Know Bhutan before you arrive

Officially known as the kingdom of Bhutan, this tiny nation is located in the eastern Himalayas. It is bordered in the north by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China; in the west by the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal and also The Chumbi Valley of Tibet, China; and in the south and east by the Indian states of Assam, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh. Here are some important facts of the dragon kingdom you should be acquainted with, before leaping forward onto the glorious land of the last Shangri-La:

  • Capital City: Thimphu
  • Currency: Ngultrum (US$1=75BTN or Nu. approx.)
  • Time: UTC + 6:00 (10 hr ahead of US Eastern Standard Time)
  • International Phone Code: +975
  • Religion: Vajrayana Buddhism
  • When you are flying into Paro through a connecting flight, you need to re-check in your luggage at each connecting hub; unlike other international flights, your baggage will not be checked in all the way to Paro via your first flight.
  • Avoid drinking tap water in Bhutan.
  • Bhutan is not a budget destination.
  • Dress modestly. Pack long sleeves, pants and skirts.
  • Car accidents are very common in Bhutan due to the poorly lit mountainous roads and numerous blind corners.
  • Bhutan is the only country in the world that has completely banned the sales and production of tobacco products, so bring your own cigarettes and ask your guide where you are permitted to light it up.
  • The country’s national dish Ema-Datsi is a fiery curry of chilies and cheese. Expect very spicy food in Bhutan.
  • Don’t expect to try local meat as all meat is imported mostly from India.
  • Tuesdays are considered ‘dry days’ meaning prohibition of sale of alcohol.
  • Remember not to disrespect the royals while you are in Bhutan.
  • A dzong is an ancient fortress; dress appropriately before entering one.
  • Get a local SIM card as your phone may not get service in Bhutan.
  • Don’t take photos if your shoes are off; taking your shoes off could mean that you are in some sacred places.
  • Phallic obsession and worship may startle you, don’t be alarmed by the paintings of penises at most homes.
  • Tattoo parlors are illegal in Bhutan; don’t try to get yourself inked.
  • Bhutan’s national game is archery; try to pick up a bow and arrow.
  • Bhutanese people love to hear foreigners speak a handful of their national language, so try to grasp some Dzongkha words or phrases.
  • Thimphu is the only capital city in the world that does not have traffic light system.
  • Expect to get Indian rupees in return when you exchange your US dollars.
  • Mountaineering is prohibited in Bhutan although hiking up to 6,000m or 19,685 feet is permitted.
  • Bhutan’s weather is notoriously unpredictable – don’t believe the forecasts.
  • Tipping is not mandatory in restaurants and hotels.
  • Carry with you a multi-purpose electrical plug and a universal travel adapter.
  • Check with your guide before clicking pictures especially inside dzongs, monasteries, temples or any religious institutions.
  • Remove your hat while entering religious sites and maintain silence in all religious and heritage sites.
  • A proper permit is required if you wish to carry back home Bhutan’s religious artifacts or antiques.
  • Carrying or using a drone is strictly prohibited in Bhutan.

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