1. What is the Tourism Policy of Bhutan?
Since, 1974 Bhutan has followed a policy of cautious growth a ‘high value, low volume’ tourism policy. Tourism has been monitored in Bhutan to some extent, so as to preserve the traditional culture and identity. The tourism industry in Bhutan is based on the principle of sustainability which means that tourism is ecologically friendly, environmentally, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable. Tourists have been required to travel with licensed Bhutanese tour operators accompanied by licensed guides, accommodated in licensed accommodation, travelling on defined routes and paying a minimum daily rate.
2. When and how to travel to Bhutan?
Bhutan has season for everyone.
Spring (March, April, and May) – The time for festivals in Paro, one of the largest monastic festivals, Paro tshechu (festival) take place. Season for trekkers in moderate altitudes. The temperature is pleasant mild even up to Alpine regions.
Summer (June, July, August) – This time of the year is monsoon, but this should not deter travelers. In the settled areas of central and western Bhutan pleasant summer temperatures without heat or humidity can be experienced. Rainfalls for short period daily but its manageable with adequate planning and equipment.
Autumn (Sept, Oct, Nov) – The traditional high season in Bhutan have the highest number of festivals. Trekkers enjoy the clear view of the mountains in October and low rainfall. Rice harvest means a picturesque landscape, remarkable terraces and changing colour.
Winter (December, January, and February) – The dry and pleasant conditions make this the best time of the year for bird watching in the jungles, village to village trekking in the lower altitude or a bicycle trip along the mountain roads is one way to spend a perfect holiday.
3. Do I need a passport? Do I need a visa for Bhutan?
Yes, you will require passport to travel to Bhutan and validity of at least six months beyond your intended stay.
All visitors traveling to Bhutan are required to obtain a visa except for Indian nationals holding a valid passport / voters ID card. For Indian nationals a valid Indian passport or voters ID card is required if you are traveling or flying into Paro International Airport/ and if you are traveling by road from the border town Phuentsholing you will have to carry a valid voters ID card or valid Indian passport & 3 copies of passport size photographs.
For school student or children – Birth certificate is required or Valid Passport (any one)
Note: Driving License / Pan Card / OCI card is not accepted as travel document in Bhutan.
Visa fee for foreign nationals
The cost of the visa fee for Western tourist or US dollar paying is US$ 40 per person is collected along with the tour payment. Approved Visa letter will be sent through email and the same copy will have to be carried along with you and produce it at the Druk Air check in counter or at the port of entry. Your visa will be stamped on your passport at the point of entry. You cannot obtain your visa prior to your arrival in Bhutan. (Bhutanese Foreign Missions based abroad do not issue tourist visas). Any passenger without valid or approved visa copy will be denied at check-in counter and Druk Air will not be liable for any claims.
4. How & from where do I enter Bhutan?
By Air (Entry & Exit)
Druk Air www.drukair.com.bt is the only national carrier which operates from the following cities:
DEL-New Delhi, India
CCU-Kolkata (Calcutta), India
Domestic airports within Bhutan
Bumthang (central Bhutan), Young pula (eastern Bhutan), Geleyphu - southern Bhutan.
Paro airport is the only international airport in Bhutan at the moment (PBH)
By Road (Entry & Exit)
• Phuentsholing (South West Bhutan) connects with Siliguri | Darjeeling | Kalimpong | Sikkim | Jaigoan (West Bengal) .
• Geleyphu (Central South Bhutan) - Guwahati & West Bengal
• Samdrup Jongkhar (Eastern Bhutan) - Guwahati (Assam) & North East India
5. How can I purchase air tickets?
You can purchase Druk Air www.drukair.com.bt tickets from Bangkok / Singapore/ Kathmandu / New Delhi / Kolkata / Bagdogra / Guwahati
Bhutan Airlines www.bhutanairlines.bt
6. How much does it cost to visit Bhutan?
Applicable to western tourists - The price of the tours is set by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
7. What is the fare for Druk Air?
For Druk Air airfare, contact or visit www.drukair.com.bt or Bhutan Airlines http://www.bhutanairlines.bt/
8. Where does to royalty / taxes (Development Tax/Welfare Levy) go?
The Bhutan Government’s development philosophy as GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS (GNH) crafted by His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuk and Bhutan known for its good governance makes proper and monitored use of the taxes. The major part of the taxes is used in building social infrastructures like hospitals, school and basic heath units. Bhutan provides free education and free health services.
9. Can I have an exclusive tour, family tours, private tour or customised tour?
Yes, the tour itineraries are designed in such a way that meets your specific requirements. We do not group you together with other tourists, you can travel exclusively all by yourself. You can even decide who will be in your group, and you will have your own English-speaking guide, driver, and transportation.
10. Are there any discounts available?
There will be no charge for children aged 5 and younger.
Children between the ages of 6 and 12, there are 50% discount when accompanied by an adult/guardian.
11. How far in advance do I have to sign up for the tours?
The tour booking must be completed within 6 weeks in advance, but for tours during the festivals, booking must be completed at least 3 – 4 weeks in advance. The peak season month (March, April, May, Sept, Oct, Nov), it is advisable to remit payment for Druk Air flights 3 months in advance and for hotels 2 months. This will help us to obtain confirmed seats on the requested flights and for hotels too
12. What are the accommodations like?
We use what we consider to be the best accommodations in Bhutan approved by Tourism Council of Bhutan minimum stay would be in a 3 Star and 4 Star hotel & resorts (with the exception of the new international and national high-end resorts - Amankora Resorts, Uma Paro, Gangtey Goenpa Lodge, Le Meridien, Taj Tashi, Zhiwaling Hotel,Termalinca, which can be booked and supplement charges will be applicable).What you can expect ? The 3 Stars and 4 Stars star hotels in Bhutan have been certified and approved by Tourism Council of Bhutan . Well appointed rooms, clean, comfortable, offering a warm welcome, friendly smile and restful haven that are much appreciated after a day of cultural exploration. Your hotels in Bhutan will provide you pillows, blankets, sheets, towels, bathroom tissue, and soap. You have to take your own toothbrush, toothpaste, lotions, and other items. All the hotels & resorts, lodges and guesthouses are equipped with telephones, internet (wi-fi), fax machines and international dialling facility, hot & cold water, room heaters, cable television, tea/coffee machine (some resorts do not provide television in rooms depending on their location or theme). Most of the hotels & resort that you will be accommodated are of the Bhutanese standard and cannot be compared to international standards - except for the high end international brands available.
13. How can I pay for my tour? What Currency do I have to pay in? Can I use my credit card?
Tour Payments in US (dollar) can be Wire-Transferred to us through various correspondent banks from abroad.
You can make tour payments through correspondent banks in Indian to Bhutan.
Indian Rupee is equivalent to Bhutanese currency (Nu).Ngultrum – (Rs.1.00 = Nu.1.00).
Credit cards can be used in most of the hotels – ATM facilities are available in almost all places. (Master & Visa cards)
Note: at the time of booking we will share you the correspondent bank details for making the tour payment..
14. What will the food & beverage be like or dining out?
Almost all restaurant serve Bhutanese, Indian, Continental, Thai and Chinese. There are many cafe's in capital city. The main staples of the Bhutanese diet are rice (red or white) and chilies. One dish favoured by most Bhutanese is called “Emadatsi,” which is chilies and cheese. Meat is widely eaten in Bhutan, as are vegetables. Bhutanese food is spicy, since many dishes are made with chilies, but you can order your palate as per your taste and choice. Beverages locally produced beer and whiskey the local brew called ‘Ara’ that is distilled from rice, barley or wheat is also popular with visitors.
15. What is the language of Bhutan?
The official language in Bhutan is Dzongkha, though many regions have retained their own dialects due to their isolation. English is the medium of instruction in schools, and it is widely spoken by those who have received education.
16. Do I have to worry about altitude sickness in Bhutan?
The altitude in Bhutan is higher than many people are used to. Though most visitors will have no problem adjusting, altitude sickness may be a problem for certain people. Our cultural tours do not reach altitudes higher than 3,500 meters. All of our treks reach at least 3,500 meters, and some of our treks go as high as 5,000 meters.
17. What is the currency in Bhutan?
The currency in Bhutan is called the Ngultrum. It is linked and equal in value to the Indian rupee, which is also accepted in Bhutan. You cannot purchase Ngultrum prior to arriving in Bhutan, but you can easily buy Ngultrum at the Paro airport, at Bhutan National Bank and the Bank of Bhutan, and at major hotels in Thimphu and Paro, all of which accept traveler’s checks and/or dollars and various other currencies. When visiting smaller towns, however, you should bring Ngultrum for your purchases, as it may not be possible to exchange your currency.
Note: Denomination of Indian rupee Rs.50, Rs.100, Rs.500, Rs.1000 is widely accepted in Bhutan.
18. Can I use my credit card in Bhutan? Are there ATMs in Bhutan?
Credit cards are accepted only at a few high-end tourist shops. There are ATM machines available in Bhutan –you can use Master & Visa Card at Bank of Bhutan ATMs.
19. What is the time zone in Bhutan?
Bhutan has only one time zone. It is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), 30 minutes ahead of India, 15 minutes ahead of Nepal, and one hour behind Thailand.
The country code for Bhutan is 00975.
20. Is it safe to travel to Bhutan?
There is very little crime in Bhutan, and it is safe for women travellers and single traveler.
21. Do you provide travel insurance?
No, we do not provide travel insurance.
22. What if I need to cancel my trip?
Yes, you can cancel the trip if you need to.
The tour programs booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows:
a. Within 30 days of the start of the tour programme - Free
b. Within 21 days - 10% of the cost
c. Within 14 days - 15% of the cost
d. Within 7 days - 30% of the cost
e. Less than 7 days or cancellation without notice - 50% of the cost
f. After arrival in Bhutan - 100%
23. What is the weight limit for luggage on Druk Air / Bhutan Airlines?
The limit is 20kg for economy class and 30kg for business class. It’s possible to pay for excess baggage, but there is a chance that the luggage will have to be sent on the next flight. Also, there is not a great deal of cabin space, so carry-on luggage should be kept to a minimum.
24. Why do I need a guide? Can I just tour on my own?
If you want to visit Bhutan, you must do so through a licensed Bhutanese tour company. You cannot tour the country on your own. And you cannot rent a car on your own. You are obligated to have a guide and a driver. This policy ensures that when you come to Bhutan, you will be immersed in a culture that has been carefully preserved.
25. How do you greet and address people in Bhutan?
“Kuzuzangpola” meaning “good health” is the most common way to greet a person. This greeting can be used throughout the day irrespective of whether it is morning, afternoon or evening. The royal family members are addressed Dasho (male) and Ashi (female). A minister and the deputy minister’s are called Lyonpo’s who wear orange scarf on their shoulders with a long ornamented sword worn from the waist on the right side. People whose ranks are above the post of a director in the civil service and who wears a red scarf (scarf given when honored by the King) are addressed as “Dasho” meaning the “best”. A junior monk is addressed as “Gelong”, a senior monk as “Lopon”, an elderly monk made in-charge of a monastery or a temple is addressed as “Lam” generally appointed by the “Je Khenpo” the religious abbot of the monk body. On the other hand, nuns are called “Anims”. Additionally, a re-incarnate lama is known as “Trulku” or “Rinpoche” and is regarded very highly. An older woman is addressed as” Aum” and a man as “Aap”. Address a boy as “buu” and a girl as “bum”. A layman is addressed as “Gomchen”.
26. What are the types of Permits required while entering Bhutan or any religious places?
Upon arrival immigration officers endorses the passport / identity card / voter’s registration card. Also please carry at least 3 passport size photographs. The permit can be extended by contacting the immigration office.
The following permits are issued to visitors:
The entry permit is an endorsement mentioned above and is done at the entry points in Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar and Geleyphu, if you are traveling by land. If you are flying into Bhutan the endorsement will be done at the airport. Children age 15 and below do not need permits.
Indian tourist or visitors who plan to travel to places, other than Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Paro (free zone), will have to obtain a route permit from the immigration office in Thimphu.
Please remember that not all places are open for tourists. However, most of the places are made accessible to tourist but with a special permit.
27. What type of clothing is required while traveling to Bhutan?
Bhutan has different climatic conditions so warm clothes are required during winter (pullovers or thick jackets) and in summer cotton clothes are preferably better and a light jacket.
28. Is photography permitted in Bhutan?
Yes, photography is permitted in Bhutan, as the natural scenery is breathtaking and you will definitely like to take pictures on all trips. Please note: photography in monasteries, shrine rooms of dzong and religious institutions is generally not permitted but outdoor photography is permitted or if you are not sure you can always ask your guide.
29. Who takes the responsibility and liability?
All mentioned tours shall be carried out under the management of Bhutan Travel Gate www.bhutantravelgate.com and reserves the right to make cancellations or other changes in the itinerary if any unseen circumstance arises. It shall not be held liable for any costs rising from airline delays, weather conditions, or rise in costs before payment due to alterations made by the hotel and airlines involved.
30.Is it possible to get local sim card?
Yes, it is possible to get free tourist prepaid sim card upon payment of Nu.100 and get Nu.100 worth talktime (30 days talktime validity). Free incoming calls and 3G preactivated. (B-mobile).