Here are some essential factors to consider before planning your trip to Bhutan:
Visa and Entry Requirements
All tourists, except for citizens of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, need a visa to enter Bhutan. You must book your trip through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator or an international partner, who will assist with the visa application process. Visas are issued upon payment of a daily tariff that covers accommodation, transportation, meals, and an experienced guide.
The daily tariff is mandatory for most international tourists (excluding India, Bangladesh, and Maldives passport holders) and ranges from $350 to $500 per person per day, depending on the time of year and the size of your group. This fee covers your accommodation, meals, transportation, guide, and entrance fees to sites. While it may seem expensive, it helps ensure sustainable tourism and support for local services.
Best Time to Visit
Bhutan experiences four distinct seasons, and the best time to visit depends on your preferences and interests. Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are the most popular seasons due to pleasant weather and numerous festivals. Summer (June to August) is the monsoon season, while winter (December to February) can be quite cold, especially in higher elevations.
Paro International Airport is the primary gateway to Bhutan, with flights from cities like Bangkok, Kathmandu, Singapore, and Delhi. Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines operate these flights. Overland travel is also possible from India through the border towns of Phuentsholing, Gelephu, and Samdrup Jongkhar.
Vaccinations and Health
There are no mandatory vaccinations for Bhutan, but it's a good idea to consult with your doctor before your trip. Recommended vaccinations may include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Tetanus. If you plan to trek at high altitudes, consider discussing altitude sickness prevention with your doctor.
It's highly recommended to obtain travel insurance that covers medical expenses, emergency evacuation, and trip cancellation or interruption. Ensure your policy covers activities such as trekking, if you plan to do so.
Currency and Money
The currency of Bhutan is the Ngultrum (BTN), which is pegged to the Indian Rupee (INR). Indian Rupees are widely accepted in Bhutan, except for the INR 500 and 2,000 notes. Credit cards are accepted at some hotels and tourist shops, but it's a good idea to carry enough cash, as ATMs are limited and may not always be reliable.
Culture and Etiquette
Bhutan is a deeply spiritual and conservative country. Be respectful of local customs and traditions, dress modestly when visiting religious sites, remove your shoes before entering temples, and avoid taking photographs in restricted areas.
Bhutan uses 230V, 50Hz electrical supply, and the power sockets are type D and F. It's a good idea to carry a universal adapter to ensure compatibility with your electronic devices.
Internet and mobile phone coverage are available in most urban areas, but the connection can be slow and intermittent in rural regions. If you need a reliable internet connection, consider purchasing a local SIM card upon arrival.
By considering these factors and planning accordingly, you'll be well-prepared for a memorable and enjoyable journey to Bhutan.