard doesn’t fully correspond to their star rating. Due to limited availability of skilled manpower in hospitality sector, there are some noticeable flaws in the service at most the mid-range hotels.
Especially in major towns such as: Thimphu, Paro, Punakha , Wangduephodrang, Bhumthang & Phuntsholing hotels are of reasonably good standard however when one ventures into eastern part of the country like Mongar, Trashigang & Samdrup Jongkhar, the lodging gets more rudimentary. Here most of the accommodations are small family run guest houses.
Ngultrum is the local currency of Bhutan. It is equal in value to the Indian Rupees which is frequently used in place of Ngultrum. All major currencies like US Dollars, Sterling Pounds, Euros, Indian Rupees etc. and travelers cheque can be exchanged ar the Paro airport Banks and Hotels.
Also Indian Rupee is acceptable all over Bhutan except Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes. Credit cards have limited acceptability and payment through credit card si accepted mainly by deluxe hotels and few selected Handicrafts establishments only.
There are ATM’s in Bhutan but currently then only operate with their respective Bhutanese banks, Since the ATMs currentlty do not function with outside banks, ATM facility cannot be used by visitiors. Taveler’s checks/ cash are best option if you need additional money.
Here, electricity runs on 220/240 volts, with a circular two pin three pin power outlets. For all electrical appliances that you bring with you, please carry the appropriate adapters. Thimphu is the only city where this may be available.
English is widely spoken by an Bhutanese, however, the official language of Bhutan is Dzonkha, though many regions have retained their dialects due to their isolation.
Bhutanese cuisine generally consists of steamed rice (red and white) with a varied choice of spicy curries, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Most hotels provide meals buffet-style. There are usually continental, Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese dishes. The food in hotels is often the best on town, but in main towns now there are few restaurants increasingly becoming popular.
All tourist hotels have good selection of international and Bhutanese beverages and also there are enough options for vegetarians too.
All major towns and cities have basic communication facilities, including phone, fax, and email service. Local and international calls can be made from all hotels and public phone booths for a fee. Cell phones with a Bhutanese SIM card can also be used in most urban places and some rural places as well, and can be used with a commonly available pre-paid mobile voucher.
Standard mail service in Bhutan is handled by Bhutan Post, and is commonly found throughout the country, DHL and federal express now offers courier services from Thimphu.
Internet facilities are continuously increasing in number and can be found in major cities and towns. Althogh there are many of the Internet cafes still rely on a dial-up connection, which can be very slow, high speed wireless and broadband can be found in certain areas.
All mode of transport with in Bhutan is by road. The motorable roads are well maintained and connect most of the places. However the mountainous terrain and winding road restrict the average driving speed of vehicle to about 35 km per hour.
We use Hyundai Tucson / Santa Fe for a team of 1-2 guests. A Toyota Hiace Mini van for a team of 3-6 guests and a deluxe Toyota coaster for a group of 7-18 guests. All these vehicles are periodically checked and maintained.
Kuensel, Bhutan observer and the Bhutan Times are the local newspapers published in English. Kuensel is also published in local language Dzongkha and Nepali. The Newspaper is also available online : www.kuenselonline.com, www.bhutantimes.com,
Radio & Television:
Bhutan Broadcasting service has programs in Dzongkha, English and Nepali, Television started in year 2000 and various channels are now available such as BBC, CNN, Discovery, Star TV and ESPN.
Bhutan’s landscape, buildings and people are some of the most photogenic in the worldl. While photographic local people, it is always better to take permission first. There are certain places such as monasteries and temples, where photography is prohibited however there is no restriction on photographing Dzongs (fort or fortress) and Goembas (Monsastery) from outside. Avoid taking pictures of military installations.
Shopping and Souvenirs:
Most common souvenirs include postage stamps, lovely hand-woven fabrics, carved masks, woven baskets, thangkhas, wooden bowls, handmade paper and finely-crafted metal objects. In Bhutan, the buying and / or buying and / or selling of antiques is strictly forbidden.
Tipping is not compulsory for tour, nor there is any fixed amount for this. Nevertheless the bottom line in determining whether and how much to tip is to ask yourself how much the individual contributed to make your travels more enjoyable.