Bhutan is a country which has only been recently introduced to the foreign tourists adhering to the policy of ‘High Value, Low Volume’ tourism. It is a known fact that Bhutan enjoys recognition for legitimacy, detachment and a highly-protected cultural heritage and natural environment. For most travelers in Bhutan, the best experiences involve digging up a different culture, meeting people and hearing unique stories. As far as Bhutan is concerned, the country has many socially taboo-related issues or culturally sensitive concerns. With respect to the country’s traditional customs, foreign tourists are encouraged to learn and accept the customs and gain personal respect in return. Following are some cultural and social tips to people traveling to Bhutan:
Stay away from the politically sensitive issues.
Never use your left hand while giving or accepting any object. Using both hands is considered even more respectful.
Never point at sacred items or paintings. It is more respectful to show it with your chin.
Always spin the prayer wheels clockwise. Also, when passing a sacred site, walk around it clockwise to show respect and bring yourself blessings.
It is humiliating and impolite to sit on Mani walls (carved stones) and Chorten/Stupas (Buddhist monuments) as these contain relics and are places of meditation and worship for Buddhists.
Remove your shoes and hats, and dress conservatively when entering temples to express respect for the place.
Make sure to ask your guide before taking photographs inside religious buildings like temples and monasteries.
Do not photograph any Bhutanese person without their prior consent.
Do not sit with your feet pointed towards elders or a Buddha statue – it is considered disrespectful.
Smoking is illegal in public areas.
Swimming or throwing stones, sticks or anything into lakes and rivers is forbidden – it is believed to disturb the souls of deities.
Bhutanese treat their natural environment as a heavenly gift, so make sure not to litter anywhere.
Stones are special in Bhutanese culture as they are considered as a part of mountains that are sacred. If you pick one to admire it, do not forget to return it to wherever you found it.
Some relics are too sanctified and kept covered. Do not be adamant and pressurize your guide to see those things not meant for public display.
Refrain from touching any frescoes, religious paintings or objects in the temples.
It is culturally offensive to sit astride or legs stretched in front in the altar. It is always better to cross your legs or kneel when sitting in religious places.
Never pass negative comments on religion, the royal family and the head monk.
Be courteous with old people and treat them with respect.
Do not feed birds or animals while visiting the natural sites.
If you wish to tip your guide, driver or a hotel attendant, make sure you give their tips in envelopes.
Refrain display of affection at public places.
Delight the Bhutanese people by speaking a few Dzongkha words or phrases like Kuzu Zangpo La (Hello/Greetings), Joen Pa Leg So (Welcome), Kaadinchey La (Thank You), Tashi Delek (Good wishes), Ga Day Bay Zhu Yoega (How are you) and so on.
Planning a Trip?
We have a pool of travel experts working in this industry for more than a decade. Consult to get started.