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Bhutan Travel Guide

Bhutan Travel Guide

Fun facts about Bhutan

  1. The United Nations recognized Bhutan as a country in 1974.
  2. Thimphu is the only capital in the world without traffic lights.
  3. Bhutanese have a long tradition of painting phalluses on their houses to serve as a symbol of fertility and good luck.
  4. Tantric Buddhism is the official religion, followed by Hinduism.
  5. Bhutan is one of the only countries in the world where citizens have a constitutional obligation to preserve and protect the environment.
  6. The national sport of Bhutan is archery.
  7. Bhutan is the first country to switch from Gross National Product to “Gross National Happiness.”

Entering Bhutan

By air: You get direct international flights to Bhutan from Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodh Gaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati, Singapore and Mumbai. The flight between Paro and Kathmandu is one of the most exciting and popular. If you are travelling that way, you get to admire incredible views of four of the five highest mountains on earth.

By land: Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar are the only land border areas open to tourists. The town of Phuentsholing in south-west Bhutan is located approximately 170 km east of the Indian national airport at Bagdogra. After crossing Phuentsholing, it takes you about 6 hours to reach Thimphu. Most tourists wishing to travel to Thimphu via Nepal by land choose the Phuentsholing route.

Visa information and travel requirements

Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can obtain a visa at the port of entry on producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 month validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters Identity Card (VIC). For other tourists, you will to need to acquire visa clearance in advance. Visas are processed through an online system by your licensed Bhutanese tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent. Tourists are also required to book their holiday through a Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners. The tour operator will take care of Visa arrangements for visitors.

You are required to send the photo-page of your passport to your tour operator who will then apply for your visa. The visa will be processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) once the full payment of your holiday (including a USD $40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received in the TCB bank account. Once received the visa clearance will be processed within 72 working hours. At your point of entry you will be required to show your visa clearance letter, and the visa will then be stamped into your passport.

Banking and Foreign Exchange

Bhutan’s unit of currency is called Ngultrum (Nu.). A Ngultrum has the same value as the Indian rupee, which is also legal in Bhutan. There are no coins, and you can expect to be handed wads of cash. Please take note that USD 50 and USD100 notes are given a better exchange rate than USD 20 notes or lesser. The smaller USD notes fetch about 5% less. Tourists can exchange cash at the foreign exchange desk at Paro Airport and Bank of Bhutan branches in major townships such as Paro and Thimphu. As you travel into remote towns, ATM and banking facilities are almost non-existent. We suggest that you do your banking whilst in Paro or Thimphu, and take local currency with you to the countryside. Some hotels also provide foreign exchange services; however, many of these are limited to U.S. Dollar exchanges.

Note that credit cards are not a convenient source of payment in Bhutan as only a handful of hotels in a few places provide this facility. Also, only MasterCard, Visa and American Express are accepted. Traveler checks and US dollars are the most convenient currency and are cashed by most banks.

Electricity

Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Kingdom of Bhutan usually supply electricity between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then you will only need an adapter.

If you are in Bhutan for trekking in remote locations, it’s best if you do not bring heavy electrical appliances. As for your light-weight video camera, you can bring enough batteries to last the trek. However, if you are in Bhutan for tours in major townships, its best to carry chargers and adapters with you as you will be able to use them. For trips that combine both tours and treks, you can bring important necessary electrical items and use them when touring and leave them at your hotel during the trek.

Drinking water

You should avoid drinking tap water altogether, but it is okay to use it for brushing your teeth. Bottled water is widely available and is best for drinking. It is also wise to carry water purification tablets when trekking in remote locations of Bhutan. The hotels provide either mineral water or boiled water. On treks you'll get boiled water, so you should bring a bottle to fill.

Best time to visit Bhutan

Southern Bhutan has a tropical climate as eastern Bhutan is warmer than the western parts of the country. The northern part of the country with the Himalayas gets snowfall almost all throughout the year. Therefore, the best time to visit Bhutan also depends upon the part of the country you will be travelling in. Generally, October through December is considered ideal as the sky is clear and sunny.

January and February are colder and you will rarely find tourists travelling to Bhutan around this time. March to April is one of the best times to visit Bhutan as the climate is dry and pleasant and in late spring the beautiful rhododendrons in full bloom are yours to admire.

In May the rhododendrons are still in bloom, but the heat and humidity increase making it difficult for easy travelling.

June to August is the monsoon season in Bhutan. There is rainfall in eastern, western and the southern areas of Bhutan whereas the mountains are covered by the monsoon clouds.

September, October and November is the busiest tourist season thanks to the excellent weather. If you want to see the rare black-necked cranes then visiting Phobjikha Valley between late October and mid-February would be ideal.

December is cold but the valleys are sunny with clear skies.

Average Temperature in Bhutan (Degree Centigrade)

  JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUNE
PLACE Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min
Paro 12.8 1.4 14.9 3.3 17.6 5.7 20.1 9.1 22.5 12.6 24.5 15.7
Thimphu 14.6 -3.3 15.8 -0.7 18.2 3.0 20.7 6.7 22.8 10.9 24.4 14.6
Punakha 17.5 5.8 19.3 8.1 22.2 11.2 24.9 13.8 27.3 17.2 29.2 19.3
Wangdi 17.8 5.5 19.4 8.1 22.7 10.8 25.5 14.4 27.3 17.8 28.2 20.3
Trongsa 17.5 5.6 19.3 6.2 22.3 10.4 23.9 13.5 23.6 14.5 24.7 17.2
Bumthang 11.0 -4.2 12.5 -1.3 14.8 1.9 17.1 5.7 19.4 9.4 21.7 12.9
Mongar 16.1 6.0 18.6 7.9 21.5 11.2 24.0 13.6 25.7 15.8 26.6 18.0
Tashigang 13.6 2.5 15.6 4.6 18.8 7.3 21.1 10.4 22.7 13.3 23.7 16.2
Samdrup Jongkhar 21.0 9.5 22.9 11.5 25.3 14.3 26.2 16.3 27.6 18.6 28.5 20.6
Trashi Yangtse 12.3 3.6 14.8 6.2 16.7 8.2 19.8 11.1 22.2 14.2 23.2 17.0
Phuentsholing 23.9 16.2 26.5 5.1 29.5 18.2 31.1 6.3 32.4 20.9 32.6 10.1
  JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
PLACE Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min Max Min
Paro 25.4 17.9 25.2 17.4 23.5 15.4 20.4 11.0 15.8 6.3 14.0 2.6
Thimphu 24.8 15.9 25.1 15.4 23.8 13.6 21.2 8.0 18.3 2.2 16.0 -2.1
Punakha 29.1 20.1 28.9 19.0 27.9 18.1 25.6 15.6 22.1 12.1 18.9 7.5
Wangdi 27.6 20.9 27.9 20.6 27.1 19.5 25.6 15.1 22.4 10.5 19.5 6.0
Trongsa 25.9 18.2 26.6 17.1 25.0 17.1 22.3 13.4 19.3 9.7 18.0 7.2
Bumthang 22.5 14.3 22.4 14.3 21.1 12.3 18.0 6.6 15.1 1.6 12.6 -3.6
Mongar 26.8 18.5 27.8 18.3 26.8 17.1 24.4 13.7 20.7 10.0 17.7 7.2
Tashigang 24.3 17.0 24.8 16.8 23.9 15.5 21.7 11.2 18.2 7.2 15.4 3.9
Samdrup Jongkhar 28.8 21.1 29.4 21.2 28.6 20.1 28.1 15.9 25.9 14.1 23.0 11.1
Trashi Yangtse 23.7 18.5 23.6 17.9 22.4 16.5 19.9 12.3 16.5 8.1 13.2 4.1
Phuentsholing 31.9 23.1 32.6 11.9 31.6 24.8 31.2 15.6 28.3 26.0 24.9 17.2

Bhutanese cuisine

The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chilies are in fact an essential part of nearly every dish. Red Rice is the main dish with buckwheat and maize as close seconds. Usually rice is served together with a bowl of vegetable and another bowl of meat. While in Bhutan be sure to taste EmaDatshi which is made with chilies and cheese. Other popular Bhutanese food includes JashaMaroo or Maru (spicy chicken) and PhakshaPaa (pork with red chilies).

Bhutanese Words and Phrases

EnglishBhutanese
Greetings / HelloKuzoozangpo La (Response is also Kuzoozangpo La)
WelcomeJoen pa Leg So
How are youGa Day Bay Zhu YoeGa ?
I’m fineNga Leg shom Bay Rang Yoey.
Good wishesTashidelek
Thank youKaadinchhey La.
What is your name? (for elders)Na giTshenGa Chi Mo ?
What is your name? (for peers)Chhoeygi Ming Ga chi Mo ?
Where are you from?Chhoeygate lay mo ?
How old are you?Kay Lo gadem chi Yashi ?
Good ByeLog Jay Gay (means we’ll meet again)/td>
Where does this road lead to?Lam dig a thayjowmo?
Is it farTha ring sa in-na.
HereNa / Nalu.
TherePha / Phalu.
Where?Gatey?
Where?Gatey?
Which?Gadee?
What is this?Aniga chi mo?
How much is it?Dilugadem chi mo?
That’s too muchGong bom may.
Who is speaking?Ga Sung Mo La?
YesOng.
I’m sickNganau may.
WaterChhu
Hot waterChhuTshe.
Milk TeaNa Ja
Butter TeaSu Ja.
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