Introduction         Bhutan Information         Bhutan Travel Tips        Western Bhutan         Central Bhutan
Eastern Bhutan

Bhutan Travel Tips

 

Visas

All visitors to Bhutan must have a visa approved prior to arriving in the kingdom. Those who have not had a visa approved will not be permitted to board their Druk Air flight to Bhutan. A two-week visa costs US$20 and is stamped in your passport at Paro Airport during the immigration process. Visas are approved and issued prior to entry, with the prepayment of your travel itinerary. Therefore visitors to Bhutan need to finalize their travel plans well in advance. We recommend 90 days.

Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited (BTCL), PO Box 159, Thimphu, Bhutan, the oldest and most experienced of the Kingdom's agencies can apply for an extension of all tourist visas should a visitor wish to remain in the kingdom for longer than two weeks. All visa applications must reach the Thimphu, Bhutan office of BTCL at least 60 days prior to the intended arrival date, earlier if traveling to the Kingdom in the peak months of September, October, November, March, April or early May. Full passport details must be faxed to BTCL (011 975 2 323392, 322479) in order for the visa to be processed with the immigration authorities. BTCL will advise all visitors of their status before their intended departure date. Visitors are reminded to bring 2 original passport-size photographs with them to Bhutan as they will be required by the immigration authority at Paro Airport.
The actual visas are issued (stamped) in your passports at the entry points, either Paro Airport or Phuentsholing (land entry or exit).

Currency

Bhutanese currency is the ngultrum (nu). The approximate exchange rate is 45.00 nu for one US dollar (this will vary 1 or 2 nu, plus or minus) The ngultrum is on par with the Indian Rupee (both the Nu and Indian Rupee can be used in Bhutan). US Dollars and other world currencies as well as traveler's cheques can be exchanged at banks in the larger towns (hours 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, Mon to Fri) and at the larger hotels. In the capital town of Thimphu some of the smaller bank branches are open Saturday and Sunday for currency exchange. Ngultrum or rupees will be what you will need for your purchases while in the more rural towns and villages.

Back to the Top 

Customs Authority

The Bhutanese authorities strictly monitor the export of any religious antiquities or antiques of any kind from the Kingdom (100 years or older). Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items. Custom authorities will not allow items to be taken out of the country if they have not been officially certified as non-antique. Personal videos, cameras, personal computers, portable telephones or any other electronic device should be registered with the customs authorities on arrival at Paro and will be checked by the same on departure. Upon arrival you will be issued a "customs form" this form must be filled out, with declarations, and returned to authorities before leaving the kingdom. Import of plants, soils, etc., are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be declared on arrival.

Back to the Top 

Food

Spicy chilies (ema) mixed with a cheese sauce called emadatse is the national dish of Bhutan. Chilies are treated as a vegetable rather than a seasoning in the Bhutanese diet. A wide variety of fresh vegetables are a daily staple of the Bhutanese diet. Red and or white rice is served at all meals. Meats, poultry and fish (usually in the form of stews) are also found on many Bhutanese menus along with Tibetan momos and noodle dishes. Bhutan's professional chefs temper their natural tendency to over spice dishes by preparing food more suitable to western taste ranging from Continental to Chinese and Bhutanese to Tibetan and Indian.

Back to the Top 

Accommodations

Bhutan Tourism Corporation Ltd. owned hotels are one of the several delightful surprises visitors can expect in the Kingdom. The company operates hotels throughout Bhutan ensuring its guests a consistent style and comfort level throughout their stay. Each property is designed in the traditional Bhutanese style, yet each retains its own character and each is set in unusual and dramatic locations: from the Hotel Olathang in the foothills of the Paro Valley surrounded by blue pine forests to the Hotel Motithang (Bhutan's first hotel) overlooking Thimphu's skyline to Trongsa's Sherubling Lodge, with its alpine feel and remarkable vista over the golden roofs of Trongsa Dzong. A restaurant serving traditional Bhutanese cuisine tempered to western tastes can be found in all of the hotels. Many of the hotel chefs have been trained at hotel schools in Europe and are very comfortable preparing food to please the western palate. Meals are usually served in buffet style.

Hotel rooms are all decorated in a traditional Bhutanese style; many are quite reminiscent of mountain lodges. The rooms are cozy and well-heated during the winter. Bathrooms are clean and western in style with running hot water.

Most of the hotels and guest lodges are now equipped with international direct dial telephones and fax machines. International Direct Dial calls can be made to or from Bhutan to anywhere in the world. Cell phones as of yet are not operable in Bhutan. Hotels not owned and operated by BTCL can also be arranged on request.

Back to the Top 

Climate

Bhutan's climate ranges from tropical in the south, to temperate in the center of the country, to cold in the north...and like much of your adventure in the Himalayas it will be quite unpredictable. The weather can vary dramatically from place to place and can vary equally dramatically from day to day or within the same day. In the Thimphu and Paro valleys, the winter daytime temperature averages 60 degrees Fahrenheit during clear winter days but drops well below freezing during the night. Mid December to early January can be a beautifully clear and dry time in Western Bhutan. Late December through mid February is the period of heaviest snow fall in the higher elevations.

The fluctuations are not quite so great during the summer and daytime temperature often rises to the mid-eighties Fahrenheit. Punakha and the central valleys are lower than their Western neighbors and tend to always be a few degrees warmer. The higher peaks will be snow-covered all year. The higher passes, particularly Thrumshing La, between Bumthang and Mongar, can be treacherous during the winter as snow falls frequently and ices up the road. Light snow will often dust Thimphu and Paro in winter but infrequently will there be heavy snowstorms despite their location in the Central Himalayas.

The Summer monsoon from the Bay of Bengal affects Bhutan from late May to late September. Views over the Himalayas from the higher passes are usually obscured from June to August. There are notable advantages to visiting Bhutan during the wet season including the spectacular rhododendron blossom from March through May and the deep green valleys. Many species of wild orchids are in full bloom diring late summer season (August).


The Spring season in Bhutan can only be compared to a master artist's palette, truly a spectactular time. The autumn season, late September through November, is usually very mild and clear. The Fall colors surround and embrace your senses. The sky is usually at it's clearest, affording magnificent views of the Himalaya range.
The Spring and Fall seasons are traditionally the most popular times to visit the kingdom.

Back to the Top 

Drug-Air

One of the smallest national carriers in the world, Druk Air has a fleet of two BAe-146 (Whisper Jet) aircraft. An international team of flight attendants, trained by Thai Airways International add to the airline's credibility.

Druk Air is the only airline that serves Bhutan, so most visitors to Bhutan are introduced to the kingdom in its care. Few are disappointed. The final leg of a journey to Bhutan begins in Calcutta, Dhaka or Kathmandu and involves a flight of no more than one hour - however it's an hour that travelers will always remember. As the airplane rises towards the foothills of the Himalayas, the mountains rise to eye-level with the aircraft. On clear days from Kathmandu, the airplane flies past the summit of Everest.


With that said the most convientient gateway city in terms of the most flights per week is Bangkok. Depending on the day of the week the flights departing from Bangkok will make one stop in either Calcutta or Dhaka. Total flight time 3.5 hours. Delays do occur on account of the changeable Himalayan weather. Travelers are advised to build an extra day or two in their itineraries in case of flight cancellations. Confirmation of travel during festival seasons (March, April, September, October) must be made at least three months in advance to ensure seats with the airline.
The aircraft has a seating capacity of 72. 10 Business Class seats and 62 Economy Class seats.

Back to the Top 

Archery

Archery is the much loved national sport of Bhutan. Each village has its own archery range, and it is impossible to imagine any festival taking place without a high-spirited competition. Contests take place year round. The distance between the two targets is about 120 meters. The targets are made of wood splashed with colorful patterns. Inter-village rivalry is common throughout the kingdom and this rivalry is no more fiercely expressed than during annual archery tournaments. They are generally held during Losar (Bhutanese New Year coinciding with February or March of the calender) but smaller competitions are held throughout the year.

The tournament's excitement begins the night before the contest. Teams employ astrologers to assist in the selection process and to cast spells on the opposition. Each team spends the night prior to the match together in an age-old tradition of sleeping in the barn or the forest, depending on the outcome of the astrologers calculations. Apart from improving team spirit, it is thought that a man should not spend the night before the tournament with his wife as his concentration may begin to waiver the following day. The tournament itself begins with initiation ceremonies and a traditional breakfast. Alcohol flows from early in the day and spirits are always high. As the day passes and the alcohol takes effect, the party becomes more and more raucous. Opponents whisper obscenities into their adversaries' ears and dance diversionary dances in front of the target. Women from each village participate in the fun by singing for their team and jeering at the opposing team.

Back to the Top 

Transportation

Mode of transportaion within Bhutan is by motor vehicles only. There are no domestic airlines or trains. However the main roads are well maintained. The main highway highway runs from west to east connecting all the major towns. The mountainous terrain and winding roads restrict the average speed of vehicles to less than 40 km.hr. During monsoon and winter months, wheather can disrupt travel and unexpected changes might occur in itineraries. Every effort will be made to stay as close to original travel itinerary as possible. For visitors wishing to enter Bhutan by road. The only land entry point is though the southern boarder town of Phuentsholing. Boardering West Bengal India. All visa and custom regulations apply.

Back to the Top 

Festival

The Festivals in Bhutan have reputations for being raucous, joyous affairs, but they are holy spiritual events with attendees gaining merit for the next life. Tshechus dedicated to Guru Rinpoche and are celebrated for several days, between three and five according to the location. The highlight are the classical , religious-based dances, and in some tshechus the viewing of the thongdrel (a huge and sacred thangka). In a few important dzongs, two large festivals take place each year; a Dromchoe, which is dedicated to Yeshe Gompo or Palden Lhamo, the two main protective dieties of the Drukpas.

The most popular for tourists are the tshechus held in Thimphu, Paro and Bumthang. They mark the busiest time of year for the tourism industry. Airplane tickets and hotel rooms are frequently difficult to come by. The dzongs come to life with color, music, and dancing as valley dwellers and townsfolk dress in their finest clothes and join together to exorcise evil spirits and rejoice in a new harvest. Rare masked sword dances and other rituals are performed in dzong courtyards and temples. Most of the dances date back from before the middle ages and are only performed once or twice each year. Each dance has its own spiritual importance and can be performed by monks or lay village elders dressed in bright costumes. Certain festivals end with the unveiling and worship of huge religious appliqués or throngdrels. The moment of the unveiling is shrouded in secrecy and creates great excitement among all the participants.
Tourists are allowed into the dzongs to watch the festivals, but are not allowed into the inner sanctuaries. Photography should always be discreet. It is generally allowed for photographs to be taken at tshechus but not at dromchoes.

Festival Dates :
Please note that all efforts have been made to confirm festival dates with Department of Tourism (DOT). In some areas, especially outside Thimphu and Paro, festival dates can change without notice. Therefore it is advisable to confirm dates for local festivals with the authorities concerned at the Dzongkhags (District Dzong) or through Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited. Please note that the festivals listed below are considered the larger and more well known. Small villages throughout Bhutan have their own local festivals that are too numberous to list here. All of the festival dates are based on the Lunar Buddhist Calendar and vary from year to year. Please note that 2003 festival dates have been issued by the Asssociation of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO) and all efforts have been made to confirm the festival dates, though a few remain indicative, and are subject to change without notice. 2003 festival dates are considered to be accurate. The 2004 festival dates are considered tentative at this point. The final dates will be up by summer. The tenative dates are close enough for planning purposes (dates usually vary by no more than one or two days).

Back to the Top 

Festival Dates 2003

Festival Dates (Tshechu and Dromchoes) and Holidays for 2003 Water female sheep year

Winter Solstice
January 3

Losar : The Water Female Sheep Year
Traditional Day of Offering : March 3 & 4

WATER SHEEP NEW YEAR
May 2

Birthday of Third King HM
Jigme Dorje Wangchuck
May 11

Shabdrung Kuchoe
June 2

Coronation Anniversary
June 14

Lord Buddha's Parnirvana
July 9

Birth Anniversary of Guru Rinpoche
August 2

First Sermon of Lord Buddha
August 7

Death Anniversary of Third King
Hm Jigme Dorje Wangchuck
September 23

Blessed Rainy Day
October 1

Dashain
November 11, 12, & 13

Birthday of Hm King Jigme Singye Wangchuck
November 16

Descending Day of Lord Buddha
December 17

National Day
December 29


Punakha, Western Bhutan


Punakha Dromchoe: March 8 to 12

Trashiyangtse, Eastern Bhutan

Chorten Kora : March 18 and April 1

Trashiyangtse, Eastern Bhutan

Gom Kora Tshechu : April 10 to 12


Chhukha, Southern Bhutan

Chhukha Tshechu : April 10 to 12


Paro, Western Bhutan

Paro Tshechu : April 12 to 16


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Ura Tshechu : May 11 to 16


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Nimalung Tshechu : July 7 to 9


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Kurjey Tshechu : July 9


Wangdue Phodrang, Western Bhutan

Wangdue (Wangdi) Tshechu : October 3 to 5


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Tamshingphala Choepa : October 4 to 6


Thimphu, Western Bhutan

Thimphu Drupchen : October 5, 6 & 7


Thimphu, Western Bhutan


Thimphu Tshechu (Thimphu only) : October 5


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Tangbi Mani : October 9 to 11


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Jambay Lhakhang Drup : November 8 to 12


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Prakhar Tshechu : November 9 to 12


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Nalakhar Tshechu : December 8 to 10


Mongar, Eastern Bhutan


Mongar Tshechu : November 30 to December 3


Pemagtshel, Eastern Bhutan

Pemagatshel Tshechu: November 30 to December 3


Trashigang, Eastern Bhutan

Trashigang Tshechu : December 1 to 4


Trongsa, Central Bhutan


Trongsa Tshechu : January 1 to 3, 2004


Lhuentse, Eastern Bhutan

Lhuentse Tshechu : January 1 to 3, 2004

Back to the Top 

Festival Dates 2004

Tentative Festival Dates 2004 (Tshechus and Dromchoes)

Punakha, Western Bhutan

Punakha Dromchoe : February 25 to 29, 2004


Trashiyangtse, Eastern Bhutan


Chorten Kora : March 6 and 20, 2004


Trashiyangtse, Eastern Bhutan


Gom Kora Tshechu : March 29 to 31, 2004


Chhukha, Southern Bhutan


Chhukha Tshechu : March 29 to 31, 2004


Paro, Western Bhutan


Paro Tshechu : April 1 to 5, 2004


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Ura Tshechu : April 30 to May 4, 2004


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Nimalung Tshechu : June 25 to 27, 2004


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Kurjey Tshechu : June 27, 2004


Wangdue Phodrang, Western Bhutan


Wangdue (Wangdi) Tshechu : September 21 to 23, 2004


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Tamshingphala Choepa : September 22 to 24, 2004


Thimphu, Western Bhutan


Thimphu Drupchen : September 18 to 22, 2004


Thimphu, Western Bhutan


Thimphu Tshechu (Thimphu only) : September 23 to 25, 2004


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Tangbi Mani : September 27 to 29, 2004


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Jambay Lhakhang Drup : October 28 to November 1, 2004


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Prakhar Tshechu : October 29 to 31, 2004


Bumthang, Central Bhutan


Nalakhar Tshechu : November 26 to 28, 2004


Mongar, Eastern Bhutan


Mongar Tshechu : November 18 to 21, 2004


Pemagtshel, Eastern Bhutan


Pemagatshel Tshechu : November 18 to 21, 2004


Trashigang, Eastern Bhutan


Trashigang Tshechu : November 19 to 22, 2004


Trongsa, Central Bhutan


Trongsa Tshechu : December 20 to 22, 2004


Lhuentse, Eastern Bhutan


Lhuentse Tshechu : December 20 to 22, 2004

Back to the Top 

Trekking

Bhutan offers great opportunities for trekking with its splendid scenic beauty, lofty mountains and deep valleys untempered by modernization. It provides scenic beauty which gradually unfolds in all its glory and charm. Lifestyles change from the colorful lively pace of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, to the more traditional, simple remote mountain villages only traveled to by foot. Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited is considered the pioneering experts on trekking programs, employing the best senior guides in the kingdom, top equipment and yes, great food. Some of the treks that BTCL created, have become legendary. The famous "Snowman Trek" has become the international standard.

Trekking in this Himalayan kingdom is one of the most wonderful experiences a visitor can have. It is quite different from other parts of the Himalayas. The country ranges from the dense forest of subtropical jungles to the alpine shrubs, endowed with a wide spectrum of Himalayan flora and fauna. The land is thinly populated with scattered settlements. A person may walk for several days before sighting a village. Trekking in Bhutan is a fairly recent development, although the Himalayas have always held a long-standing attraction to the Western world for trekking and mountaineering. The beautiful landscape, unique architecture, snowcapped peaks, colorful dzongs, Lamaist Buddhist traditions and friendly people leave an everlasting impression on the visitor.


Trekking permits are required for all parties. A treking day usually consists of five to six hours of walking. Pack animals, ponies and yaks for the higher altitude treks, are provided for carrying provisions, baggage and equipment.
All necessary camping equipment, food, and food preparation is provided by Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited.


All trekking parties are accompanied by a trained guide, a cook, an assistant and at least one horseman. The support crew walks ahead of the trekking party each day and pitches camp before the trekkers arrive. A warm cup of tea or coffee waiting in the dining tent is the most welcome treat after hours of walking. All meals are carefully planned. Breakfast is always hot and dinner includes a choice of at least four dishes. In many of the remote parts of the country, villages are scarce and few people cross paths, therefore BTCL takes every precaution to ensure the safety and comfort of trekkers.

Altitude sickness is an acute problem for trekkers, in Bhutan. Almost all of the designated treks go above 3,000 meters (9843 ft.). Those who have not properly acclimatised or suffer from altitude sickness are advised not to trek. If you are not used to high altitudes it is a good idea to start slowly and allow yourself to acclimatise.


BTCL offers a number of treks, which cover most of the central and northern parts of Bhutan. Each trek has its own beauty and charm. A few are difficult treks are suited for people of good physical fitness. Yet others are for any age group, not too long or strenuous, with visits to places of interest. Things you would need to bring on trek include sleeping bags, foam mattresses, strong comfortable trekking boots, cap/hat, sun glasses, sun block, flashlight, insect repellent cream, and personal toiletries and medicine, and rain gear during the rainy season. See
Individual, Cultural, and Trekking Itineraries page for complete trekking chart with dates and difficulty ratings.

Back to the Top 

What to Bring

Bhutan's changeable climate means you have to bring an assortment of clothes, including rain gear. A layered wardrobe probably makes the most sense. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are essential even if you are not hiking. Because of the altitude, a hat or cap and a good pair of sunglasses are essential. Warm clothes are recommended for the evening. Because of the long distances between towns an villages bring the medicines you'll need along with some first-aid supplies. A good flashlight (torch), water bottle and polarizing filter for your camera will also come in very handy. We have also found the addition of a day pack or shoulder bag and a telescoping, aluminum, walking stick to be very handy.

Back to the Top 

The Art if Weaving

In the high eastern mountain villages you will come across women moving back and forth in the open-air with their back strap looms. They are Bhutan's weavers who ply their trade on the open mountainside or field singing gently as they rock back and forth.Yarns and thread are dyed (vegetable dye) and dried for a week before being woven into traditional gho and kira. These long flowing garments have become the obligatory national dress of the kingdom. Weavers produce raw silk, silk on cotton, and silk on silk textiles. The finest weavers traditonally are found in Lheuntse, Kuri Chhu, and Radhi areas of eastern Bhutan. This art form is passed down from generation to generation. Since the crops grown are usually just enough to feed the village in a good year, these hand-loomed textiles become a good way for the village to get money for supplies. A complete kira is made up from three pieces sewn together to form a large rectangular piece which is draped and folded around a woman's body and clinched in at the waist with a kera (belt).The entire weaving process takes between six months to one year to complete. The Bhutanese culture prize these textiles so highly that they are considered part of a family's wealth and our used as currency. Truly an amazing art form, found only in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Back to the Top 

 

  Information provided by Department of Tourism. Royal Government of Bhutan.

 

Home | Bhutan | Brunei | Cambodia | China-Yunnan | East Timor | Hong Kong | India | Indonesia | Japan | Kazakstan | Korea | Kyrgystan | Laos | Malaysia Maldives | Mongolia | Myanmar | Nepal | Pakistan | Philippines | Singapore | Sri Lanka | Tajikistan | Taiwan | Thailand | Tibet | Turkmenistan | Vietnam Uzbekistan

 

Website partner : Asia-planet.com...Tours and Hotels around Asia.
Version Francaise : Planete-asie.com

Copyright © 2002 Orasia co.,ltd. (Asia-planet.net) All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited.

 
<