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.
- 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.
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.
How to reach for Bhutan Tour
There is only one international airport in Bhutan, Paro International Airport, which is an hour and a half drive away from the capital city of Thimphu. Each day, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines flights are available from Bangkok (Thailand), Kathmandu (Nepal), New Delhi and Kolkata (India), Yangon (Myanmar) and Singapore for Bhutan, carrying limited permitted tourists. From India, there is a roadway leading to Bhutan as well. The overland border crossings between India are Jaigon-Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar.
Popular destinations to visit
Since the permits are only given to visit Thimpu and Paro, generally, one has to satisfy their thirst of visiting Bhutan by exploring only these two cities. Dochula Pass (3100m) is a popular destination in Bhutan that is situated between Thimphu and Punakha. It consists of 108 stupas, built in the remembrance of 108 soldiers who died fighting against the insurgents from India, and the enrapturing sight of Gangkar Puensum peak in the background. If provided with a permit, tourists should not miss out on visiting Phobjikha valley, enjoy short hikes in the woods, and enjoy lush green scenery with picturesque views of the mountains. There is also Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, where one can watch Black-necked cranes migrate to Phobjikha and if lucky one might even sight leopards, wild boars, red foxes, and Himalayan black bears.
Local Currency and foreign exchange
Bhutanese Ngultrum and Indian Rupees (with exception of Rs 500 and Rs 2000) are the only acceptable currencies in Bhutan; also both the currencies have equal value. Since everything is pre-paid while applying for visas, one needs to carry the only little sum of money for souvenirs and other personal expenses. The Bhutanese banks and ATMs do not accept foreign debit cards; rarely they might, but will allow withdrawal of very limited Ngultrum. It is easier to exchange Indian currencies, so it is better to carry Indian Rupees. Alternatively, US Dollars can be exchanged for Ngultrum at the airport and most of the banks in Thimphu and even in some hotels.
Climate and weather for Bhutan tour
Bhutan lies near to the tropic of Cancer, which makes the weather of Bhutan hot, but it also lies in the Himalayan region, this mixture results in the pleasant weather condition throughout the year with only slight changes between winter (-4 to 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 a specific seasonal cycle of four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. In summer the temperature exceeds 40 degrees in southern parts while in the northern part it remains just about 25 degrees with abundant rainfall, sometimes even more than 3000 mm, accompanied by frequent thunderstorms, making summers bearable and cool. The winters in central and northern parts are chilly, with temperature going below -4 degrees, colder than the southern part, but these areas receive enough sunlight, hence the days are warm. The fall and autumn lie in between.
Internet and communication
Even though the country isolated itself from the rest of the world for centuries, since the introduction of telecommunications and the internet, their use has been proliferating rapidly. Most of the cities have internet access, and hotels offer free WI-FI. Tourist can easily buy pre-paid Bhutanese SIM cards or tourist SIM cards for 100 Ngultrum at Paro International Airport. It is better to buy pre-paid SIM cards because tourist SIM cards are valid only for 30 days and 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” which costs 200 Ngultrum and provides free 4G. These SIM cards can be obtained from their customer care outlets. Tourists need to show their passport and fill up a form to buy a SIM card.
People, culture, and festival
Culture plays an important role in every Bhutanese household and each festival is celebrated with immense joy. People from all over the country gather at Thimphu to celebrate “Teschu”, a celebration to pay homage to “Padmasambhava” by being involved in religious activities, performing symbolic dances and feasting finest local cuisine. Teschu takes place in the courtyard of Tashichho Dzong, the dates might vary. Padmasambhava, a Buddhist master known for introducing tantric form Buddhism is worshipped at Jambay Lhakhang Drup by lighting huge bonfires and performing “Dance of Treasure”. Haa summer festival is another exciting festival which is also an excellent opportunity for visitors to get acquainted with Bhutanese sport, culture, and cuisine. Bhutanese people also respect their history immensely, so to celebrate and remember the hardships of the war with Tibet during the 17th century, they celebrate Punakha Drubchen.