Bhutan is best known to the world
today as the last Shangrila. The few visitors who make the rare journey
into this extraordinary kingdom will discover that there is no other
destination like this land of pure and exotic mysticism. In this
country known as Druk Yul, or the ‘Land of the Peaceful Dragon’, the
fortunate visitor will find a rare combination of harmony and accord,
amidst a landscape of incredible natural beauty.
The Royal Government of Bhutan
recognises that tourism is a world-wide phenomenon and an important
means of achieving socioeconomic development particularly for
developing countries like Bhutan. It also recognises that tourism, in
affording the opportunity to travel, can help in promoting
understanding among peoples and building closer ties of friendship
based on appreciation and respect for different cultures and lifestyles.
Towards achieving this objective,
the Royal Government, since inception of tourism in the year 1974, has
adopted a very cautious approach to growth and development of the
tourism. The Bhutanese tourism industry is based on principle of
sustainability that is ‘tourism must be environmentally and
ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and
As per Royal Government of Bhutan
tourism policy, all tours to the country are in form of pre-planned,
prepaid guided package tours for which tariff is set by the Government.
Independent travel is not possible and tours need to be booked in
advance through local Bhutanese tour operator like us and we take care
of all travel arrangements like hotel, transport, guide, and visa.
However, there is no restriction on number of persons travelling and
even single individuals are welcomed.
Visa is required for traveling to Bhutan. For Indians, proof of
citizenship is required in the form of a Passport or a Voter Identity
Card. Tourists need to carry two copies of original passport size
photograph which is required on arrival in the country. Visa fee of US
$ 20/ is payable on arrival in cash, at the point of entry. Visa is
approved in advance and a Visa Clearance Number is issued by Foreign
Ministry. Without this Visa Clearance Number, tourists can not enter
the country. The copy of this Visa Clearance is forwarded to concerned
Druk Air stations by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bhutan and we also
fax the same copy to tour operators / tourists for the reference. The
actual visa is stamped on arrival. Also this Visa Clearance is required
at the time of issuing Druk Air tickets.
In Bhutan, there is no star categorisation of hotels however at all
tourist destinations there are accommodation establishments approved by
Department of Tourism, Government of Bhutan. The more popular tourists
destinations such as Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Bumthang,
Phuentsholing, has good standard hotels however modest but adequate
accommodation is available, in smaller towns such as Mongar,
Trashigang, Gangtey, Samdrup Jongkhar. Interestingly all hotels /
lodges / guest houses are built in traditional architecture providing
reasonably decent, clean, accommodation and good cuisine. Away from
main towns there are purpose built huts on some of principal trekking
routes. Otherwise there is nothing like camping out under the clearest
skies that you have ever seen. Wherever you spend the night, the warm
Bhutanese hospitality will make you feel welcome.
Comfortable surface transport is available in Bhutan, making journey in
this mountainous terrain really pleasant. Latest model Toyotas, Land
Cruisers, Hiace Buses and Coaster Buses are offered to our tourists
depending upon the group size. Our experienced, courteous drivers are
well trained and licensed by Department of Tourism and the Department
of Motor Vehicles in safety and driving on mountainous terrain.
Tourists are at ease riding in Bhutan Mountains. The transport and
guide accompanies the tourists right from arrival until departure.
All our tours are escorted by well trained, knowledgeable guides who
are certified by Department of Tourism. All our trekking guides and
cooks undergo an additional mountain training, including safety and
first aid. We generally provide English speaking guides however the
services of Japanese, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian
speaking guides can be provided with sufficient prior information and
on an additional cost.
Food and Drink
Bhutanese food is generally good. Set meals for travelers tend to be on
the bland side, because local food is heavily seasoned with red chilies
and can be quite hot. However, more adventurous can try the local
delicacies like the tasty and fiery the national dish of Bhutan, Emma
Datshi which is made with chilies and Local Bhutanese cheese.
Most hotels provide meals buffet-style. There are usually
continental, Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese dishes. The food in hotels
is often the best in town, but in main towns now there are few
restaurants increasingly becoming popular. All tourist hotels have good
selection of international and Bhutanese beverages.
Trips to Bhutan can be planned throughout the year but the best months
are March to May and September to November. Also there are several
festivals taking place during these months, offering an added
attraction. Winter in Bhutan is from mid November to mid March and at
this time of the year, climate is dry and sunny for the most parts with
perfect blue sky, temperatures peaking at around 15 degree Celsius in
the daytime and falling below zero at night. The monsoon usually
arrives in mid-June, with light rain falling mainly in the afternoons
Geographically, Bhutan is a land of dramatic contrasts. From the near
tropical southern border with India, steep slopes climb to snow-capped
heights of over 24,750 feet / 7,500m at the northern border with Tibet.
Consequently, temperatures vary greatly between day and night and at
different altitudes, so layered clothing for changing conditions, is
recommended. In the central valleys, the summer rains are not as heavy
as in the south and occur mostly in late afternoon and at night.
From mid-May to the end of September, the weather is warm at night
(17-18 degree Celsius) and in the day (22-26 degree Celsius). In
winter, the sky is bright and it is sunny but cold, especially when the
sun hides behind the mountains in the mornings and evenings. At
night, the temperature falls below zero. Spring and Autumn are very
pleasant with warm days and cool nights.
No vaccination is currently required for entry into Bhutan. However if
you are arriving from an area infected with yellow fever, you are
required to have a yellow fever vaccination. If you are arriving from
cholera infected area, then officials may ask for evidence of cholera
vaccination. Anti-malarial medication is recommended for all travelers
to Bhutan who are visiting rural areas in the districts that border
India. It is suggested that you assemble a traveler’s medical kit
appropriate to destination, length of trip and general health. On a
tour in Bhutan, there are long drives and roads are winding so
medication for motion sickness is strongly suggested. You should also
pack an adequate supply of any prescribed medications you may require
while traveling. Travelers who plan to visit Bhutan should consult a
physician about high-altitude travel. After a brief period of
acclimatisation, most people do not suffer from altitude sickness; but
elderly travellers or those with high blood pressure or heart
conditions need to exercise caution at high altitudes.
Custom & Immigration
Visitors are required to fill up the Custom Form and hand over to
concerned authorities on arrival. Following articles are exempted from
a). Personal affects and articles
for day to day use by the visitor
c). Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
d). Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods
for personal use .
The articles mentioned under (c)
and (d) must be declared in Custom Form. If such items disposed off in
Bhutan by sale of gift, they are liable for custom duty. All other
items, such as typewriters, briefcases, overnight bags, personal
radios, vanity cases, large cameras, etc. will be weighed with the
other baggages, and will be subject to payment of excess baggage
charges if the total weight exceeds the free baggage allowance.
Import and Export of following
goods are strictly prohibited:
a) Arms, ammunitions, explosives and military stores
b) All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs
c) Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
Also visitors are advised to be
cautious in purchasing old and used items. Custom authorities will not
allow any old/used items to be taken out of the country if they have
not been certified as non-antiques. Imports of plants, soils etc. are
subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on
Clothing and Accessories
Comfortable clothing and sturdy, soft-soled shoes are essential for
travel in Bhutan. Warm clothing is recommended; and except for summer
months, down jackets and woolen sweaters are suggested. In summer,
heavy cottons and lightweight woolens will be acceptable. Altitudinal
differences account for a wide range of temperatures from day to night
the year round. It is, therefore, suggested that clothing be layered so
that you can adapt to the changing conditions.
While visiting temples and other religious institutions, dress modestly
and respectfully. Slacks are more appropriate for men; and longer –
length skirts are more appropriate for women. Shoulders must also be
covered when inside religious buildings. Also refrain from smoking
while on the premises. Please keep in mind that shoes must be removed
when entering temples. It is, therefore, suggested that you carry a
pair of socks to wear inside religious buildings.
Other useful items
It would be prudent to bring all essential items from home; razor
blades (or battery operated shaver), toothpaste, shampoo, make-up etc.,
insect repellent, soap, alarm clock, binoculars, torch, sunscreen,
sufficient reading material and plenty of batteries for all electrical
Bhutan has an efficient telecommunication system. Nearly all
accommodation units have facilities of international dialing, fax and
internet services. The satellite earth station in Thimphu was installed
in 1990 along with a sophisticated international telephone services and
now direct dial calls go through quickly and clearly. You can send mail
from hotels and post offices and this mail service is quite reliable.
DHL provides efficient courier service to and from Bhutan.
Bhutan’s landscape, buildings and people are some of the most
photogenic in the world. While photographic local people, it is always
better to take permission first. Don’t take your destination as a
living museum. There are certain places such as monasteries and
temples, where photography is prohibited. However, there is no
restriction on photographing Dzongs and Goembas from outside. If you
are uncertain about whether or not photography is permitted, please
check with your local guide.
Dzongkha – the National Language
Dzongkha’ is Bhutan’s national language. English is commonly spoken in
main towns and also it is the medium of education in schools throughout
Items that are most frequently purchased by travelers to Bhutan include
postage stamps, lovely hand-woven fabrics, carved masks, woven baskets,
thangkhas, wooden bowls, handmade paper and finely-crafted metal
objects. In Bhutan, the buying and / or selling of antiques is strictly
Tipping is not compulsory for tour, nor is there any fixed amount for
this. Nevertheless the bottom line in determining whether and how much
to tip is to ask yourself how much the individual contributed to make
your travels more enjoyable.
Laundry service is available in most of the hotels at main
destinations. However, it is advisable to check the hotel’s individual
laundry return policy and pricing schedule before choosing to have
laundry done at a hotel.
Bhutanese currency is Ngultrum (Nu). The Ngultrum is officially pegged
to the Indian Rupee which is acceptable all over Bhutan (except for Rs
500 and Rs 1,000 denominations). As of date, only American Express card
and Visa Cards are acceptable in the country and that too by very
limited service establishments.
Bhutan time is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There is only
one time zone throughout the country.
Things to carry
The trip to Bhutan is at relatively high altitude and it can get quite cold. We will send you a detailed checklist of things to carry specific to a trip to Bhutan once you have booked with us.
Minimum numbers to run the tour
We require a minimum of six guests to run this trip. One way to do is to get your friends together to comprise a homogenous group who know each other prior to the journey. Alternatively, this is also a great way to make new friends.
How to book
Book yourself now to visit the Last Shangri La, Bhutan. Once we hear from
you, we will let you know all other relevant details like things to
carry, how to prepare and the costs. We are scheduling this trip in August/September 2009 and is scheduled to be either a 11-day trip.