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TRAVEL GUIDE TO BHUTAN

 

We’ve gathered the following information for  you in preparation for your trips which we thought were appropriate.  If you need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-785-1233.


Airport Taxes

The departure tax for international passengers is included in the ticket price.

Baggage

On Domestic flights, passengers are allowed 44 pounds and 68 pounds of luggage per person for economic and business class respectively. On International flights, passengers are allowed two pieces of checked luggage. Excess luggage fees will be charged if you check more than the stated allowances, and these charges are your responsibility.  At most major airports, baggage carts are available for your luggage, usually for a small fee.

Climate and Clothing

Bhutan’s climate ranges from tropical in the south, to temperate in the center of the country, to cold in the north…and like much of your adventure in the Himalayas it will be quite unpredictable. The weather can vary dramatically from place to place, from day to day or within the same day. In the Thimphu and Paro valleys, the winter daytime temperature averages 60 degrees Fahrenheit during clear winter days but drops well below freezing during the night. Mid December to early January can be a beautifully clear and dry time in Western Bhutan. Late December through mid February is the period of heaviest snow fall in the higher elevations.

The fluctuations are not quite so great during the summer and daytime temperature often rises to the mid-eighties Fahrenheit. Punakha and the central valleys are lower than their Western neighbors and tend to always be a few degrees warmer. The higher peaks will be snow-covered all year. The higher passes, particularly Thrumshing La, between Bumthang and Mongar, can be treacherous during the winter as snow falls frequently and ices up the road. Light snow will often dust Thimphu and Paro in winter, and occasionally there will be heavy snowstorms despite their location in the Central Himalayas.

The Summer monsoon from the Bay of Bengal affects Bhutan from late May to late September. Views over the Himalayas from the higher passes are usually obscured from June to August. There are notable advantages to visiting Bhutan during the wet season including the spectacular rhododendron blossom from March through May and the deep green valleys. Many species of wild orchids are in full bloom during late summer season (August).

The Spring season in Bhutan can only be compared to a master artist’s palette, truly a spectacular time. The autumn season, late September through November, is usually very mild and clear. The Fall colors surround and embrace your senses. The sky is usually at it’s clearest, affording magnificent views of the Himalaya range. The Spring and Fall seasons are traditionally the most popular times to visit the Kingdom.

Bhutan’s changeable climate means you have to bring an assortment of clothes, including rain gear. A layered wardrobe makes the most sense. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are essential even if you are not hiking. Because of the altitude, a hat or cap and a good pair of sunglasses are essential. Warm clothes are recommended for the evening. Because of the long distances between towns an villages bring the medicines you’ll need along with some first-aid supplies.

Communications

Telephones & fax facilities are available in major hotels but charges are quite expensive. You can send or receive mail but it takes approximately 10 to 14 days to receive mail from anywhere in USA or Europe. Most places you travel on cultural tours have some basic internet/email service. Internect TLD.bt can be used within Bhutan.

Currency

Bhutanese currency is the ngultrum (nu). The approximate exchange rate is 59.00 to 60.00 nu for one US dollar. The Ngultrum is on par with the Indian Rupee (both the Nu and Indian Rupee can be used in Bhutan). US Dollars and other world currencies as well as traveler’s cheques can be exchanged at banks in the larger towns (hours 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, Mon to Fri) and at the larger hotels. In the capital town of Thimphu some of the smaller bank branches are open Saturday and Sunday for currency exchange. Rural towns and villages may accept only Ngultrum or rupees.

Credit cards are not accepted in almost all shops in Bhutan. Travelers check are accepted in most places. There are money exchange counters at the airport, major hotels, and the banks. Traveler’s checks may be exchanged for cash.

Customs Regulations

The Bhutanese authorities strictly monitor the export of any religious antiquities or antiques of any kind from the Kingdom (100 years or older). Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items. Custom authorities will not allow items to be taken out of the country if they have not been officially certified as non-antique. Personal videos, cameras, personal computers, portable telephones or any other electronic device should be registered with the customs authorities on arrival at Paro and will be checked by the same on departure. Upon arrival you will be issued a “customs form” this form must be filled out, with declarations, and returned to authorities before leaving the kingdom. Import of plants, soils, etc., are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be declared on arrival.

 Electricity

The voltage in Bhutan is 220 Volts AC. Electrical appliances will require an adapter that can change the shape of the plug prongs, as well as an electrical voltage converter that will allow a normal 110-volt American appliance to take the 220 Volt current.

Food and Water

Tap water is not potable in Bhutan. Only drink purified bottle water. Bring water with you at all times, especially when trekking.

Health Matters

No inoculations or vaccinations are required unless coming from or passing through an infected area. Travelers should bring sufficient medication with them if required and should check for updated health recommendations before your departure to Bhutan regarding hepatitis, malaria, typhoid, etc.  However, there is sufficient clinics and hospitals for medical services, indigenous medical facilities is available for all district capitals.

Holidays

Winter Solstice – Jan 2nd
Traditional Day of Offerings – Jan 12th
LOSAR (NEW YEARS DAY)  – Feb
Shabdrung Kuchoe – Apr 30th
Birth Anniversary of Third King HM Jigme Dorje Wangchuck- May 2nd
Birth Anniversary of Guru Rinpoche – late June
First Sermon of Lord Buddha – mid  July
Blessed Rainy Day – the last Sat of September
Thimphu Drupchen* -mid September
Thimphu Tshechu* – late September
Dashain – mid October
Birth Anniversary of HM King Jigme Singgye Wangchuck – Nov 11 – 13
National Day – Dec 17th

*For Thimphu only

Passports and Visas

All visitors to Bhutan must have a visa approved prior to arriving in the kingdom. Those who have not had a visa approved will not be permitted to board their Druk Air flight to Bhutan. A two-week visa costs US$40 and is stamped in your passport at Paro Airport during the immigration process. Visas are approved and issued prior to entry, with the prepayment and a scanned copy of passport to your travel itinerary. Therefore visitors to Bhutan need to finalize their travel plans well in advance. We recommend 120 days.

Time Difference

Standard Time in Bhutan is 6 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 11 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, USA.

Tipping

Tipping in restaurants is seldom practiced. On tours with private sightseeing, on tour tipping of $10-$12 per person per day is customary.

Transportation

All ground transportation, airport transfers and sightseeing, will be provided via private car and guide. Taxis are available from major hotels and the use of mass public transportation is not recommended.

Mode of transportation within Bhutan is by motor vehicles only. There are no domestic airlines or trains. However the main roads are well maintained. The main two lane highway runs from west to east connecting all the major towns and villages. The mountainous terrain and winding roads restrict the average speed of vehicles to less than 40 km/hr. During monsoon and winter months, weather can disrupt travel and unexpected changes might occur in itineraries. Every effort will be made to stay as close to original travel itinerary as possible. For visitors wishing to enter Bhutan by road, the only land entry point is through the southern boarder town of Phuentsholing, bordering West Bengal India. All visa and custom regulations apply.

What to Pack?

Valid Passport. Travelers Checks. Copy of Your Airline Ticket. Mosquitoes repellent. Your Medicines. Departure documents. Travel alarm clock. Camera(s), batteries & films. Sunscreen/Tan lotion.  Pocket size Kleenex. Extra luggage locks/keys. First Aid kit. Soft, foldable slippers. Extra set of eyeglasses. Folding Umbrella.  Comfortable walking shoes.