Bhutan Tourism Policy:|
In order to tour Bhutan, you are obligated by the government to do so through a licensed Bhutanese tour company. You cannot tour the country on your own. Travelers to Bhutan must be tourists or guests of the government. All tourists must travel on a pre-planned, pre-paid guided tour. Travelers must book their travel through one of the registered tour operators in Bhutan. You may contact the tour operators directly in Bhutan, or you can contact their representatives abroad.|
Obtaining a Visa:|
All visitors traveling to Bhutan are required to obtain a visa. Your actual visa will be stamped in your passport at the Paro airport. You cannot obtain your visa prior to your arrival in Bhutan. Your visa clearance will be forwarded to Druk Air once the visa has been processed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We will handle the visa procedures for you. What we will need from you is a completed visa application. We will provide you with a visa application once your travel dates and itinerary have been confirmed. At that time you must submit your trip payment in full. A visa clearance will not be issued by the government of Bhutan until all tariff and Druk Air fees have been received.
Visa applications must reach Bhutan at least five weeks prior to your arrival date to allow time for processing. When completing the visa application, be sure to print your name and other information exactly as it appears in your passport.
Overland Travel to Bhutan:|
It is possible to enter or leave Bhutan by road. This is a good alternative if you have plans to travel around India before or after your trip to Bhutan or if you have trouble getting seats on Druk Air, which is commonly overbooked during the peak seasons. The government of Bhutan requires that you fly one way, so it is not possible to both enter and leave overland.
If you are entering Bhutan by car or bus from Sikkim, Darjeeling, or Kalimpong, our representative will meet you in Phuntsholing at your hotel. We will make your hotel reservation for you in advance. Phuntsholing is the Bhutan border town with India and is the only way to enter Bhutan by road. The drive from Phuntsholing to either Paro or Thimphu is about 6 to 7 hours.
An alternative overland route is to first fly to Bagdogra. The Bagdogra airport is located in West Bengal, India. The airport is a major stop in the region with flights connecting to Calcutta, New Delhi, and Guwahati.
If you are flying in to the Bagdogra airport, our representative from Bhutan will pick you up at the Bagdogra airport and drive you to Phuntsholing. It is a three-hour drive from Bagdogra to Phuntsholing.
Tour Cost and Inclusions:|
The price of the tour packages is set by the government and includes accommodation, meals, overland transport within Bhutan, sightseeing, a local tour guide, airport transfers, and a supply of pack animals when and where needed for treks. There is a government surcharge of US$40 per night for individual travelers and US$30 per night per person for groups of two. For groups of three or more there is no government surcharge.
High-season rate: March to May and September to November
Individual traveler: US$250 per night (plus surcharge of US$40/night/person)
Groups of two people: US$250 per night per person (surcharge of US$30/night/person)
Groups of three or more: US$250 per night per person (no government surcharge)
Low-season rate: December, January, February and June, July and August
Individual traveler: US$200 per night (plus surcharge of US$40/night/person)
Groups of two people: US$200 per night per person (surcharge of US$30 /night/person)
Groups of three or more: US$200 per night per person (no surcharge)
Hotels and Food:|
All of the hotels we use are clean, comfortable, and of the highest quality by Bhutanese standards. They are all approved by the Department of Tourism. Western Bhutan (Thimphu, Paro, Phuntsholing, Wangdue, and Punakha) has the best hotels. As you head into central and eastern Bhutan the quality of the hotels goes down a little bit. But we use the best quality available in each region. In general, Bhutanese hotels are modest and simple. Your hotels in Bhutan will provide you pillows, blankets, sheets, towels, bathroom tissue, and soap. You have to take your own toothbrush, toothpaste, lotions, and other items. Most hotels will have telephones.
The hotels and restaurants will serve a variety of dishes (Bhutanese, Indian, Chinese, and Continental). You can request spicy or nonspicy, depending on your preference. It is no problem if you are a vegetarian or have food allergies. Just let your guide know, and he will instruct the chefs on what type of food to prepare for you.
Hotels confirmations are generally firm, but occasionally they are canceled by the hotel. This doesn't happen often, but it's always a possibility. For instance, dignitaries may arrive at a fully booked hotel at the last minute requesting rooms, forcing some tourists to be relocated.
NOTE: If you wish to stay in one of the luxury resorts (Uma, Amankora, Zhiwaling, or Taj Tashi), you will need to make an additional payment directly to the resort. We will gladly make a reservation for you, but our tour rate does not cover the high cost of these resorts. Our rate covers tourist-standard accommodations only.
Druk Air Booking:|
The sooner you give us your travel dates, the sooner we can check seat availability on Druk Air and reserve your seats. Due to limited seating and a limited number of flights, Druk Air fills up quickly. During festival times, seats can fill up months in advance. You will also need to let us know from which city you will board Druk Air. Here are the cities serviced by Druk Air:
New Delhi, India
Bagdogra, India (West Bengal)
Bodhgaya airport, Bihar
NOTE: Druk Air has a luggage weight limit. The limit is 20kg for economy class and 30kg for business class. It's possible to pay for excess baggage, but there is a chance that the luggage will have to be sent on the next flight. Also, there is not a great deal of cabin space, so carry-on luggage should be kept to a minimum.
When to Visit Bhutan:|
The most popular times to visit Bhutan tend to be the spring months of March, April, and May and the autumn months of September, October, and November because the weather is more mild and many of the largest festivals take place during these months. In the autumn the skies are clear and blue, affording views of the high Himalayas from passes and various other vantage points. Autumn is also the time of year when the black-necked cranes migrate to central and eastern Bhutan for the winter. The skies are less clear during the spring, but the flowers are in bloom. The downside of traveling during these peak months is that there are more tourists in general, and Druk Air reservations need to be made well in advance to ensure availability.
The summer months of June, July, August, and even early September are typically the monsoon months, so you may encounter rain. The winter months of December, January, and February can be cold, but the skies are clear and blue. Some treks are closed during these months due to the weather conditions. The upside of traveling during the off-peak months is that reservations are easier to secure, and there will be fewer tourists around. Bhutan is spectacular any time of the year, and your trip will be a great adventure no matter when you decide to visit!
What to Bring on Your Trip:|
Depending on the time of year you visit Bhutan, you may need to modify this list. Keep in mind that even in the summer sometimes it can be cool at night. It is best to dress modestly, meaning no tank tops, short skirts, shorts (except for hiking), or revealing clothing.
The electricity in Bhutan runs at 220/240 volts. If you bring electrical appliances, you will need to bring an international converter kit and adapter plugs.
For all tours:
- cotton pants
- long skirts for women
- heavy down jacket in winter
- medium jacket in summer
- short-sleeved T-shirts or cotton shirts
- long-sleeved T-shirts or cotton shirts
- walking shoes or sneakers
- rain coat or poncho
- basic toiletries (toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc.)
- dressy clothes for festivals
Additional items for trekking:
- hiking/trekking boots
- socks for hiking boots
- first-aid kit
- hiking pants or shorts
- sleeping bag
- duffel bag for your gear
- small flashlight and batteries
- laundry soap, sink stopper, and clothesline
- small sewing kit
- small clock with an alarm
- motion sickness medication, like Dramamine
- diarrhea medicine, like Imodium AD
- small towel and/or washcloth
- altitude sickness medication
- antibiotic cream
- insect repellent
- moleskin for blisters
- snacks, such as energy bars
- bag for dirty clothes
- pocket knife
- safety pins
- small scissors
The currency in Bhutan is called the ngultrum. It is linked and equal in value to the Indian rupee, which is also accepted in Bhutan. There are no ATMs in Bhutan, and credit cards are accepted only at a few high-end tourist shops. You cannot purchase ngultrums prior to arriving in Bhutan, but you can easily buy ngultrums at the Paro airport, at Bhutan National Bank and the Bank of Bhutan, and at major hotels in Thimphu and Paro, all of which accept traveler's checks and/or dollars and various other currencies. When visiting smaller towns, however, you should bring ngultrums for your purchases, as it may not be possible to exchange your currency.|
For up-to-date currency exchange information, you can refer to
Bhutan has only one time zone. It is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), 30 minutes ahead of India, 15 minutes ahead of Nepal, and one hour behind Thailand. In the USA, during daylight saving time (April through October) Bhutan is 10 hours ahead of New York City. During standard time (November through March), Bhutan is 11 hours ahead of New York City.
The country code for Bhutan is 975. Local dialing codes are as follows:
2 -- 02 within Bhutan|
2 -- 02 within Bhutan
3 -- 03 within Bhutan
3 -- 03 within Bhutan
4 -- 04 within Bhutan
4 -- 04 within Bhutan
5 -- 05 within Bhutan
Health and Safety Issues:|
The government of Bhutan does not require you to have any particular vaccinations to enter the country. However, you may wish to talk to your doctor about receiving immunizations against certain preventable diseases. The US Centers for Disease Control has up-to-date travel information about which diseases you may want to immunize yourself against when traveling to Bhutan.
The altitude in Bhutan is higher than many people are used to. Though most visitors will have no problem adjusting, altitude sickness may be a problem for certain people. Our cultural tours do not reach altitudes higher than 3,500 meters. All of our treks reach at least 3,500 meters, and some of our treks go as high as 5,000 meters. You can obtain more information on altitude sickness and prevention from the US Centers for Disease Control and from the International Society for Mountain Medicine.
There is very little crime in Bhutan, and it is safe for women travelers and solo travelers. For in-depth and up-to-date information on travel to Bhutan, you can refer to the US State Department's Consular Information Sheet on Bhutan.
You may want to consider purchasing travel insurance to cover emergency assistance, baggage loss, or injury of any kind.
There are only two foreign embassies in Bhutan:
Bangladesh Embassy--Thori Lam, Thimphu
Indian Embassy--India House, Thimphu (telephone 975-2-322162, fax 975-2-323195)
There is no US Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan. Informal contact between the US and Bhutan is maintained through the US Embassy in New Delhi, India. Travelers may also obtain assistance from the US Consulates in India (in Chennai, Mumbai, and Calcutta) and, to a limited degree, from the US Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The US Embassy in New Delhi is located at Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021
(telephone 91-11-419-8000, fax 91-11-419-0017) http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/
The US Consulate in Mumbai is located at Lincoln House, 78 Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400026
(telephone 91-22-363-3611) http://mumbai.usconsulate.gov/
The US Consulate in Calcutta is located at 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Calcutta 700071
(telephone 91-33-282-3611) http://calcutta.usconsulate.gov/
The US Consulate in Chennai is located at Gemini Circle, 220 Anna Salai, Chennai 600006
(telephone 91-44-811-2000) http://chennai.usconsulate.gov/
The US Embassy in Nepal is located at Panipokhari, Kathmandu
(telephone 977-1-411179 or 410531, fax 977-1-419963) http://www.south-asia.com/USA/