Located in the eastern Himalayas and bordered by China in the north and India in the east, west and south, Bhutan is a mountainous, land-locked country. The population of around 634,982 is still mostly engaged in subsistence farming. Bhutan opened up to the outside world only in 1974 and, keen to safeguard an ancient and rich cultural heritage, we adopted a cautious tourism policy right from the start, to avoid the negative impact that uncontrolled mass tourism could have in such a small and sparsely populated country.
Flying to the land of Thunder Dragon
The most easiest and convenient way for visitors to get into Bhutan is by Druk Air, the only national air carrier operating in Bhutan. The modern airbus A-319 jets carry passengers through one of the most spectacular flight paths in the world. A particular highlight is the stretch between Kathmandu and Bhutan, where one passes 4 of the 5 highest mountains in the world. Weather permitting; passengers will be treated to magnificent views of Everest Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga. Landing in Paro Valley, surrounded by 4000 meter high mountains stretching across the West of Bhutan, means a visual landing is the order of the day. For the latest Druk Air schedule [Check Here]
Travel by Land
The town of Phuentsholing in south-Western Bhutan is the land border access open for international tourists. Phuentsholing lies approximately 170km east of the Indian national Airport at Bagdogra and nearby historic Darjeeling. From here begins a mountain journey of almost un believable beauty. The road leads from the northern Indian tea plantations through endless turns, hair-pin bends and daring stretches carved into the mountain rock via Chukha to Thimphu. The travel time for the 175km stretch can be more than 6hours. A combination of overland and air travel is also possible. All overland travel requires an Indian visa.
Note : Drukair now operate flights in and out from Bagdora Airport (India).
You will get by comfortably if you speak English, as English is the medium of instruction in schools in Bhutan. The national language, Dzongkha, is widely used and Bhutanese are generally multi-lingual, speaking Dzongkha, Sharchopkha (eastern dialect) and lhotsamkha (Nepali).Many children, even in the rural areas, tend to walk up to visitors, wave and say “hello “or “good morning”. The Bhutanese are always thrilled when they meet visitors who try to speak their language.
Here are two useful phrases:
Hello : Kuzuzangpo-La
Thank you : Kadinche-la
Bhutan has a season for everyone. The kingdom stretches across all climatic zones; from the sub-tropical jungles in the south, to the moderate heights of 2000-2500 meters in the center and up to the alpine world of the towering Himalayas and glaciers of the east.
- Winter has its moments. The days are full of sunshine while the evenings can turn chilly. The winter landscapes lay bare the majesty of the mountains and the sweeping valleys. Soft turtfs of cloud drape lazily over mountains tops as if waiting for new life to blow it across the landscape.
- Spring is a botanist’s delight as rhododendrons, wild azaleas, and masses of wildflowers including the edelweiss cover the meadows like carpet. Pear and apple blossoms add a dainty touch to the valleys as their pink and white blooms add a sense of new wonder to the land that is about to burst with abundant growth again.
- Summer is an abundant time of the year as flowers are in bloom and valleys are covered in green, weeping willows sweeps the banks of many of the rivers and the pine cone glisten in the sun, so full with rasin they are ready to plummet to the ground.
- Autumn casts a bright golden glow on the vast landscape and is one of the most crowed time of the year for tourism in Bhutan. The rice fields ripen to a golden brown under crisp blue skies. The merry pink and white of cosmos flowers dot the countryside. Temperatures in the central valleys do not normally exceed 30degree Celsius in the summers and in the winters around 15 degrees Celsius during the day.
A visa is required for all nationalities except Indian citizens. Boonserm Tours & Travels will arrange for your visa to be issued on arrival. You must send us a scanned copy of the photo page of your passport as soon as you confirm the trip — a clearly scanned email attachment is best. As soon as we get the visa approval, we will notify you of your Bhutan Visa Clearance Number. The Bhutan visa fee ($20) will be included in your final invoice.
Accommodation and Meals
Boonserm Tours will ensure that our guest are provided with the best available accommodations within Bhutan. 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.
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 paper, finely crafted metal objects and thangkas are the items they purchase.
Choki Handicrafts shop, located next to the Folk Heritage museum in Thimphu is closely linked to Choki Traditional Art School, a charitable institute – many of the goods at the shop are produced in the school itself and all proceeds go towards the upkeep of the school and the provision of free tuition, food and lodging for the students. The school gives opportunity to the economically disadvantaged students from different parts of Bhutan and train them in learning the traditional arts and crafts of the country. When you buy a product from Choki Handicrafts, you are helping towards the brighter side of this students. For more information about the school, visit www.chokischool.com
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;
- Cigarettes: 2 cartons subject to 100 percent Customs Duty and 100 percent Sales Tax.
- Cigars: 2 boxes or 50 pieces subject to 100 percent Customs Duty and 100 percent Sales Tax.
- Spirits: 2 bottles, each bottle not larger than one litre.
C) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use.
D) Photographic equiptment, 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 adviced 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.
The Bhutanese currency is called the Ngultrum and is at par with the Indian Rupee and both are used in Bhutan.1Nu (Ngultrum) = 100ch (cheltrums) us$ 1=45 Nu.Foreign currencies can be changed at the airport and from the banks. Some credit cards like the Visa, the American Express and the JCB are accepted by the bigger hotels and business establishments mostly confined to bigger towns like Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing.
Bhutan is well connected and virtually every town has IDD services. Internet cafes are available almost every where. Cell phones can also be used in most places around the country.
Bhutan has one time zone for the entire country. It is six hours ahead of GMT. Bhutan is 30 minutes ahead of India, one hour behind Thailand and 15 minutes ahead of Nepal.
Driving Distance Within Bhutan
Mode of transport within Bhutan is by motor vehicles only. There are no domestic airlines or trains. The major highway runs from west to east connecting all the major towns.