The Kingdom of Bhutan is a name lesser known to the majority of tourists but is still successful enough to hundreds of thousands of travellers each year. The country cut off its ties with the rest of the world to protect and preserve its culture, heritage, and resources and resisted the increasing globalization admirably. Even today, the kingdom offers its hospitality selectively; its beauty remains a mystery to the remaining portions of civilization. However, the country is taking baby steps, increasing the accessibility into its premises while keeping its age-old traditions intact.

Trip extension to Everest base camp by helicopter

Key Facts

  • Capital: Thimphu
  • Population: 763,092
  • Area: 38,394 square kilometers
  • Major religion: Buddhism
  • Official language: Dzongkha
  • Time zone:  GMT+6 hours
  • Working hours: 8 hours per day in summer and 7 hours per day in winter
  • Electricity: 220 to 240 volts with 50 hertz, usually there are D, F, G types of socket
  • Political system: Constitutional Monarchy
  • Location: South Asia, neighbouring India and Tibet
  • Geography: Lowlands in the south and ascending mountain slopes towards north.

Visa Information

With the motive of minimizing the influence of the outside world, the kingdom of Bhutan isolated itself for years, and even now it permits only a small number of tourists in the nation. To get the permit, one needs to contact any authorized Bhutanese travel agency, which will apply for a visa on your behalf. The permit fee of 40 USD and a certain amount (ranging from 200 USD-250 USD per day) needs to be paid, only then one will be provided with entry permit, lasting for 7 days or 14 days. This entry permit allows a tourist to visit Thimpu and Paro only. A separate “restricted-entry” pass is required to visit other cities and “temple entry” pass is required to visit any Buddhist monasteries in the country. However, a citizen of India, Bangladesh and Maldives do not need any kinds of the permit in Bhutan.

Howto reach Bhutan

There is only one international airportin Bhutan, Paro International Airport, which is an hour and a half drive awayfrom the capital city of Thimphu. Each day, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines flightsare available from Bangkok (Thailand), Kathmandu (Nepal), New Delhi and Kolkata(India), Yangon (Myanmar) and Singapore for Bhutan, carrying limited permittedtourists. From India, there is a roadway leading to Bhutan as well. Theoverland border crossings between India are Jaigon-Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar.

Popular destinations to visit

Sincethe permits are only given to visit Thimpu and Paro, generally, one has tosatisfy their thirst of visiting Bhutan by exploring only these two cities.Dochula Pass (3100m) is a popular destination in Bhutan that is situatedbetween Thimphu and Punakha. It consists of 108 stupas, built in the remembranceof 108 soldiers who died fighting against the insurgents from India, and theenrapturing sight of Gangkar Puensum peak in the background. If provided with apermit, tourists should not miss out on visiting Phobjikha valley, enjoy shorthikes in the woods, and enjoy lush green scenery with picturesque views of themountains. There is also JigmeSingye Wangchuck National Park, where one can watch Black-necked cranes migrateto Phobjikha and if lucky one might even sight leopards, wild boars, red foxes,and Himalayan black bears.

Local Currency and foreign exchange

BhutaneseNgultrum and Indian Rupees (with exception of Rs 500 and Rs 2000) are the onlyacceptable currencies in Bhutan; also both the currencies have equal value.Since everything is pre-paid while applying for visas, one needs to carry theonly little sum of money for souvenirs and other personal expenses. TheBhutanese banks and ATMs do not accept foreign debit cards; rarely they might,but will allow withdrawal of very limited Ngultrum. It is easier to exchangeIndian currencies, so it is better to carry Indian Rupees. Alternatively,  US Dollars can be exchanged for Ngultrum at theairport and most of the banks in Thimphu and even in some hotels.

Climate and weather of Bhutan

Bhutanlies near to the tropic of Cancer, which makes the weather of Bhutan hot, butit also lies in the Himalayan region, this mixture results in the pleasantweather condition throughout the year with only slight changes between winter (-4to 16 degrees) and summer (16 to 30 degrees), over major parts of the country.However, the climate varies between the cities due to their elevation and has aspecific seasonal cycle of four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. In summer the temperature exceeds 40degrees in southern parts while in the northern part it remains just about 25degrees with abundant rainfall, sometimes even more than 3000 mm, accompaniedby frequent thunderstorms, making summers bearable and cool. The winters incentral and northern parts are chilly, with temperature going below -4 degrees,colder than the southern part, but these areas receive enough sunlight, hencethe days are warm. The fall and autumn lie in between.

Internet and communication

Eventhough the country isolated itself from the rest of the world for centuries,since the introduction of telecommunications and the internet, their use hasbeen proliferating rapidly. Most of the cities have internet access, and hotelsoffer free WI-FI. Tourist can easily buy pre-paid Bhutanese SIM cards ortourist SIM cards for 100 Ngultrum at Paro International Airport. It is betterto buy pre-paid SIM cards because tourist SIM cards are valid only for 30 daysand do not allow access to mobile data. Other than these state-run SIM cards,there is one private-run mobile service provider called “Tashi Cell” whichcosts 200 Ngultrum and provides free 4G. These SIM cards can be obtained fromtheir customer care outlets. Tourists need to show their passport and fill up aform to buy a SIM card.

People, culture, and festival

Cultureplays an important role in every Bhutanese household and each festival iscelebrated with immense joy. People from all over the country gather at Thimphuto celebrate “Teschu”, a celebration to pay homage to “Padmasambhava” by beinginvolved in religious activities, performing symbolic dances and feastingfinest local cuisine. Teschu takes place in the courtyard of Tashichho Dzong,the dates might vary. Padmasambhava, a Buddhist master known for introducingtantric form Buddhism is worshipped at Jambay Lhakhang Drup by lighting hugebonfires and performing “Dance of Treasure”. Haa summer festival is anotherexciting festival which is also an excellent opportunity for visitors to getacquainted with Bhutanese sport, culture, and cuisine. Bhutanese people alsorespect their history immensely, so to celebrate and remember the hardships ofthe war with Tibet during the 17th century, they celebrate Punakha Drubchen.