BHUTAN TRAVEL TIPS
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE PLANNING A TRIP TO BHUTAN
Getting a Visa
Visas for Bhutan must be arranged through a local tour operator (all tour operators in Bhutan are registered with the Royal Government of Bhutan). No foreign missions or embassies abroad sanction tourist visas. As per the government regulations, you are required to make full tour payment in advance and upon receipt of full payment, your local operators will process visas with the government. It normally takes 2-3 working days to clear your visas. Once cleared, visa clearance letter will be sent to you in advance and your actual Bhutan visas will be stamped in your passports on the strength of this clearance letter on arrival at Paro airport. You will have to carry this copy along with you always. Some airports do not allow you to board Drukair flights if you do not have this copy.
Getting Into Bhutan
You can travel to Bhutan by flight or overland. Drukair and Bhutan Airlines are the two air carriers that are in service in Bhutan. Drukair services to and from Bangkok, Delhi, Kathmandu, Kolkotta, Dhaka and Singapore. Bhutan Airlines services to and from Bangkok, Kolkotta, Kathmandu and Delhi. There are two overland entry and exit points – Phuntsholing (a south west town bordering the Indian state of West Bengal) and Samdrup Jongkhar (a south east town bordering Assam). Overland entry from Phuentsholing is more convenient if you wish to visit Sikkim and Darjeeling either before or after Bhutan.
The government’s set tariff is US $250 per night per person for high seasons months of March, April, May, September, October and November. And US $200 per night per person for low season months of January, February, June, July, August and December. If you travel in a group of less than three people, you are liable for the surcharge: US $40 per night for one person, US $30 for 2 and there is no surcharge for 3 person and above. The cost includes meals, government taxes, 3-4 star hotels, bottled water, a tour guide, land transportation within Bhutan, permits and entrance fees and sightseeing. It does not include expenses of personal nature such as drinks and beverages, laundry, phone and internet, tips and insurance of any kind.
We take utmost care in selecting your hotels. We provide 3-4 starred hotels. Wherever 4 star is not available, we provide you 3 star hotels. All these hotels are approved and classified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and they are clean and well maintained ones with choices of Bhutanese, Indian, Chinese and Continental foods.
There are few luxury hotels in Bhutan —
These hotels do not fall under government categorized hotels and they have their own rates. If you wish to stay in any of these hotels, you will have to pay a supplement.
Licensed local Bhutanese guides will introduce you to many facets of this wonderful country. Our guides are trained and certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and refreshers course are given frequently to update their knowledge and skills. They are knowledgeable, friendly and can speak fluent english.
We always provide well maintained cars with experienced drivers. For 1-2 people, we use comfortable SUVs 4WD cars such as Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and Korean cars like Tucson, Santa Fe and Terracan. For 3-4 people in a group, we provide comfortable Korean Hyundai H-1 and Toyota Hi-ace buses and for 5 people and above, we provide AC Toyota coaster buses.
Although Bhutanese meals are rich with spicy chilies and cheese, restaurants that cater to western tourists will tone down the spice. You will have choices of Chinese, Continental, Bhutanese and Indian cuisine in the hotels and local restaurants. Vegetarian meals is also available in Bhutan. While on trek, Bhutan Travelers have trained chefs who will prepare dishes suitable to western taste and quite often people say that our trek food is better than in cities. Any special dietary requirements that you have can be met with an advance notice. Read more on Bhutanese food: The Food Chain
You can buy large assortment of hand-woven textiles, handicrafts, silver and gold ornaments, Thanka or scroll paintings and exquisite Bhutanese stamps. Carved masks, woven baskets, wooden bowls, handmade paper products also make great souvenirs. Exporting antiques is strictly prohibited. You may be able to carry the antique items only with a government seal on it.
Health & Safety
There are no vaccination requirements for entering the country. You may, however, wish to talk to your doctor about receiving immunizations against certain preventable diseases. Malaria is endemic to only southern part of Bhutan and you do not require vaccination for malaria and rabies. There is very little crime in Bhutan, and it is safe for women travelers and solo travelers to tour the country. There is no sexual harassment as Bhutanese women generally enjoy a good standing in society. Since all tourists have a travel guide, there is little chance of coming across unpleasant occurrences. Women are however, advised to take the same universal precautions when in crowded entertainment places at night, particularly when in discos or bars, or if walking home late in the evening. Sometimes, the stray dogs could pose a problem on the streets at night.
Visitors are advised to dress comfortably as Bhutan is generally a formal place. Shorts, skirts and revealing tight clothing are to be avoided. The Bhutanese people wear their full traditional dress and formal wear to Dzongs and to temples. Visitors should wear long pants (even if jeans), shirts with full sleeves, and more formal skirts below the knees to these places. Slippers and sandals are discouraged. Sun caps are also not permitted inside Dzongs and temples.
Gay & Lesbian
Bhutan is safe for gay and lesbian travelers. People’s sexual preferences are considered personal matters and do not bother most Bhutanese. The Bhutanese people are, however, not used to open intimate behavior.