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Going to Bhutan is as much exciting and mysterious at the same time. Most travelers are unaware about a handful of uncompromising directives entailed by the government. The Bhutan Travel FAQs we have presented here is our effort to keep you well-versed about the mesmerizing Himalayan dragon kingdom and some of its stringent imperatives that a traveler should always be knowledgeable before traveling in the land of the Shangri La.
Officially known as the kingdom of Bhutan, the dragon nation is a landlocked Himalayan country in south Asia. Bhutan is positioned in the eastern Himalayas bordered by Tibet in the north and India in the east, west and south. Surrounded by the mighty Himalayas, Bhutan is a tiny country sandwiched between India and Tibet, just east of Nepal and north of Bangladesh. The northern border is the Chumbi Valley in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Bhutan is bordered by Sikkim and West Bengal in the west, and portions of West Bengal along with Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the south and east.
Bhutan is perhaps the only country in the world where travelers pay a per-day fee for an all-inclusive holiday. During the high seasons, i.e. during the months between March – May and September – December, the cost of visiting Bhutan is US$ 250 per person per day. This is a price for fairly decent services including 3 star hotel accommodations. Solo travelers however, will need to pay an additional charge of US$ 40 per day, meaning that the cost of a solo traveler is US$ 290 per day. Also, if you wish to sleep in a 5 star hotel and seek more luxurious services or eat in high-end restaurants, then the budget will rise higher ranging anything between US$ 250 – 1500 above the fixed daily tariff.
Before you panic after knowing the daily cost to travel to Bhutan, you need to know that the price is all-inclusive, it covers everything. Once you are in the country, you need not pay for anything else, except for your personal expenses. Your trip cost includes all accommodation, ground transportation, entrance fees, private guide and a driver.
The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, a Sino-Tibetan language. However, when it comes to languages, Bhutan is somewhat diverse with about two dozen different languages being actively spoken within the country. Bhutanese people do speak English as a second language but the way they speak is a bit different from what native English speakers would speak. The dialect used by the Bhutanese is normally used as an adopted common language owing to the linguistic variations in different parts of the country.
The medium of instructions in schools in Bhutan is English and it is not shocking to know that most of the educated populace can understand and speak adept English. However, the older generation and the village folks may not be able to speak the English language because they probably never went to schools. As stated earlier, Bhutanese people have tone of voice and accentuation different from native speakers. Based on region, religion, dialect, etc their English accent is affected by their mother tongue. Thus, you may notice that the southern Bhutanese population speaks different English from northern and eastern Bhutan, as least in terms of accent and pronunciation.
In the recent years, a small segment of the Bhutanese residents have been found to be speaking British or American English while the larger group has a mild Indian accent. Other languages prominently spoken in Bhutan are Hindi and Nepali. Overall, Bhutan is looked upon as an English-friendly country. On special request, travelers can ask for tour guides who can speak other foreign languages like Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, French, and many more.
Absolutely yes! It is hard to witness a violence or resistance against the government thereby making the political situation quite stable. As the country is covered by more than 70% forest, it makes Bhutan the only carbon negative country in the world thus contributing to the decrease in natural disasters with exceptions during monsoon season. Bhutan has a low rate of traffic accidents because of the well-operated transportation system. It is the only country in the world that has no traffic lights.
Bhutan is also very safe for female travelers as the local Bhutanese people are extremely helpful and gentle. Crime is extremely uncommon in Bhutan and the crime rate is negligibly low. Getting mugged or robbed or other incidences of serious crimes like terrorism, cars hitting pedestrians on the streets and other violent crimes are very hardly reported in the country. You won’t find any bugging shop keepers, no intense tourist traps, and no commercialized tourist sites. Besides, you won’t find a single beggar in the entire country.
Though Bhutan is a very safe country, you must be aware of your surroundings and look out for a handful of things:
Of course, everyone needs a visa to enter into Bhutan except for Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian nationals. There is no Visa on Arrival service in Bhutan. Getting visa is fortunately not a difficult process for all foreign travelers although being the strictest process on the planet. You must be aware that you cannot apply your visa on your own self and also the Bhutan Embassy does not have travel visa services. The only way to enter into Bhutan is to book a trip with an international tour operator or a local travel agent registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the Bhutan Foreign Ministry. After you have booked a trip, your tour operator will make an application through an online system on your behalf.
For processing your Bhutan visa, you are required to send an electronic copy and a scanned copy of the photo-page of your passport to us. Your visa will be processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan using the details on your passport, which will be processed and cleared as early as 72 working hours. A visa clearance number in the form of a letter will be provided once the visa application is approved. This clearance number will be sent to the tour operator, the immigration terminals at Paro International Airport, road border checkpoint at Phuentsholing, Gelephu or Samdrup Jonkhar as well as both the national airlines of Bhutan, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. Depending on the method how you enter into Bhutan, your visa will actually be stamped into your passport on arrival at the entry point, either road border or at the airport.
Your Bhutan visa will be processed once your tour operator makes the payment of the tour package cost to Tourism Council of Bhutan. The visa clearance number in the form of a letter will be released in as early as 3 days after applying and sent to your tour operator, the airport immigration terminal and specific road checkpoints and also to the airlines that you will be flying with. Usually it is about 1 to 2 weeks before your arrival in Bhutan that your visa clearance is sent to your agency. Based on this clearance number, you will have your visa stamped on your passport at your entry point in Bhutan.
Bhutan’s tourism sector is closely monitored by the government. It is mandatory for all foreign tourists, with an exception to nationals of India, Bangladesh and Maldives, to book their tour through a tour operator. In simple words, travelers cannot simply book their flights to Bhutan and travel around on their own. On booking a guided package tour through an agent, your visa, hotel, transportation, guide, driver, etc will be arranged. Your visa will be given to your operator on full payment of the trip package cost. In a nut shell, you cannot travel to Bhutan independently and it is obligatory that you book your holiday with a registered tour operator.
Normally, there is a minimum daily fee for a foreigner visiting Bhutan, which is actually set by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). Depending on the season and the level of comfort desired by a traveler, the cost of a trip package for a single person per day is anywhere between US$ 200 to 290 or even more. This cost also includes the visa cost, but on its own, the cost for Bhutan tourist visa is US$ 40 per person. However, if you wish to upgrade your hotel accommodation, food and transportation options, then the trip package cost per day will increase accordingly.
Here are some of the most popular luxury accommodation options in Bhutan:
The unit currency of Bhutan is called Ngultrum which is symbolized as Nu and the currency code is BTN. It has the same value as the Indian rupee and surprisingly the Indian currency is legal in Bhutan with the exception of the recently introduced 500 and 1000 notes. However, the Bhutanese currency cannot be used in India. Ngultrum is the locally and officially acknowledged currency of Bhutan which is used for all national and international economic trades.
The weather of Bhutan fluctuates radically depending on the elevation. Spring season during the months between March and May is perhaps the best time to visit Bhutan. Although these months can be wet, but the valley becomes lively with wildflowers out and birds humming various tones. Plus, it makes for an incredible hike in the tranquil trails of Bhutan’s distant locations. Autumn season during the months between October and December is also an ideal time to visit Bhutan. Like spring season, these months are less wet and the skies are clear, the air is fresh and perfect for hiking in Bhutan’s solitary trails. Snowfalls may be witnessed at higher elevations during autumn. Winter months of December and January are every photographer’s fantasy with thick blankets of snow, but it gets colder. Monsoon season during the months between June and August is really wet and not suitable for traveling in Bhutan, so it is best if avoided.
By private tour, if you mean traveling independently, then no! You cannot book your flight to Bhutan on your own and travel at your own will. It is mandatory to purchase a guided package tour through a tour operator if you really wish to visit Bhutan. Now, as the term private tour is widely used and meanings could vary with different service providers, our definition of a private tour is a trip run exclusively for you, your family or your own group and no strangers. It gives bigger flexibility, higher levels of comfort and customized service so that you will be able to enjoy tour your way. So, yes! You can have a private Bhutan tour if you are ready to spill out some extra money for your hand-picked accommodation and your meal choices.
The small Himalayan kingdom of the thunder dragon is known for so many things that an endless list can be prepared. Topping all others, Bhutan is best known for its revolutionary Gross National Happiness index. GNH is a measurement machination used to provide motivational policies and increase the well-being of the people of Bhutan. Next, the dragon kingdom is popular for being the only carbon negative country on earth owing to its major segment (70%) of the forested area.
Other significant things that Bhutan is known for are:
Absolutely not! You might have heard that getting a visa to Bhutan is tricky and frustrating, but the fact is something else. It isn’t difficult at all to get your visa to Bhutan as long as you have the updated documents at the right place. Also, it is a total sham about the Bhutan government restraining the number of foreign visitors to their nation in a year. Considering the easiness to acquire a visa, it isn’t hard at all to Bhutan. Just keep in mind that you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months.
Getting to Bhutan from Nepal is possible in the following ways:
The free baggage allowance for checked baggage for adults and children aged 2 years and above, as specified by Druk Air to the conditions and limitations in Carrier’s Regulations is as follows:
If 2 or more passengers are traveling together, they will be permitted to total free baggage allowance equal to their combined weights. If the baggage weight exceeds the free allowance, the passenger is bound to pay a charge for the extra weight in accordance to the rules provided in the regulations of Druk Air. The hand baggage of a passenger must fit under the seat in front of the passenger or in an attached luggage compartment in the cabin. If the weight of the hand baggage is more than the permitted limit, it won’t be allowed inside the cabin.
The most distinguishing attribute of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chilies are unbelievably an indispensable part of almost every dish in Bhutan. Bhutanese people would not enjoy their meal without including chilies in it – it is that important to them. The following are the most popular traditional Bhutanese dishes:
Tap water is not considered so safe in Bhutan for drinking purposes unless it is boiled or purified by some chemical agents. Bottled mineral water is readily available in hotels, small and big retail outlets and restaurants. It is best for travelers to avoid eating salads during meals as they are likely to have been washed in unclean water. If drinking bottled water, don’t forget to check the seal while buying it. Avoid ice as it could have been prepared from the normal tap water. Also, avoid fresh juices as they may have been watered down.
Bhutan proffers an extensive preference for accommodation during your trip, from the comfy hotels and luxurious resorts to home-stays and plush 5 star hotels. It is mandatory that your tour operator provides you with a minimum of 3 star accommodation assuring warmth and comfort. You can always ask your agency to upgrade your hotel with a higher level of comfort to a boutique range of luxurious lodges and resorts with spa and yoga facilities if you are willing to pay that extra surcharge.
Generally speaking, the types of accommodations are categorized into hotels, resorts, farm-stays and home-stays. Travelers have the choice to stay in their preferred categories. The place where you stay is equally important as is your Bhutan trip. Except for huge luxury hotels, the budget 3 star and 4 star hotels are the most popular ones amongst tourists. For people who wish to experience authentic local culture and life, we recommend to stay in traditional Bhutanese style hotels, home-stays or farm-stays. Staying at a distinctive Bhutanese farm house, you will get an excellent glimpse into the daily life of a typical Bhutanese family. It is a perfect opportunity to observe old farming traditions, enjoy delicious home-cooked meal and experience an unparalleled hospitality.
If you come to Bhutan to embark on long treks, you will be sleeping in the tents during the trip. Other camping equipment, if deemed necessary, will be made available to you. Regardless of where you stay during your Bhutan tour, you will, no doubt feel the warmth and comfort of the traditional Bhutanese hospitality.
Some vaccines are required when traveling to Bhutan. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend the following vaccines for Bhutan travel: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Meningitis, Polio, Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), Chickenpox, Shingles, Pneumonia, and Influenza.
Japanese Encephalitis is a severe threat in Bhutan. Just a single bite can finish your entire trip. Dengue is also quite common in Bhutan during monsoon and summer seasons. Although vaccination is not required, mosquito repellants and netting can help protect against both Japanese Encephalitis and Dengue. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required by all travelers coming from an infected country. Meningitis is a periodic risk, so vaccination is advised. Giardiasis is common and tuberculosis exists in Bhutan. Rabies is also present. So, those visitors who are at high risk, it is safe if you consider vaccination before coming to Bhutan. For more details on vaccination requirement, you may visit the CDC website:
It is always in your favor when you know some of the most-visited places or significant landmarks of the country you are visiting shortly. So, before entering into the dragon kingdom of Bhutan, here are some major attractions and the most considerable places that you need to know about. Cover these places along with your friends or your family on worthwhile tours in Bhutan. If not all, at least try to visit a handful of them – you will remain awestruck in the natural splendor and the architectural marvel of this tiny country nestled on the lap of the Himalayas.
The use of credit cards in Bhutan has been widely acknowledged in the recent years. Except in some regions of central and eastern Bhutan, most of the larger hotels and major handicraft stores now accept some foreign credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. The credit card transaction will however be charged a supplement of up to 5% of your operation.
Throughout the major towns of Bhutan, you will find ATM kiosks of the major Bhutanese banks like the Bank of Bhutan, Druk PNB Bank and Bhutan National Bank. Money can be withdrawn from these ATM kiosks using some major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. It is to be noted that ATMs in Bhutan do not use the digital chips. Instead, magnetic strips are used, which may not be permitted by some foreign banks to make withdrawals. Also, at times the government of Bhutan blocks international ATM transactions for a brief time interval to tackle scams or some kind of frauds.
To begin with, Bhutan’s main Internet Service Provider is Druknet, which is owned by Bhutan Telecom. You will find a number of Internet cafes in most of the large towns. Tashi Cell along with Bhutan Telecom now offers 3G and 4G networks that have been regularly getting bigger. Most of the hotels in Bhutan provide free Wi-Fi to their guests, though the usage may be limited only to the lobby area and the restaurant. While traveling to areas with limited internet connectivity, you have the option of getting a local SIM card from the telecom department with the assistance of your tour guide and use the SIM card’s internet services (although the network may be very slow).
The foremost reason of Bhutan being expensive is due to the government policy for tourism, which is ‘high value, low impact’. It is perhaps the effort of the government to maximize tourism revenue without a huge influx of tourists and substantially impacting the environment. Bhutan government has set a minimum daily fee of $200 per person during a low season and $250 during the high season. Also, there is an additional charge for couples and solo travelers. However, what travelers need to understand is that the money you are paying includes your accommodation, meals, guide, driver, a private vehicle, and a sustainable tourism royalty. If you are here in Bhutan for trekking, then the cost of camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours is also included.
The daily cost for Bhutan tour is $200 during the offseason and $250 during the high-seasons in autumn and spring. If you are traveling solo, it is mandatory that you pay an additional $40 per day bringing the total spending up to $290 per day. However, if you are traveling on a private tour with only two people, you’ll pay another $30 per day totaling the cost up to $280. Those wishing to opt for luxurious accommodations in 5 star hotels or deluxe resorts need to pay several hundred dollars extra per day and the same goes for those who plan to go trekking with first-class gear and camping equipment. The per day price you pay includes visa, licensed guide, driver and transportation, accommodation, entrance fees, food and non-alcoholic beverages, trekking gear and all other applicable taxes. Your additional expenses not included in the cost are international flights, souvenirs, alcoholic beverages and tips to guides and drivers.
Whether you want to do a day hike or a week-long or even a month-long adventure, trekking in Bhutan definitely has something to offer to everyone. For those in lookout for a demanding high-altitude trek, the Snowman Trek is undoubtedly one of the best treks in Bhutan involving several high-altitude passes and requires camping in the snow. Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek and Laya Gasa Trek are shorter challenges that come with various advantages and less adversities. If you are looking for something more than a hike or an alternative to hiking tours in Bhutan, then Druk Path Trek, Bumthang Owl Trek or Jumolhari Trek may just be right for you. For beginners who wish to walk on easy trails, Gangtey Trek, Punakha Winter Trek, and Nabji Korphu Trek would be perfect choices.
Bhutanese festivals are known for their magnificence, liveliness and cheerfulness. Most of the festivals are dedicated to Guru Rinpoche and comprise mystical dances, fearless fire events, and numerous engaging performances. The major festivals in Bhutan which you should try not to miss during your visit are as follows:
Altitude sickness is very rare below 2,500m (8,202 feet), almost non-existent without any hard slog. Mild symptoms of altitude sickness can be experienced by both males and females of any age group as the elevation goes higher. Surprisingly, even though the altitude in Bhutan is on the higher side than most people are accustomed to, you hardly get to hear about altitude sickness, unless you are doing a high-altitude trek. Most of the valleys in Bhutan are under 8,202 feet and even the mountain passes are only a bit above 3,000m (9,842 feet).
As far are worrying about altitude sickness in Bhutan is concerned, it is to be kept in mind that even a young healthy athlete can suffer from the heights. It is always wise to travel in accordance with the advice from your Bhutan guides. Your arrival in Paro and then moving on to Thimphu would be good days for you to start acclimatization. Remember everybody is different and their bodies react differently to high elevations. Just take it easy for the first couple of days – you will be completely fine!
Entering Bhutan is comparatively easier than it used to be in the earlier times. You can now enter the dragon kingdom easily by air and by road, apparently depending on how you want to enter. Flights to Bhutan operate from five countries – Thailand (Bangkok), Nepal (Kathmandu), Bangladesh (Dhaka), Changi (Singapore), and India (Bagdogra, Guwahati, Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Bodh Gaya). There is one more flight service from Indonesia, but it is only seasonal and operates during the high seasons.
Entering Bhutan via road is an easy affair. Phuentsholing, Gelephu, and Samdrup Jongkhar are the mainland borders open to travelers. If you are traveling overland from Kathmandu, you will exit Nepal at Kakarvitta border and enter India and travel few hours before entering the nearest town at Phuentsholing, the southwest entry point.
Paro International Airport (PBH) is the only international airports of the four airports in Bhutan. The two airlines operating in the Himalayan kingdom are the government-owned Druk Air, and a private airline Bhutan Airlines. These national carriers both provide international flights from various destinations into Bhutan’s international airport at Paro, which is a one and a half hours drive from the capital city. Druk Air has a fleet of modern Airbus 319 and ATR planes flying in and out of Bhutan from:
Bhutan Airlines also operates the modern Airbus 319-100 with a capacity to carry 125 passengers in and out of Bhutan from:
Bhutan is the land of the thunder dragon popular for its spectacular landscapes, celebrated ancient temples, monasteries and age-old fortresses. Bhutan is brimmed with highly spiced yet appetizing food, vibrant festivals, and authentic culture and traditions. Bhutan is obviously a good travel destination and a place for you to travel if you need a break from the fast-moving urban life to meditate in solitude or get involved in spiritual awakenings.
Despite the travel costs, Bhutan is undoubtedly an amazing trip. Putting the value and experience into some standpoint, here is why we think it is worth the money you spend traveling to Bhutan:
Overall, Bhutan is no ordinary place and a good travel destination shrouded in mystery. It is definitely worth visiting the Himalayan kingdom, the last Shangri La once in your lifetime and explore the exotic lifestyle.
Traveling solo in Bhutan is safe. Once you book your trip with a tour operator, they will provide you a tour guide and a driver who will accompany you till your Bhutan tour finishes. You need to take note that there aren’t many places in the world where people are as courteous, caring and nonviolent as in Bhutan. When you take on the streets in the evening for a quick stroll, people will come outside to spark up conversations with you, but they will never harass you or make you feel uncomfortable.
The foremost reason as to why you should visit Bhutan is there are fewer travelers as compared to the neighboring countries of India and Nepal. The government of Bhutan follows the policy of ‘High Value, Low Impact’ tourism to conserve the nation’s matchless cultural heritage and reduce the harmful impacts of mass-tourism. Secondly, Bhutan is the only carbon-negative country in the whole world, so pollution is hardly felt in the country. The government is fully aware of the shortcomings of high-speed modernization of the country, so it is making a hesitant move.
Other reasons why one must visit Bhutan after all are:
Solo travelers are prohibited to enter Bhutan in the sense that they will not be allowed to travel independently without a guide or a driver. This is mainly only for the nationals of India, Bangladesh, and Maldives. Solo travelers from other countries are allowed to visit Bhutan when they book a package with a tour operator and travel places along with a licensed tour guide. It is true that Bhutan highly discourages solo travelers to independently roam around the country. One of the main reasons for this deterrent is because of the rise in illegal migrants from India. As a solo traveler, you will have to pay an extra surcharge of $40 per day in addition to the regular fee.
Bhutan is a country not to be compared with the likes of Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore. You will neither find any shopper’s heaven nor any theme parks here. There are plenty of monasteries, temples and old fortresses while Buddhism is deeply imprinted everywhere you look. The land is a surprise mix of traditional Buddhist culture and modern developments and has an adequate of things for travelers to feel, see and experience. Here are some of the things to do in Bhutan when you visit the magical country:
Absolutely not! Bhutan is safe to travel at any time of the year and there isn’t any problem even if you wish to travel alone. Bhutan is one of the best tourist attractions in the world where you will unfold several mysteries and get out-of-the-world experiences.
We would advice to travel to Bhutan at least for a week and see places like Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, and Gangtey. Traveling to Bhutan during monsoon season from June until August could be a problem due to road blockages and landslides. Bhutan is safe even for solo women travelers. Every person you meet is friendly, not the type who is going to rob or extract some money from you. Bhutan, in fact, is the epitome of responsible tourism!