Before coming to Bhutan; make sure that you attend to Travel/Medical Insurance. It is however recommended that you carry cash, VISA, and Master Cards. Financial institutions in Bhutan have been greatly enhanced and today we have a number of banks that caters to the needs of the people. Some of the banks that you can avail yourself of services and facilities while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, Druk PNB bank, and the T-Bank. All of these Banks provide you with ATM, PoS, SMS, and internet banking facilities.
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 energy generated by hydropower.
The country has a good network of telecommunication facilities. Almost every corner of the country is connected to 4G internet connectivity ( B-Mobile and T-Cell) with which you can contact your loved ones. Also, all the hotels have wifi access.
Bhutan experiences a great variation in its climate. Summers are warm with an average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 30 Degree Celsius, while winters are cold. In winter temperatures are usually below 15 Degree Celsius. So bring with you a couple of warm clothes and comfortable shoes to go with the weather, the terrain and the program. 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. Others that you could consider bringing with you would be a pair of sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, and a hat; antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-Diarrhoea pills, altitude & car sickness medicine; insect repellent, flashlight (w/spare batteries) umbrella, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries), etc. Bhutan is an ideal place and a frequent haunt for photographers offering immense opportunities for photography, especially during our outdoor sightseeing trips. However, you may need to check with your guide for indoor photography as taking photographs inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions is restricted. One can, however, capture images of the landscapes, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, the rural folk life, the flora and fauna, the Bhutanese architecture, and the Dzongs and Chortens in particular.
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 baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products, or finely crafted gods of silver. You can also shop for thangka paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps. One can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and also in major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques are strictly forbidden in Bhutan.
Tipping is a purely personal matter. We clearly leave it up to you as to whether you want to give tips as an appreciation to your guides and drivers.
The following articles are exempt from duty:
(a) Personal effects and articles for day-to-day use by the visitor
(b) 1 litre of alcohol (spirits or wine)
(c) 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%
(d) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
(e) Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.
You have to complete the passenger declaration form on your arrival before checking out. The articles mentioned under (d) & (e) 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
(d) Antique Imports of plants, soils, etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared upon 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 of Bhutan.
Clothes and other paraphernalia with great altitudinal variations in weather are quite erratic in Bhutan. So be prepared to brace for the erratic weather as you step outdoors. 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 place that you come across with the national flag being raised.
Our standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country. Office hours in Bhutan are divided into two timings, “summer timing and winter timing. The summer timing begins at 9 AM Bhutan standard time and goes on till 5 PM in the evening. The summer timing is followed from March till the end of October. The winter timing that lasts for the months of November till the end of February begins at 9 AM in the morning till 4 PM in the evening. However, these timings are followed only in Thimphu and a few other Districts. This timing is followed only by the Civil Servants who work under the Royal Civil Service Commission. For those people employed in Corporations and private organizations, the timings are usually from 9 AM till 5 PM irrespective of the season.
Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, it is advisable to have tetanus, typhoid, and hepatitis A inoculations. Precautions Avoid drinking unboiled water or taking ice cubes at all times as most water sources in Bhutan are untreated though they have their source in the mountains. One can come across treated and bottled water readily in any town and are affordable.
As buying and selling of tobacco products are banned in Bhutan, you may want to bring in your own stock. (200 cigarettes for personal consumption with payment of 200% import duty). Also, it is prohibited to smoke in public offices and on government premises. It is also sacrilegious to smoke near temples and any other religious sites.
Over the years, many quality hotels have come up in Bhutan. Most hotels in Bhutan meet the recent standardization policy, most tourists accommodate in a 5-star or a 3-star hotel. 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 the warmth and comfort of the hotels and the ambiance and the hospitality offered by the hotels are incredible. The 5-star hotels are mostly located in the town of Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Gangtey, and Bumthang. They also have a variety of hotels that are comfortable. Away from town, you may find it tempting to camp outside in the forest or make a night halt at the purpose-built cabins sprinkled along some main trekking routes.
Most Bhutanese dishes are rich and spicy with a lot of cheese and chilies. It is advisable that visitors stick to the Chinese, Continental, or Indian cuisine that is served in most restaurants. Visitors can also choose from various vegetarian and non-veg food. You can also try out momos, the Tibetan dumplings, and for those daring; you may try out the ema datshi dish served with cheese and chili and 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 more efficient measurement systems readily available, most of the shopkeepers in the capital city make use of electronic and weighing scales. 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 mishap. One needs to avoid walking alone or roaming the streets after 9 pm as you may never know of any mishap that may occur. The capital city has begun to see burglaries, street fights, and an increasing number of drug abusers. It is advisable that you keep a safe distance and be in your rooms. Or else you may visit the town in groups or with your guides. Also please 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 and interpreters
Bhutan has a good team of interpreters and guides that are well versed in history and possess good communication skills. They are all certified and undergo training conducted by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. 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 are observed especially while conducting annual Tshechus (Religious festivals). For this one may contact your service provider or your travel agent.