Before coming to Bhutan; make sure that you attend to the following: Travel/Medical Insurance.
The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited (RICBL) has initiated a travel and medial scheme solely for our visitors. Hence it is important that you get detailed information about the insurance scheme from your travel agents here in Bhutan. You may also visit the web site at www.ricb.com.bt
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) that is at par with the Indian rupee. It is however recommended that you carry travellers’ cheque or cash, preferably American Express and US dollar instead, as the ATM facilities for foreign currency is limited to just few towns including the capital city Thimphu. Visa and American Express credit cards are also widely accepted.
Financial institutions in Bhutan have been greatly enhanced and today we have a number of banks that caters to your need. Some of the banks that you can avail services and facilities while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited (BoB), the Bhutan National Bank (BNB), the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Most of these banks now provide SMS and Internet banking services. There are also ATM facilities that you can avail; ATMS are located in a number of places where you can withdraw your money especially in Thimphu and in the border town of Phuentsholing. Traveller’s cheque can be easily withdrawn and exchanged into local currency. However, as you travel into the interior, ATM and internet facilities are almost non-existent and we suggest that you do your banking facilities while in Thimphu.
All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets. Our energy is clean and green generated by hydro power.
The country has a good network of telecommunication facilities. Almost every town has an internet cafe and IDD calling booths from where you can log on to and send messages home and to your loved ones. Most hotels in Thimphu and Paro have internet access. Mobile (cell) phone is also widely used with international roaming facilities.
Bhutan experiences a great variation in its climate. Summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 Celsius, while winters are harsh and cold. In winters temperatures drop below 15 Celsius. Warm set of clothes, thermals and shoes will come in handy to counter the Bhutanese cold. You might want to consider ‘what to wear’ for hikes, trekking and sightseeing, as well as for dinners, appointments and functions that we have for you. Other things that could come in handy are sunglasses, sun screen lotion and a hat; antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhoea pills, altitude & car sickness medicine; insect repellent, flash light (w/spare batteries) umbrella, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries) etc.
Bhutan is an ideal place for photography. Trekking and sightseeing will provide you with a host of photography opportunities. However you may need to check with your guide for indoor photography as taking photographs inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions are restricted unless you have special permission from the Department of Culture. One can however, capture images of the landscapes, mountain ranges, rural folk life, flora and fauna, Bhutanese architecture and the Dzongs and Chortens.
For people who love shopping and taking home gifts, Bhutan offers a variety of goods that revolve mainly around textiles. You may shop for items like hand-woven textiles that are either in raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven cane and bamboo baskets, and wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products or finely crafted silver wares. You can also shop for thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamp. One will come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and also in other major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.
Tipping is solely personal choice. We do not have any tradition of giving tips and we leave it to you when it comes to tipping your guides and drivers
The following articles are exempt from duty:
Personal items for day to day use by the visitor
1 litre of alcohol (spirits or wine)
200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%
Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
Photography equipments, video cameras and other electronic accessories for personal use.
You have to complete the passenger declaration form on your arrival before checking out. The last two articles mentioned, must be declared on the declaration form. If any such items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty. On departure, visitors are required to surrender their forms to the Customs authorities.
Import/export restrictions of the following goods is strictly prohibited:
(a) Arms, ammunitions and explosives
(b) All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs
(c) Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival. Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate.
Bhutanese speak a variety of languages but Dzongkha is the national language and one of the most widely spoken languages. English is also a medium of communication and most Bhutanese speak English. Communicating in English especially with the people in the urban areas and the towns will enhance your knowledge on Bhutan.
Clothes and other paraphernalia
With great attitudinal variations weather is quite erratic in Bhutan. So be prepared to brace the erratic weather as you step outdoor. We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other places where you see the national flag.
Bhutan Standard Time (BST) is 6 hours ahead of GMT. The whole country falls under the same time zone.
Office hours in Bhutan are divided into two timings – summer timing and winter timing. Summer timing begins at 9AM Bhutan Standard Time (BST) till 5PM in the evening. Summer timing is followed from March till the end of October. Winter timings begin from November till the end of February. Offices open at 9Am and close at 4PM. These timing is followed only by the Civil Servants who work under the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC). Corporate and private employees follow different timings. The timings are usually from 9AM till 5PM irrespective of the season.
Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, it is advisable to have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations.
Tobacco/Smoking As buying and selling of tobacco products is banned in Bhutan, you may want to bring in your own stock. (200 cigarettes for personal consumption with payment of 200% import duty). It is strictly prohibited to smoke in public offices and in government premises. It is also sacrilegious to smoke near temples and any other religious site.
Over the years, many quality hotels have come up in Bhutan. Most hotels in Bhutan meet the recent standardization policy; most tourists accommodate in 5 star or 3 star hotels. The hotels are well maintained and have all basic amenities such as geysers and shower rooms and are properly maintained. Visitors can be assured of their warmth and comfort in the hotels and the ambiance and the hospitality offered by the hotels are incredible. 5 Star hotels are mostly located in Thimphu, and Paro. Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang also have a variety of decent hotels that are cozy and comfortable. Away from town, you may find it tempting to camp outside in the forest or make a night halt at the purpose-built in cabins sprinkled along some main trekking routes.
Most Bhutanese dishes are rich and spicy with a lot of cheese and chilli. It is advisable that visitors stick to the Chinese, Continental or Indian cuisine that is served in most restaurants. Visitors can also choose among the various vegetarian and non-veg food. You may also try out momo, the Tibetan dumplings and for those daring, you may try out the famous ema datshi served with cheese and chili and many other typical Bhutanese dishes.
Weights and measures
Bhutan has a standard system of weights and measurements in place and most weights are measured in gram (g) and kilogram (kg). With better and efficient measurement systems readily available, most of the shop keepers in the capital city make use of electronic and weighing scale. However, as you travel further east, you will find the ordinary weighing scale in place.
While safety is not much of a concern, however it is good to come prepared for any untoward incidences. One need to avoid walking alone or after 9PM. The capital city has been seeing an increase in burglaries, pick-pocketing and an increase in drug abusers. It is advisable that you keep a safe distance and be in the safety of your rooms. Outdoor visits in groups or with your guides would be wise. You also need to ensure that your belongings especially your passports, route permits, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. There have been incidents where visitors found their important documents missing.
Guides or Escort of the trip
Bhutan has a good team of interpreters and guides that are well versed in history and possess good communication skills. They are all certified trainees who undergo training conducted by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). There are also guides who speak fluent Japanese, Thai and other European languages.
Public holidays are declared by the government and a list of public holidays that we observe throughout the nation is listed below. However, each Dzongkhag has its own list of holidays that is observed especially during the tshechus (Religious festivals). For this you may contact your service provider or your travel agent.