You will be surprised that the culture and the traditional lifestyle is still richly intact and at a degree to which it permeates all strands of modern day secular life. From the traditional woven garments to the prayer flags on high mountain slopes, the man-made environment to the natural environment, from the religious mask dances to the folk dances, this cultural heritage is proudly evident and offers a unique cultural setting. The most striking expressions of Bhutan are the annual festivals known as Tshechus which bring together the population of the district, and an ideal occasion to get the feel of the nation's pulse. We can also combine your choice of tour with any of these festivals to make your stay in Bhutan a memorable and interesting one.
"Boonserm Travel is the best. We have worked with them on both our trips to Bhutan and always recommend them to our friends. They are personal, organized, prompt, utterly reliable and deeply knowledgeable. They can handle two people or 28 people perfectly." Monica Mackey (San Francisco, CA)
For your trip, you must have:
Valid passport (valid for at least six months after your date of exit from Bhutan)
One other picture ID, such as driver’s license
Air tickets and expense money
Photocopy of your passport page
Copy of the visa clearance letter sent to you by Boonserm Tours
Two extra passport photos (for emergency use)
The Department of Immigration has put in place the biometric system for all foreigners flying into Bhutan starting March 12, 2014. The passengers will have to give their finger prints through a biometric system along with a photograph which will be captured and recorded. The biometric system will soon be placed at the Border Immigration Check Points at Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar.
We recommend that you get coverage for medical expenses, baggage loss, and trip cancellation. Trip cancellation insurance reimburses you for non-refundable payments should you need to cancel your trip due to a covered sickness or injury to yourself, a traveling companion, or family member, or for some other unforeseen circumstances.
A valid passport is required for your trip; be sure to check the expiration date. Your passport must be valid for six months after your date of exit from Bhutan. It is a good idea to carry a photocopy of the photo page and the entry stamp page of your passport as an additional piece of identification. It is also a good idea to have at least two extra passport photos. If you lose your passport, or if you keep your passport in a hotel safe or send it to an embassy for visas, having a photocopy and extra passport photos will prove invaluable.
A visa is required for all nationalities except Indian citizens. Boonserm Tours & Travels will arrange for your visa to be issued on arrival and as soon as we get the visa approval, we will send you a copy of the visa clearance letter via email. You will have to bring along a printed copy of the Bhutan Visa Clearance letter when you come to check in at the airport and also present it to the immigration official in Paro airport. Your official Bhutan Visa will be stamped in your passport upon arrival in Bhutan.
The currency in Bhutan is called the Ngultrum, on par with the Indian rupee. Note: INR (Indian Rupees) denominations of 500 and 1000 are not accepted in Bhutan. Exchange rates vary depending on the strength of the US dollar. You can exchange at the banks or at your hotels (Our guides can also assist you on this). We advise you to bring most of your money in the form of travelers’ checks or cash in US dollars. It is a good idea to have some US cash in hand for minor expenses. Some higher end shops will accept credit cards, but surcharges will be added. You will need to budget spending money for gratuities and for personal items such as beverages and shopping. In Bhutan, wine (usually French or Australian) runs at least $40 per bottle. Hard liquor drinks can cost $2 and up, depending on the type of liquor. Beer is typically $3 a bottle. Recently we have ATM machines installed in the major cities. You can use your Visa or Master card to withdraw money in local currency. However it is advisable to keep it as a back up only.
All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets. It is recommended that you bring flat-to-round pin converters for your electronics if necessary, however, most hotels offer multi plug sockets. Bhutan is a carbon neutral destination. Our energy is clean and green generated by hydro power.
Bhutan offers immense opportunities for photography especially during outdoor sightseeing trips. However you should check with your guide before taking pictures or filming inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions as in some area photograph/filming is not permitted.
You are free to capture images of the landscape, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, rural life, flora and fauna, distinctive Bhutanese architecture and the exterior of Dzongs and Chortens in particular.
For those who wish to buy foreign drinks (whiskey, wine, vodka etc), chocolates, etc, you can check out the duty free shop at the Paro airport on your arrival right after the immigration check point.
Airport taxes are already included in your Drukair/Bhutan Airlines ticket.
Bhutan has now two mobile operators, B-Mobile and Tashi cell. Both the companies have roaming agreement with most of the operators in various countries. Roaming is possible in Bhutan.
Tipping is completely discretionary, but over the years, clients have asked us for tipping guidelines to reward outstanding service. A range of reference per trip member would be $10-$15 per day for the guide and $10-$12 for the driver who has accompanied you throughout your trip in Bhutan. For the waiters at restaurants, for porters for luggage handling you can give at your own discretion.
All visitors are required to complete the Customs Form and hand it over to the Customs authorities on arrival. A tourist shall be allowed to import free from Customs duty, used articles of personal wear and regular use including cigarettes, tobacco, alcoholic drinks or a combination of these items subject to the following ceilings.
A) Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor.
B) Alcohol, Cigarettes and Pipe tobacco as follows;
Note that sale and smoking in public places is banned in Bhutan.
C) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use.
D) Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.
Those articles described in section C and D must be declared on the Custom Form. If such items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift they become liable for customs duty. Import and Export of the following goods are strictly prohibited:
A) Arms, ammunition, explosives and military stores.
B) All narcotics and drugs, medically prescribed drugs are exempt. C) Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species.
NOTE : Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items. Customs authorities will not allow any old/used items to be taken out of the country if they have not been certified as non-antique. Import of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be declared on arrival.
Handicrafts are the main items purchased by the travelers in Bhutan. The beautiful handwoven fabrics, Wooden boxes which are used as plates, the country's exquisite postage stamps, carved masks, woven baskets, handmade papers, finely crafted metal objects and thangkas are the items they purchase.
Many of the people you visit are living under hardship and our natural instinct would be to give them gifts. Because the unwary distribution of pens, money, candy, and so on has led to beggar mentality in many places in the world, we suggest you do not give anything to soliciting children. Along your journey we may visit some schools. Gifts of pens and school supplies to the head teacher would be gratefully accepted. If you would like to help the Bhutanese people preserve their culture, we recommend that you donate to an official organization.
Bhutan time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country. Bhutan is approximately 30 minutes ahead of Indian National Time, which makes it about 13 hours ahead of Pacific Time. Bhutan’s country code is 975. Bhutan is well connected with STD and ISD telephone services and internet facilities.
Sale of Tobacco products is strictly forbidden in Bhutan. Smoking is not permitted in public places.
Accommodations in Bhutan are somewhat simple but very charming. In the major cities like Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing there are comfortable hotels, lodges and guesthouses at tourist destinations, while in the smaller towns; Hotel establishments are modest and simple but still comfortable and offer minimum facilities. Bhutanese Traditional delicacies are hot and spicy. Chilies are taken as vegetables in Bhutan, but for our valued guests we serve delicious Chinese, Continental, Bhutanese and Indian Cuisine. Even while our guest are on trek, our trained cooks prepare dishes suitable to western Taste ranging from Continental to Chinese and Bhutanese to Indian. In the hotels meals are normally served in buffet style. If you have any dietary restrictions, be sure to advise us.
It is advisable to bring appropriate clothing according to the climate (time of year) in which you choose to visit Bhutan. Casual clothes are fine, but if you have scheduled your trip around a festival, you definitely should be prepared to dress up a little. For general sightseeing in Dzongs, monasteries, religious institutions and similar we suggest women to wear skirts or loose trousers, while men can wear jeans or loose trousers. In addition we would like to encourage all visitors to wear proper shirts, t-shirts or similar, avoiding tank-tops or similar modern tops. A pair of comfortable hiking shoes will be very useful. Bhutan is a very religiously oriented country and it is regarded as unseemly and sacrilegious to wear shorts, mini-skirts, revealing tops & hats while visiting public areas.
You are responsible for bringing a small medical kit for personal use. Please bring adequate supply of any supplies you need. There are medical stores here in Bhutan in case you wish to buy it from here.
It is not uncommon to experience unusual symptoms when you first arrive at high altitude. The best remedies are to hike slowly, rest frequently, and drink plenty of fluids. A good night's sleep will often bring you back to normal. However, it is important to pay attention to the signals your body gives you. While acclimatizing, avoid pushing yourself too hard, however physically fit you may be or feel. You may hike more slowly than others in your group, or more slowly than you are used to, but this is perfectly acceptable. Proper hydration is essential. The thin, dry air of high altitude wicks away moisture as you breathe. Drink plenty of liquids. Avoid caffeine, which is a diuretic. Sleeping pills and other sedatives should not be used at altitude as they tend to decrease breathing and may lead to AMS. Do not drink alcohol or smoke at high altitudes. Your appetite will probably decrease but it is important to eat well (especially foods high in carbohydrates), even if you're not feeling well. Cut down on salt, fats and protein.
Your encounter with the mountains of Bhutan will be a rewarding experience. It will also be physically demanding. Hiking in the Himalaya also feels substantially more difficult because of the altitude. However, if you condition yourself properly beforehand, you will be able to complete and enjoy your hikes. You must make a special effort to get in good physical condition for the trip by hiking, running, swimming, bicycling, or engaging in other forms of aerobic exercise well beyond your normal routine. Walking up and down flights of stairs is also an effective way to train for the steep ascents and descents in the Himalaya. Weekend hikes that involve long sections of uphill and downhill walking are great for conditioning your legs.
A compact overview of Bhutan by a resident scholar, considerably enhanced by color photographs, well-chosen literary excerpts and many maps.
A "New York Times" Asia correspondent writes of Bhutan and neighboring kingdoms of Ladakh and Sikkim in the Himalayas, strongholds of Tantric Buddhism in an increasingly homogenized world. It's part travelogue and part history.
4th Edition : March 2011
ISBN 978 174104 919 0