Visas, fees and regulations
Why is traveling to Bhutan so costly?
Bhutan government imposes minimum package cost which varies according to number of people in group and season. In most cases, the cost will fit in 180 to 290 USD per night. This includes 65 USD royalty which goes directly to the state treasury. In order to maintain high level of service quality, government also bills what grade of hotel can be used, type of cars etc. All this contributes to comparatively higher package cost than what is usual in neighboring countries. Anyway given the quality of service and satisfaction delivered, we don’t actually think it’s so expensive. You will not be disappointed.
Is it possible to travel to Bhutan independently?
No. Unless you get a job in Bhutan or you are officially invited by a government or religious institution, you always need package tour from Bhutanese tour operator. Don’t even think about sneaking into the country illegally. There are a lot of checkpoints on the roads and lone foreigner without guide is suspicious. Only exception is the case you’re passport holder of India or Bangladesh, then you’re free to go anywhere as you like.
Are there any promotional packages for tourism industry professionals?
Yes. There are so called FAM (as familiarization) trips for tour and travel company executives. The cost of such trip (with exception of flight tickets) is covered by inviting Bhutanese tour operator. If there is veritable prospect of doing business together, we will be happy to discuss the possibility to arrange FAM trip for you. Please contact us.
Safety and precautions
Is it safe to travel to Bhutan?
Yes! There are not any security risks in Bhutan and criminality is very low. The tourists are invariable treated with great respect.
Is there any vaccination compulsory to travel to Bhutan?
No. But we always recommend to get vaccination for typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, tetanus and you can also consider rabies. In case you come from or recently visited country affected by yellow fever, you're required to be vaccinated for that. Bring your Yellow Card (international certificate of vaccination) with you.
Do I need any health insurance for Bhutan trip?
It's not compulsory but in any case you should have some. For cultural sightseeing tour, you should have at least basic health insurance in case you're in need of medical assistance. For trekking, you definitely need to have very good insurance covering accidents in elevations up to 5,500 meters. Limit for search & rescue should be at least 10 000 USD (which is about 1 hour flight of rescue helicopter). Please mind, that in case you don't have insurance or you exceed your insurance limit, all cost is paid by you only.
I heard Paro airport is dangerous, should I be worried?
No. While Paro is one of the most difficult international airports in the world, be confident that pilots are tremendously trained and they take no risks. Since airport was established in 1983 there was no single serious accident. Anyhow, you should not be surprised in case your flight is rescheduled, diverted or canceled due to bad weather. Chance this will happen while flying to and from Paro are slightly higher than on the other routes. Anyhow if this happens to you, stay cool. It's for your own safety.
Are there any precautions woman travelers should take?
Maybe. Bhutanese men and women alike are known for their libertine sexual behavior. We can provide woman guide for lady travelers if they find it more comfortable.
How is the mobile network coverage and connectivity in Bhutan?
It's very good indeed! Even in remote areas along the trekking trails, you can find the GSM signal. 3G and 4G is available in urban areas. You should confirm that your operator provides roaming in Bhutan. Used bandwidths are GSM 900/1800, UMTS 850/2100 and LTE 1800. You can also get local SIM card from authorized vendors. For that, you need to have passport sized photograph and scan of your passport data page, fill the from and have SIM activated. Whole process won't take more then 15 minutes.
What kind of food is provided as part of the package?
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served as buffet. Breakfast is mostly continental style (toast with butter, jam and eggs). For lunch and dinner, there are usually 4 or 5 meal items, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Food served to tourist is usually mild. If you like spicy, you’ll be offered traditional Bhutanese dish called ema datshe (chilli peppers in cheese sauce). If you need any special diet, please let us know. We can facilitate gluten-free, vegan, lactose-free and other diets on request.
Is it possible to use credit or debit card in Bhutan?
Yes. Some souvenir shops do accept cards and there are ATMs available in major towns.
What languages are spoken in Bhutan?
Dzongkha (related to Tibetan), Nepali and Sharchopkha are major native languages of Bhutan. English is spoken and understood by most of the people because it serves as the bridge language among different communities. Hindi and Bengali is widely understood too. We can facilitate guides speaking major world languages including German, French, Japanese, Chinese etc.
What kind of souvenirs and gifts I can buy in Bhutan?
The most popular and appropriate souvenirs from Bhutan are wood carvings, masks used during festival dances and textiles. There are other items on sale, but you should be selecting carefully as there is a lot of stuff originally produced in Nepal or India and only brought to Bhutan to be sold on greatly inflated price.
What is the best season to visit Bhutan?
March to April and October to November are the best seasons to visit Bhutan. If you can stand some cold, than December to February is also worth of considering. Temperatures are quite moderate during daytime and visibility is usually outstanding. Summer is affected by monsoon rains, but still it doesn't mean it's raining all the time.
Do's & don'ts
Should I bring any presents to Bhutan?
Rather not. We strongly discourage tourists to distribute small presents like sweets or pens among the children. It only spoils them to start begging for gifts any time they see tourist. If there is opportunity, you can distribute some gifts through the school or parents.
May I smoke cigarettes in Bhutan?
Legally it's impossible to buy cigarettes in Bhutan, but you can bring up to 200 pieces (i.e. 10 standard packages), provided you pay import and sales tax which is 200 % of purchase cost. Customs officer will charge estimate cost which is usually lower than purchase cost in most developed countries. It's essential to keep the customs slip and carry it along with you as a proof. It's prohibited to smoke in public areas, but there is no problem to smoke in the hotel room or other "non-public" place.
Is Bhutan welcoming country for LGBT travelers?
Bhutan is still quite conservative and traditional country and homosexuality and related issues are treated either as taboo or sensation. As a tourist, you don't need to be worried of any discrimination from authorities or local people but you better not express yourself publicly to prevent embarassment.
Is there any UNESCO listed monument in Bhutan?
No. There is number of monuments and parks submitted to tentative list, but nothing yet confirmed as World Heritage. Bhutan actually has great number of monuments worth of listing, but the UNESCO demands for maintenance and protection would turn these places into the lifeless open air museums. Bhutanese monasteries and dozngs are still used to the purpose it was built for and it would best serve their protection if that stays so.
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