Entering Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is spread across the eastern Himalayas, and the popular route to travel to the country is via the winding mountain roads or by taking the only National Airline flight Druk Air or Tashi Air (Bhutan Airlines)  to Bhutan.

How to reach Bhutan by Air:

The only International Airport is at Paro where the regular flights operate between Paro to Bangkok, Delhi, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Mumbai, Guwahati, Bagdogra and Singapore.  The domestic airline between Paro to Bumthang (Central Bhutan) which saves 8-9 hours of driving time through the winding roads of east central region is in opreation.  However, the domestic flight from Paro to Yonphula (eastern Bhutan) is yet to start as the maintenance on the runway is still under construction.   


How to reach Bhutan by road

In the absence of a rail link in the country and the only way (besides by Air) to get to Bhutan is by road transport using buses and private cars. All parts of the country are well-connected by road networks. If you are planning to reach Bhutan from India, the point of entry is the border town of Jaigaon. It is about 150 kms from Siliguri, the furthest that you can get near Bhutan by rail. A stately gate separates the Indian town of Jaigaon from the Bhutanese town of Phuntsholing. Cars are available for hire from Siliguri to Jaigaon. You can book the very same car to take you to Bhutan or on reaching Jaigaon, get in touch with the local tour operators to book a car for your tour to Bhutan and back. The second option is to get into Bhutan from the eastern region via Guwahati in India.  Sonam Tshoey Travel will arrange an Indian taxi to pick up the guests on arrival at Guwahati airport and drive to Samdrupjongkhar the border town of Bhutan in the east.  The drive takes the guests about 3 and half hours and on arrival in Bhutan the guests will be met by the Representative of the company or the Guide and the driver.

Visa and transport:

Guest's wishing to visit Bhutan, must possess a visa for Bhutan prior to their travel which is granted initially for 14 days. While the actual visa is stamped on arrival at the Paro International Airport or at the border towns when entering by road, visa clearance will have to be obtained in advance from the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the Department of Immigration. The visas will be arranged by the Tour Agents responsible for the guest's travel to Bhutan.  Should a need arise, visa can be extended in Thimphu for up to six months. The Tour Agent making your arrangements will handle the official formalities.

Transport is provided by the tour operators who have their own fleet of luxury buses and SUVs. All major places of interest are connected by motorable roads.


Access:

In addition to the airline services, there are two overland entry/exit points, one is from the Indian state of West Bengal into Phuntsholing in southwest Bhutan and the other point is from Samdrup Jongkhar in the southeast, 110 km from Guwahati, India.


Season:

The months of March, April, May and September, October, November are considered as the high season, while June, July, August, December, January and February are considered as low season. Guest's are advised to bring with them cotton or light woollen wears for summer (maximum temperature 30 degrees Celsius) and heavy woollen, down jacket and fleece/thermal wears for winter (minimum 1.1 degrees Celsius).


Adventure: Trekking, hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, river rafting, motorcycle ride,  
Capital City:Thimphu
Time:

Bhutan time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country.


Language:

Bhutan’s national language is Dzongkha. English is widely spoken in major towns and is a medium of education in schools. There are a host of local dialects spoken in small pockets within the country. All our guides speak fluent English and few other foreign languages, like Japanese, French, German, Chinese,  etc.


Credit cards:

Credit cards are widely accepted by many shops in the bigger towns. It may be worthwhile not to rely on credit cards as a source of cash while in Bhutan. We suggest that the guests take with them sufficient travellers checks or US dollars in cash and use the credit card as a back-up.   Many of the small towns now have ATM machines from where local currency can be withdrawn.

Money:

The unit of currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.), which is at par with Indian Rupee. The Indian rupee is also an accepted legal tender in Bhutan. Major convertible currencies and travellers' cheques can be exchanged at all the banks.  There is no fixed exchange rate as it fluctuates every day. 


Shopping:

The most popular tourist purchases are traditional Bhutanese arts and handicrafts. Produced by local skilled artisans, these are generally of a high quality, and include Buddhist paintings and statues, textiles, jewelry and wooden bowls and carvings. In addition, stamps and first day covers of Bhutan are famous around the world which can be purchased from the General Post Office in Thimphu or many other souvenir shops.  Bhutan is not a consumer society, and the variety of everyday goods available is not particularly large.

Buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden.


Food:

Traditional Bhutanese cuisine is very rich and renowned for the plentiful use of chillies. The most popular dish, ema datsi, is comprised of chillies (used as a vegetable) in a cottage cheese sauce. Hotels and restaurants generally serve Indian, Chinese, Continental and Bhutanese dishes.  Over the last couple of years, many coffee and pastry shops have sprouted in main towns of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha.


Smoking:

Bhutan is the only country in the world to totally ban the import and sale of all tobacco products. You can bring in a reasonable amount of cigarettes for personal consumption, but you will be charged an import duty of 100% at the Check Point or at the airport.

Smoking is banned in all public places including most of the hotels and restaurants.


Drinks:

Even though some of the Bhutanese drink water straight from the tap, we urge the guests to drink only bottled water. However, during the treks, the guests will be provided with boiled water.

A reasonable variety of both alcohol and soft drinks are available in hotels, restaurants and shops in most towns. Many Bhutanese enjoy drinking traditional homemade alcoholic brews made from wheat, millet or rice called Ara which has pretty strong alcohol content.


Accommodation:

The standard of accommodation remains relatively basic, particularly away from the major western towns. All the hotels we use are 3 Star approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and all these hotels are affiliated to the Hotels Association of Bhutan, thus the services in the hotel are constantly reviewed and monitored.  They are simple but clean, and sometimes the service may be slow but friendly.


Electricity:

In Bhutan, electricity runs at 220 / 240 volts. If you do bring electrical appliances, do not forget an international converter kit complete with a set of adapter plugs.


Electric Plug Details:

Almost every town and villages in the country is electrified. However it is advisable to carry with you an extension cord.


Health:

The main health risks are similar to other South Asian countries, namely diarrohea, respiratory infection or more unusual tropical infection. It is wise to have health insurance, and although vaccinations are not required they are recommended. When trekking there are also risks associated with altitude sickness and accident. In the event of health problems there are basic hospital facilities in each district.

As a precautionary measure, we recommend that you consider getting at least some of the following recommended immunization:

  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Typhoid
  • Cholera
  • Tetanus

Safety:

The crime rate is low comparing to the neighbouring countries, making Bhutan one of the safest  places in the world. It is rare to feel at all insecure within the country. However, it is advisable not to walk alone in the night just to be on the safer side.


Communications:

All major towns have basic communication facilities, including post, telephone, fax, telegraph. Television and internet connections are widely used.  Most of the hotels have WiFi facilities.

Country dialling code: 00975 followed by the area code which differ from region to region, eastern 04, central 03, southern 05, western 02. 


The Monarchy:

Bhutanese people have a deep, traditional reverence to the King and Royal Families, and thus the guests are  also advised to show their respect to the King, and the Royal Families.


Dresses (Some do's and dont's)
 
The guests are advised to be properly dressed especially while visiting the religious sites and shrines including the Dzong's.  A guest can be barred from entering into any of these institutions if not properly dressed and this is a government rule in order to preserve our age old culture and tradition.   It is acceptable to wear shoes when walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the temple.

All statues and paintings, large or small, ruined or not, are regarded as sacred. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do anything which might indicate a lack of respect. Pointing your finger at statues, paintings or people is considered rude. If you must, point with your right arm, with your palm open and facing upwards and your thumb folded inside.


Photography:

Because tourism is new and not very big, it has not yet made any negative impact on the people. People get excited to pose for pictures, especially when asked by a tourist. But if you want to get close up shots of people, you should ask first. No photography is allowed inside temples and Dzong's.


Social Norms: 
 
Displays of affection between a couple in public areas are not very well received.

What are included in your tour package

  • All transfers and excursion by private vehicle(SUV or Buses)
  • English speaking licensed tour guide (other languages available on request)
  • All visit/excursion as mentioned in the program
  • Accommodation in twin shared rooms
  • All meals ( breakfast, lunch and dinner)
 

What are not included in your tour package

  • Personal expenses on beverages, laundry, internet and telephone calls
  • Accommodations in four and five star hotels
  • Tips for guide and driver