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Your flights to Lukla from Kathmandu may be diverted to Ramechhap Airport. Here’s Why!

Your flights to Lukla from Kathmandu may be diverted to Ramechhap Airport. Here’s Why!

Bhutan Tour and Travel Information

Bhutan Travel Guide: Here’s Everything You need to Know about Bhutan

Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a country of magic, mystery, and marvel. Nestled in the eastern Himalayas, this tiny country beckons travelers with its breathtaking landscapes, a rich tapestry of history, unique culture, and amazing people. Bhutan is like no other country! Very few know that Bhutan is the first carbon-negative country in the world. Everything seems extraordinary in Bhutan; the temples exude a serene spirituality; the monasteries are architecturally mesmerizing; the dzongs offer a sense of timeless grandeur, and the landscapes are simply breathtaking. The unique and commendable mantra of Bhutan —High Value, Low Impact—is what makes Bhutan a unique destination.

Planning Your Trip to Bhutan: Visa requirements

Bhutan has different and specific visa requirements that contribute to its “High Value, Low Impact” tourism policy. You have to pay the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of US$ 100 (AUD 151) per day (previously the fee was $200 per person). Children aged 6-12 will have to pay US$50 (AUD 75) per day. Adding to this, you must pay a non-refundable, one-off visa application fee of US$ 40 (AUD 60). You can apply online by completing a 5-step application process, which is simple and straightforward. If you are traveling with a tour agency, this aspect will be taken care of on your behalf. Please note that the official Bhutan website has outlined the process and documents required for visa application as well.

Best time to visit Bhutan

You know it: Spring and autumn are the best time to visit Bhutan. Consider March, April, and May through September for your next Bhutan visit. October and November as well offer excellent weather conditions and enriching cultural experiences. January and February are colder but less crowded. December is when the “winter is coming” signs the onset of the off-season for Bhutan travel. Please remember that winter and monsoon seasons are big no-no for Bhutan travel.

Duration of stay recommendations

The recommended duration of your Bhutan travel depends on your interests and the experience you seek. A short visit offers a glimpse of the capital, Thimphu, and the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro. A longer stay allows for a more immersive exploration of Bhutan’s diverse region. You can choose to stay for a week, covering key destinations like Paro, Punakha, and Bumthang. Or you can sign up for a longer trek that takes you deep into its pristine landscape and secluded cultural gems. Snowman Trek is a popular extended adventure in Bhutan, spanning over 30 days. For a week’s visit, you can choose from a wide array of itineraries, like a 6-7 day Bhutan Cultural Tour with Day Hikes. It’s worth considering the unique festivals and popular hikes.

Getting to Bhutan: Flights to Bhutan and major airports

Did you know Bhutan has only one international airport (Paro International Airport) at Paro? Most travelers fly to Paro from Kathmandu (Nepal), New Delhi (India), and Bangkok (Thailand). Dhaka (Bangladesh), Singapore, and Yangoon (Myanmar) are other departure points to fly to Bhutan. While Paro International Airport is the only international airport, there are a few domestic airports like Yongphulla Airport, Bathpalathang Airport, and Gelephu Airport.

Overland routes and transportation options

Is it possible to travel to Bhutan overland by road? Well, yes. You can travel to Bhutan from India by road via two entry points: Phuentsholing entry point and Samdrup Jongkhar entry point. Phuentsholing entry point is the popular one that shares its border with the Indian state of West Bengal. Located in the southeast, Samdrup Jongkhar shares its border with the Indian state of Assam. Overland travelers, through this entry point, experience the cultural and topographical diversity of eastern Bhutan. Few travelers actually opt for overland travel to Bhutan.

Bhutanese Culture and Traditions: Understanding Bhutanese customs and etiquette

A traveler from the USA or Australia in Bhutan may experience culture shock as traditional greetings, spiritual rituals, and a profound connection to nature characterize Bhutanese customs. But as long as you respect their culture, dress decently, and embrace the warmth of Bhutanese hospitality, you will only want to spend more days in Bhutan. Bhutanese etiquette strongly emphasizes respect and humility. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts.

      Do’s

  • Greet politely with a courteous greeting and a bow-like salutation. “Namaste.”
  • When visiting public places and religious sites, dress modestly, covering your arms, shoulders, and knees.
  • Never enter homes, temples, or other indoor spaces with shoes on.
  • Always seek permission before photographing anyone.
  • When spinning the prayer wheels, spin it in a clockwise direction.
  • When interacting with locals, make sure to use polite words, smile, and conduct yourself with kindness and respect
  • If possible, wear traditional Bhutanese dresses.

      Don’ts

  • Don’t ever show public displays of affection, as it is considered inappropriate.
  • Don’t disturb wildlife, and adhere to guidelines.
  • Keep noise levels to a minimum, especially in sacred places.
  • Avoid engaging in sensitive political discussions.
  • Don’t climb sacred places and peaks.
  • Never point your feet at someone
  • Refrain from using hats and sunglasses inside religious places.

Festivals and events: A cultural calendar

You will be surprised to know that Bhutan’s cultural calendar is full of colorful and lively festivals called “tsechus.” These events celebrate the teachings of Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Bhutan, through masked dances, religious rituals, and vibrant processions. The Paro Tsechu and Thimphu Tsechu are two of the most significant festivals, drawing locals and tourists alike. Beyond tsechus, Bhutan hosts various events, including traditional archery competitions. Let’s look at some of the Bhutanese festivals:

  • Paro Tsechu
  • Thimphu Tshechu
  • Punakha Drubchen
  • Punakha Tshechu
  • Jambay Lhakhang Drup
  • Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu
  • Haa Summer Festival
  • Matsutake Festival
  • Nimalung Tshechu
  • Black-Necked Crane Festival
  • Mongar Tshechu
  • Trashigang Tshechu

Exploring Bhutanese Cuisine: Traditional Bhutanese dishes to try

Ema Datshi, Shakam Paa, Jasha Maru, Phaksha Paa, Shakam Datshi, Puta, Goen Hogey. The list of must-try traditional Bhutanese dishes goes on. Ema Datshi is the best of the best Bhutanese dishes with a fiery blend of green chili peppers and locally produced cheese. Basically, you will find a lot of Datshi in the menu. So what is it? Well, Datshi is a cheese-based dish with a mixture of cheese and chilies. Datshi is not just a dish; it’s a symbol of Bhutanese identity and cultural pride. Its preparation and consumption are deeply rooted in Bhutanese traditions. You can also try momo served with hot chili sauces.

Dining etiquettes

You must wash your hands before meals, and using utensils is preferred over eating with hands. If you are in a group, make sure to wait for everyone to be served before you start to eat. When offered, it is polite to at least taste the food, showing appreciation for the hospitality. As for popular local eateries, places like the Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant in Thimphu and Sonam Trophel Restaurant in Paro offer a blend of traditional ambiance and flavorful dishes. From savoring local delicacies to embracing dining customs, exploring Bhutanese cuisine becomes a journey of the senses, inviting you to connect with the kingdom’s cultural heritage through its diverse and delightful culinary offerings.

Accommodation in Bhutan: Types of accommodations available

In Bhutan, you can choose from a wide array of accommodation styles, from guesthouses to hotels and teahouses. Upscale hotels, often adorned with traditional Bhutanese architecture and modern amenities, offer luxurious retreats. While the guesthouse offers an authentic Bhutanese experience. Likewise, teahouses along the trekking route offer comfortable accommodation options. If you want to experience something different, you can try homestays, which involve staying with local families. Farm stays allow guests to immerse themselves in rural life, participating in farm activities, enjoying locally sourced meals, and gaining insights into Bhutanese agricultural practices. If you love to wake up to beautiful scenery, luxury resorts could be the best option for you.

Must-Visit Places in Bhutan

Bhutan is a treasure trove of amazing places. It’s no surprise that you can find 50+ best places to visit in Bhutan. Among them are the iconic Tiger’s Nest monastery, Thimphu- the royal capital, Paro-the last Shangri-La, Punakha- the lost capital, and the cultural heartland of Bhutan, Bumthang. If you are more into trekking and hiking, you must plan a visit to these treks: Jomolhari Base Camp Trek, Druk Path Trek, Snowman Trek, Laya-Gasa Trek, Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek and Nabji-Korphu Trek. For those seeking the least-explored gems, we recommend Haa Valley, Merak and Sakteng and Trongsa. Whether hiking to the iconic Tiger’s Nest monastery or traversing the dramatic Dochula Pass adorned with 108 chortens, each destination promises an unforgettable experience.

Practical Tips for Traveling in Bhutan: Currency and payment methods

It’s advisable to carry a mix of Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN) and Indian Rupees. In remote areas, card payments may be less prevalent. In city areas, credit card payments are easily accepted. Please note that you will have to cover 5% of the fee charges. Also, you can find ATMs in urban centers, but it may be different in remote areas. If you are trekking to remote areas, make sure to carry enough money with you.

Health and safety considerations

Bhutan maintains high standards of healthcare. If you are trekking to the mountain, altitude sickness can be a major concern. Make sure you are well aware of altitude sickness and prioritize acclimatization. Ensure that travel insurance is purchased that includes coverage for emergency evacuation and medical emergencies. Note that Bhutan has a low crime rate and is committed to sustainable and responsible tourism. One particular stress would be an outbreak of dengue and malaria. Therefore, before traveling, check for vaccination.

Communication and language tips

English is widely spoken in major parts of Bhutan. However, learning a few basic Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan can enhance your interaction with locals. Bhutanese people are known for their warmth and friendliness, so don’t hesitate to engage in conversations. SIM cards for local mobile networks are available for tourists, providing convenient access to calls and data. Being open-minded, patient, and embracing the cultural nuances will contribute to a more enriching travel experience. As long as you are welcoming, friendly, and smiling, there should not be any problems.

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