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Bhutan

Land of thunder Dragon and the last Shangri La on earth, is situated in the lap of Eastern Himalayas between India and the People's Republic of China. Covering an area of 18000 sq miles, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the most isolated nations in the world. Spectacular mountain terrain, varied flora and fauna and unique ancient Buddhist monasteries have made Bhutan an exemplar tourist destination, it is bestowed with rich bio-diversity harboring around 300 medicinal herbs and 165 endangered species. Each part of Bhutan has its own, historical, geographical, cultural, traditional and religious significance. 

When to go, weather

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:

Winter: December-February 
Spring: March-May 
Summer: June-August 
Autumn: September-November

 

Best time to visit Bhutan

Autumn: (September, October, and November) 
Spring: (March, April and May)

Getting there

GETTING TO BHUTAN

By Air

Bhutan’s national carrier, Druk Air, is the only airline servicing Bhutan’s international airport located in Paro, about one and a half hours drive from Thimphu. Their fleet includes modern Airbus A-319 and ATR planes. Druk Air flies in and out of Bhutan from:

  • Bangkok (Thailand)
  • Delhi (India)
  • Kolkata (India)
  • Bagdogra (India)
  • Gaya (India)
  • Guwahati (India)
  • Kathmandu (Nepal)
  • Dhaka (Bangladesh)
  • Changi (Singapore - to be approved

 By Land

If you wish to travel overland, you can enter and exit Bhutan through its southern gateway ofPhuentsholing into the Indian state of West Bengal. It is approximately a five hour drive from Thimphu. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, located approximately four hours by road from Phuentsholing. This border point is an ideal junction for those wishing to combine their exploration of Bhutan with the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal.

For those who would like to journey across Bhutan, there is an exit only border crossing at Sumdrup Jongkhar in southeast Bhutan to India. The closest airport is 110 km away in Guwahati. From here you a number of destinations you can fly on to including Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata and Bangkok. This is convenient for those flying into Paro in the west and touring across Bhutan without back tracking.

Visa

Bhutan Visa is a must for every foreigner entering Bhutan. The visa has to be processed by local tour operators. 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. We will take care of 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.

Currency

USD1 = NU 56

Travel Insurance

A travel insurance policy that covers theft, loss and medical treatment is highly 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.

Health Issues

Currently, there is no vaccination required for entry into Bhutan. However it is generally recommended that your tetanus, diphtheria and polio boosters be up to date. Malaria is prevalent in some rural areas of southern Bhutan. Most of your tour runs through western, central and eastern Bhutan. Thus, you might need to consult your doctor about taking anti-malarial pills only if your trip goes through southern parts of Bhutan

Culture & History

The ancient period of Bhutan that dates from the beginning till the 8th century AD, was marked by rural settlement, domestication of animals, agriculture, the first advent of Buddhism and subsequent buildings of Buddhist temples.

The visit of Guru Padmasambhava and other Buddhists saints and scholars from India and Tibet marked the medieval Bhutan. Emergence of ruling clans and development of arts and architecture were also seen during this period. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a leader of the Drukpa sect, came to Bhutan in 17th century. He introduced the dual system of Government and for the first time some degree of stability was maintained, which was unseen before. But this did not last long. After Ngawang Namgyal’s death, successors became victims of intrigues and rivalries. The instability continued till the early 20th century.

The country’s modern period began with the establishment of monarchy in Bhutan. The powerful Bhutanese Chief, Ugyen Wangchuk was crowned as the first hereditary ruler of Bhutan in 1907. The country’s self-imposed policy of isolation continued till the reign of the third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He decided to shed this age-old policy and introduced the country to the outside world, bringing the country into the international mainstream.

Though the country is known as Bhutan to the outside world, to Bhutanese it has been known as Druk Yul ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’. The people call themselves Drukpas.

Unlike many countries, traditional arts, age-old ceremonies, festivals, social conduct and structures are not remnants of a bygone age. Traditional arts and crafts are still practiced as they were done hundreds of years ago. Vibrant festivals are celebrated and social principles like the Driglam Namzha (age old etiquette and code of conduct) are still evident because they continue to have a special significance in the daily lives of the people in Bhutan.Bhutanese language and literature, arts and crafts, drama, music, ceremonies and events, architecture, and basic social and cultural values draw their essence from Buddhism.

Faqs

1. Do I need to use a tour operator to book my travel ? 

It is a government regulation that you must use a license Bhutanese Tour Operator to book your travel to Bhutan or one of their international partners.

2. Do I need a visa to enter Bhutan?

No embassies abroad will issue Bhutan tourist Visa. All International tourists wishing to enter Bhutan require a visa which must be pre-arranged through a license Bhutanese Tour Operator or one of their international partners. Visa clearance must be obtained through your tour operator prior to travel.  When you arrive at Paro airport or at the border in Phuentsholing (for those using the land option), you need to show this copy and then passport is stamped with visa for duration of your stay in Bhutan. Visa is pre-paid and so you do not need to pay for it. For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives may obtain a visa on entry. 

3.What is the weight limit for luggage on Druk Air?

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.

4.What is included in tour packages?

The tour package includes all meals, tea & snacks, government approved A & B category hotels on twin sharing basis, airport pick up and drop, ground transport in the comfortable private vehicle, experienced English speaking guides and local staff, all city tour with permits and entrance fees for museums and monuments, all government taxes, Bhutan Visa fee.

5.What will be the food?

Variety of meals are available in most of the hotels – the most popular being Indian, Chinese, and the more common continental food which you can choose as per your wish. Emadatse - spicy chilies mixed with a cheese sauce is the national diet of Bhutan. Bhutanese eat chilies as vegetables rather than spices. Red and white rice are served at all meals. Non vegetarian dishes - pork, beef, chicken, and fish are generally available in most parts of Bhutan. Vegetarian foods are also available. Better ask the hotel or restaurant to recommend what is fresh and in season.

6.Is it safe to drink tap water in Bhutan?

Tap water is not considered safe for drinking and also ice cubes should be avoided. Mineral water is easily available throughout the country (but make sure that seal is not broken). At the same time it is better to go with the trusted brand rather than picking the local brands.

7.Can I use my credit cards in Bhutan?

Credit cards are not accepted in Bhutan generally. But, there are some handicraft shop which accept credit cards while purchasing goods.

8.Is the country safe to travel ?

Absolutely, Bhutan is safe for traveler. There is little crime in Bhutan and it is safe for women, family with children and for solo travelers as well. However, women are advised to follow the same universal precautions when they are in crowded entertainment places at night, mainly when in discos or bars.

9.What are the accommodations like?

Hotels in Bhutan are approved and classified by the government as grade A, B and C. These government approved hotels are equivalent to 3-4 star hotels located throughout the globe. Western Bhutan (Thimpu, Paro,Wangdue and Punakha)has the best hotels but as you head to eastern and central regions, the quality decreases a little bit. All the hotels/lodges/guest houses in the western Bhutan have pretty good electrical heating systems. While the hotels in the central and eastern part of Bhutan has wood-stoves for heating.

10.What is the electricity supply in Bhutan and what plugs are used?

240 volts AC – Flat round 2-pin plugs are most common and a universal adapter is an important travel item. Power cuts are quite frequent in central and eastern Bhutan while western Bhutan has stable power supply.

11.Are there internet facilities for foreign travelers?

Bhutan's main and only Internet Service Provider (ISP) is Druknet, owned by Bhutan Telecom. It provides a dial-up service, at a reasonable cost. There are several internet cafes and communication centers in the Thimphu and other various part of 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.

12.What is the time Zone in Bhutan ?

Bhutan has only one time zone throughout the country. It is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), 30 minute ahead of India, 15 minute ahead of Nepal and one hour behind Thailand. Also, Bhutan is 14 hours ahead of Pacific Time. When it is Sunday 12:00 Noon in San Francisco, it is Monday 2:00 am in Bhutan.

13.Can we smoke in Bhutan ?

The sale of tobacco products is banned throughout the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. However, smoking in Bhutan is not banned but acting without an import receipt issued by the Department of Revenue and Customs is banned. Therefore, if you wish to smoke in Bhutan you can carry cigarettes up to 200 pieces with you but a duty have to be paid for them and also can smoke only on private zone like room or residence. It is recommended to smoke only on claimed zone otherwise it will be considered as crime if you smoke on prohibited areas like public places and offices and may even have to go jail for 3months also.





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