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Bhutan Travel Guide

Bhutan is located in the Great Himalayan Range, halfway between China and India. Bhutan only opened its doors to the outside world in the 1960s, having previously been cut off from the rest of the world. This is, however, why the country has been able to maintain its deep-rooted Buddhist traditions and cultural heritages. Bhutan is known locally as “Druk Yul,” which means “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” The country earned the nickname because of the fierce storms in the Himalayas.

Key Facts

Location: The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small landlocked country sandwiched between the People’s Republic of China to the north and the Republic of India to the south.

Geography: Mountains

Capital: Thimpu

Area: 46,500 kmĀ².

Population: 764,809

Major Religion: Buddhist

Time zone: Bhutan Time – abbreviated as BTT, is GMT/UTC +6. Bhutan does not utilize daylight saving time.

Official Language: The national language is Dzongkha

Working hours: The working hours in Bhutan are divided into two timings- the summer time which is 9 am to 5 pm and winter time which is 9 am to 4 pm from Monday to Friday. 

Electricity: In Bhutan, the power plugs and sockets are of types D, F, and G. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

Country Visa and Entry Procedure

Except for visitors from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, all visitors to Bhutan require a visa. After presenting a valid passport with a minimum validity of 6 months, citizens of India, the Maldives, and Bangladesh can obtain a permit at the Bhutanese entry point. Indian citizens can also use their voter identification cards.

As a result, all other tourists must obtain visa clearance before visiting Bhutan; the Bhutanese Visa can be obtained directly from a licensed Bhutanese Tour Operator or through a foreign Travel Agent via an online system. The tour operator must receive a photo page of the passport, which will be used to apply for the visa. Once the full payment of the Bhutan Holiday (including a USD 40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received in the TBC Bank Account, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) will process the visa. Once the payment is received, the visa clearance will be processed within 72 hours. The visa clearance letter is required at the entry point to Bhutan, and then the visa will be stamped onto the passport. 

Online Regional Permit System   

The Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, and Tourism Council of Bhutan have launched the Online Permit System to make it easier for tourists from Bangladesh, India, and the Maldives to visit Bhutan. The system allows regional tourists to apply for permits online through registered Bhutanese Tour Operators and TCB Certified Hotels. This facility is available as an additional option for processing visitor permits from the above-mentioned regions. It applies to the Paro and Phuntsholing entry points. When using this facility, visitors will be able to obtain their permit clearances and route permits ahead of their arrival in Bhutan, just like international tourists.

How to reach Bhutan

To get to Bhutan, visitors can either travel by land or by air. The only land border areas open to tourists are Phuntsholing, Gelephu, and Samdrup Jongkhar. Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodh Gaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati, Singapore, and Mumbai are among the airports that offer flights to Bhutan. Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines are the only international airlines operating in Bhutan at the moment. Bhutan requires that all travel arrangements be made through a local tour operator.

Popular destinations to Visit

Bhutan has a variety of interesting tourist attractions. The country is known for its pristine natural beauty, distinct culture, diverse landscapes, and stunning architecture. In such a small country, there are numerous places to visit.

The following are some of Bhutan’s most popular tourist destinations for Bhutan Tour:

Taktsang Monastery

The monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest or Paro, is perched on the edge of a hill with views of the Paro valley and river. The monastery is said to have been founded in the eighth century.

Thimphu

The Chuu River flows through the culturally charming city nestled in the Himalayas, providing beautiful views. It is the world’s only city without traffic lights.

Paro

Paro is a historic town with numerous sacred sites and historical structures are strewn about. The Rinpung Dzong monastery is a significant structure in this area. It is the finest example of a Bhutanese monastery. Similarly, the National Museum of Paro in the city houses a collection of artifacts and relics related to Bhutanese culture.

Phuntsholing

Paro is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered throughout the area. The Rinpung Dzong monastery, the finest example of a Bhutanese monastery, is an important structure here. Similarly, the National Museum of Paro in the city displays various artifacts and relic articles reflecting Bhutanese culture.

Bumthang Valley

Bhutan’s spiritual heartland, a popular pilgrimage destination located at an elevation of 2,600 meters, is home to some of the country’s oldest Buddhist temples.

Wangduephodrang

The Wangduephodrang Dzong, perched atop a hill at the confluence of the Punakha Chhu and Tang Chhu rivers, is a picturesque landmark. During the Wangduephodrang Tsechu festival in autumn, the Dzong is open to visitors.

Mongar and Lhuntse

Mongar Dzong is Bhutan’s most recent Dzong, built-in 1930 to replace the ruined Zongkar Dzong. Similarly, Lhuntse, at 1460 m, is a very rural and isolated district. The Royal Family’s ancestral home is in the Kurtoe region of Lhuntse.

Phobjikha and Gangtey Valley

The Gangtey and Phobjikha valleys are glacial valleys with some of Bhutan’s most beautiful scenery. It is the home of the critically endangered black-necked crane. Close by is the well-known Black Mountain National Park, which is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna.

Haa Valley

Bhutan’s Haa Valley is a relatively new but must-see destination. Lhakhang Karpo, Nagpo’s white and black temples, Shekhar Drak, Dobji Dzong, and Tagchu Goemba are among the top attractions.

Punakha

Punakha is associated with some of the most significant events in Bhutanese history. As a result, it is one of the most beautiful and significant regions in Bhutanese culture.

Things to do in Bhutan

Bhutan is a relatively small country. Despite its flaws, there is plenty to do in the Thunder Dragon’s domain. Many cultural and historical sites, as well as religious monasteries, can be found in Paro, Thimpu, and Punakha. Each location is also surrounded by vibrant markets and street life. Bhutan is well-known for its leisurely tours of its many beautifully decorated and artistically constructed monasteries and buildings. Bhutan, too, has become increasingly popular for its whitewater rafting adventures. Easy class 2 to 3 white water rafting through the valley is available just outside of Punakha, Bhutan.

Similarly, Bhutan is well-known for its festivals; no visit to the country is complete without attending one. Popular festivals are held in major cities throughout Bhutan, including Punakha, Paro, and Thimpu. The country also offers a distinct cuisine to sample and enjoy. Trekking is another popular adventure in Bhutan.

Trekking Seasons in Bhutan

The majority of Bhutan’s treks are high-altitude treks. As a result, most trekkers visit the country in the spring or autumn. The spring season lasts from late March to mid-May, while the autumn season lasts from late September to mid-November. These two peak trekking seasons provide the best weather conditions for treks in the country’s high-altitude mountains, with clear visibility.

However, the likelihood of rain is high regardless of the season. Autumn nights are cold, but daytime temperatures are ideal due to the sun. During the wet season, which lasts from mid-June to late August, Alpine flowers bloom verdantly, but the trekking trails are quite muddy.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can affect anyone, and its mild onset occurs at altitudes of 2,000 meters or higher. In general, getting altitude sickness while trekking in Bhutan is unlikely, but this is a random occurrence that cannot be completely predicted.

However, medications such as Diamox can be used to prevent it, as can proper acclimatization while trekking. Altitude sickness usually occurs when the body is not properly acclimatized, and getting the proper adjustment to the altitude without rushing the trek can help avoid sickness. 

Local Currency and Foreign Exchange

The Ngultrum is Bhutan’s currency (Nu.) It is pegged to the Indian rupee, which is widely accepted throughout the country. Everything under Nu. 1 is available in coin form. All denominations of paper include the 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000.

The Bhutanese Ngultrum is the only legal tender in Bhutan, but foreign currencies are widely accepted. As a result, visitors can always convert some of their foreign currency to Ngultrum upon arrival or at Bhutanese banks. Bhutanese banks exchange US, Canadian, and Australian dollars, British pounds, Euros, Japanese yen, and a variety of other Asian and Scandinavian currencies.

Banking, ATM, and Money

Money can be withdrawn from ATMs in all major towns throughout Bhutan using a Visa or MasterCard. Bhutan’s currency is known as the Bhutanese ngultrum (Nu). All visitors to Bhutan must pay US$250 per person per day (US$200/day from December to February and June to August). A US$40/$30 surcharge per person is required for those traveling in groups of one or two.

This includes lodging, transportation, a guide, food, and entry fees, as well as a US$65 royalty paid to the Bhutanese government. Other miscellaneous activities or expenses, such as hot-stone baths, cultural shows, horseback riding, rafting, mountain bikes, and tips, may incur additional charges. 

Weather and Climate

Bhutan’s climate varies greatly due to two major factors: the vast difference in altitude and the influence of North Indian monsoons.

Southern Bhutan has a hot and humid subtropical climate that remains relatively constant throughout the year. The temperate and deciduous forests of the country’s central regions are more seasonal, with warm summers and cool, dry winters. During the winter, the weather in Northern Bhutan is much colder.

Bhutan has four distinct seasons throughout the year. The dry spring lasts from early March to mid-April. Summer weather begins in mid-April with a few showers and lasts until late June. Summer rains are heavier from late June to late September. Autumn follows the rainy season, lasting from late September or early October to late November. From November to March, winter sets in.

Travel Insurance

While visiting Bhutan, it is strongly advised to purchase travel insurance that covers theft, loss, and medical issues. It is also critical to obtain travel insurance that will cover the costs if you are forced to cancel your tour due to a variety of factors such as flight cancellations, illness, injury, or the death of a close relative. This can protect you from major losses caused by Bhutan’s prepayment conditions and high cancellation fees.

If you intend to visit Bhutan for adventure sports, your insurance policy must cover the “sport” as well; some policies expressly exclude “dangerous activities” such as motorcycling, rafting, and even trekking. As a result, it is critical to carefully read the policy to ensure that it covers ambulance rides or emergency helicopter airlifts out of remote mountain regions.

Many travel insurance policies cover repatriation and evacuation activities via the International SOS Assistance global network. It is critical to remember that not being able to afford travel insurance can result in certain unaffordability with medical emergencies abroad.

The travel insurance policy should be written in such a way that it directly covers doctor or hospital visits rather than requiring you to pay on the spot and then file a claim later. If you need to file a claim for medical services later, make sure you have all of the necessary documentation.

bhutan tour

Meals and Accommodation

Bhutan’s hospitality industry is expanding rapidly. Bhutan offers a diverse range of accommodations, from simple farmhouse, stays to high-end resorts in many districts. The majority of tourist hotels in Bhutan are clean and basic, with basic creature comforts and culinary fare. The Bhutan Tourism Council classifies and monitors the quality of accommodations.

Bhutanese food is primarily distinguished by its extensive use of chili and cheese. Bhutan’s national dish is Alma Datsi, and the staple food is rice and vegetables with an abundance of chili; the chili is used as a vegetable rather than a spice in many of Bhutan’s dishes.

Similarly, meat is very popular in Bhutan. Pork, beef, chicken, fish, and yak meat are all popular meat dishes. Vegetables such as potatoes, fern, spinach, cabbages, cauliflowers, beans, and mushrooms are also used in dishes. Many restaurants in the capital serve traditional Chinese or Indian cuisine. Most meals are also served as a buffet.

Buckwheat cultivation is prevalent in central Bhutan. Because of the high elevation, rice cultivation is uncommon in Bhutan, but buckwheat is abundant. Buckwheat pancakes are especially popular in the Bumthang region. Other popular dishes in Bhutan include Butter Tea and Ara, which is alcohol distilled from locally produced rice, wheat, maize, or corn.

Internal Flight Delays

Although airline delays are common in Bhutan, flight cancellations are extremely rare. Nonetheless, extreme circumstances, such as inclement weather, may cause minor delays. In such cases, the airlines are responsible for arranging board and lodging. It is also worth noting that Bhutanese airlines frequently change their schedules on short notice. This can have an impact on international connections, so at the end of each trip, leave plenty of time (at least three to four hours, but preferably an overnight time haul) between the Bhutan flight and your international flight.

People, Culture, and Festivals

Bhutanese people are divided into three ethnic groups: Tshanglas, Ngalops, and Lhotshampas. Living in Bhutanese society generally entails understanding some accepted norms, such as the traditional code of etiquette, Driglam Namaha.

The formal greeting consists of saying “Kuzuzangpo” among equals. Bhutanese seniors and elders are greeted with a slight bow and the phrase “Kuzuzangpo la.”

A typical Bhutanese meal includes rice, Ema Datshi, the country’s favorite chili and cheese dish, pork, beef curry, or lentils. Red rice, spicy pork, Ema Datshi, and Momos (pork/beef dumplings) are popular foods in Bhutan, as is the heady traditional rice wine known as Ara.

Every year, Bhutan’s calendar is jam-packed with exciting events. Every village has its festival, but the most well-known is Tschechus, an annual religious festival.

Traveling Alone

Bhutan is a safe place to travel alone. When visiting Bhutan for the first time, it is best to travel with the assistance of a trusted guide to avoid unnecessary hassles and save time. The country is very stable, with little political or natural turmoil, and it is regarded as a safe destination for solo travelers.

Dinesh Bhusal

Why Choose Amigo Treks and Expeditions for Your Adventure? Embark on the journey of a lifetime with Amigo Treks and Expedition as your trusted tour operator in Nepal. With over 30 years of experience leading adventure trips in the Himalayas, our guides are experts in trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp. As natives of the Khumbu region of Nepal, home to the Sherpa community, our team ensures an authentic experience that immerses you in the local culture. At Amigo Treks and Expeditions, we prioritize our travelers' needs, delivering extraordinary tours that leave lasting impressions. We're humbled by the 5-star rating on TripAdvisor and the countless positive testimonials from our guests worldwide. Whether you're joining us for the Everest Base Camp trek or any other adventure trip, our team is committed to making your experience unforgettable. Join us on an epic journey and see why so many adventurers choose Amigo Treks and Expeditions. We can't wait to explore with you! Best regards, Dinesh Bhusal Co-Founder Amigo Treks and Expeditions

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