The below information is valid for all planning to visit Bhutan. But one major area of difference is the mechanism used for tourist from Bangladesh, India and Maldives and the rest of the world. The citizens from India, Bangladesh and Maldives receive visa on arrival and also do not need to used travel agent. Will other citizens need to use a travel agents and also use a tour operator to plan their trip to Bhutan. This is a requirement by the Government of Bhutan.
The best time to visit Bhutan is during spring (March – May) and autumn (September – November.) Expect dry but warm weather, sunny but chilly during mornings and night time.
In order to attain a visa for Bhutan, travelers must work with a licensed, approved tour company who will prepare every part of the visa application process. Bhutanese law requires visitors to come through via a licensed local tour company. As explained by DAJ Expeditions, “The Bhutan Government Regulations require the deposit of Tour Payments in full prior to processing your visa. You need to identify a local tour operator who will help you program your tour and process all paper work required for you to granted the visa. The visa will be stamped at the entry point on your arrival. Bring two passport size photographs and there is a Visa Fee of USD 40 per person or you can pay in advance to your tour operator who will pay it for you.
The above visa process is not required for citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives as they get Visa on arrival and also do not need to travel with a tour operator. This is special concession by the Royal Government of Bhutan.
The national language is Dzongkha, which is the native language of Western Bhutan’s Ngalops. Here are some useful phrases to keep in mind:
Bhutan is a disciplined Buddhist traditional society and they follow a highly refined system of etiquette called “driglam namzha.” When you visit Bhutan, you’ll notice the Bhutanese’s respect for authority, devotion to marital and familial institutions. It’s shown in the way they behave toward one another, how to conduct themselves in public, even how to eat in public and especially how to dress.
Local clothing is conventional, and you’ll notice a national dress code that is authentic and beautiful.
Bhutan remains as one of the safest countries for tourists to visit.
In Bhutan, Bhutanese ngultrum (BTN) is the currency. There are no coins. For better exchange rates, use bigger bills such as USD 50 or USD 100. You’ll get 5% less if you were to exchange with a USD 20 bill or less.
There was a counterfeit which occurred in 1996, so do not use any USD 100 bills that were made in 1996. Try to stay away from using cash that has tears, holes or marks.
Visa and MasterCard are sometimes accepted in hotels and larger boutiques. But mostly, credit cards are not accepted in smaller stores. There is an American Express office in Thimphu so the cards are also accepted in selected locations.
If you need to exchange cash, at the airport, bank or the hotel most of whom use the same rate as the banks in town.
If you’re staying for two weeks, USD 300 is more than enough to cover tips (go down to “tips” section for more details.) You’ll only be spending money on shopping and souvenirs since lodging, meals, gasoline should be previously covered in your tour package price.
Besides BTN, travellers can also use Indian rupee.
Things to avoid:
Phone & SIM card:
Smart phone will work in Bhutan, but you do need to switch to local providers. When you arrive, you can purchase local SIM cards which can give you great Wi-Fi connectivity.
Bhutan’s country code is 975.
All 3 star and above hotel now have free Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby and in some cases in the room also but it’s not necessarily free in guest rooms. Other hotels have Wi-Fi for free for a few hours, and the connection may be poor. Don’t not expect internet connection in remote valleys/cities.
Voltage in Bhutan is 230V and AC 50Hz (cycles per second), power sockets are type D/F/G. Make sure your appliances like shavers, hairdryers, curling irons, camera chargers, laptops, etc. have a switch to change the voltage to 230.
Drinking bottled water is advised for travelers. Your guide will most likely prepare a huge supply of bottled water in the car for you during the trip.
Since your trip to Bhutan is pre-paid, tipping in restaurants and hotels is not necessary. But if you’re going on treks, you may want to tip your horseman (Tiger’s Nest) then ask your guide how much is adequate.
Tipping is a personal choice, but if you’d like a reference to go by: