An Enchanted Kingdom
Bhutan or the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ may have shed centuries of self imposed isolation but it keeps reinventing itself as a unique nation with an identity of its own. Today, we are the world’s youngest democracy, gifted to the people by our beloved Fourth King himself. Our guiding development philosophy is Gross National Happiness.
Tradition, culture and the environment are zealously guarded and religion is a way of life. Bhutan ranks among the world’s top travel destinations but very few visitors make the journey. It has to do with the Kingdom’s ‘high value, low impact’ tourism policy, designed to preserve the nation’s rich cultural heritage. Those who visit might discover a land and a people set in a rare balance of modernity and tradition, beauty and harmony.
BHUTAN IN A NUTSHELL
|Area||38,394 sq. km.|
|National tree||Cypress (cupresses corneyana)|
|National flower||Blue poppy (meconopsis gakyidiana)|
|National animal||Takin (budorcas taxicolor)|
|National bird||Raven (corvus corax tibetanus)|
|National day||17 December|
|Currency||Bhutan’s Ngultrum (Nu)) is at par with Indian Rupees (INR).|
|Credit Cards||Most hotels and shops catering to tourists accept Traveler’s cheques, American Express and VISA credit cards.|
|Electricity||220 – 240 volts. 50 cycles AC, the current is variable.|
The Royal Government of Bhutan since the inception of tourism in 1974 has adopted a very cautious approach to tourism growth and development. The Bhutanese tourism industry is based on sustainability. The Principle being – ‘Tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly; socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable’.
As per the Kingdom’s policy – all tours in the country are in the form of an ‘all inclusive package tour’. Independent travel is not permitted and tours need to be booked through a tour operator. The ‘all inclusive package tour’ includes – accommodation in tourist standard hotels and lodges, meals, transportation, guides and museum fees. There are no restrictions on the number of persons traveling to Bhutan. Even individual travelers are welcome.
By Road: You can enter Bhutan through three places – Phuentsholing and Gelephu in the South and Samdrup Jongkhar in the southeast. Bagdogra airport, in the state of West Bengal (India) is the nearest airport about five hours drive from Phuentsholing. Also Bagdogra (and its main town Siliguri ) is a convenient point for visiting the West Bengal region of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and the state of Sikkim.
By Air: Bhutan’s only International airport is located in Paro, western Bhutan. Bhutan’s national airline Drukair operates regular flights from New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Mumbai, Bagdora, Bodgaya (seasonal), Kathmandu, Dhaka, Bangkok and Singapore. Bhutan Airlines operates from Bangkok, Kathmandu, Kolkatta and Delhi. Domestic flight is available for Bumthang, Trashigang and Gelephu and is operated by Drukair.
Visa is required for all visitors to Bhutan except for the regional tourists holding valid passports from India, Bangladesh and Maldives. Indian nationals can also visit Bhutan with valid voter’s card. A scanned copy in colour of the photo page of original passport (valid for atleast 6 months during the time of visit in Bhutan) should be sent through email to enable us to apply the visa and inland travel route permit on your behalf to the concerned government agencies of Bhutan.
Visa is approved upon confirmation of the tour payment and a visa clearance number is issued by the Department of Immigration under the Ministry of Home & Cultural Affairs. Without this visa clearance number, tourists cannot board the flight or enter the country. The copy of this visa clearance is forwarded to the concerned Drukair stations and other entry points by the concerned Department. We also send the same copy to tour operators/tourists for their reference and it is highly recommended to carry a copy of your approved visa. This is required to be produced during check in at the respective airline counters as well as to the immigration authorities upon arrival in Paro international airport and other ports of entry.
Favorable time to visit Bhutan
This can be planned throughout the year, but best months are March, April, May, September, October and November. There are several festivals taking place during these months, offering an added attraction. Winter in Bhutan is from mid November to mid March and at this time of the year, climate is dry and sunny for the most parts with perfect blue sky, temperatures peaking at around 15 degree Celsius in the daytime and falling below zero at night. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with light rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings.
Food and Drinks
Bhutanese food is generally good. Set meals for travelers tend to be on the bland side, because local food is heavily seasoned with red chilies and can be quite spicy. However, the more adventurous ones can try the local delicacies like the tasty and fiery national dish of Bhutan – Emma datshi which is made with chilies and local Bhutanese cheese. Most hotels provide meals buffet-style. These are usually Continental, Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese dishes. The food in hotels is often the best in town, but in main towns now there are few restaurants increasingly becoming popular. All tourist hotels have good selection of International and Bhutanese beverages.
Clothing and Accessories
Comfortable clothing and sturdy, soft-soled shoes are essential for travel in Bhutan. Warm clothing is recommended; except for summer months, down jackets and woolen sweaters are suggested. In summer, heavy cotton and lightweight woollens will be acceptable. Altitudinal differences account for a wide range of temperatures from day to night the year round. It is, therefore, suggested that clothing be layered so that you can adapt to the changing conditions.
Bhutanese currency is Ngultrum (Nu.). The Ngultrum is officially pegged to the Indian Rupee. Indian Rupee is acceptable all over Bhutan except for Rs. 1000 and Rs. 2,000 denominations. As of date, only American Express card, Maestro and Visa Cards are acceptable in the country and that too by very limited service establishments. We would also like to recommend all the travelers to bring along sufficient cash / travelers cheque for personal/shopping expenses.