1. Drukair and Bhutan Airlines are the only two commercial airlines that fly to and out of Bhutan. Seats on Drukair and Bhutan Airlines are not assigned while purchasing the air ticket. If you want get a good view of the Himalayas while flying to Bhutan, request for a window seat on the left side of the air craft while checking in your baggage; that is the time when they issue the boarding pass. Recently, both the airlines made it possible for you to assign yourself a seat you want through their airlines website www.drukair.com.bt and http://www.bhutanairlines.bt/. Refer your e-ticket for the booking reference. The booking reference is your e-ticket number. Note that online check can only be done within 72 hours from your time of flight, and no later than 4 hours.
2. Always carry a hard copy of the visa and e-ticket while entering the airport and report for baggage check in 2-3 hours ahead of flight time.
3. Be mindful when you visit Thangka (art) shops and studios. We have come across art shops that display an artist painting a half finished Thangka and sell works that has been mass produced in Nepal. A little touch up is done on the screen printed canvas to make it look like a real painting. Also, there are some shops that sell Tibetan crafts which are mass produced in Delhi. We recommend that you discuss with us if there is anything in particular you want to buy from Bhutan, especially the items that are expensive. We may be able to get you a better price.
4. Most of our guests were not able to take out money from the local ATM machines in Bhutan. We recommend that you inquire with your bank and see if your card will work in Bhutan. Many a times, foreign banks do not allow people to use ATM machines in Bhutan. If you let them know that you will be visiting Bhutan and request them to open access to your card in Bhutan, it works. But do bring some cash (US Dollar or Euro), just in case. You can easily get US Dollars and Euros exchanged at banks and some shops in Bhutan. Your guide will be more than happy to help you out with it.
5. Tourist have easy access to local SIM cards. You can get one right after you are done with the immigration counter at the Paro International Airport. You can also ask your guide to get you one while you in Paro or Thimphu. You will need to produce your passport to get access to a local SIM card.
6. All visitors are not allowed to fly drones in Bhutan. If you happen to be carrying one, you can deposit it at the customs office and pick it up while returning. In case you are a caught flying a drone in Bhutan, the government will seize the drone and all video footages and also penalize the guide and the tour operator.
7. Bhutan is the only country in the world that completely bans the sale and production of tobacco—and smoking is banned in public places. Tourists and the Bhutanese can bring in 200 cigarette sticks, but be mindful of where you smoke. Hotels will accommodate smokers, some local bars and restaurants have indoor smoking rooms, and many nightclubs informally allow it after dark.
8. Lately the stray population in towns has swelled. Packs of dogs bark all night, especially anywhere near Paro and Thimphu town centers. Bring earplugs. Also, don’t try to pet them.
Country Code, Time Zone & Power:
Dialing Code: +975
Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 6, there is only one time zone throughout the country
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz
Dzongkha is the National Language of Bhutan but Bhutanese learn English in school and English is also the medium of instruction; which makes it very easy toget around. If you are interested in basic phrases, you can start with the phrases below:
Hello – Kuzu-zangpo La, Goodbye – Tashi deley, Thank you – Kadriche, Yes – Ing/Las/Ong, No – Mae/Men, How are you? – Choe ga de be yo?, What’s your name? – Cho ge ming gaci mo?, My name is – Nge ge meng … ing, What is the time? – Chutsho gadem chi mo?
The climate is best in autumn, from late September to late November, when skies are clear and the high mountain peaks are visible. This is the ideal time for trekking and for traveling throughout the country. You’re likely to get wet no matter what the season, but avoid the monsoon, June-August. In the central belt, including Paro and Thimpu, expect sunny skies and temperatures ranging between daytime highs of 50′ F and nighttime lows of 32’F from November to April. Late spring and fall have average temperatures ranging between 60′ F and 30′ F. In summer daytime highs will reach about 70’F, and there will be light periods of rain. The best times to visit the high mountains of the north are in late spring, fall, and early summer. Temperatures will range between highs in the 50s or 60s F, and nighttime lows in the 40s. Winters are below freezing during the night.
The local currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.). Bhutan has four banks, with branches throughout the country. You can cash travelers’ checks at any bank and in some hotels. For credit cards, you should carry well ‐known brands such as Visa and Mastercard (AMEX is not widely accepted). Credit cards are accepted at some establishments (with a fee), but normally cash is the best means of transaction. You can withdraw cash from the local bank’s ATM for a fee.
Important: Some banks do not allow card transactions in Bhutan, so it is important to inform your bank that you are traveling to Bhutan and to keep your card open for transactions in Bhutan.
We normally recommend taking a combination bills/travelers check and credit card option – bills in $50 and $100 denominations. It is best to be sure, and get your banking done in the morning. Plan ahead and change money in the bigger towns before heading out to more remote areas.
Tipping is usually expected in Bhutan, especially by your guide and driver at the end of the tour. But it is entirely up to you whether you want to give or not. If you do give, we recommend that you place the gratuity in an envelope.
You will need to analyze your spending habits and decide how much extra money to bring for alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, gratuities, souvenirs, and laundry.
You will be able to check your email and make international telephone calls from most towns while touring Bhutan. Almost all hotels have wi-fi internet connection but the speed varies on how may users are online at the same time. If you have good international roaming packages, you can use your phone in Bhutan as well. Or if you want a local SIM - you can get a local tourist SIM at the airport after arrival or in the bigger towns in Bhutan. You can get a tourist SIM (usually with one month validity) for about US$ 4 – 6, depending on the package you choose.
The giving of alms to mendicants and holy men in the vicinity of markets and outside temples is an accepted practice. In exchange for your contribution, a prayer will be intoned for you. Take your cue from the Bhutanese on such occasions and, when in doubt, ask your guide what would be the appropriate thing to do.
Air Entry: Your Druk-Air or Bhutan Airlines e-ticket will be emailed to you in advance. Breathe Bhutan will reconfirm your ticketand let you know of any changes. Also check that all is in order the night before your flight. Please be at the check-in counter two hours before the expected departure time for your flight.
Important: Seats on Drukair and Bhutan Airlines are not assigned while purchasing the air ticket. So in order to get a good view of the Himalayas while flying to Bhutan, request for a window seat on the left side of the air craft.Always carry a copy of the visa and e-ticket while entering the airport.
The following articles are exempt from duty:
(a) Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor
(b) 1 litre of alcohol (spirits or wine)
(c) 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%
(d) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
(e) Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use
You have to complete the passenger declaration form at your port of entry.
Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate. If importing any items to Bhutan which are for sale or gift, they may be liable for customs duty. On departure, visitors are required to fill out a departure form, which will be asked for by Customs authorities.
Import/export of the following goods is strictly prohibited:
(a) Arms, ammunitions and explosives
(b) All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs
(c) Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival.
WHAT TO PACK:
The following is a fairly exhaustive list of what you should pack for the trip. Please read carefully the sections on Climate and Clothing (below) before packing your clothing.
- Items that may be of use while traveling in Bhutan: Small day pack; proper pouch to hold your travel documents, money, air tickets and other valuable items/documents; clothes as per season, & a poncho or rain gear &/or umbrella (June-‐September); sunglasses/spare glasses, comfortable walking shoes, pocket knife, hat, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries), insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, sun cream, lip salve, soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhea pills, a preparation for the relief of sunburn, and any medication you take regularly, or might need to take for a periodically recurring condition, such as asthma.
- You will be taking more pictures than expected or necessary, so be sure to have a good digital camera batteries that will last you a whole day or two
- There are many dogs in settled areas. They sleep in the day and roam around at night. Bring earplugs if you think their barking might bother you.
- If you wear contact lenses, bring a pair of spectacles as well, as at high altitudes contact lenses can irritate the eyes.
Sleeping bag and thermarest; comfortable trekking boots which have already been broken in and plenty of socks, noting that woolen socks dry quicker than cotton ones, facecloth, soap, hair shampoo, cold water detergent; torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, scissors. Also bring a water bottle and zip locks plastic bags for packing clothing while on trek.
Due to the wide range of temperature and climatic conditions it is advisable to dress inlayers. For protection against cold, layered clothing is better than one or two thick garments. Clothing should preferably be made from natural materials, which allow the body to breathe. Bring comfortable, well-worn clothing, and plenty of underwear and socks. If traveling in the cold season, bring two sets of silk vests and long johns, as they are warm and dry quickly after washing.
Dress modestly and respectfully for visits to monasteries, dzongs and other religious institutions. Remove hats, caps etc. before entering, and refrain from smoking on the premises.
Gifts to children: Please do not bring pens, sweets, chewing gum, etc. for handing out tochildren who may gather around you. This encourages begging and is regarded as patronizing and unhelpful, and it is also actively discouraged by the government, teachers and school principals.
Photography: The photographic opportunities on all trips are immense. The natural scenery issuperb, and you will also wish to record the local people, their houses and shops etc. Always ask by a gesture if it is ok to do so. Don’t take your destination as a living museum! Also, note that photography in shrine rooms of dzongs, monasteries and religious institutions is generally not permitted. Outdoor photography is usually permitted, but when visiting such places, please check with your guide before taking any photographs.
Shopping: Hand-woven textiles, carved masks, woven baskets, wooden bowls, handmade paperproducts, finely crafted metal objects, Thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps are the items mostly purchased by travelers in Bhutan. Thimphu has the most extensive range of textiles, but for Yathra (hand-‐woven woolen textiles), the range is better in Bumthang. Thimphu’s gold and silversmiths make things on order, with items ready in seven days. It is recommended to carry cash such as Euro, Pounds, US dollars, Japanese Yen and related travelers’ checks for expenses in Bhutan.
The buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden. Be cautious when considering the purchase of old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate. We suggest you seek our advice before committing to such purchases. It is best to buy more expensive items at reputable shops, which provide receipts as proof of purchase.
ETIQUETTE FOR VISITS TO DZONGS, MONASTERIES, TEMPLES & FESTIVALS
Clothing & Behavior: Dress neatly and modestly (covered arms, no shorts or short skirts) and donot wear a hat in the precincts of Dzongs or religious complexes. Do not smoke. Walk clockwise around Chortens (stupas) and Mani (prayer) walls. If you see a fallen prayer flagpole on the ground waiting to be re-erected, do not step over it, as this is considered extremely disrespectful: walk around it instead.
Here are some dress codes you will have to follow for visiting Dzongs and some Monasteries:
• Shorts are not allowed. If you are wearing a dress, it should be long enough to cover your knee
• Collarless shirts have to be full sleeve. Collar shirts can be half sleeve
• Flip flops are not allowed
Photography: Photography is usually permitted in public areas, such as courtyards and dancegrounds, but not permitted inside the chapels of religious complexes. Check first with your guide to avoid in advertently giving offence, and at all times, take care not to intrude upon the social space of others when taking photographs. NEVER stray onto the dance ground at a festival in search of the perfect shot – this is the height of bad manners and will definitely give offence to all Bhutanese who see you!