|The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for the visitors. Hence it is important that you get detailed information about the insurance scheme. You may also visit the web site at www.ricb.com.bt, or write to us.|
|Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu) that is at par with the Indian Rupee. It is however recommended that you carry travelers’ cheque or cash, preferably American Express and US dollar instead, as the ATM facilities for foreign currency is limited to just few towns including the capital city Thimphu. Visa and American Express credit cards are also widely accepted.|
|Financial institutions in Bhutan have been greatly enhanced and today we have a number of banks that caters to the needs of the people. Some of the banks that you can avail of services and facilities while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB, Bhutan Development Bank Limited, and the Tashi Bank. Many of these banks provide you with SMS and internet banking facilities. There are also ATM facilities that you can avail of and ATMS are located in a number of places where you can withdraw your money especially in Thimphu and in the border town of Phuentsholing. Traveler’s cheque can be easily withdrawn and exchanged into local currency. However, as you travel into the interior, ATM and internet facilities are almost non-existent and we suggest that you do your banking facilities while in Thimphu.|
|All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets. Our energy is clean and green energy generated by hydropower.|
|The country has a good network of telecommunication facilities. Almost every town has an internet cafe and IDD calling booths from where you can log on to and send messages home and to your loved ones. Also most hotels have internet access. Mobile (cell) phone is also widely used with international roaming facilities.|
|Bhutan experiences a great variation in its climate. Summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 Celsius, while winters are cold. In winters temperatures are usually below 15 Celsius. So bring with you a couple of warm clothes and comfortable shoes to go with the weather, the terrain and the program. You might want to consider ‘what to wear’ for hikes, trekking and sightseeing, as well as for dinners, appointments and functions that we have for you. Others that you could consider bringing with you would be a pair of sunglasses, sun screen lotion and a hat; antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhoea pills, altitude & car sickness medicine; insect repellent, flash light (w/spare batteries) umbrella, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries)etc.|
|Bhutan is an ideal place and a frequent haunt for photographers offering immense opportunities for photography especially during our outdoor sightseeing trips. However you may need to check with your guide for indoor photography as taking photographs inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions are restricted unless you have a special permission from the Department of Culture. One can however, capture images of the landscapes, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, the rural folk life, the flora and fauna, the Bhutanese architecture and the Dzongs and Choetens in particular.|
|For people who love shopping and taking home gifts, Bhutan offers a variety of goods that revolve mainly round textiles. You may shop for items like hand-woven textiles that is either in raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products or finely crafted gods of silver. You can also shop for thangka paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamp. One can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and also in major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.|
|Tipping is a purely personal matter. We do not have any tradition of giving tips and we clearly leave it up to you as to whether you want to give tips to your guides and drivers.|
|The following articles are exempt from duty:(a) Personal effects 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) Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.You have to complete the passenger declaration form on your arrival before checking out. The articles mentioned under (d) & (e) must be declared on the declaration form. If any such items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty.
On departure, visitors are required to surrender their forms to the customs authorities.
Import/export restrictions of the following goods is strictly prohibited: (a) Arms, ammunitions and explosives (b) All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs (c) Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species (d) Antiques.
Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival. Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate.
|Bhutanese speak a variety of languages but Dzongkha is the national language and one of the most widely spoken languages. English is also a medium of communication and most Bhutanese speak English. Communicating in English especially with the people in the urban areas and the towns will enhance your knowledge on Bhutan.|
|Clothes and other Paraphernalia|
|With great altitudinal variations weather is quite erratic in Bhutan. So be prepared to brace the erratic weather as you step outdoor. We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.|
|Our standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country.|
|Office hours in Bhutan are divided into two timings – the summer timing and the winter timing. The summer timing begins at 9 AM Bhutan standard time and goes on till 5 PM in the evening. The summer timing is followed from March till the end of October. The winter timing that lasts for the months of November till the end of February begins at 9 AM in the morning till 4 PM in the evening. However, these timings are followed only in Thimphu and few other districts. These timing is followed only by the civil servants. For those people employed in corporations and private organizations, the timings are usually from 9 AM till 5 PM irrespective of the season.|
|Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, it is advisable to have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations.|
|Avoid drinking unboiled water or taking ice cubes at all times as most water sources in Bhutan are untreated though they have their source in the mountains. One can come across treated and bottled water readily in any town and are affordable.|
|We have a duty to protect Bhutan from Drugs and Tobacco Products. To do this we need your help and cooperation. If we stop you and ask you about your baggage please cooperate.Please do not carry tobacco goods that are over the limits.|
|Over the years, many quality hotels have come up in Bhutan. Most hotels in Bhutan meet the recent standardization policy, most tourists accommodate in a 5 star or a 3 star hotel. The hotels are well maintained and have all basic amenities such as geysers and shower rooms and are properly maintained. Visitors can be assured of their warmth and comfort of the hotels, and the ambience and the hospitality offered by the hotels are incredible. The 5 star hotels are mostly located in Thimphu and in Paro; towns like Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang also have a variety of hotels that are comfortable. Away from town, you may find it tempting to camp outside in the forest or make a night halt at the purpose-built-in cabins sprinkled along some main trekking routes.|
|Most Bhutanese dishes are rich and spicy with a lot of cheese and chilli. It is advisable that visitors stick to the Chinese, Continental or Indian cuisine that is served in most restaurants. Visitors can also choose among the various vegetarian and non-veg food. You can also try out momos, the Tibetan dumplings and for those daring, you may try out the ema datshi dish served with cheese and chili and other typical Bhutanese dishes.|
|Weights and Measures|
|Bhutan has a standard system of weights and measurements in place and most weights are measured in gram (g) and kilogram (kg). With better and efficient measurement systems readily available, most of the shop keepers in the capital city make use of electronic and weighing scale. However, as you travel further east, you will find the ordinary weighing scale in place.|
|While safety is not much of a concern, however it is good to come prepared for any mishap. One needs to avoid walking alone or roaming the streets after 9 PM as you may never know of any mishap that may occur. The capital city has begun to see burglaries, street fights and an increasing number of drug abusers. It is advisable that you keep a safe distance and be in your rooms. Or else you may visit the town in groups or with your guides.|
|Also please ensure that your belongings especially your passports, route permits, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. There have been incidents where visitors found their important documents missing.|
|Guides and Interpreters|
|Bhutan has a good team of interpreters and guides who are well-versed in history and possess good communication skills. They are all certified who undergo training conducted by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. There are also guides who speak fluent Japanese, Thai and other European languages.|
|Public holidays are declared by the government. However, each district has its own list of holidays that is observed especially while conducting annual tshechus (religious festivals). For this one may contact your service provider or your travel agent.|
Tourists can book a package holiday to Bhutan through both international and Bhutanese tour operators. Information is available from travel agencies.
The Royal Government of Bhutan sets minimum selling prices for packages to Bhutan and this must be paid in US dollars prior to arrival in Bhutan.
The minimum tariff for tourist visiting in a group of 3 persons or more are as follows:
High Season Tariff – USD 250 per person per night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November.
Season Tariff – USD 200 per person per night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December.
The minimum price includes:
All internal taxes and charges (including the royalty)
All travel with a licensed Bhutanese Tour Guide
All Internal Transport
Camping Equipment and Haulage for Trekking Tours
The rates are applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan. On the day of departure, the ‘local agents’ host obligation shall be limited to breakfast only and any extra requirements shall be payable on actual basis.
The rates shall apply uniformly irrespective of locations and the type of accommodation provided/asked for. List of hotels and lodges approved for international tourist accommodation updated from time to time shall be issued by TCB.
Individual tourists and smaller groups of less than three persons shall be subject to surcharge, over and above the minimum daily rates applicable, as follows:
Single individual US$ 40 per night
Group of 2 persons US$ 30 per person per night
The 10% agency commission payable to agents abroad shall not be deductible from the surcharge.
The surcharge will not be applicable to representatives of foreign travel agents on business study or promotional visit duly approved and cleared by TCB.
a) With effect from 01/07/2009, the government has revoked the 25% discount on Diplomatic visas.
b) There shall be no charge for CHILDREN up to the age of 5 years. However, those between the ages of 6-12 years accompanied by elders/ guardians shall be given 50% discount on daily rates and 100% discount on Royalty.
c) Full time STUDENTS below the age of 25 years holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions shall also be given a 25% discount on daily rates.
d) A discount of 50% on daily rates shall be given to one person in a group of 11 to 15 people. 100% discount shall be given to one member in a group exceeding 16 persons.
e) 50% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 8th night and 100% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 14th night.
f) Visitors availing discounts under Sections A, B & C shall not be eligible for discount under E.
Detailed information on Druk Air flights, tour and trekking programmes, festivals, places of interest, hotels, etc can be obtained from the tour operators.
Other than Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals, all visitors to Bhutan require a visa; all visas are issued from Thimphu; visas are only issued to tourists booked with a local licensed tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent. Applications for tourist visas are submitted by the tour operator. Visa clearance from Thimphu must be obtained before coming to Bhutan. Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process. Air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased without visa clearance. At your point of entry the visa will be stamped in your passport on payment of US$20; two passport photos will also be required. Visas are issued for a 15-day period; extensions can be obtained in Thimphu at a cost of Nu 510.
Tour Programmes booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows:
within 30 days of start of programme – no charges
within 21 days – 10% of rate
within 14 days – 15% of rate
within 7 days – 30% of rate
less than 7 days or without notice – 50% of rate
after arrival in Bhutan – 100%
There is no charge for delays in arrival and departure because of weather conditions disrupting flights or road blocks. The tourist must however bear the cost of food, accommodation, transportation, and other services required.
Note: INR (Indian Rupees) denominations of 500 and 1,000 are not accepted in Bhutan.
(Information courtesy: Tourism Council of Bhutan)
Getting to Bhutan
The way to Bhutan
Till Bhutan embarked on a planned economic development in the early 1960s, Bhutan by and large remained cut off from the rest of the world. The country was accessible only by foot. The two main entry points to the country was from the North and from the South. From the north, the entry was from Tibet and was possible crossing the high passes while from the South it was through the plains of Assam and West Bengal. However, with the planned economic development, accessibility became easy with motorable roads connecting Bhutan with the other parts of the country.
Today the main points of entry are through Phuentsholing in the south that links Bhutan with the Indian plains of West Bengal, through Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar that link with the Indian state of Assam and through Paro, where the entry is through Druk Air, the National airline of Bhutan.
Travel by Air
The country has so far only one international airport that caters to the needs of visitors coming in through flight. However, within Bhutan, there are domestic flights to Yonphula in eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in central Bhutan, and Gelephu in south-central Bhutan. The international airport at Paro is located at a height of 7,300 ft above sea level and surrounded by mountains and hills as high as 16,000 feet. Druk Air flies to destinations that include Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bodh Gaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati and Singapore.
The flight between Paro and Kathmandu is one of the most exciting ones as the aircraft passes over four of the five highest mountains in the world. In fine weather, as you soar higher up, you can enjoy the spectacular display of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga at their best.
Travel by Land
Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar in eastern Bhutan are the only land border areas open for international tourists. The town of Phuentsholing is located approximately 170 km east of the Indian national airport Bagdogra. After crossing Phuentsholing, your journey then begins its mountainous climb through numerous turns and hair-pin bends till you enter Thimphu, the capital city. The travel time for the 176 km stretch can be about six hours.
Gelephu in South-Central Bhutan is another entry point to Bhutan. It is approximately 250 kms from Thimphu and the journey will take you through the sub-tropical areas of Bhutan before entering the alpine zone and then finally into Thimphu. One will have to traverse across three districts and the travel time will be about ten hours.
Samdrup Jongkhar is the only entry point in eastern Bhutan. The town borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam and is approximately 150 kms away from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The journey from Guwahati is about three hours. Tourists entering Bhutan through Samdrup Jongkhar will take you to Trashigang, the largest district in the country, and from there over the lateral route to Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa, Wangdue Phodrang and then finally into capital, Thimphu. The distance is about 700 kms and will take you a minimum of three days to reach Thimphu.
The contact addresses of the Druk Air offices are as follows:
New Delhi Tel: 91-11-335-7703
Kolkata Tel: 91-33-240-2419
Paro International Airport Tel: +975-8-271856/271857
Visit www.drukair.com.bt for more information
You can enter into Bhutan from any of the three entry points: Samdrup Jongkhar (southeast Bhutan), Gelephu (south Bhutan), and Phuentsholing (southwest Bhutan)
You will be endorsed by the immigration officers upon your arrival before you are issued with a permit. Make sure you go personally. You may have to carry your passport (also some passport photographs) or voter’s registration card. If you plan to travel by road, the endorsement is done at the entry points in Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Gelephu. If by flight, you will enter from the Paro Airport.
Traveling within Bhutan
Despite the major hurdle posed by the inaccessible terrain, the high mountain passes, all major towns and important places of visit are connected by a good road network. However, an important feature of the road system is the innumerable curves and bends that one will have to negotiate. Besides the bends, another characteristic of the road network is the steep ascents and descents that slow down the car travels. An average speed for road travel rarely exceeds 40 kilometers an hour, with tourist buses making even slower progress. One is however generously rewarded for the long and tiring car journey by the spectacular views of the mountains, the lush green jungles, the ancient villages, the majestic temples and monasteries and the many road side restaurants and inns.
The roads are well sealed but the rides can still be bumpy as the lanes are single and narrow at most points. The advantage is that the Bhutanese are well accustomed to driving such lanes and know their land well and are careful drivers.
Tourists can travel in Bhutan with medium-sized buses (20-22 seats), small buses (8-12 seats) or hired cars. Road widths do not permit larger buses.
Bringing in your own vehicle
Indian visitors can bring in their own vehicles. For the entry of the foreign cars, the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) – www.rsta.gov.bt – will have to endorse the documents. But we strongly recommend that you use our cars and the services of the local drivers as the narrow and winding roads in Bhutan may pose a challenge for you.
For further information please visit www.mohca.gov.bt or email the Department of Immigration at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Information courtesy: Tourism Council of Bhutan)