OutThere Adventurers


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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 economically viable’.

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
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.

Accommodation
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.

Transport
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.

Tour Guides

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.

Tourist Season
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 and evenings.

Climate
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.

Health Information

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 duty:

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
d) Antiques

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 arrival.

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 appliances.

Communication

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.

Photography

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 the country.

Shopping

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 forbidden.

Gratitude

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

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.

Money

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.

Time

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.