Govt. Regd. No: 69767-2066/67

Bhutan Travel Guide

Bhutan Travel Guide

Getting into Bhutan

Geographically, Bhutan, like its neighbor Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia, hence, you can enter Bhutan either by land or by air. There is only one airport in Bhutan: the airport at the town of Paro (PBH).

By Air:

The Paro Airport is Bhutan’s only air field and many consider it to be one of the most beautiful in the world. The flight from New Delhi to Paro takes about 2 hours. Druk Air, the national carrier of Bhutan operates regular flights from Paro to Delhi, Calcutta and Kathmandu. The Druk Air flight schedule changes by season and times are subject to change.

Overland:

There is one overland entry point and 2 exit points: Entry and exit via Phuntsholing. The Airport at the India town of Bagdora lies at a 4 hours drive from Bhutan Border at Phuntsholing. The entry point at Phuntsholing would serve you better if you’re tarvelling via Sikkim and West Bengal of India and Kakarbhitta of Nepal. No Entry Only exit via Samdrup Jongkhar: You can exit through Samdrup Jongkhar in southeast Bhutan to Guwahati of India. From Guwahati, you may fly into other Indian cities like Delhi, Bombay or Kolkotta and to your onward flight connections.

Best time to visit Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan lies in the South Asia between China and India in the Himalayas. Climate and weather also vary according to altitude and season of the year. The season of autumn, from September to late November, is considered to be the best time to visit the kingdom for trekking. The skies are generally clear and the high mountain peaks rise to a vivid blue sky. Autumn is also the time of the popular Thimphu Tsechu festival. However, you can enjoy traveling in Bhutan any time of the year.

The country is divided into three distinct tracts, between the southern foothills and the Himalayan crest, running from south to north. The three climatic zones according to the altitude are:

Tropical: The southern border areas on the foothills

Sub-tropical: From the jungles in the southern Bhutan to lower mountains with altitudes of 2000 – 2500 metres
Alpine: towards northern high land of the Himalayas

The summer months of April to July are particularly hot in the south. But, the central and western Bhutan remain relatively cool and pleasant. The winter months from December to February are the most suitable time for bird watching and rafting. In the March April months of spring the trekking routes are open at the moderate altitudes.

Average Rainfall According to the Region:

Himalayan region Less than 500mm
Inner central valleys 500mm to 1000mm
Southern foothills 2000mm to 3500mm
Southern border area 3000mm to 5000mm

No matter what season you are traveling, you will meet on the way people quietly chanting and spinning their prayer wheels.

Bhutan Visa

Visas are required for travelling to Bhutan, and applications are processed through Bhutan Private Tours in conjunction with tour booking. No foreign missions/embassies abroad grant Bhutan tourist visas. Please submit legible copy of valid Passport to our VISA officer by email. We do not require any photos for visa application. Passports should be valid for at least 6 months.

Bhutan Immigration

Visitors are required to complete a passenger declaration form for checking by concerned officers on arrival. The following articles are exempted from duty :-
a). Personal affects and articles for day to day use by the visitor
b). 1 litre of alcohol (spirits or wine)
c). 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%
d). Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
e). Photogrphic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use .

The articles mentioned under d). & e). must be declared on declaration form. If any such items are disposed in Bhutan by sale of gift, they are liable for custom duty. On departure, visitors are required to surrender their forms to the Custom authorities.
Import / export restrictions

Import and Export of following goods are strictly prohibited :

a). Arms, ammunitions and explosives
b). All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs.

Bhutan Tour Cost

Bhutan tour & trek tariff

Tariff for all services related to tourism in Bhutan are fixed by the Government of Bhutan which are consolidated into a package and charged on per night basis. The package comes with all meals; private transportation regardless of destination/sightseeing spots, govt royalty, all necessary taxes, agent’s handling charge and all other necessary logistic arrangement.

The government fixed package tariff for tourists visiting in a team of 03 persons or more are as follows:-

Tariff in US Dollar:
The minimum tariff for tourist visiting in a group of 3 persons or more is as follows (per person per night):
Jan, Feb, June, July, Aug & Dec (low seasons): USD 200 per person per night
Mar, Apr, May, Sept, Oct & Nov (high seasons): 250 per person per night

The per night cost is same for Cultural Tours, Treks or any other Special Interest Tours.

These minimum daily rates are inclusive of following services :
i) Accommodation in standard hotels, approved by Tourism Council of Bhutan
ii) All transfers and sightseeing within Bhutan
iii) services of accompanied English speaking guide
iv) All meals
v) Government’s royalty & taxes
vi) Riding ponies and pack animals on treks
vii) Entrance fees to the monuments

Individual tourists and smaller groups of less than three persons are subject to following surcharges, over and above daily package tariff :
Surcharge incase only single person travelling = USD 40 per night
Surcharge incase 02 persons travelling together = USD 30 per person per night
Incase the number of persons travelling together is 03 or more then there is no surcharge.

Agency Commission

As per international norms, 10% of the gross tour payment shall be payable to the principal agents abroad as commission and shall be deducted by these agents at source. Further, this commission shall be calculated from the net amount after deducting the discounts wherever applicable. Also there is no commission on FIT Surcharges, applicable incase of 01 and 02 pax.

Single Room Supplements

The Government set package rates are valid for accommodation on twin sharing basis and incase of using single rooms, following supplements will be applicable :

Festival seasons USD 50 per single room per night
Other seasons USD 40 per single room per night

Tourism Development Fund
US$ 10

Visa Fee
Visa fee USD 40 per person is payable extra and it can paid along with tour payment.[/toggle]

What to wear in Bhutan

Clothing and gear requirements in Bhutan

Comfortable clothing and sturdy, soft-soled shoes are essential for travel in Bhutan. Warm clothing is recommended; and except for summer months, down jackets and woolen sweaters are suggested. In summer, heavy cottons and lightweight woolens will be acceptable. Altitudinal differences account for a wide range of temperatures from day to night the year round. It is, therefore, suggested that clothing be layered so that you can adapt to the changing conditions.

While visiting temples and other religious institutions, dress modestly and respectfully. Slacks are more appropriate for men; and longer length skirts are more appropriate for women. Shoulders must also be covered when inside religious buildings. Also refrain from smoking while on the premises. Please keep in mind that shoes must be removed when entering temples. It is, therefore, suggested that you carry a pair of socks to wear inside religious buildings.

Clothes to Wear in BhutanThe following is fairly exhaustive list of what you should pack for the trip ; clothes as per season, sunglasses / spare glasses, pair of casual shoes, knife, hat, umbrella, camera, films and accessories, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, scissor, sun cream, lip salve, soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhea pills, a preparation for the relief of sunburn and any medication you take regularly.

Camping Equipment whilst on a trek
Whilst trekking you are provided with foam mats but we recommend you bring a self-inflating mat pack called Thermarest. This packs up small but when inflated gives very good insulation and is more comfortable than a single closed-cell foam mat. We do not recommend that you bring an airbed. You should also bring your Sleeping bags which should be 4-seasons bags as the temperature will decrease especially at 4,000m camp sites.

Bhutan Festivals

Bhutan is one of the most religious countries in the Tibetan Buddhist world. And like in all Buddhist nations, festivals have a special place in the hearts of its residents. Most of the Bhutanese festivals commemorate the deeds of the Buddha, or those of the great masters of the past associated with one Buddhist tradition or another.

Bhutanese culture is characterized by religious celebrations. Its people love socializing, attending festivals, joking, playing, and doing all the things that help them to be in the spirit of celebration. Religion and social life are so intrinsically linked in the culture that some festival appears to be taking place somewhere in Bhutan throughout the year. Among these festivals, one of the most recognized and attended by the masses is the Tsechu festival (‘Tse’ means ‘date’ and ‘Chu’ means ‘ten’; i.e. ’10th day’). This festival is celebrated to commemorate the great deeds of the 8th century Tantric Master Guru Padmasambhava.

‘Guru Rimpoche’ or simply ‘Guru’ as he is referred to, introduced the Nyingma school of Buddhism into Tibet and Bhutan. Each 10th day of the lunar calendar is said to commemorate a special event in the life of Padmasambhava and some of these are dramatized in the context of a religious festival. Most of the festivals last from three to five days – of which one day usually falls on the 10th day of the lunar calendar. It is not just the time for people to get together, dress up and enjoy a convivial light hearted atmosphere, but also a time to renew one’s faith, receive blessings by watching the sacred dances, or receive ’empowerment’ from a lama or Buddhist monk.

Bhutan-Mask-FestivalAn auspicious event of many of the Tshechus is the unfurling of the Thongdrol from the main building overlooking the dance area. This is done before sunrise and most people rush to witness the moment. Thongdrols are large Thangkas or religious pictures that are usually embroidered rather than painted. The word itself means ‘liberation on sight.’ It is believed that bad karmas are expiated simply by viewing it. Spring is one of the best times to visit Bhutan; it is also at this time that the local inhabitants of Paro celebrate the spring festival, one of the most popular festivals. Monks as well as laymen dressed in brilliant costumes and wearing masks of both wrathful as well as peaceful deities, re-enact the legends and history of Buddhism in the Dragon Kingdom. The festival culminates in the spectacular showing of the four storey high, 350 years old Thangkha (Buddhist religious scroll), – celebrating the deeds of Padmasambava, who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan.

The Wandgue and Thimphu Tsechus are in the fall and they too are most impressive. These festivals are very popular with western tourists. The festivals in Bumthang and East Bhutan attract fewer tourists and those who want to get a more authentic flavor of Bhutan’s cultural and religious extravaganza will be well rewarded.

Apart from its religious implications, the Tshechu is also an annual social gathering where people dress in their finest clothing and jewellery. A small fair may be organized outside the Dzong for those looking for variety entertainment. Locals attending the festival enjoy a picnic lunch with an abundance of locally brewed alcohol. After the festival they traverse west to east along Bhutan’s lateral highway enjoying the great biodiversity, ranging from conifer forests to banana trees and cactus plants. Along the route one catches glimpses of various birds and wild animals, and experiences the ancient tradition and culture of the Bhutanese way of life.

The dances that are performed at this event honoring the ‘Guru’, known as Cham, are performed to bless onlookers and to teach them the Buddhist dharma in order to protect them from misfortune and to exorcise all evil. The dancers take on the aspects of wrathful and compassionate deities, heroes, demons, and animals. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Pema Lingpa were the main composers of many of the dances. It is believed that merit is gained by attending this religious festival. The dances invoke the deities to wipe out misfortunes, increase luck and grant personal wishes. Onlookers rarely fail to notice the Atsaras or clowns who move through the crowds mimicking the dancers and performing comic routines in their masks with long red noses. A group of ladies perform traditional Bhutanese dances during the intervals between mask dances.

No one should visit Bhutan without going to a Tsechu. Since most monasteries stage their own Tsechu at different times of the year to honor Guru Rimpoche, there’s a festival almost every week. Western tourists flock to the larger of these events such as the ones at Paro, Wangue and Thimphu, and hotels and flights are sold out months in advance to organized tourist groups. Anyone who wishes to visit Bhutan during these festivals should plan and make their tour arrangements well in advance. The dates and duration of the Tsechu festivals vary among dzongkhags (Districts) but they always fall on or around the 10th day of the month in the Bhutanese calendar. Please click here for the festival dates

Bhutan Currency

Bhutanese currency is Ngultrum (Nu.) and is officially pegged to the Indian Rupee. 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 is accepted mainly by Deluxe hotels and few selected Handicrafts establishments only.

There are ATMs in Bhutan but currently they only operate with their respective Bhutanese banks. Since these ATMs currently do not function with outside banks, so ATM facility can not be used by visitors. Traveler’s checks / cash are best option if you need additional money.

Cash and Travelers Cheques exchange facility is available for most of the main currencies including the US dollar, Euro, Indian Rupee, Japanese Yen, Thai Baht, Pound Sterling, Swiss Franc, Hong Kong dollar, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, Singapore dollar, Danish kroner, Norwegian kroner, and Swedish kroner. Exchange rates vary.

It is also possible to have funds wired with the services of Western Union but funds cannot be accessed in all locations, and are limited in amounts and days of availability.

Communication in Bhutan

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. However, now both DHL and Federal Express have offices in Thimphu which can be utilized for sending and receiving documents and packages.

Internet facilities are continuously increasing in number and can be found in major cities and towns. Although 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.

Photography in Bhutan

Bhutan’s landscape, buildings and people are some of the most photogenic in the world. While photographic local people, it is always better to take permission first. Don’t take your destination as a living museum. 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 (monastery) from outside. If you are uncertain about whether or not photography is permitted, please check with your local guide. You should refrain from taking pictures of military installations.

Weather in Bhutan

Geographically, Bhutan is a land of dramatic contrast. From the near tropical southern border with India, steep slopes climb to snow-capped heights of over 24,750 feet / 7,500m at the northern border with Tibet. Consequently, temperatures vary greatly between day and night and at different altitudes, so layered clothing for changing conditions, is recommended. In the central valleys, the summer rains are not as heavy as in the south and occur mostly in late afternoon and at night. From mid-May to the end of September, the weather is warm at night (60-64F/17-18C) and in the day (72-78F/22-26C). In winter, the sky is bright and it is sunny but cold, especially when the sun hides behind the mountains in the mornings and evenings. At night, the temperature falls below zero. Spring and Autumn are very pleasant with warm days and cool nights.

Best Time to Visit Bhutan

Trip to Bhutan can be planned throughout the year but best months are Mar, April, May, September, October, November. Also there are several festivals taking place during these months, offering an added attraction. Winter in Bhutan is from mid November to mid March and at this time of the year, climate is dry and sunny for the most parts with perfect blue sky, temperatures peaking at around 15c in the daytime and falling below zero at night. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with light rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings.

Shopping & souvenir in Bhutan

Items that are most frequently purchased by travelers to Bhutan 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 selling of antiques is strictly forbidden.[/toggle]

Cuisine in Bhutan

Bhutanese food is generally good. Set meals for travelers tend to be on the bland side, because local food is heavily seasoned with red chilies and can be quite hot. Most hotels provide meals buffet-style. There are usually continental, Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese dishes. The food in hotels is often the best in town, but in main towns now there are few restaurants increasingly becoming popular. All tourist hotels have good selection of international and Bhutanese beverages.

Nightlife in Bhutan

Bar and Pub:
Are open from 1PM in the afternoon to 11PM in the night, Bar with Traditional Dancer and Bhutanese songs. You can buy all kind of alcohol, imported beer, Local Beer, Scotch whisky, Local Bhutanese Whisky, Juice and teas. People who are interested can also join and dance with the dancers and sing.

Disco Club

Night life in Bhutan is not like in other part of the world, we do have night life which is on sudden days in a week. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Wednesday is considered as a ladies night where ladies do not have to pay an entrance fees. Friday and Saturday is usual day where everyone has to pay an entrance fee of US$ 5 per person. On the Wednesday it remains open till 12:00Mid night and Week End till 2am in the morning. Smoking in the disco club is prohibited.

Bhutan Distance Chart

Driving time between various places in Bhutan

From / To Distance (km) Driving Time
Thimphu to Paro 65KM – 1 hour
Thimphu to Phuntsholing 176KM – 6 hours
Phuntsholing to Bagdogra(India) 170KM – 4 hours
Thimphu to Wangdue Phodrang 70KM – 2 hours
Thimphu to Punakha 77KM – 2 hours
Punakha to Wangdue Phodrang 21KM – 20 mins
Wangdue Phodrang to Trongsa 129KM – 2 hours
Trongsa to Bumthang 68KM – 2 hours
Bumthang to Mongar 198KM – 7 hours
Mongar to Trashigang 90KM – 3 hours
Trashigang to Choeten Kora 52KM – 1 hour 30 mins
Trsahigang to Samdrup Jongkhar 180KM – 6 hours
Samdrup Jongkhar to Guwahati (India) 110KM – 3 hours[/toggle]

Bhutan Time Zone

Bhutan Time (BTT) is the time zone of Bhutan. It is +6:00 hrs ahead of Universal Time Coordinated (UTC+6). Bhutan does not observe any Daylight saving time.

Useful words & Phrases

Bhutanese generally use the suffix ‘la’ as an honorific one and feel that omitting it makes their remarks sound too harsh. This custom is often carried even into English and expressions like ‘Yes-la’ or ‘I’m not sure-la’ are common and only imply respect. We have given a few common phrases here and that you will find helpful while traveling in Bhutan. To read these translations, know that most of the consonants in Dzongkha are pronounced the same way they are in English. The h after some of the consonants is not pronounced but indicates that the preceding letter is aspirated. Thus, “th” is not pronounced as in ‘thank’ but as “ta” in “take”; “ph” is not pronounced as in “Phone” but as “pa” in “pasta”. However, “ch” is pronounced as in “much” and “sh” is pronounced as in “shoe.” Vowels in Dzongkha are pronounced as follows:

“a” as in “mama”,
“e” as the “ey” in “they”,
“i” as in “bit”,
“o” as in “go”, and
“u” as the “oo” in “look”,

English Word/Phrase Bhutanese Translation

1 – Chi
2 – Ni
3 – Sum
4 – Shi
5 – Nga
6 – Du
7 – Din
8 – Gey
9 – Gu
10 – Chutham
Butter Tea – Suja
Chili – Ema
Good Luck – Tashi Delek
Good-Bye – Legshembe Joen (If You’re The Person Staying)
Legshembe Shug (If You’re The Person Leaving)
Hello – Kuzo Zangpo La
How Are You? – Ga De Bay Ye?
How Much Is The Cost Of This Item? – Di Gi Gong Ga Dem Chi Mo?
I Am From India. – Nga India Lay In.
My Name Is Peter. – Nge Gi Ming Peter In.
No – Me
No Thank You – Miju
Ok – Toup
OK I Will Buy It. – Toob, Nga Gi Nyo Ge.
Please Reduce The Cost A Bit. – Gong Aa Tsi Phab Nang.
Potato – Kewa
Rice – Chum
See Ya Later – Shoo Lay Log Jay Ge
Thank You – Kadrin Chhe
What Is Your Name? – Chhoe Gi Ming Ga Chi Mo?
Where Is The Toilet? – Chhabsang Ga Ti Mo?
Yes – Ing