Things to know before going to Bhutan
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Visa & Passport
All nationals except India, Maldives, and Bangladesh need a valid visa before traveling to Bhutan. The passport should have at least 6 months validity from the date of travel and 2-3 empty pages for visa stamp. You must travel with the same passport that you have booked your flights with and applied for the visa.
Bhutan time zone (BTT) is +6:00 ahead of Universal Time Coordinated (UTC +6). It does not have an associated daylight saving time and only applies to Bhutan.
Bhutan is 11 hours ahead of New York, USA. 10am Monday in New York is 9pm Monday in Bhutan. Bhutan is 1 hour behind of Thailand, 30 minutes ahead of Delhi, 15 minutes ahead of Kathmandu and no time difference with Dhaka.
When to Book
As Bhutan has limited flights and hotels, we suggest booking your tour well ahead in advance, at least 3 months ahead. However, during peak spring and fall season as well as during festival time, you need to book at least 6 months to 1 year prior to your travel date.
The government’s set tariff is US $250 per night per person for high seasons months of March, April, May, September, October and November. And US $200 per night per person for low season months of January, February, June, July, August and December. A one time visa fee of USD 40 is payable per person. If you travel in a group of less than three people, you are liable for the surcharge: US $40 per night for one person, US $30 for 2 and there is no surcharge for 3 person and above.
The cost includes meals, government taxes, 3-4 star hotels, bottled water, a tour guide, land transportation within Bhutan, permits and entrance fees and sightseeing. It does not include expenses of personal nature such as drinks and beverages, laundry, phone and internet, tips and insurance of any kind.
Licensed local Bhutanese guides will introduce you to many facets of this wonderful country. Our guides are trained and certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and refreshers course are given frequently to update their knowledge and skills. They are knowledgeable, friendly and can speak fluent English.
We always provide well maintained cars with experienced drivers. For 1-2 people, we use comfortable SUVs 4WD cars such as Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and Korean cars like Tucson, Santa Fe and Terracan. For 3-4 people in a group, we provide comfortable Korean Hyundai H-1 and Toyota Hi-ace buses and for 5 people and above, we provide AC Toyota coaster buses.
Although Bhutanese meals are rich with spicy chilies and cheese, restaurants that cater to western tourists will tone down the spice. You will have choices of Chinese, Continental, Bhutanese and Indian cuisine in the hotels and local restaurants. Vegetarian meals is also available in Bhutan.
While on trek, Bhutan Travelers have trained chefs who will prepare dishes suitable to western taste and quite often people say that our trek food is better than in cities. Any special dietary requirements that you have can be met with an advance notice.
Money and Exchange
Bhutanese Ngultrum (Nu.) is the currency of Bhutan. USD 1 is equal to Nu.75 with little variations. You can exchange your money with the banks or a money changer. US dollars are widely accepted in Bhutan including some handicraft stores and cafes. The exchange rate for the 100 denomination notes is slightly higher than the lower denomination.
As Bhutan tours are all-inclusive, you only need to carry cash for shopping and personal expenses.
All flights to Bhutan must be re-confirmed 72 hours before departure. This is to avoid any last-minute inconvenience in light of any flight cancellations, delays, or changes in flight time. If you have booked flights yourself, you must send a copy of your ticket to your tour company. We will re-confirm on your behalf and inform you of the changes if any.
If you are traveling from Delhi and Kathmandu you should opt for left window seats when flying in and the right window seat flying out. Seats are not assigned at the time of flight purchase however, you can check-in online and select the seat of your preference 24 hours prior to your flight departure. If your flight has been arranged through us, we will check-in online for you.
Visitors are advised to dress comfortably as Bhutan is generally a formal place. Shorts, skirts and revealing tight clothing are to be avoided.
The Bhutanese people wear their full traditional dress and formal wear to Dzongs and to temples. Visitors should wear long pants (even if jeans), shirts with full sleeves, and more formal skirts below the knees to these places. Slippers and sandals are discouraged. Sun caps are also not permitted inside Dzongs and temples.
Cigarettes & Smoking
The sale of tobacco products and smoking in public places is banned. For personal consumption, a person may carry any one of the following tobacco at a time:
- 200 sticks of cigarette or
- 30 pieces of cigar; or
- 150 grams of other tobacco products
You must declare tobacco products at the airport or entry points. On-demand, you must also produce proof or receipt of tax payment. Tobacco products imported from India shall pay 100% Sales Tax and from other countries 200% duty.
Tips & Gratitude
Tips are not compulsory but it is expected. Tipping is a matter of social custom and showing gratitude for the hard work and sincerity of the people involved to make the best out of your time in Bhutan. You may tip your guide and driver at the end of the trip. And your cooking staff – trek chef, assistant, and horseman at the end of the trek. Tips may be handed directly to them.
You can buy large assortment of hand-woven textiles, handicrafts, silver and gold ornaments, Thanka or scroll paintings and exquisite Bhutanese stamps. Carved masks, woven baskets, wooden bowls, handmade paper products also make great souvenirs. Exporting antiques is strictly prohibited. You may be able to carry the antique items only with a government seal on it.
If you wish to bring gifts and are not sure, our past clients have brought storybooks, pens, and stationaries to gift to the local school children. And spectacles for the elderly, but really anything works. However, we discourage giving chocolates and money as gifts.
Besides FITs and solo tours, we also arrange group tours. The maximum size we take for a cultural tour is 16-18 people and 8-10 people on treks. We have handled tours consisting of a large number and have the fitting experience to arrange group tours. You may check our website for the upcoming join-in tours.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Bhutan is safe for gay and lesbian travelers. People’s sexual preferences are considered personal matters and do not bother most Bhutanese. The Bhutanese people are, however, not used to open intimate behaviour.
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