Checklist: Please Attend to All of the Following Before Your Tour
The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan 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 also want to research a policy for your travel plans at www.travelguard.com
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) that is
at par with the Indian rupee. It is however recommended that you carry
travelers’ check 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. Note that Indian Rupee in denominations of 500 and 1000 are not accepted in Bhutan.
Financial institutions in Bhutan have been
greatly enhanced and today we have a number of banks that caters 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. There are also ATM facilities that you can avail and ATMS
are located in a number of places where you can withdraw your money especially
in Thimphu and in the border town of Phuentsholing. Traveler’s check 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easily withdrawn and exchanged into local currency.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 suggest
that you do your banking facilities while in Thimphu.
All major towns are well connected with
electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin
power outlets. Our energy is clean and green energy generated by hydro
The country has a good network of
telecommunication facilities. Almost every town has an internet cafe and IDD
calling booths from where you can log on to and send messages home and to your
loved ones. Also most hotels in Thimphu and Paro have internet access. Mobile
(cell) phone is also widely used with international roaming facilities. You may wish to purchase a SIM card to use in your unlocked GSM phone.
Bhutan experiences a great variation in its climate. Summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 Celsius, while winters are cold. In winters temperatures are usually below 15 Celsius. So bring with you 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-diarrhea pills, altitude & car
sickness medicine; insect repellent, flash light (w/spare batteries) umbrella,
camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries)etc.
Bhutan is an ideal place and a frequent haunt for photographers offering immense opportunities for photography especially during our outdoor sightseeing trips. However you may need to check with your guide for indoor photography as taking photographs inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions are restricted unless you have a special permission from the Department of Culture. Please note that is is also illegal to take pictures of the Royal Family or their residences. One can however, capture images of the landscapes, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, the rural folk life, the flora and fauna, the Bhutanese architecture and the Dzongs and Chortens in particular.
For people who love shopping and taking home
gifts, Bhutan offers a variety of goods that revolve mainly round textiles. You
may shop for items like 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, 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.
Over the years, many quality hotels have come up
in Bhutan. Most hotels in Bhutan meet the recent standardization policy, most
tourists accommodate in a 5 star or a 3 star hotel. The hotels are well
maintained and have all basic amenities such as geysers and shower rooms and are properly maintained. Visitors can be assured of their warmth and comfort of the
hotels and the ambiance and the hospitality offered by the hotels are incredible. 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 rich and spicy with a
lot of cheese and chilli. It is advisable that visitors stick to the Chinese,
Continental or Indian cuisine that is served in most restaurants. Visitors can
also choose among the various vegetarian and non-veg food. You can also try out
momos, the Tibetan dumplings and for those daring, you may try out the ema
datshi dish served with cheese and chili and other typical Bhutanese dishes.
Weights and measures
Bhutan has a standard system of weights and
measurements in place and most weights are measured in gram (g) and kilogram
(kg). With better and efficient measurement systems readily available, most of
the shop keepers in the capital city make use of electronic and weighing scale.
However, as you travel further east, you will find the ordinary weighing scale
While safety is not much of a concern, however
it is good to come prepared for any mishap. One need to avoid walking alone or
roaming the streets after 9 pm as you may never know of any mishap that may
occur. 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
and be in your rooms. Or else you may visit the town in groups or 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
Bhutan has a good team of interpreters and guides that are well versed in history and possess good communication skills. 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.
Public holidays are declared by the government
and a list of public holidays that we observe throughout the nation is listed
below. However, each Dzongkhag has its own list of holidays that is observed
especially while conducting annual tshechus (Religious festivals). For this one
contact your service provider or your travel agent
Tipping is a purely personal matter. Given a high volume of American tourists though some tipping has become expected from restaurants, hotels, and of course your tour guides. 1-2 dollars is widely appreciated. Also if you wish you may make small donations at various temples we visit. This is considered to be of immeasurable benefit in Buddhism. Another option we ask you to consider is bringing some small gifts. In Bhutan it is traditional to give a small gift at a first encounter. Small vacuum sealed Starbucks Coffee, knee height dark colored socks, small toys, and candy are all very well received.
Customs and Duties
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 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, ammunition and explosives (b) All
narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs (c) Wildlife products,
especially those of endangered species (d) Antiques
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
Bhutanese speak a variety of languages but
Dzongkha is the national language and one of the most widely spoken language.
English is also a medium of communication and most Bhutanese speak English.
Communicating in English especially with the people in the urban areas and the
towns will enhance your knowledge on Bhutan.
Clothes and other paraphernalia
With great attitudinal variations weather is
quite erratic in Bhutan. So be prepared to brace the erratic weather as you step
outdoor. 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.
Our standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and
there is only one time zone throughout the country.
Office hours in Bhutan are divided into two
timings – the summer timing and the winter timing. The summer timing begins at
9AM Bhutan standard time and goes on till 5Pm in the evening. The summer timing
is followed from March till the end of October. The winter timing that lasts for
the months of November till the end of February begins at 9AM in the morning
till 4 PM in the evening. However, these timings are followed only in Thimphu
and few other Districts. These timing is followed only by the Civil Servants
who work under the Royal Civil Service Commission. For those people employed in
Corporations and private organizations, the timings are usually from 9AM till
5PM irrespective of the season.
Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, it is
advisable to have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations.
Avoid drinking unboiled water or taking ice
cubes at all times as most water sources in Bhutan are untreated though they
have their source in the mountains. One can come across treated and bottled
water readily in any town and are affordable.
Import Authorization to import Medicines
Any person who wishes to bring into the country
any medicinal product listed under Schedule A of Bhutan Medicines Rules and
Regulation 2005, shall be allowed in a quantity not exceeding the required dose
for one month. List of medicinal products can be found under Schedule A of the
Regulation which is given in following link.
In case of prescription drugs, the person shall
be allowed in a quantity as prescribed in the prescription.
Any medicines/ drugs brought in by tourists for
distribution and donation has to be informed to Drug Regulatory Authority of
Bhutan (DRA) in advance and process for import authorization to ensure safety,
efficacy and quality medicinal products.
For more detail visit the following link (Drug
Regulatory Authority of Bhutan):
Drug Regulatory Authority of Bhutan
We have a duty to protect Bhutan from Drugs and
Tobacco Products. To do this we need your help and cooperation. If we stop you
and ask you about your baggage please co-operate.
**Please do not carry tobacco goods that are
over the limits. For more information please see following link.
Tobacco Control Act