Where Is Bhutan?
Bhutan is a small, landlocked country in South East Asia located in the eastern end of the Himalayas between India and China. At 38,392 sq km, it is roughly the size of Switzerland or about 50 times the size of Singapore.
How Do We Get There?
- Bookings: Bhutan’s government regulates that all visitors must go through a licensed Bhutanese Tour Operator or one of their international partners.
- Entry Points: Druk Air into Paro Airport from Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata and Nepal; Bhutan Airlines into Paro Airport from Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata and Nepal; or overland from Puenthsoling (in the South from the Indian plains of West Bengal) and Samdrup Jongkhar (in the East from the Indian State of Assam).
Do We Require A Visa?
Visitors require a visa clearance/letter obtained through a licensed Bhutanese Tour Operator or one of their international partners. A coloured copy of your passport is required and the visa fee is US$40. Visa is issued by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and approved by the Department of Immigration and usually takes 1 week to process, but is usually released 1-2 weeks prior to your arrival in Bhutan.
We Heard Bhutan Limits The Number of Visitors?
Tourism has always been tightly controlled and still is; however there is no limit to the number of visitor arrivals into Bhutan. Or, to put it another way, anyone can go IF he or she is willing to pay the government mandated minimum daily charges. The US$200 per day (low season) and US$250 per day (high season) in a group of 3 persons or more, includes a minimum of 3-star accommodation, meals, an experienced English speaking guide and transportation (with driver) within the country, camping equipment and haulage for trekking, and a US$65 per day royalty that goes towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation.
There is a surcharge of US$40 per night for the single traveller and US$30 per night per person for 2 travellers.
When Is The Best Time To Visit?
- Peak Seasons: Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) are the best times to visit Bhutan and being the busiest months, expect some congestion at major tourist spots.
- Climate: Bhutan has four seasons: Spring: March to May / Summer: June to August /Autumn: September to November / Winter: December to February. Temperatures vary widely across Bhutan due to the vast differences in altitudes.
What Is There To See And Do?
- Natural Landscape: Steep and high mountains are crisscrossed by a network of swift rivers forming deep valleys. Elevation rises from 200 m (660 ft) in the southern foothills to more than 7,000 m (23,000 ft). Thus it offers great geographical diversity and outstanding range of biodiversity. Activities range from trekking, kayaking, cycling, bird watching.
- Cultural Landscape: It has a distinct identity brought about by its history, religion, traditions, customs and ways of life as seen from traditional buildings, rice terraces, pasture lands, community forests, sacred places and mountain passes. Activities range from visiting dzongs, attending festivals, meditation classes with reputed Lamas, home stays, farm stays.
Other Useful Information:
- Language: The national language is Dzongkha but English is taught in schools so nearly all young people and tourist guides are conversant in English.
- Currency: Bhutanese Ngultrum is pegged to the Indian Rupee (1 BTN = 1 INR). With the government’s mandated minimum package which includes almost everything, extra expenses incurred are towards souvenirs and drinks.
- Food: Most meals in the hotels and restaurants are served buffet style. Rice is standard, and accompanied by dishes that include pork or beef, a curry of some sort, steamed vegetables and baked or fried fish. A staple is Bhutan’s national dish, ema-datsi, or hot chillies in cheese sauce (it can be wickedly spicy!) Breakfasts are simple fares with noodles, eggs, cereals, toasts, fruit juices and fruits. The food is generally simple and wholesome in standard establishments. More fancy and elaborate cuisine is available in 5-star hotels. Bring some granola bars for day hikes or long distance rides.
- Accommodation: The options range from 5-star to 4-star to 3-star hotels to guest houses and working farms. If you are looking for more luxurious accommodations, there are the Aman Resorts, Uma by COMO, and Taj Hotel. Amenities vary; bring basic toiletries.
- Electricity: 220 volts and the plugs are large and 3-prong; bring an adapter.
- Connectivity: Free wi-fi is available at most hotels in the cities and major towns. Internet access is available at a cost which varies from cities, to provincials where it can be more expensive. SIM cards can be purchased but mobile data access is intermittent.
- Roads: The roads can be winding with ascents and descents due to the mountainous terrain. Be prepared with suitable medication for motion and high altitude sickness if one has such tendencies.
- Medical & Emergency Facilities: In the event of sudden sickness, one can approach the nearest available hospital or Basic Health Unit for consultation and medication.
- High Altitude & Hiking Tips: To manage the thinner air at high altitudes (3,000 m above sea level) and hiking the distances to dzongs, one should be in general good health, and reasonably good physical shape or start to exercise 2 months prior. Your doctor can prescribe acetazolamide (Diamox) for high altitude sickness.
- Travel Insurance: There are no travel insurance facilities from the local tour operators. You will need your own travel insurance before commencing your trip.