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Travel Tips

  • Travelling to Bhutan: You can enter Bhutan by plane through the internationals airports of Bangkok (Thailand), Calcutta/Kolkata (India), Gaya (India), Siliguri (India), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Yangon (Myanmar) or Kathmandu (Nepal). Paro Airport in the south west of the country, is Bhutan’s one and only international airport. From there a drive of approximately 1.5 hours takes you to the capital of Thimphu. Bhutan’s one and only national carrier is Druk Air.
  • In general, Druk Air flies about three times a week. However, their flight schedule changes regularly and delays do frequently occur because of the changeable Himalayan weather. This means your programme possibly has to be adjusted after the booking. It’s best to build an extra day or two in your itineraries in case of flight cancellations. You must confirm your travel during festival seasons (March, April, September, October, November) at least four months in advance with your ground agent or tour operator to ensure seats with the airline. Before you can purchase your Druk Air tickets, your visa first has to be issued.
  • Entering by Land: For visitors wishing to enter Bhutan by road, the main land entry point is through the southwest border town of Phuentsholing, adjacent to West Bengal (India), or Samdrup Jongkhar, the southeastern border town bordering Asom.
  • If you enter Bhutan by land, one of the first things you need to do is obtaining a Bhutanese visa. Go to the visa officer in the drungkhag (subdistrict) office and present your passport, two photos and a US$20 fee. Indian nationals need to fill in two copies of a form, and bring five photos and photocopies of their identification document (passport, driver’s licence or voting card) to the office of the Indian embassy.
  • All tourists (Group or individuals) must travel on a pre-planned, prepaid, guided package tour or custom-designed travel programme. Independent travel is not permitted in Bhutan.
  • Other than Indian and Bangladeshi nationals, all visitors to Bhutan require a visa; all visas are issued from Thimphu; visas are issued only to tourists booked with a local licensed tour operator, directly, or through a foreign travel agent. Applications for tourist visas are submitted by the tour operator. Visa clearance from Thimphu must be obtained before visiting Bhutan. Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process. Air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased without visa clearance.
  • Bhutanese currency is the Ngultrum (nu). The approximate exchange rate is 45 ngultrum for 1 USD (this will vary by plus or minus 1 or 2 nu. The ngultrum is on par with the Indian rupee (both the nu and the Indian rupee can be used in Bhutan). U.S. dollars and other world currencies as well as traveller’s cheques can be exchanged at banks in the larger towns and at the larger hotels. You will need ngultrum or rupees for purchases in the rural towns and villages. Note: INR (Indian Rupees) denominations of 500 and 1000 are not accepted in Bhutan.
  • Don’t count on using a credit card in Bhutan. They are accepted at the government-run Handicrafts Emporium, a few other handicraft shops and some of the larger hotels in Thimphu, but these transactions take quite some time. Also, credit card companies charge high fees and the verification office is only open from 9am to 5pm.
  • 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 – look for the government seal or stamp. Personal videos, cameras, personal computers, portable telephones, and any other electronic device should be registered with the customs authorities on arrival at Paro and will also be checked on departure.
  • Upon arrival you will be issued a “customs form” that should be completed and returned to authorities before leaving the kingdom. Imported plants, soils, and so on are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be declared on arrival. All tobacco products will be subject to a custom tax upon arrival. Sale of tobacco products in Bhutan is prohibited.
  • All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets. It is recommended that you bring flat-to-round pin converters for your electronics if necessary; however, most hotels offer multi plug sockets. Bhutan is a carbon neutral destination. The energy is clean and green generated by hydro power.
  • Bhutan has a changeable climate, so bring a layered wardrobe, rain gear and warm clothes for the evening, just like good walking shoes or hiking boots, even if you’re not hiking. Also bring a hat or cap and a good pair of sunglasses. A water bottle, binoculars and polarising filter for your camera can be very useful, as well as a day pack or shoulder bag and a telescoping, aluminum or composite walking stock.
  • The Bhutanese deeply respect their king. Keep this in mind when you talk with local people.
  • Sacred objects: always pass mani stones, stupas and other religious objects with your right side nearest to the object, and turn prayer wheels in a clockwise direction. Never sit on mani stones or stupas.
  • Clothing: if you visit temples, remove your shoes and head gear and wear clothing that expresses respect for the sacred nature of the site. You will need to wear pants and long shirts.
  • Donations: it’s a custom at monasteries to make a small donation to the monks as a sign of respect. Also donate to the Buddhist statues as a means of developing a generous and spacious mind. There are many places in each temple where you can donate, and it is expected that you donate to each place. Remember to have small notes for this gesture, although it’s not mandatory.
  • Smoking is illegal at monasteries and in public places. Don’t bring cigarettes or chewing tobacco to sacred sites.