Photos by Lincoln Potter

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Travel Tips for Bhutan

Druk Air

Druk air limits your luggage to 20 kg (44 lbs or 30 kg or 66 lbs on business class). You should try and keep to this allowance. Even if you are willing to pay for excess baggage, your extra luggage will be listed as standby and may be off loaded for the next flight. The less you carry the better. One small suitcase and an even smaller carry-on is best. There is not much room for over-head storage in the air cabin.

Food and Drink

Traditional Bhutanese food is hot and spicy. For our visitors, however, Chinese, Indian, and Continental fares are served. The 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. Meals are normally served buffet style in the hotels.

Visa

Your Bhutan visa will be stamped in your passport only when you arrive in Bhutan. You will have to pay US$ 20 cash upon arrival and present a passport photo with your passport number written on the back. We can process visa extensions for you if necessary.

How should you interact with people in Bhutan?

The people of Bhutan are like other people! Ask before you take their picture. Ask your guide before taking pictures in museums or public buildings. There are some places that are off limits to visitors for religious and safety reasons. Ask your guide so you can always be sure.

And please never hand out candy or small trinkets to children. Bhutanese people are very proud of the fact that there are no beggars in Bhutan and wish not to encourage this behavior of expecting anything from our guests. Small gifts to people you stay with and a tip for your guide are fine.

What should you and what can you bring along?

  1. Good walking shoes
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Sunscreen (highest possible)
  4. Headgear for sunny days
  5. Bug repellent
  6. Cotton clothing for summer days, light woolen clothes for evenings. Heavy woolens for winter.
  7. Shorts for hiking and walking around town are fine. Out of respect, please don’t wear shorts in public buildings or monasteries. Have a pair of long pants or longer skirt for these locations.
  8. Ear plugs (barking dogs!)

Customs Authority

The Bhutanese authorities strictly monitor the export of any religious antiquities or antiques of any kind from the Kingdom (100 years or older). Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items. Custom authorities will not allow items to be taken out of the country if they have not been officially certified as non-antique. Personal videos, cameras, personal computers, portable telephones or any other electronic device should be registered with the customs authorities on arrival at Paro and will be checked by the same on departure. Upon arrival you will be issued a “customs form” this form must be filled out, with declarations, and returned to authorities before leaving the kingdom. Import of plants, soils, etc., are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be declared on arrival.

Customs & Immigration

All visitors are required to complete the customs form upon arrival at Paro. Cameras, video cameras, personal electronic equipment must be declared on arrival and will be checked upon departure.

Following articles are exempted from duty:
a). Personal affects and articles for day to day use by the visitor
b). 2 litres of alcohol, 400 cigarettes, 150 gms of pipe tobacco
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). & d). must be declared in Custom Form. If such items disposed off in Bhutan by sale of gift, they are liable for custom duty.

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

Time Difference

Standard Time in Bhutan is 6 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time

Heath Matters

No inoculations or vaccinations are required unless coming from or passing through an infected area. Travelers should bring sufficient medication with them if required and should check for updated health recommendations before your departure to Bhutan regarding hepatitis, malaria, typhoid, etc.

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 acclimatization, most people do not suffer from altitude sickness; but elderly travelers or those with high blood pressure or heart conditions need to exercise caution at high altitudes.

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. Bhutan is a wonderfully colorful country to photograph. The only restrictions are that you may not photograph military facilities and certain cultural sites such as monasteries where photography is prohibited however there is no restriction on photographing Dzongs, temples and Goembas from outside. If you are uncertain about whether or not photography is permitted, please check with your local guide. Bring plenty of film and extra batteries.

Voltage

Standard voltage in Bhutan is 220/240 V and wall plugs vary from town to town. We suggest you bring along your own adapters and converters for your electrical appliances. In case of power outages, a torch light is convenient.

Laundry service in hotel

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.

Shopping & souvenir

Items that are most frequently purchased by travelers to Bhutan include postage stamps, lovely hand-woven fabrics, carved masks, woven baskets, thangkas, wooden bowls, handmade paper and finely-crafted metal objects. In Bhutan, the buying and / or selling of antiques is strictly forbidden.

Communication Facilities

Reliable telephone and fax services are available in all towns in Bhutan. International connections are excellent. Internet cafes are few in number and available only in few places – especially in central and eastern Bhutan.

All major towns and cities have basic communication facilities, including phone, fax, and email service. Local and international calls can be made from all hotels and public phone booths for a fee. Cell phones with a Bhutanese SIM card can also be used in most urban places and some rural places as well, and can be used with a commonly available pre-paid mobile voucher.

Standard mail service in Bhutan is handled by Bhutan Post, and is commonly found throughout the country. However, now both DHL and Federal Express have offices in Thimphu which can be utilized for sending and receiving documents and packages.

Internet facilities are continuously increasing in number and can be found in major cities and towns. High speed wireless and broadband can be found in quite many areas.

Taxes & Permits

The airport tax on departure from Paro is Nu.300/US$10. All areas outside Thimphu and Paro valleys require travel permits, which your tour operator will arrange. Most dzong courtyards are open to tourists but the inner sanctums are generally closed for obvious reasons that they house provincial offices and monk studies.

Banking services & facilities

Bhutanese currency is Ngultrum (Nu.) and is officially pegged to the Indian Rupee. Also Indian Rupee is acceptable all over Bhutan except Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes.

Cash and traveler’s check exchange is available for most of the main currencies including the U.S. dollar, Euro, Indian Rupee, Japanese Yen, Thai Baht, Pound Sterling, Swiss Franc, Hong Kong dollar, Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, Singapore dollar, Danish kroner, Norwegian kroner, and Swedish kroner. Exchange rates vary.

Credit Cards have limited acceptability and payment through credit card is accepted mainly by deluxe hotels and few selected Handicrafts establishments only. Only some souvenir shops accept Visa Card and Master Card.

There are ATMs in Bhutan but currently they only operate with their respective Bhutanese banks. Since these ATM currently do not function with outside banks, so ATM facility cannot be used by visitors. Traveler’s checks / cash are best option if you need additional money.

It is also possible to have funds wired with the services of Western Union but funds cannot be accessed in all locations, and are limited in amounts and days of availability.

News Paper, Radio & Television

News Paper

Kuensel, Bhutan Observer and The Bhutan Times are the local news papers published in English. Kuensel’ is also published in local language Dzongkha and Nepali.

Their online links:

www.kuenselonline.com

www.bhutantimes.com

www.bhutanobserver.bt

Country’s first daily newspaper ‘Bhutan Today’, launched on October 30, 2008.

Radio & Television

Bhutan Broadcasting Service has programmes in Dzongkha, English and Nepali. Television started in year 2000 and various channels are now available for the viewers such as BBC, CNN, Discovery, Star TV, ESPN etc.

Tipping & Gratitude guideline

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.