Heartily welcome to roof of the world and land of Shangri-La. Bhutan, the legendary mountain kingdom of the Himalayas lie wedged between two Asian giants – India and China. This small Himalayan nation is bestowed by nature with an incredible diversity in topography resulting in a wide range of flora and fauna. The elevation of the country ranges from a few hundred meters above sea level to among the highest mountains. All within a distance of 150 kilometers resulting in sub-tropical climate to Arctic-like climate.
Population:697,000 (UN, 2009)
Capital and largest city:Thimphu
Area:38,364 sq km (14,812 sq miles)
Major language:Dzongkha (official), Nepali, Sharchop
Major religions:Buddhism (official), Hinduism
Life expectancy:64 years (men), 68 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit:1 ngultrum = 100 chetrum
Main exports:Electricity, timber, cement, agricultural products, handicrafts
GNI per capita:US $1,900 (World Bank, 2008)
How to Get in to Bhutan
Bhutan is a landlocked country. There are two ways of getting into Bhutan: By air, and by land. Foreingers can get into Bhutan only through a Tour Company. The best way to enter Bhutan is by Druk Air. There are also online tickets available for Druk Air nowadays. Therefore, you can check the tickets with Druk Air yourself online at https://www.drukair.com.bt/
Druk Air is the only airline operating in Bhutan. As Druk Air flight can be delayed because of weather, it is advisable to keep a 24-hour gap before any onward international connections.The following cities are connected to Bhutan with Druk Air flights.
Ø India: Delhi (DEL) and Calcutta (CCU)
Ø Nepal: Kathmandu (KTM)
Ø Bangladesh: Dhaka (DAC)
Ø Thailand: Bangkok (BKK)
Ø Burma: Rangoon (RGN
There are two overland entry/exit points. One is from the Indian state of West Bengal into Phuntsholing in southwest Bhutan. Four hours drive from Phuntsholing will take you to Bagdogra in the state of West Bengal (India) which is the nearest airport from from Phuntsholings. The drive from Phuntsholing to Thimphu takes six hours.The other point is Samdrup Jongkhar in the southeast, 110 km from Guwahati, India. An Inner Line Permit to enter Assam will also be required to enter/exit through Guwahati. Tashigang is six hours’ drive from Samdrup Jongkhar.
Bhutan Visa is a must for every foreigner entering Bhutan. The visa has to be processed by local tour operators lets say Travel Pinto for you . No foreign mission or embassy abroad grants tourist visa. For the visa, a passport is required which must be valid for until at least 6 months after you leave Bhutan. The Druk Air allows boarding only if it has got your visa clearance from the Bhutan Government.
After your arrival at Paro Airport, a visa stamp will be issued on your passport. In case, if you’re traveling overland, visa stamp will be issued at Phuntsholing. Travel Pinto will manage all procedures regarding the Bhutan Visa. We will organize your visa for Bhutan prior to the start of your trip. For the visa procedure, you have to send us two passport size color photographs and a color copy of your passport. Visas are issued for a 15 day period and extensions can be obtained in Thimphu at a cost of Nu.510
All your baggage must be affirmed and cleared through the customs on arrival at the entry. Personal effects are permitted free entry. All visitors are required to complete a customs form and hand it over to the customs authorities on arrival. All articles for personal and professional use must be declared on the customs form. The baggage allowance by Druk Air is 20 kg in economic class and 30 kg in business class. An extra 5 kg allowed for storing in the overhead baggage bin or under the passenger’s seat.
The goods that may be imported into Bhutan are the following:
Ø 200 cigarettes.
Ø 1liter of spirits.
Ø Personal items for daily use, instruments or appliances for professional use.
Please note that cameras, videos, mobile telephones and all other electronic equipment for personal use must be registered with the authorities on arrival and will be checked by customs on departure. All tobacco items are subject to a 200% custom tax on arrival.
The following items are prohibited for import: firearms, narcotics, plants.
The items that are prohibited for export from Bhutan are antiques, religious objects, manuscripts, wildlife & plants, images and anthropological materials.
The seasons in Bhutan are pretty much the same as in Europe, opposite of the Australian seasons. In January it’s cold, while in July you could make do with shorts and t-shirt. The climate of Bhutan is moderate which means the winters are dry and the summers are hot. But because of the huge range in altitude and landscape, climate of Bhutan differs significantly throughout the country.
Bhutan has four major seasons:
Best time to visit Bhutan
Autumn: (September, October, and November)
Spring: (March, April and May)
Bhutan has slow but reliable postal service. A letter takes about ten days to reach Europe, one week to Japan and three weeks to America . Package (up to 5 kg or 11 lb.) should be sent by registered mail. DHL and other courier services also now operate from Thimpu.
Telephone, fax, telex and telegraph services are available. Hotels and private communications centers provide long distance telephone.
There are several internet cafes and communication centers in the Thimphu Valley and around the country. Tourists only need to find a place they are most comfortable with to use the facilities to keep in touch with home. E-mail and Internet services are also offered by hotels.
Bhutan Government controls the media in Bhutan. The newspaper Kuensel is a government-owned corporation circulating six days a week in Dzongkha and English. Bhutan Times is the country’s first government-authorized privately owned newspaper. There are also a few other news media in Bhutan. The Bhutan Broadcasting Service is the country’s government owned radio service. Bhutan introduced television broadcasts only in 1999.
Bhutan has a small hospitality industry. However, all towns have hotels and lodges and all tourist lodges, hotels, and resorts are registered with the Department of Tourism. There are some international standard hotels in such touristy area as Paro, Jakar, Punakha, Gangtey and Thimphu. A few 5 star luxurious hotels have also been opened mostly in Thimpu and Paro.
Bhutan Government has categorized the hotels into A, B, & C category. Foreign visitors entering Bhutan as part of a tour have to pay the tariff set by the government around $250 per person per night in general. While on the trek, we provide tent or camping facility for the trekking group.
Forex & Banking
Foreign currencies must be exchanged only through banks or authorized foreign exchange dealers. The receipts from such transaction are to be obtained and retained. Visitors can exchange money at the foreign exchange counter at the airport upon arrival also. Credit cards are not widely accepted in Bhutan. When credit cards are accepted, usually during bank hours, an extra service fee, usually a percentage of the overall purchase, is charged. ATM facility has recently been opened in Bhutan, but it is available for the local people only for the time being.
Bhutanese currency is the Ngultrum, divided into Chetrums, which are at a par with the Indian Rupee. The Indian Rupee is also legal tender in Bhutan. Indian rupees up to the 100 rupee denomination are accepted for purchases in Bhutan. Very few establishments will accept 500 and 1000 rupee notes.
The voltage in Bhutan is 230 Volts, 50 cycles AC. If you try to plug an American appliance such as a shaver or hairdryer into an outlet of a different voltage, you may destroy the appliance and cause yourself injury. There are few things you should know about other countries (here Bhutan) before you travel.
Bhutan’s Electricity is 240 Volts and 50 MHZ (some countries like U.S and Canada are 110-120 volts/60 MHZ).
In Bhutan, you will need a voltage converter, and plug adapter in order to use U.S. – like appliances
Owing to a sudden change in climate, altitude and other factors, it is obvious that there could arise some alterations in your health. It would be hard to know all aspects of Bhutan’s health problems. However, it would be useful to gather information on altitude sickness (AMS), diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, hepatitis rabies, typhoid, tetanus, meningitis diphtheria, malaria. Common sense can often save lives.
You will be eating and drinking in various outlets. Diarrhea is a common illness that a tourist would be facing. So, it is recommended to drink purified water and eat in clean outlets. Drinking and eating precautions will surely help to take care of many health problems that could arise during the trip. Staying hydrated during the travel, trekking, tours is highly recommended too. Being on good health before leaving for a trip would help you to enjoy your trip to the fullest.
There is no need to present inoculation/immunization certificates to enter Bhutan for any legal purpose. However, vaccination for diseases such as Malaria (widely found in lowerlands of Bhutan), Small Pox, Typhoid, Tetanus, Meningitis, Hepatitis and Polio are recommended before you commence your travel to Bhutan to be on the safe side. We advise you to consult your doctor before beginning your travel and also to carry necessary health certificates (immunization certificates), should they be required in any case.
Health posts have been set up by the government in different parts of rural Bhutan. However, facilities are not on equivalence with those found in Bhutan capital.
A travel insurance policy that covers theft, loss and medical treatment is recommended. Make sure the insurance also covers the activities that you will be undertaking during your stay in Bhutan such as trekking, rafting and all adventures activities.
A simple but adequate medical kit can be very useful while traveling. The following items are recommended:
Ø Aspirin or Panadol – for pain or fever
Ø Antihistamine – as a decongestant for colds, allergies and to help prevent motion sickness;
Ø Antibiotics – useful if traveling off beaten track but they must be prescribed
Ø Kaolin preparation (Pepto-Bismol), Imodium or Lomotil – for stomach upsets
Ø Rehydration mixture – for treatment of severe diarrhea
Ø Antiseptic, mercurochrome and antibiotic powder or similar ‘dry’ spray – for cuts and grazes.
Ø Calamine lotion to ease irritation from bites or stings
Ø bandages and band aids for minor injuries
Ø scissors and/or tweezers
Ø insect repellent
Ø sun block lotion
Ø water-purification tablets
Ø throat lozenges (Strepsils)
Ø Sulamyd 10% eye drops
Ø Acetaminophen (Paracetamol, Antacid tablets)
Prevention, the Best Medicine:
Ø Always drink reputable brands of bottled water or boiled one. Stomach upsets are the most likely health problem although majority of these cases are minor problems. Avoid running tap water for drinking purpose.
Ø In unavailability of bottled water, drink boiled water for drinking. This is well known to kill all harmful bacteria and is the method by which Travel Pinto seeks to provide to trekkers using the facilities of the guest and teahouses.
Ø Alternatively, using an Iodine solution – either tablets or drops. This is known to kill most water borne bacteria (not 100%) and has been used widely by most trekkers effectively in this region. Iodine is particularly handy when not near or in a lodge and additional water is required to be purified.
Ø Always make sure the food you eat is thoroughly cooked.
Ø Do not drink unpasteurized milk. Boiled milk is fine if it is kept hygienically and yoghurt is usually good.
Ø Tea or coffee should also be all right since the water would have been boiled. Salads and fruit should be washed with purified water or peeled where possible. Food, drink and snack from reputable sources are usually safe. However beware of food that has been kept out in the open for long.
Ø Wash your hands frequently, as it is quite easy to contaminate your own food.
Ø Clean your teeth with purified water rather than direct tap water.
Ø Avoid climatic extremes: keep out of the sun when it is hot, dress warmly when it is cold. Avoid potential diseases by dressing sensibly.
Ø Do not walk bare feet as it is easy to get worm infections through bare feet.
Ø Try to avoid insect bites by covering bare skin when insects are around, by screening windows or by using, insect repellents.