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A Scenic Village

‘Joen Pa Lek soh’ or Welcome to Bhutan, a country that will fascinate any traveler or visitor with the magical variety it offers.

A Unique Culture

Indulge in a unique experience of visiting Bhutan with BHUTAN TWIN TRAVELS, your trusted travel partner. BHUTAN TWIN TRAVELS with our provision of unparalleled services guarantee that your travel to Bhutan will turn out to be an experience that will last you a lifetime.

Festival Gatherings

Indulge in a unique experience of visiting Bhutan with BHUTAN TWIN TRAVELS, your trusted travel partner. BHUTAN TWIN TRAVELS with our provision of unparalleled services guarantee that your travel to Bhutan will turn out to be an experience that will last you a lifetime.

Cultivation

Indulge in a unique experience of visiting Bhutan with BHUTAN TWIN TRAVELS, your trusted travel partner. BHUTAN TWIN TRAVELS with our provision of unparalleled services guarantee that your travel to Bhutan will turn out to be an experience that will last you a lifetime.

Festival

‘Joen Pa Lek soh’ or Welcome to Bhutan, a country that will fascinate any traveler or visitor with the magical variety it offers.

Buddhism in Bhutan

‘Joen Pa Lek soh’ or Welcome to Bhutan, a country that will fascinate any traveler or visitor with the magical variety it offers.

Bird Watching

‘Joen Pa Lek soh’ or Welcome to Bhutan, a country that will fascinate any traveler or visitor with the magical variety it offers.

Atsara

Atsara is a character in the festivasl who are clowns.

Paro Airport

One of the most scenic airports in the world.

Botanical Tour

Bhutan: one big natural park
Endowed with abundant natural wealth, Bhutan is indeed one extensive natural park and a true paradise for nature lovers. Bhutan with 72% of its total area under forest coverage harbors a wide range of flora and fauna Read more...

Cultural Tour

Bhutan, a living museum
Bhutan is indeed a place where past meets the present. The cultural tours to Bhutan best showcases this aspect with an itinerary designed by putting in the unique combination of a distinct local flavor to that of modern services. Read more...

Photography Tour

The festivals of Bhutan are one of the most unique photographic experiences in Bhutan. Immense colour, drama , and culture. This tour explores both the intensity of festivals and the peacefulness of the countryside. Read more...

Trekking

Trekking in Bhutan sees a unique blend of easy and extreme treks, all of which tread along the ancient routes. Here in Bhutan ones option ranges from difficult treks like the snowman trek (considered

Read more...
         

General Information

Bhutan Airlines

Paro Airport is the only airport in Bhutan while Druk Air is the only airlines of the country. This Royal Bhutan Airlines is the national carrier of the Royal Government of Bhutan and is the only airline allowed to fly into Bhutan. It operates to seven cities in six countries. Travelers do not have much choice of choosing their flights while traveling to Bhutan, but Druk Air is a good airline. It has two British Aerospace jets, BAe 146s that are designed and crafted carefully to suit the high altitude landings and takeoffs. The aircrafts are well maintained and pilots are specially trained and have international license for mountain flying. Until date, Druk Air has an immaculate safety record.

Paro International Airport is one of the highest airports in the world and you would prefer window seat while flying to Bhutan because of some of the most fabulous views, you get to see. You can see Himalayas, Mount Everest, and Jhomolhari from the flight. There are international flights several times a week to and from Bangkok, Kathmandu, Delhi, & Calcutta. You can check for the schedule at Druk Air official site. It is better to book your seats in advance, especially, for the peak season to avoid the rush. Druk Air only issues the tickets when the Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, approves your visa and the whole procedure can take about a week.

Make sure that your passport details and visa information is exactly the same or you will not be allowed to fly on Druk Air and authorities are very strict about it. If you are combining your visit to Bhutan with visit to India such as to Sikkim and Darjeeling, you may want to enter and depart Bhutan by surface road through the border town of Phuentsoling, which is the only official point of entry into Bhutan. You may also want to fly into Bhutan and exit by road through Phuentsoling or enter Bhutan by road and depart from it through the flight. This is possible but you still need to get your visa approved to get air-tickets.

Druk Air also has domestic and mountain flights packages, designed especially to promote the travel and tourism industry of Bhutan. The Royal Druk Holidays were conceived by the airlines to better utilize its resources and increase distribution points in Bhutan to promote tourism better in the country. They aim to emphasize on the off-season of tourism industry in Bhutan when less people visit the country. The packages are marketed through interline partners and agencies of Druk Air worldwide. The Tourism Council of Bhutan is the ground operator for the Royal Druk Air Holidays in the country.

Baggage Rules

Druk Air is the only carrier servicing Bhutan. It places strict and rigid restrictions on the amount of luggage and size of your baggage that its passengers can carry to the country. Here are some important luggage and baggage rules to keep in mind while traveling to Bhutan:

  • It is advisable to book bulky items ahead of the time as unaccompanied baggage because Druk Air aircrafts have limited space for large bags and airline employees may refuse to load large pieces of luggage into the aircraft because of the space problem.
  • Druk Air limits the weight of luggage for Bhutan visitors to 20 kg or 44 lbs. Business class travelers may carry 30 kg or 66 lbs of luggage with them.
  • It is advisable to keep your luggage to the limit specified by the airlines and it is best to carry less.
  • The luggage exceeding the limit will be listed as standby and will be loaded on the next flight for extra payment and charges.
  • The best way to pack is to have one small suitcase and a smaller carry-on with you, as the over-head storage in the air cabin is very limited.
  • A hard suitcase can do for a cultural tour but if you are constantly moving during your stay in Bhutan, a soft bag is much more versatile, lighter, and easier to pack and load into the luggage space of a vehicle.
  • Travelers who are looking forward to do trekking and sightseeing in Bhutan, will find a strong duffel bag useful to keep their luggage along with a small rucksack, a backpack or a waist pack to keep essential items like camera, water bottle, and torch/flashlight.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Bhutan is in Spring and Autumn, when the weather is mild and all the major festivals take place. Spring lasts from March to May and Autumn lasts from September through November in Bhutan. Autumn is even more preferable as it comes with clear blue skies and gorgeous views of high Himalayan Mountains. During this period, you can capture some of the most picturesque moments from the passes and other vantage points and you can count on an unmatched traveling and trekking experience. If you are a bird lover, you can spot some rare black-necked cranes that migrate to central and eastern Bhutan in Autumn season, in preparation for the coming winters. In Spring, skies are not so clear, but the beautiful blooming flowers make for some of the most beautiful views of valleys and mountain slopes covered with blooms presenting a riot of colors.

The only downside of visiting Bhutan during the busiest times is that there are a large number of foreign travelers and tourists visiting the country at this time and you need to make Druk Air reservations well in advance to ensure that seats are available and grab the best seats for yourself. You are advised to avoid the monsoon season from late June through early August as it often comes with heavy downpour and occasionally with floods and landslides. Many travelers these days are looking forward to the advantages of off-season travel to Bhutan as well. They like the idea of lesser number of tourists in Bhutan and reservations are much easier to get. However, in the summer and monsoon season ranging from late June through early August, you may encounter rain while in winter months lasting from December through February; it is quite cold in Bhutan. It is also possible that some of the treks are closed during these off-peak seasons due to the bad weather conditions, but if you are there just to see Bhutan, you will find it spectacular and mesmerizing at all times of the year.

What to Wear

Autumn in Bhutan is cold, but winter in Bhutan from November to February can be chilly, so warm jackets and woolen pullovers are highly recommended. You may also experience snowfall and proper protection is necessary, especially for children. You will have to walk a lot in Bhutan, so make sure that your walking shoes are very comfortable. In summers, you will need light cotton clothes and you may like to wear jeans for trekking. Do not forget to pack strong and good-quality hiking shoes complete with water protection for trekking in summer season. Pack at least one formal set of clothes for visiting Dzongs and other sacred sites, meeting government officials, and participate in festivals.

Although you can wear jeans, Bhutanese people will really appreciate it, if you do not wear jeans to a Dzong where you are expected to dress formally and properly. Remember that while visiting a dzong, you should take off your shoes or boots. Do not wear your jacket on waist and button or zip it up properly. Traditionally and legally, Bhutanese citizens are required to wear their national dresses in public. Men wear gho and women wear kiras. Bhutanese men often wear long white scarf from one shoulder to one waist while Bhutanese women wear colorful scarf on one shoulder.

For sightseeing, semi-formal dress code works very well and you may visit temples and monasteries in such an outfit too. Bhutan has a changeable climate, so it is best to pack a layered wardrobe and an assortment of clothes that includes rain gear too. The high altitude in Bhutan makes it necessary to wear sun protection gear such as a hat or cap, sunglasses, and sun block. In the evening, you may need to wear warm clothes. It is best to have your first-aid box with you too including a few medicines such as those for stomach upset. Also pack a good flashlight or torch, a water bottle, and polarizing filter for your camera as distances between Bhutan´s villages and cities are great and you may not get everything so easily while traveling.

Communications

There is an efficient telecommunication system in Bhutan that will allow you to fax and have international dialing facilities in almost all the hotels and accommodation units where you will put up in Bhutan. You may even be able to connect to Internet at some places, but this facility is not available everywhere. The satellite earth station at Thimphu was installed in 1990 along with sophisticated international telephone service systems. This has greatly helped in connecting quickly via direct dial call facilities and to clear the quality of sound on the phone. Posts and mails can be sent from hotels and post offices in any city in Bhutan and mailing service in Bhutan is quite reliable.

DHL provides competent courier service to and from Bhutan, so you can easily send or receive packaged items and envelopes through it. Bhutan Information Communications & Media Authority (BICMA) is the regulatory body for Communications services in Bhutan, which was established under the Ministry of Information and Communications in January 2000. It regulates and facilitates the development of the Bhutanese communications and media sector. In general, domestic telecommunications facilities are quite poor, especially in rural areas, and there is very low tele-density in the country. Wireless services are available nowadays, though. Use of Internet is also possible from all the major towns. A government-run newspaper called The Kuensel circulates daily in Dzongkha, English, and Nepali.

The Bhutan Times, Bhutan Observer, Bhutan Today, and Bhutan Business are the Bhutan's privately owned newspapers. In 1973, Bhutan Broadcasting Service was established as a radio service. Nation-wide, it broadcasts in short wave nationally and is on the FM band across the Kingdom.  Now, we have about 4 privately owned radio stations as well.  Television broadcasts started as late as in 1999 that made Bhutan the last country in the world to introduce television. Cable television was introduced soon after that. Media people in Bhutan receive short-term journalism training from Britain, The Netherlands, India, and Singapore.

Bhutanese Cuisine

Bhutanese cuisine is as varied and splendid as its landscapes and scenic beauty. Cooking methods are given immense importance in Bhutan and every region has its own specialty. Rice is the staple meal with vegetable or meat dishes cooked with chili and cheese often accompanies the meal as a side dish. Chili dominates all Bhutanese food and if you do not like spicy-hot flavor, be sure to point that out very clearly before you order a meal in Bhutan. The famous traditional vegetarian dishes in Bhutan are Ema-Datsi (literally meaning chili with cheese and the hottest of all the dishes), Kewa-Datsi (comprising of potato, cheese, and chili), and Shamu-Datsi (made up of mushrooms, cheese, and chili).

Matar-Paneer is a North-Indian dish readily available here for vegetarians. You may also like to taste Cheese Momos, small steamed buns with cheese, potato, and onion, and buckwheat cakes that are a specialty of the Bumthang area. People of Bhutan also relish Yak meat along with pork, beef, fish, poultry, goat, and corn dishes. Daily food of upland people often consists of corn or rice, yak cheese, meat soups, and spiced chilies. Tea is quite a popular beverage in Bhutan, though people often prefer butter tea or suja to sweet milk tea. Local wine made from cereal grains, such as rice or corn, is called ara and is very popular among village folk.

Attention to details and using just the right amount of spices is considered important in Bhutanese cuisine. In rural areas, people often use red rice variety as opposed to white rice variety popular in urban areas. Visual attractiveness of the dish is considered important and balance between colors and proportions are paid attention to. Cured and smoked hams are often parts of delicious dishes. Wheat noodles of the east and dried and coarsely ground corn kernels known as Kharang from the south and east are some of the traditional Bhutanese dishes. People also eat Thukpa or porridge and in traditional feasts, hot eggs and butter are served, and Ara is poured over them. In the Kheng region, people eat raw meat people with special drinks. During weddings or traditional Bhutanese gatherings, local cuisine is preferred.

Currency

Bhutanese currency (BTN) is called Ngultrum or abbreviated as Nu.  A sub-currency is known as Chhertum.  One ngultrum is equal to 100 Chhertum (Ch). Coins are used in Bhutan, but they are not very popular. The coins come in 5 Ch, 10 Ch, 25 Ch, 50 Ch, and 1, 2, & 5 Nu denominations. Ngultrum or currency of Bhutan is officially at par with Indian Rupee (INR). Therefore, 1 Nu is equal to 1 INR.  Indian Rupee is as readily accepted all over Bhutan as the Ngultrum. Although American Express card is accepted in the country, it can be used in very limited service establishments, while other cards are still not accepted in Bhutan.  Western Union Wire service is available at the post office of most towns in Bhutan, but the process can be very slow and stretched out. Only the cities of Paro and Thimphu seem to have quick access to the Western Union computer system.

You may exchange US dollars and traveller's cheques at Paro Airport on arrival, banks in Thimphu (during the banking hours on Monday through Friday) and the counters in the larger hotels. The best way is to bring a mixture of cash and travelers cheques in major currencies such as USD, CAD, EUR, or AUD to be exchanged here. Carry a mixture of large and small denominations in cash so you do not have to loose money because you couldn’t get the change. Since, all meals are already included in the paid-for itineraries, the only expenses the tourists need to make are the personal expenses that can include drinks, laundry, and shopping.  While everyone may have a different idea on how much to spend and what to buy, usually tourists end up shopping more than they had intended.

Bhutan has a cash economy. Large hotels and major handicraft emporiums only accept credit cards, but they do incur a service charge. It is not possible to do ATM withdrawals and Credit card cash advances in Bhutan. BTN is not exchanged outside Bhutan, but you can exchange your excess BTN for USD on departure, if you can produce the original exchange receipts. There is an American Express office in the capital and Amex is accepted in a few rare instances. At Thimphu, getting the money exchanged can be a very slow process, so get all the money you will need exchanged at once. Remember that your accommodation, meals, and transportation is already paid for, so you need money only for buying souvenirs and other personal expenses.  So, too much of BTN may result in your taking back souvenir cash later.

Custom Rules

The Bhutanese authorities strictly prohibit the export of antiques and items related to religious history of the country. As soon as you arrive, you will be handed a Custom Form at the Paro Airport to be filled up and handed over to the concerned authorities. Certain items are not allowed to be imported while some of them are exempted from custom duty but need to be mentioned in the form. This form will be duly checked on your departure and items that are not mentioned in it might need to be cleared before you can take them with you. The articles that are exempted from the custom duty are:

1. Two liters of alcohol, 400 cigarettes and/or 150 gms of pipe tobacco,

2. Instruments, apparatus, or appliances for professional use,

3. Personal affects and articles for day-to-day use by the visitors, and

4. Photographic equipment, video cameras, and other electronic goods for personal use.


You need to declare the possession of any instruments, apparatus, professional appliances, photographic equipments, video cameras, and/or electronic goods you have brought for your personal use in the Custom Form. Be aware that if you dispose of any such items in Bhutan by sale or the way of gifting, then you will have to pay custom duty on them.

The goods and items strictly prohibited in Bhutan and cannot be imported or exported to the country include:

1. All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs,

2. Antiques,

3. Arms, ammunitions, explosives, and military stores, and


All visitors and tourists should be cautious enough not to purchase any old and used items in Bhutan too as they will not be allowed to take them out of the country by the custom authorities. If you do buy such products, they have to be certified as non-antiques so that you can take them out of the nation. Similarly, importing plants, soils, and other such items is subject to quarantine regulations and they will need to be cleared on arrival. Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species.

Customs and Traditions

Bhutanese have unique lifestyle, manners, and customs that are still intact after thousands of years because of its continued policy of keeping itself isolated from the rest of the world.  Religion has a big role in the life of the people of Bhutan. Social conventions of Bhutan are very much influenced by the country’s state religion.  Buddhism and Bonism, the original religion of Tibet, have become so integrated with Bhutanese culture that they have become almost inseparable. Most of the Bhutanese people lead an agrarian lifestyle. Men and women share equal rights and there are no rigid clan systems in the nation. You will see all Bhutanese citizens wear national dresses in public, which is made compulsory by law since 1990. Men wear robes called gho while women wear kira in bright colors with ornate brooches and a wraparound skirt.

It is illegal in Bhutan to sell or buy tobacco products and smoking in public places is banned too. The religious leaders of the country have always had much of their say in the political affairs of Bhutan and have been political leaders in the past too. So, the lifestyle conforms to the religious beliefs mostly. The country had isolated itself for years to preserve its uniqueness of culture and to keep its traditions alive but has only recently opening up to the outside world. Bhutanese government, however, controls the foreign influence with a keen eye and is trying hard to keep it under control. This is the reason the old-world feel in Bhutan is still intact. Bhutanese inherit strange and peculiar customs that have their origin in the country’s history and mythological legends and folk tales of the country.

Giant phalluses painted outside the homes of otherwise conservative and reserved Bhutanese represent the Divine Madman, who is believed to ward off evil spirits. Tipping is very common in Bhutan. esp among rural folks,  and old people relish doma ( areca leave with betel nut and lime) very much. Dogs are treated with reverence in Bhutan as they are considered to be the highest animal life form, with the best chance of being reborn as humans; thus, you can see dogs run freely and noisily through Bhutanese villages and towns. Keep in mind that the King and royal family is respected very much throughout Bhutan and you should avoid any criticisms or negative comments on them while conversing with the local people. Always pass sacred sites and objects such as mani stones, stupa, or other religious objects with your right side nearest to the object. Prayer wheels should only be turned in a clockwise direction.

The Bhutanese people can perceive turning them in the wrong direction as a sign of disrespect. It is considered derogatory and disrespectful to sit on mani stones or stupa, so never do that. Before visiting any sacred site and temples, remember to remove your shoes and hats and wear respectful clothing.  Although it is not compulsory, but it is customary to offer a small donation to the monks and Buddhist statues and idols at the monasteries as a sign of respect and is considered as a means of developing a generous and spacious mind. It is not only disrespectful but also illegal to smoke at monasteries and other public places.

Electricity

Electricity supply in Bhutan is at 230 Volts and 50 Hertz (meaning it alternates at 50 cycles per second). While traveling to Bhutan, you may have to carry a voltage converter to use a device that does not accept this kind of supply. The three types of voltage converter you could use in Bhutan are:

  • Resistor-Network Converters: They can usually support high wattage electrical appliances and devices that need 50-1600 watts of electricity such as hair dryer and iron. They are lightweight too. However, they can only be used for short periods of time at once and are not recommended for digital devices.
  • Transformers: Transformers are heavy and can be used continuously for long periods of time but can be used only for low wattage appliances and devices that use just 50 or 100 watts of electricity such as battery chargers, radios, laptop computers, cameras, MP3 players and camcorders. They are made up of large iron rods and lots of copper wire.
  • Combination Converters: These converters offer both a resistor network and a transformer in one and can be switched to any mode with a flick of a switch. They can be a bit expensive but if you really need both types of converter, buy this one


Outlet shapes in Bhutan can usually accept three types of plugs:

  • Plugs with three round pins arranged in a triangle,
  • Plugs with two round pins, and
  • Plugs with two parallel flat pins and a ground pin


If the electrical devices and appliances you intend to use in Bhutan have plug of a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. If you tend or plan to travel frequently to Bhutan, you may find it useful to buy a plug adapter and a combination voltage converter for yourself.

Health Precautions for the Travelers

It is always advisable to research the current health conditions and issues in any region and the danger of contacting diseases there before leaving for a place. Knowing what might be there in store for you helps you to take full precautions and vaccinations in time, so you are safe and healthy throughout your trip. Here, we have mentioned some of the common diseases and health issues that are more prevalent in Bhutan than USA or other areas of the world:

  • AIDS
  • Altitude Sickness
  • Chickungunya
  • Cholera
  • Dengue Fever
  • Escherichia ColiDiarrhea
  • Filariasis
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • HIV
  • Insect-born Diseases
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Leishmaniasis
  • Malaria
  • Motor Vehicle Trauma
  • Onchocerciasis
  • Parasitic Diseases
  • Plague
  • Snake Bite
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Travelers’ Diarrhea
  • Tuberculosis
  • Typhoid Fever


Abstain from sex with the locals or use latex condoms to keep yourself safe from Hepatitis B, other STDs and AIDS. Yellow fever is quite rare and uncommon in Bhutan nowadays and you are at low risk here, but you may be asked to show the vaccination certification for the entry in the country. To prevent contacting contagious diseases in Bhutan, you should get following medical vaccinations done:

  • Diphtheria, booster dose as needed
  • Hepatitis A or Immune Globulin (IG)
  • Hepatitis B, especially if you are going to stay in Bhutan for over a period of time, have sexual contacts with local people, may be exposed to blood such as health care workers or getting some medical treatment there
  • Japanese Encephalitis, only needed if you are planning to visit a trip to rural areas for more than four weeks.
  • Measles, booster dose as needed
  • Polio
  • Rabies, if you may come in contact with wild or domestic animals because of your work or while traveling
  • Tetanus, booster dose as needed and
  • Typhoid is very important because some of the strains of causative agent there is quite resistant.


Medical care in Bhutan is substandard. Hospitals do not have latest technology at hand and only a limited number of beds. Heed to consular warnings against travel to the country and check for latest updates and advice regarding the health issues in the country before your departure.

Languages

Dzongkha is the official language of Bhutan and it is also the most common language spoken all over the country. The language is derived from the Tibetan language.  Dzongkha has same alphabets and similar way of speaking as the Tibetan language, but it uses a different script. Although Bhutan is a small country, its villages and valleys have remain separated and isolated with each other for centuries because of the torrential rivers, deep gorges, and difficulty in commuting between the places; thus, most of the Bhutanese valleys have developed their own dialects and as many as 19 dialects are spoken all over Bhutan.  Dzong-Kha is more popular in the west while Sharchop-Kha is spoken in the east. Nepalese immigrants settled in down south, continue to speak Nepali language. Bhutan Broadcasting Service in Thimphu broadcast news in all these three languages on short wave and FM.

The medium of instruction in schools in Bhutan is English, so most of the educated population can also speak English, especially most of the urban Bhutanese population can communicate well in English. In rural areas though, it may become difficult to find many people who speak English. Since Dzongkha does not use Roman characters, the pronunciation of many sounds in Dzongkha is difficult to produce in English.

Roads in Bhutan

To travel around Bhutan, you need route permits. The immigration office at Thimphu issues the permits. There are check posts in most of the districts situated east and north of Thimphu, where you will need to produce these documents before you can proceed.  Roads are user friendly and Bhutanese drivers are good at driving and are generally safe, although the roads across this mountainous country are generally rough and have lots of twists, turns, blind bends, and steep inclines.

It is best to avoid traveling long distances during the monsoon season from June to August.  The rock falls and landslides in this season are common in the mountainous terrain of Bhutan. If you must travel during monsoons, it is advisable to carry lots of bottled water and snacks along with your first-aid box because in an event of landslide, it may take some time for the road to clear out.

 

Also expect the hitch hikers, esp. away from Thimphu, because not many people own a car and few public transporters pass the road.

The highest motorable road in the country is situated at an altitude of 4000 m above sea level and takes you across Thrumshingla Pass. Due to the difficult topography of the small nation, Bhutan has no railway service.

Paro International Airport

Paro International Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. It is situated 6 km from the city of Paro. One of the highest airports in the world, Paro Airport is actually situated in a steep valley. It has only one runway and serves the only airline of Bhutan known as Druk Air, which is the national carrier of the country.

Druk Air has flights to and from seven cities in six countries. It owns the Paro Airport and has its hub there. Paro Airport has one passenger terminal, one cargo terminal and 2 aircraft stands. It has only one gate and four check-in desks.

Here is some basic info about Paro International Airport:

  • IATA: PBH
  • ICAO: VQPR
  • Airport type: Public
  • Operator: Druk Air Corporation Ltd.
  • Serves: Paro District
  • Elevation: 7,332 ft or 2,235 m
  • Latitude: 27°24'12 N
  • Longitude: 89°25'29 E
  • Runway Length: 6,445 ft or 1,964 m
  • Direction: 15/33
  • Surface: Asphalt

Post Offices

Bhutan has good and reliable postal services; however, delivery services in Bhutan tend to be concentrated in urban areas.  Along with the post office at Thimphu, there are agency mail offices and community mail offices that are scattered in remote and isolated areas across the country.

Community mail offices are often run by a government employee, a teacher, and/or any literate person in the village and cater to the postal needs of a village. Because of the limited transport infrastructure, postal deliver is quite difficult and coverage in rural areas is negligible. It can take as many as eight days to deliver a post to a distant mountainous district. Thus, Bhutan Post is working in making e-post available to all the Bhutanese people, as it will be much faster, reliable, and cheaper mode of communication. Electronic messaging is also expected to bring down operational costs of Bhutan Post to a considerable level.

The philatelists worldwide covet Bhutanese stamps. The first regular and unique postage stamp of Bhutan was issued on October 10, 1962. It was valid for both domestic and international use. The beautiful silk stamps of Bhutan with Thanka paintings on them and the unique circular grooved talking stamps that played the national anthem and folk songs on a record player soon became a craze all over the world and earned international popularity to Bhutanese stamps. The Philately of Bhutan has earned the country good revenue along with fame and reputation. Even those who are not much of a stamp collector or a philatelist loves to buy these stamps as souvenirs and can learn many new things from them. Bhutan Postal Services release six to eight new stamps per year based on important national, cultural, and traditional themes along with international popular themes.

Travel Safety Tips

Crimes are not common in Bhutan, although there can be petty crimes such as pick pocketing and purse snatching.
However, travelers need not worry about anything because your safety is our top priority and are always accompanied by trained guides and drivers and will move only across safe and secure roads.

Of note, if you are the victim of a crime in Bhutan or there has been theft or loss of your U.S. passport, report immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi for assistance. The Embassy’s consular staff can help you to understand the local criminal justice process, find an attorney, find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and transfer funds, if needed. They can assist you in dealing with the investigation and prosecution of the crime and dealing with the local authorities. Bhutan is prone to earthquakes, so heed and listen to local precautions.

Do not forget to take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel to Bhutan, as directed by your physician. Take measures to keep mosquitoes away such as using mosquito safety nets and mosquito repellent creams. Do not go barefoot and keep your feet clean and dry to avoid fungal and parasitic infections. Do not purchase food from vendors, do not share needles with anyone and do not drink beverages with ice. Drink only bottled water and eat thoroughly cooked food only. It is advisable to avoid crowded public places and public transportation. To avoid being a victim of motor vehicle trauma, which is very common in Bhutan, it is recommended to wear seatbelts and avoid night driving in the mountainous roads of Bhutan that have poor visibility and so many blind bends.

Shopping

Bhutan limits the number of tourists in the country and thus, it has a small handicraft industry too. You can buy handicrafts such as carpets, colorful masks, jewellery, silver, bronzes, hand-woven bamboo items, and Bhutanese wooden products at Thimphu as souvenirs and gifts for your family and friends. Hand made wooden bowls or dappa are ethnic and practical souvenirs. The two halves of these bowls fit together so tightly that they can be used to carry cooked food and you can use them as salad or cookie bowls at home. Dappa can be purchased anywhere in Bhutan but is considered a specialty of the Trashi Yangtse region. Similarly, bamboo reeds are woven into small baskets and are used just like dappas. They are the specialty of the south of Bhutan and come in beautiful designs.

Unique Himalayan beads that are oblong in shape and available in brown and cream colors are known as Dzi beads. Jewelry made of Dzi beads can be ver expensive and is considered precious, ever since wealthy Taiwanese people took a liking to them. There are cheaper fake versions of these beads and their jewelry is available in the market too.  Bhutan is famous for its stamps and has a worldwide reputation as the 'philatelist's paradise'.  Bhutanese stamps have detailed images and bright and vibrant colors.  Recently, collectors have been attracted to the series of Bhutanese stamps that pay tribute to Walt Disney characters. Other famous stamps that have been rated high by the philatelists include the commemorative stamp for the 1994 World Cup and the stamp that marked German Unification.

You can visit the Central Post Office at Thimphu and look at the collections and 'First-Day Issues' on sale there. Even if you are not into stamp collecting, the beautiful stamp collections in Stamp Collector's books can make unique presents for someone back home. You can also buy rich fabric; silk, handmade paper products, Buddhist paintings and thangkas, or religious paintings in Thimphu. You can find cheaper carpets at Tongsa, which is the best place to buy yatras too. Yatras or Yethras are colorful strips of woolen cloth, dyed with natural colors, that is used to make different fabric items ranging from blankets to jackets, bags and rugs. It is considered to be the specialty of the Jakar area. Bhutanese woven cloth is famous all over the world and can be used to make apparels, wall hangings, tablemats and rugs.

Bhumthang honey, jams, and comfitures are loved by connoisseurs and make original presents. You may want to buy traditional clothes as souvenirs such as Gho and Kira. Bhutan has a thriving liquor industry and Bhutan Mist is something, alcohol-lovers would like to taste. You may find print film in Thimphu, but slide film is difficult to find in Bhutan. You can grab some good deals at the picturesque and colorful weekend markets at the Farmer’s Centenary Market frin Friday through Sunday. Besides, traditional Bhutanese handicrafts, you may also find Indian jewelry here. Do not purchase antiques in Bhutan, as you are not allowed to take them outside the country.

Tipping

Tipping is not a standard practice in Bhutan, but there are no strict laws against it too. You may or may not want to tip the driver, porter, bell hop, maid, tour guide, or any other service provider depending on how much you were satisfied with the services they provided and how much you enjoyed your trip because of them. It is not compulsory to give out tips in Bhutan and you are the one to decide whether you were really treated and served well or not and whether they are worth rewarding.

Keep away from a sticky social situation by avoiding distribution of pens, pencils or chocolates to children or monks, as this frowned upon in Bhutanese culture. In hotels and restaurants, usually a standard service charge is levied on your bill but if you are really happy with the good service that they gave you, you can offer a tip to service staff. Normally, people pay tips after the work is completed but there are people who tip the staff beforehand to ensure a good service too.

You may tip a small amount to the room service attendant on the very first day of your stay in the hotel to ensure that they give you a better service but do not forget to tip them at the end of the stay, if they have really been attentive to you. Porters can be tipped certain amount per bag that they carry. Tipping driver is not too common, but if he has driven you safely and made your drive pleasant, you still reconsider.

Tour Guide

Tourist guides and tour escorts come with the package that you pay for before you get your visa approved to visit Bhutan. All the tourist guides in Bhutan, escorting the foreigners on their tours, have to be certified by Tourism Council of Bhutan. These tour escorts are knowledgeable and well-trained. Tour operators approved by the government arrange these tourist guides for you. You can request for guides speaking other languages too such as Japanese, Russian, French, German, Italian, or Spanish prior to your visit, although you may be charged extra for these specially-trained tourist guides.

Since the travel package that you choose includes accommodation, meals, transportation, and service of the tourist guides, you should not have to pay extra for the escort services, once you reach Bhutan. However, if you are really satisfied and happy with the services offered to you by a tourist guide escorting, you may offer him or her a tip, which depends on how much he or she contributed to make your trip enjoyable for you.
Do not hesitate to specifically ask your travel operator for an experienced and friendly tour escort because once you are in Bhutan, your tourist guide and escort will be the one helping you throughout the trip from telling you about places in an enjoyable manner to guiding you the best of all things, help you to grab the best deals and provide service to you 24 hours a day. Bhutanese tour escorts are generally well versed in people skills and are kind, warm and helpful. They have a good sense of humor too. When you are in doubt about local etiquettes and social customs, you can always ask your tour escort for the help.

Traffic safety rules

Bhutan is a mountainous country and its general road conditions are not very good. Roads connecting urban areas are well maintained but roads connecting rural areas are quite poor. Traffic is not a problem in Bhutan but emergency services on road or road assistance are rare and public transportation in Bhutan is not considered safe. However, it is compulsory to arrange trips through registered tour operators in Bhutan and payment has to be made before you enter the country as a tourist, so tourists will mostly travel in large groups and will not get to drive around much. They will not have to use Bhutanese public transportation too and will have experienced drivers to help them commute from one place to another.

Transportation is included in the itinerary they paid for before entering Bhutan. Bhutan has high mountains, steep slopes, and deep valleys. It has a fairly well developed network of roads, but it is not very extensive. The roads that connect major tourist sites are reasonably well maintained and paved. They generally have either single lane or two lanes. Driving on Bhutanese roads can be tiring and slow for some of the tourists as there are sharp curves and bends, narrow lanes and limited visibility, hence the emphasis on hiring experienced drivers.

There are as many as 6 or 7 bends in a kilometer and steep ascents and descents are major characteristics of the roads in Bhutan. It is recommended to drive on reduced speed, which on an average is never more than 30 km/hr, and to observe special caution. Except the Gasa district, all major towns in the 20 districts of Bhutan are accessible by road. Tourist buses are even slower for commuting purposes; however, you can enjoy spectacular views of towering mountains, glorious monasteries, ancient villages with their old-world feel intact and lush green forests. Roads can be bumpy and density of traffic is normally very low.

Travel Documents

All visitors to Bhutan need a valid passport to enter the country, except for Indians. Due to the special treaty with the Indian government, Indian citizens do not need a passport to enter Bhutan but they do need to carry some kind of identification such as a driver’s license or an election card. Indians do not need visa too and can come and go into Bhutan and travel anywhere as they like, but visitors from other countries must have an approved visa before they can arrive in the country. However, Indians traveling between Nepal and Bhutan do need a valid passport to cross the borders. The Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home and Culture Affairs, approves visas for the tourists and admits them only in groups.

All tourists to Bhutan must have pre-arranged itineraries that have to be paid in full before they are allowed inside Bhutan. The tourists can apply for visa directly or through travel agents in Bhutan. The rates you are charged before your visa is approved includes accommodations everywhere you will go, all meals, transportation, tickets and passes to all the cultural programs wherever it is available and services of porters and licensed guides. The Royal Government of Bhutan regulates and fixes the minimum daily tariff for the tourists. One can enter Bhutan only via India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Thailand. The Bhutanese government has closed the border that touches China.

All visitors to Bhutan, irrespective of the fact that they are Indian or not, have to complete the Customs Declaration Form at the entry check posts and hand them over to Custom authorities upon arrival. Immigration slip is an important document and you must keep it carefully as you will need to hand it over to the authorities at the time of departure. Without it, you won’t be allowed to leave. It is important to keep the receipts of all the things you purchase in Bhutan, as you may need to show them to get then cleared from the custom and take them with you. Bhutanese authorities are very strict about antiques and until you have proof certifying that an item is a non-antique, you cannot take a used or old item away from the country.

Travel Insurance

Buying a travel insurance to cover medical problems, theft, baggage loss, injury of any kind, emergency assistance and trip cancellation is highly recommended for Bhutan. The cancellation rules for Bhutan are quite severe and inflexible so the trip cancellation insurance is almost essential to purchase. Price of a travel insurance policy or how much it costs depends on your country of residence and benefits that you opt for. You may buy travel insurance policies online too but make sure that the credit or debit card information that you give is safe and secure and is not used for any other purposes by the insurance provider other than the transaction you have opted for.

They should have a secure payment gateway and encrypt their information so that other people cannot intercept or steal your card information. Read the fine print of the insurance policy you are buying carefully and mention that your country of permanent residence is the one mentioned where you would like to be send back to in the event of a medical emergency to receive long term medical care, if required. Most travel insurance policies do not cover expenses incurred within your country, so make sure you know that. Similarly, many travel insurers do not provide insurance coverage in cases of your loss due to war, terrorism acts and natural calamities. Make sure to know how long does your policy cover you, from what date to what date to be exact.

Many travel insurance policies do not provide refunds if you come back earlier than the period of travel mentioned in the policy. On the other hand, you may be allowed to extend your policy. So, if you are planning to go on a long trip, you may buy a policy for a shorter duration and extend it later, as per your convenience. Do ask whether pre-existing medical conditions are covered in your travel insurance policy or not. Many times you cannot make a claim based on some pre-existing conditions. Adventure activities and injuries due to them may be covered in your travel insurance policies but make sure that you have understood well what is covered and what is not covered in the policy you buy. In certain cases, travel insurers do not honor the claim if it is recoverable from an employers workers compensation insurance or the loss of cash. Read your policy well, so that you know what exactly you can claim for later. Similarly, the age limit for the policy may vary with your country of residence too.

Visa

Bhutan has a special treaty with India and Indian nationals or citizens do not need a passport or visa to enter Bhutan. All they need is to carry some form of identification along with them such as a driver's license, an election card or a passport. However, they do have to complete the Customs Declaration Form upon arrival in Bhutan and hand the documents to Custom authorities there. They get an immigration slip that they have to keep it carefully until their departure, when they will have to hand it back to the authorities. However, if the Indian nationals are commuting between Nepal and Bhutan, they do require a valid passport. Indian nationals can come and explore Bhutan as they like and bargain for Hotel rooms. They are allowed to go anywhere they like.

Foreign citizens or people from the rest of the world have different visa regulations that they need to follow to enter and explore Bhutan. Tourists can only visit Bhutan on a pre-arranged itinerary that includes hotel accommodations and transportation too. The tour can only be arranged by a recognized tour operator and has to be routed via the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). The itineraries have to be approved and paid for prior to the visit of the tourist, and then only the visa is cleared. The tour operator issues a visa clearance number to the tourists and the visa actually gets stamped on arrival in Bhutan. Visitors, who arrive by surface transport through the Dooars, get their visa stamped at Phuntsholing. The fee for foreigners is US $20 that is valid up to 14 days of arrival. Tourists will also need two copies of original passport size photographs at hand.

Getting a visa for Bhutan is not so difficult as it sounds and the limit on the number of tourists in the country has been lifted. Yet, the rules are stringent to minimize the threat to Bhutan's unique culture and you may have to pay about US$ 165.00 to US$ 200.00 per night depending on the time of year, including all the costs. The process is quite clear, efficient, and precise and a tour operator can tailor the itinerary to suit your interests easily. Your tour operator channels all visa applications through the Tourism Council of Bhutan and when the full payment is received and you get the approval.  Visas are issued on arrival in the country. All this documentation takes about ten days. Despite the popular myth, you cannot enter Bhutan via Jaigaon in India into Bhutan without a visa and you may need to pay as much as US$250 per night depending on the season including the hotel accommodation, if you are taking that route. Tourists need to know that the entry fee of US$ 20 is never included in the tour packages and itineraries that are offered to you and you have to pay it at the airport.

What to Eat

Most of the good Bhutanese restaurants are the ones found in the hotels themselves. The most preferable way to eat in restaurants of Bhutan inside a hotel is to opt for elaborate Buffet-style servings. Rice and vegetables with lots of chili, especially Ema-Datsi (National Dish consisting of chili and cheese) is the traditional and staple meal of the people of Bhutan. Bhutanese menus offer a wide variety of fresh vegetables such as cauliflower, fern, cabbage, potatoes, spinach and onions, red and white rice, meats, poultry and fish. Tibetan moms and noodle dishes are quite popular in Bhutan too.

However, professional Bhutanese chefs make their food more suitable for western palate by keeping the use of spices under control while preparing Continental and Chinese dishes. Besides the traditional Bhutanese food, you may also try Tibetan and Indian cuisines in Bhutan. In the wilderness of Bhutan, pork fat is quite popular because of its high-energy content but visitors may find it stale and inedible. Fresh cheese is a common ingredient used while cooking vegetables in Bhutan. Buckwheat replaces rice in central Bhutan and buckwheat pancakes and noodles in Bumthang region are famous. Suja (butter tea) and Ara (local spirit brewed from rice, wheat or corn) are common beverages in Bhutan.

You may find unusual ingredients in Bhutanese vegetarian dishes such as nettles, orchids and mushrooms. Bhutanese people love to chew doma, known as paan in India, but visitors may not relish it much. Food provided to travelers is generally bland as opposed to local food, which is very hot and spicy, but it is best to make your request clear before you order the food. Menu on a cultural tour is quite elaborate and often consists of:

  • For Breakfast: Canned juice with choice of orange, mango, pineapple, apple etc, Porridge/cornflakes/cereals, Fresh fruits, Sausages/bacon, Toast, butter and Jam, Eggs, Tea/coffee
  • For Lunch: Salad, Rice, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Roti/Nan, Desert, Tea/Coffee
  • For Dinner: Soup, Salad, Rice, Noodles, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Desert, Tea/Coffee
  • For Evening Tea: Tea/Coffee, Cookies/sandwich, Biscuits/pasteries


On a Trekking trip, you are usually served:

  • For Breakfast: Canned juice with choice of orange, mango, pineapple, apple etc., Porridge/cornflakes/cereals, Fresh fruits, Sausages/bacon, Eggs, Tea/Coffee
  • For Lunch: Vegetable cutlet/sandwich/boiled potato, Chicken roast/roast beef, Boiled eggs, Roti/Naan, Fresh fruits, Canned juice, Boiled drinking water
  • For Dinner: Soup, Salad, Rice, Noodles, 2 Non-vegetable items, 2 Vegetable items, Desert, Tea/Coffee

For Evening Tea: Tea/Coffee, Cookies/sandwich, Biscuits.

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Central Bhutan

TRONGSA:  Elevation 2,316m

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