The national language is Dzongkha. English is widely spoken in major towns and is a medium of education in schools. Other widely spoken languages are Nepali, Bumthap, Sharchop and Hindi. There are a host of local dialects spoken in small pockets within the country.
The national currency in Bhutan is the Ngultrum (Nu). Prices are usually quoted in Ngultrum although US dollars are widely accepted and changed. You are recommended to carry cash in either currency or travellers’ cheque. You can withdraw cash in local currency from Bank of Bhutan ATM facilities with VISA and MasterCard. However, most of the antique and textile shops around Thimphu and Paro take VISA and a few AMEX. Regrettably Ngultrum cannot be reconverted to USD so best to limit the amount changed.
Traditional Bhutanese cuisine is very rich and renowned for the plentiful use of chilies. The most popular dish, Ema datsi, is comprised of chilies (used as a vegetable) in a cheese sauce. Hotels and restaurants generally serve Indian, Chinese, Continental and Bhutanese food.
It is safer to only drink mineral or boiled and filtered water. A reasonable variety of both hard and soft drinks are available in hotels, restaurants and shops in most towns. Many Bhutanese enjoy drinking traditional homemade alcoholic brews made from wheat, millet or rice.
In the recent years, Bhutan got few international Hotel chains like Amanresorts, Taj and Uma. Besides these international hotels, the standard of accommodation remains relatively basic, particularly away from the major western towns. Most places are simple but clean, and service is slow but friendly.
All towns in western Bhutan have a reliable power supply. Elsewhere, access is less consistent, and electricity is not available in most outlying remote villages of the country. The voltage supply is 220/240, the same as India.
The main health risks are similar to other South Asian countries, namely diarrhea, respiratory infection or more unusual tropical infection. Although vaccinations are not required they are recommended. When trekking there is also risks associated with altitude sickness and accident. In the event of health problems there are basic hospital facilities in each district headquarters.
It is suggested that you assemble a traveler’s medical kit appropriate to destination, length of trip and general health. On a tour in Bhutan, there are long drives, and roads are winding so medication for motion sickness is strongly suggested. You should also pack an adequate supply of any prescribed medications you may require while traveling.
Travelers who plan to visit Bhutan should consult a physician about high-altitude travel. After a brief period of acclimatization, most people do not suffer from altitude sickness. Elderly travelers or those with high blood pressure or heart conditions need to exercise caution at high altitudes.
It is highly recommended that you purchase trip insurance from a travel agent or insurance provider to cover any cancellation eventualities including cancellations based on medical grounds, professional commitments and/or travel interruptions.
The crime rate is currently extremely low, making Bhutan one of the safe places in the world. It is rare to feel insecure within the country.
All major towns have basic communication facilities, including post, telephone, fax and telegraph. Television and internet were introduced in 1999, and can be accessed in major western centers.
Bhutan Telecom has now reached countrywide mobile telephone coverage, however the mountain passes in-between is not in a coverage area. GSM 900/1800 coverage is now available in Bhutan, too. If you are carrying GSM 900/1800, it is fairly easy to get SIM cards for your mobile from any major towns.
Comfortable transport is available in Bhutan making journey in this mountainous terrain really pleasant. Toyota and Hyundai SUVs, Toyota Coaster Buses and Mini vans are provided for your journey in the kingdom depending upon the group size. Your own car with your own guide and driver will accompany you throughout your journey until your departure.
The most popular tourist purchases are traditional Bhutanese arts and handicrafts. Produced by skilled artisans, these are generally of a high quality, and include Buddhist paintings and statues, textiles, jewelry and wooden bowls and carvings. Bhutan is not a consumer society, and the variety of everyday goods available is not particularly large.
What to pack
Druk Air limits you to one checked bag at a maximum weight of 20kg for economy class and 30kg for business class, and hand luggage must not exceed 5kg. Clothing requirements vary greatly depending on the season. Light, loose clothing is recommended for summer days with evenings requiring a sweater or jacket. From autumn through winter to spring warm clothes are required. During these times, long underwear worn under trousers combined with multi layering on top and fleece or down jackets, plus gloves are recommended. Comfortable sports shoes are ideal for light touring while hiking boots are recommended for anyone wishing to undertake a trek.
Sunglasses, hat, camera, films and accessories, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, scissor, sun cream, lip balm, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhea pills, a preparation for the relief of sunburn are also recommended.
Customs and Immigration
Visitors are required to fill up the Custom Form handed to you in Drukair flights. The form should be hand over to the immigration desk on arrival.
Following articles are exempted from duty:
a). Personal affects and articles for day to day use by the visitor.
b). 1 litres of alcohol, 200 sticks of cigarettes or 30 cigars, 150 gms of pipe tobacco.
c). Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use.
d). Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.
The articles mentioned under c) & d) must be declared in Custom Form. If such items disposed off in Bhutan by sale or by gift, they are liable for custom duty.
Import and Export of following goods are strictly prohibited:
a). Arms, ammunitions, explosives and military stores.
b). All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs.
c). Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species.
Also visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items. Custom authorities will not allow any old and used items to be taken out of the country if they have not been certified as non-antiques. Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival.
Bhutan’s landscape, buildings and people are some of the most photogenic in the world. While photographing local people, it is always better to take permission first. Taking picture inside the Dzongs and monasteries is strictly prohibited. However, there is no restriction on photographing Dzongs and monasteries from outside. If you are uncertain about whether or not photography is permitted, please check with your local guide.
All our journeys are escorted by well trained, knowledgeable guides who are certified by Tourism Council of Bhutan. We generally provide English speaking guides. However, services of Japanese, French & German speaking guides can be provided with advance information and on an additional cost.
Bhutan’s National Carrier, Drukair, operates flight from Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Dhaka, Guwahati and Bodh Gaya. For detailed information about airline, schedule and tariff, please refer to its website : www.drukair.com.bt
Entry and Exit to Bhutan is also possible through Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jonkhar and Gelephu by land which are the three towns sharing border with Indian State of Assam and Bengal. Bagdogra airport, in the state of West Bengal and Guwahati airport in Assam in India are the nearest airport about five hours drive from Phuentsholing and two hours’ drive from Samdrup Jongkhar respectively. Also Bagdogra (and its main town Siliguri) is the convenient point for visiting West Bengal region of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and state of Sikkim.
Badrapur (about 5 hours drive from Phuenstholing) and Birat Nagar (about 7 hours drive from Phuenstholing) are two other airports in Nepal, connected with regular flights from Kathmandu.
Bhutan is an all-season destination with a climate that varies widely from region to region. The dry autumn and winter months (from September to mid-March) offer warm days with temperatures ranging from approximately 16 – 18°C (60 – 64°F) when the sun is shining. Evenings and early mornings are cool with overnight temperatures falling to around freezing. The spring season (mid-March to June) offers warmer temperatures of around 27 – 29°C (81 – 84°F) during the day which fall to approximately 18°C (64°F) at night. During the summer, (June to September) days are clear and warm with temperatures of around 23°C (73°F). Afternoon showers dispel some of the heat and temperatures fall to around 15°C (59°F) at night.
Average Temperature (In Degree Celsius)
Source: Meteorology Unit, Department of Power, Ministry of Trade and Industries, Thimphu,
|PUNAKHA / WANGDUE-PHODRANG||17.0
Distances & Driving Time between places of Tourist Interest
The motorable roads are well maintained and connect most of the places. However the mountainous terrain and winding road restrict the average driving speed of vehicle to about 35 km per hour.
|From||To||Distance (Km)||Driving Time|
|Paro||Thimphu||55 km||2 hours|
|Paro||Haa||70 km||3 hours|
|Thimphu||Phuentsholing||180 km||6 hours|
|Thimphu||Wangduephodrang||76 km||3 hours|
|Thimphu||Punakha||70 km||3 hours|
|Punakha||Wangduephodrang||17 km||45 min|
|Punakha||Gangtey (Phobjikha)||70 km||3 hours|
|Gangtey (Phobjikha)||Trongsa||125 km||4.1/2 hours|
|Wangduephodrang||Trongsa||129 km||5 hours|
|Trongsa||Bumthang||68 km||3 hours|
|Bumthang||Mongar||198 km||7 hours|
|Mongar||Lhuentse||76 km||3 hours|
|Mongar||Trashigang||91 km||3 hours|
|Trashigang||Chorten Kora||52 km||2 hours|
|Trashigang||Samdrup Jongkhar||180 km||7 hours|
|Samdrup Jongkhar||Guwahati (Assam, India)||110 km||3 hours|
|Samdrup Jongkhar||Phuentsholing||400 km||10 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Bagdogra (West Benal, India)||165 km||4.1/2 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Siliguri (West Bengal, India)||155 km||4 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Darjeeling (West Bengal, India)||200 km||6 hours|
|Phuenthsoling||Kalimpong (West Bangal, India)||185 km||5 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Gangtok (Sikkim, India)||220 km||7 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Dooars (Chalsa) (West Bengal, India)||110 km||2.1/2 hours|