Some frequently asked questions and answers related to traveling in Bhutan. We have tried to put together the most common questions. If you have remaining doubts you can write to us and we will get back to you at the earliest.
Some frequently asked questions on traveling to and in Bhutan:
Q. What’s the difference between booking a trip directly through Breathe Bhutan and travel agents abroad?
Breathe Bhutan is a local operator in Bhutan. You save a good deal of money by booking your trip directly through us. The agents abroad are commission agents and you will have to pay commission on top of daily tariff so your cost escalates. Even if you book your trip through travel agents abroad, they ultimately need to deal with local operators in Bhutan because tourist visas can be arranged only by local operators.
Q. Can I travel single or must I join a group in Bhutan?
You can travel single in Bhutan. You will get an independent guide and driver throughout your tour. Usually we don’t combine groups as we respect the privacy of each individual.
Q. When is the best time to travel in Bhutan?
Two seasons, March to May and September to November, are the best times to travel in Bhutan. The climate is good then and there are many festivals in these seasons. You can travel during the rest of the year too but June, July and August are slightly humid because of the onset of the monsoon while December, January and February are the cold winter months.
You can visit western Bhutan (Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and Wangduephodrang) anytime of the year. Avoid central and eastern Bhutan during the monsoon months of July and August when the weather is sometimes a little too wet and clouded for sightseeing.
Q. What does it cost to visit Bhutan?
The international tourist tariff is set by the Royal Government of Bhutan and is termed as the Minimum Daily Tariff.
For groups of three persons or more, the rates are as follows:
High season tariff: US $250/- per person per day in March, April, May, June and September, October and November.
Low Season Tariff: US$ 200 per person per day in December, January, February and June, July and August.
For a group of less than three persons, there is a surcharge on top of the daily tariff:
One person: US $40 per person per day.
Two persons: US $30 per person per day.
Three persons and more: No surcharge applicable.
Q. What is covered by the Minimum Daily Tariff?
The Tourism Council of Bhutan imposes minimum spending per traveler per day. Within this limit the following are included:
1. Visas for Bhutan
2. A qualified & licensed English-speaking guide
3. An experienced driver
4. A good vehicle (4WD for travelling couples or mini bus or bus for bigger groups)
5. All meals inclusive
6. Accommodation (3-star rated hotels minimum)
7. Mineral water each day
8. Taxes, surcharges, government contribution
The following are not included:
1. Travel Insurance
2. Meals at 5-star restaurants. Breakfast at 5-star restaurants is included if you have booked a night at the hotel
3. Tips for the guide and driver
5. Air ticketing cost, which fluctuates as per foreign exchange rates.
Q. How do I book my flights into Bhutan?
Breathe Bhutan can arrange your airline tickets on both Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. There is no commission fee for this service. However, you can also buy directly from their websites www.drukair.com.bt and www.bhutanairlines.bt using your credit cards.
Q. Would we need travel insurance?
All visitors are advised to get their insurance coverage from their own country.
Q. What currency should I carry?
Most currencies are exchanged by banks here. The most commonly accepted currencies are US dollars, Australian Dollars, Singapore dollars, Euro, Pounds, Japanese Yen, Swiss Franc, Canadian Dollars and Indian Rupees. Most handicraft shops accept US dollar, Australian Dollar, Euro and Pounds. You can even exchange these currencies in some local shops. They give you a better exchange rate than the banks.
Q. Can I use credit cards in Bhutan?
The major banks now have ATMs and you can withdraw local currency via Visa & MasterCard credit & debit cards & Cirrus/Maestro endorsed bank debit cards. The ATM’s don’t always work and usually you’ll only be able to draw small amounts in any single transaction, so back up cash in USD on Indian Rupees is advisable.
Q. What kind of travel guides can I expect?
Licensed Bhutanese travel guides will introduce you to the many facets of Bhutan and its culture. The English-speaking guides undergo regular training and, where required, specialized guides will lead you on bird watching, meditation or other special tours.
Q. What is Bhutan’s electricity supply like? Can I use electrical appliances in the hotels?
Bhutan uses a 240 v system. Electrical supply is generally good but can be less stable in the smaller towns outside the capital, Thimphu. If you are using laptops and other sensitive equipment, be prepared for fluctuations and power surges. Many rural areas are still without electricity although some farms have solar electrification.
Q. What type of electrical plug is used in Bhutan?
Bhutan uses the round pin sockets as shown in the picture (Type C and Type D). You can also buy other types of power socket converters in many of the hardware shops in the capital, Thimphu.Q. Can I access the internet in Bhutan?
Internet access is usually available in hotels in the room and their lobby. Only some hotels charges for internet usage. In central Bhutan, tourists may have to pay for internet access in the hotels. For a list of hotels with internet connectivity, please refer to our listing of recommended hotels in Bhutan.
Q. How is Breathe Bhutan different from other travel agencies?
Breathe Bhutan not only features the popular attractions and programs but we go out of our way to make sure that you get a wholesome experience of Bhutan. Breathe Bhutan is constantly exploring new and out-of-the-box activities and experiences. We have already started exploring several unique activities which other travel agencies do not provide.
Also, Bhutan has over a thousand licensed Bhutanese tour operators; some handle more than 10,000 tourists a year and many don’t even get a single tourist. If it is not your cup of tea to be one of those 10,000 tourists who are treated like a retail commodities and are forgotten immediately after they depart, get in touch with Breathe Bhutan. We will treat your holiday with passion. You will be remembered, and we will make sure that you too remember us and your travel experience in Bhutan.
Q. What if there is a change of schedule for Druk Air/Bhutan Airlines flights? Or what if the flight is delayed?
For passengers heading to Bhutan, both the airlines will ensure that you get on the next available flight to Paro. For passengers who miss their flight due to late check-in, passengers can pay Druk Air an admin charge of US$50 to get on the next available flight.
For travellers returning from Bhutan, airline staff at Paro will assist you with all arrangements in case of a flight delay. They will also attempt to contact your connecting flight airline to inform them of a delay. Should you not be able to take your connecting flight on the same day, they will arrange for your accommodation in your transit port.
Any other fees and charges incurred will typically have to be borne by the travellers. You are advised to acquire your own travel insurance.
Q. Is tipping expected in Bhutan?
Tipping is not an ingrained culture. Hotel & waiting staff do not linger around expecting a tip. However, guides and drivers will expect a tip at the end of the tour.
Q. What’s the cancellation policy for travel to Bhutan?
For a trip booked and subsequently cancelled, the following apply.
More than 60 days before start of travel program, USD 150 flat rate/per person.
Between 60 – 10 days: 45% of the package cost retained as cancellation charges
Within 10 days – 100% of the package cost retained as cancellation charges
Q. For air tickets issued and subsequently cancelled, the following apply.
75% refund permitted for tickets cancelled more than 30 days from the date of travel.
50% refund permitted for tickets cancelled between 30 – last 10 days from the date of travel.
25% refund permitted for tickets cancelled prior to 04 (four) days from the date of travel.
For Drukair tickets issued and subsequently rescheduled, the following applies.
USD 40 rescheduling fee or equivalent local currency for every flight reschedule less than 72 hours prior to date of travel. No charges for business class passengers.
Q. Are cigarettes available in Bhutan?
There is a ban on the sale of cigarettes in Bhutan. Smoking is also prohibited in public places, hotels and offices but each person is allowed to bring in 200 sticks or a carton for personal consumption.
Q. Can I buy antiques in Bhutan?
The export of antiques is prohibited by law. Tourists should buy only artefacts that have been certified for sale and for export. The government provides an official seal to certify that artefacts can be taken out of Bhutan.
Q. When should I pay for my tour?
It is best to pay for your tour at least four weeks before the date of arrival. This will give enough time for the Royal Government of Bhutan to clear your visa formalities (which is done only after the payment is received). For visits during the peak season in March, April, May, September, October, & November, it is advisable to make your payment 12 weeks in advance. This is to enable us to make a confirmed booking for you on the airline since seats are in high demand during these months.
Q. What is Bhutan’s currency and can I buy it before arriving in Bhutan?
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (NU) and is equivalent to the Indian rupee which is widely accepted in Bhutan. You will not be able to purchase ngultrums outside Bhutan, but you can easily buy ngultrums at the Paro airport, at Bhutan National Bank and the Bank of Bhutan, and at major hotels in Thimphu and Paro, all of which accept traveler’s checks and/or dollars and various other currencies. It is advisable to carry ngultrums when visiting smaller towns as it may not be possible to exchange your currency there.
Q. How secure is my advance payment for my trip?
Your payment is secured as it goes directly to the visa issuing agency (Tourism Council of Bhutan), which is a government organization.
Q. What documents are required to apply for a visa?
All we need is a copy of your passport and we will apply for a visa using the online visa applying system created by the Government of Bhutan.
Q. How will I receive my air tickets?
Airlines do not issue paper tickets any more. Breathe Bhutan will purchase your ticket and email the e- ticket to you.
Q. Is there any likelihood of delays in flights?
Flights can be delayed in departure and arrival especially in the monsoon season. It is advisable for passengers with onward connections after leaving Bhutan to keep at least one day’s gap before the next flight.
Q. Are there any immunizations I should have before visiting Bhutan?
There are no vaccination requirements for entering the country. You may, however, wish to talk to your doctor about receiving immunizations against certain preventable diseases. The US Center for Disease Control has up-to-date travel information about which diseases you may want to immunize yourself against when traveling to Bhutan.
Q. Is altitude sickness a common problem?
Although most visitors have no problem adjusting, altitude sickness may be a problem for certain people. Signs of altitude sickness include headache, nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue. If you happen to be at a higher altitude than you are used to, descend immediately until you begin to feel better.
Q. What about crime? How safe is it to travel in Bhutan?
There is very little crime in Bhutan and it is safe for women travelers and solo travelers to tour the country.
Q. Is there recommended attire for visiting temples and institutions?
The Bhutanese people wear their full traditional dress and formal wear to Dzongs, offices and places of worship. While visiting these places visitors should wear long pants (any kind of trousers) while shirts should be full sleeved, and skirts should be long enough to hide your knees. Slippers and sandals are discouraged. Sun caps are also not permitted inside Dzongs, offices and places of worship.
Q. Does Bhutan welcome gays and lesbians?
People’s sexual preferences are considered a personal matter and do not bother most Bhutanese. The Bhutanese people are, however, not used to intimate behavior in public places.
Q. When is the best season for trekking?
In Spring and Autumn. Hence, the months of March, April, May and September, October and November.
Q. Is there a limit to the baggage I can bring along if I am trekking in Bhutan?
While on a trek you will be accompanied by a trekking guide, a cook, an assistant cook, horsemen and several horses. We recommend you to limit baggage to one day-pack and one extra duffel/bag which will be carried by a horse. All other logistics like food and tents are provided by Breathe Bhutan.
Q. Where can I leave my belongings that I do not take on a trek?
After you have packed for your trek you can leave the rest of your belongings with the travel company. They will be safely kept.
Q. Will I be carrying the entire luggage myself?
You will carry only basic things in your back pack while heavier items will go into duffel bags which will be carried by horses.
Q. Do I get a sleeping bag for hire for trekking in Bhutan?
Yes but we recommend you bring your own if can. Extra blankets and mattresses will be provided by us.
Q. Who are Breathe Bhutan’s clients?
Breathe Bhutan has been serving clients from all over the world. We have successfully handled guests from America, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Norway and Denmark. We have also worked with celebrities like Joss Stone from the UK, Neil Zaza from the USA and Lucky Ali from India.
Most of our clients are Free Independent Travelers – solo travelers, couples, families and group of friends. Do check out our testimonials page to see samples of our international travelers.
If you have questions which are not covered here, we are more than happy to answer them via email. You can reach us at email@example.com.