Travel Tips/Checklist.Please make sure that you attend to the following before coming to Bhutan
Please ensure that you have a valid travel/medical insurance with the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan. The insurance company has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for our visitors. Hence it is important that you get detailed information about the insurance scheme from your travel agents here in Bhutan. You may also visit the web site at www.ricb.com.bt
You may like to use the Ngultrum, the national currency of Bhutan but we recommend that you carry travelers’ cheque or cash, preferably American Express and US dollar instead, as the ATM facilities for foreign currency is limited to just few towns including the capital city Thimphu. Visa and American Express credit cards are also widely accepted.
Bhutan has few banks that cater to the needs of the people.Some of the banks that you can avail services and facilities while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Many of these banks provide you with SMS and internet banking facilities. You can also use the ATM facilities and ATM machines areplaced at specific locations especially in Thimphu and in the border town of Phuentsholing. Traveler’scheque can be easily withdrawn and exchanged into local currency. However, as you travel into the interior, ATM and internet facilities are almost non-existent and we advise that you exchange dollars while in Thimphu.
Bhutan’s energy is generated by hydro power.All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets.
The internet cafe and IDD calling booths are found in all towns.Tourist hotels have better communication facilities, especially in Thimphu and Paro. Mobile (cell) phone is also widely used with international roaming facilities.
Bhutan has great variation in climate with warm summers and very cold winters. We adviseyou to bring along a couple of warm clothes and comfortable shoes to go with the weather, the terrain and the program. You might want to consider ‘what to wear’ for hikes, trekking and sightseeing, as well as for dinners, appointments and functions that we have for you. Others that you could consider bringing with you would be a pair of sunglasses, sun screen lotion and a hat; antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhoea pills, altitude & car sickness medicine; insect repellent, flash light (w/spare batteries) umbrella, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries)etc.
The mountainous terrain with rich floral and faunal diversity makes Bhutan an ideal place for photography. One can also capture images of the rural folk life, the Bhutanese architecture,Dzongs and Chortens etc. For indoor photography you may need to check with your travel guide as taking photographs inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions are restricted unless you have a special permission from the Department of Culture.
Bhutan offers a variety of goodsfor tourists who love shopping and taking home gifts. Some common items displayed are hand-woven textiles that is either in raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas and handmade paper products or finely crafted gods of silver. You can also shop for thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamp. One can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and also in major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.
Be it anywhere in Bhutan, tipping is purely a personal matter. Bhutanese do not have tradition of giving tips but tipping the hotel staff, tour guide, drivers and handy boys are considered to reflect your appreciation of their services. It is up to you as to whether you want to give tips to your tour guides and drivers.
The following articles are exempt from duty:
(a) Articles for day to day use and personal effects (b) 1 litre 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 on your arrival before checking out. The articles mentioned under (d) & (e) must be declared on the declaration form. If any such items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty.
On departure, visitors are required to surrender their forms to the Customs authorities.
Import/export restrictions 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. 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.
Dzongkha is the national language and widely spoken in the country.Most Bhutanese also speak English, which is also a medium of communication with the foreigners. Visitors who know English will not face major problems communicating with the people in the urban areas and the towns. In fact, it will help them to enhance their knowledge on Bhutan.
Clothes and other paraphernalia
Weather is unpredictable in Bhutan because of the great altitudinal variations. We advise you to equip yourself with rain gears and warm clothes. We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.
TimeBhutan’s standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and throughout the country there is only one time zone.
Depending on seasons, Bhutan follows two different office timings – the summer timing and the winter timing. The summer timing is followed from March to the end of October. In these months, the office hours are between 9 a.m. Bhutan standard time and 5 p.m. in the evening. The winter timing is from November to the end of February.The office hours in winter are between 9 a.m. in the morning and 4 p.m. in the evening. However, these timings are followed only by the government employees under the Royal Civil Service Commission. For people employed in Corporations and private organizations, the timings are usually from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., irrespective of the season.
We advise you to have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations before embarking on a trip to Bhutan.
As much as possible, please avoid drinking untreated water or taking ice cubes at all times. Most water sources in Bhutan are untreated though they have their source in the mountains. The treated and bottled water is readily available in any town and are affordable.
Every Bhutanese is required to safeguard the country from illegal Drugs and Tobacco Products. To do this we need your help and cooperation. Please co-operate if we stop you and ask you about your baggage.
**Please do not carry tobacco goods that are over the limits. For more information please see following link.
Tobacco Control Act
We accommodate most tourists in a 5 star or a 3 star hotel. The hotels have all basic amenities that are properly maintained. Visitors are assured of warmth and comfort of the hotels with the ambience and incredible hospitality of the hotel staff. The 5 star hotels are mostly located in Thimphu, and in Paro, towns like Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang also have a variety of hotels that are comfortable. Away from town, you may find it tempting to camp outside in the forest or make a night halt at the purpose-built in cabins sprinkled along some main trekking routes.
Most Bhutanese dishes are with cheese and chilli, therefore hot and spicy. If you are not used to eating chilli we advise you to stick to the Chinese, Continental or Indian cuisine that is served in most restaurants. Visitors can also choose among the various vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. You can also try out momos, the Tibetan dumplings and for those daring, you may try out the emadatshi dish served with cheese and chili and other typical Bhutanese dishes.
Weights and measures
Though Bhutan has a traditional system of weights and measurements, most of the shop keepers in the capital city make use of electronic and weighing scale. As you travel further east, you will find the ordinary weighing scale only.
For safety reason, we advise you to avoid walking alone in the streets after 9 pm though there are policemen patrolling every corner of the streets. The capital city has begun to see burglaries, street fights and an increasing number of drug abusers. It is advisable that you keep a safe distance or visit the town in groups and with your guides.
Also please ensure that your belongings especially your passports, route permits, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. There have been incidents where visitors found their important documents missing.
Guides and interpreters
If you are interested to learn more about Bhutan, we have interpreters and guides with good communication skills who are well versed in history. They are all certified who undergo training conducted by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. There are also guides who speak fluent Japanese, Thai and other European languages.
The national or public holidays are declared by the government. A list of public holidays that are observed throughout the nation is given below. However, each Dzongkhag (district) has its own list of holidays that is observed especially while conducting annual tshechus (Religious festivals). For details related to specific dzongkhag you may contact your service provider or your travel agent.