1. Where is Bhutan?
Bhutan is a small, landlocked nation located in the eastern Himalayas between India and China. Its landscape ranges from subtropical plains and forests in the South to subalpine forests and snowy mountains in the North. Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist country and is known as the last stronghold of Mahayana Buddhism.
2. Do I need to use a tour operator to book my travel?
The government regulates that you must use a licensed Bhutanese Tour Operator to book your travel to Bhutan or one of their international partners.
3. Do I need a visa to enter Bhutan?
All International tourists wishing to enter Bhutan require a visa which must be pre-arranged through a licensed Bhutanese Tour Operator or one of their international partners. Visa clearance must be obtained through your tour operator prior to travel. Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives may obtain a visa upon entry.
4. How much does the visa cost?
International tourist visas cost USD50. This can be paid in advance to you tour operator or travel agent. Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives do not pay a visa fee.
5. How do I get to Bhutan?
There are a number of airports from where you can fly into Bhutan - Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodh Gaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati, Singapore and Mumbai.. Currently two carriers operate the flights to Bhutan and back; Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. Also, there are three land border crossings which you can travel into the kingdom overland. All crossings are along the Indian border only - Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar. All travel arrangements to Bhutan must be made through a local tour operator who will make all the necessary arrangements.
6. What does the $200/$250 per day minimum daily package include?
The $200 per day (low season) and $250 per day (high season) package includes a minimum of 3 star accommodations, costs for food, an experienced guide and transportation (with driver) within the country. Also included in the price is a $65 per day royalty that goes towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation. All of these services will be arranged by your tour operator.
7. What currency is used in Bhutan?
Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum. Its value is tied to the Indian Rupee which is also accepted as legal tender. However Indian notes in 500 and 1000 denominations are not acceptable. Foreign currency can be exchanged once you enter the kingdom (your guide will help you). Large denominations and newer notes get better exchange rates. Credit cards are accepted in some of the larger stores (for a fee) but most of the small shops and Bazaars only accept cash.
8. Is there a limit on the number of tourists that can enter Bhutan each year?
There is no limit on the number of tourists admitted into the country each year. In order to protect our culture, traditions and natural environment the government has adopted a strict policy of “High Value, Low Impact Tourism”. This policy is aimed at attracting discerning tourists that will respect the unique culture and values of the Bhutanese people while also providing the visitors with an unforgettable one of a kind experience.
9. What’s the food like in Bhutan?
The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese food is its “hotness” factor! And we do not use any spices other than chillies! Chillies are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not chillie hot.
Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. A wide selection of Indian and continental food is also available in many of the restaurants around the country. There are plenty of local eateries which sell burgers, pizzas, soup and sandwich etc.
10. What kind of clothing should I wear?
Casual, comfortable clothing is perfectly acceptable and in fact expected of guests. Long walking shorts are ok but not skimpy ones. If visiting during a festival, dressier clothing is expected. Long pants or skirts/dresses for ladies and khakis and a button up shirt (no ties required).
11. What about tipping?
There is no hard and fast rule about tipping but generally guests tip about 10% to their guide and 5% to their driver at the end of the trip. Tipping wait staff, hotel employees etc., is not expected but welcome and certainly not on the same scale as the guide and driver.
12. What about flip flops?
Take them! You need some sort of foot wear to go to the bathroom, wear around your room, and after immersing in a hot stone bath. Take inexpensive ones and leave them behind if you don’t want to pack them up!