- Passports are required of foreign citizens to enter Bhutan
- Must be valid for at least 6 months after your trip – if not, apply or renew immediately
- Keep a copy of the picture page of your passport in a separate place while traveling
- Carry extra passport photos in case you need to apply for a quick replacement.
Travel Insurance for Bhutan Tours – Ensure Safety and Compliance
When embarking on a Bhutan journey, prioritizing security is paramount, and this includes obtaining travel insurance – a mandatory step for all Bhutan tours. The Department of Immigration will not process your visa application without valid travel insurance. Whether traveling with seniors or those with chronic health conditions, it’s highly recommended to secure comprehensive travel insurance covering potential medical treatment and evacuation needs.
For adventure enthusiasts venturing into tours and trekking, travel insurance isn’t merely an option – it’s an essential. Your policy should encompass a range of protections, from guarding against sudden trip cancellations and accessing medical services to covering property loss or damage and providing compensation for accidents.
Opting for travel insurance is a prudent choice for all Bhutan-bound tourists, offering an extra layer of security and peace of mind. Keep in mind that certain policies may exclude coverage for ‘dangerous activities’ such as motorcycling, rafting, or trekking. If you plan to engage in such activities, ensure your chosen policy covers them. Emergency evacuation, particularly from remote areas, is a crucial consideration. Verify that your travel insurance includes helicopter evacuation in case of emergencies.
To ensure a smooth journey, it’s advisable to secure this insurance from your country of residence before your tour’s start. Alternatively, the Discovery Bhutan Inc. team can assist you in obtaining the necessary coverage. Your safety and comfort remain our top priorities – don’t embark on your Bhutan adventure without comprehensive travel insurance.
Currency and Transactions:
The currency in Bhutan is the Bhutanese ngultrum (BTN). It is best to carry most of your money in US dollars and exchange it upon arrival. Please note that larger denominations ($100 bills) get a better exchange rate than smaller denominations (of $50 or less). When traveling to other countries, it’s always a good idea to bring crisp, new bills (please note that no USD bills issued in 1996 or earlier will be accepted at any handicraft shop or bank). Most vendors and local shops will accept USD, but it is a good idea to carry some BTN with you.
All visiting officials/tourists/dignitaries to Bhutan carrying international Debit/Credit cards issued by any bank worldwide, bearing Visa/Master/American Express /Maestro/Cirrus logo can now withdraw cash from any of our ATMs in Bhutan. When using your credit card please ask the merchant if there is a fee surcharge(usually 3–7%).
Traveler’s Cheques (Amex) are accepted, exchange rate isn’t very good.
You will need to budget spending money for gratuities, any meals en route to/from Bhutan, and personal items, such as gifts and alcoholic beverages. In Bhutan, wine (usually French or Australian) typically runs at least $50 per bottle (or more!). Hard liquor drinks can cost $10 and up, depending on the type of liquor. Beer is typically $3 a bottle, and is locally-made in Bhutan.
How to reached to Bhutan?
ARRIVE BY AIR
Bhutan has two national airlines: Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. Direct flights to and from our international airport in Paro connect you to Bangladesh (Dhaka), India (Bagdora, Guwahati, Kolkata and New Delhi), Nepal (Kathmandu), Singapore, and Thailand (Bangkok).
ARRIVE BY ROAD
There are four designated official entry points into Bhutan by road from India: Samtse and Phuentsholing in the western part of Bhutan, Gelephu in the central region, and Samdrup Jongkhar in the eastern part of Bhutan. However, currently, only Phuentsholing is accessible for international tourists. Indian nationals, on the other hand, have the privilege of entering from all four of these entry points.
The following recommendations should be used as a guideline only; consult your physician for medical advice. It is vital that you let Discovery Bhutan Inc. know of any medical problems, allergies, or physical limitations you may have. Please fill out and return the personal medical questionnaire, and feel free to consult us if you have any questions about your ability to undertake this particular trip.
Discovery Bhutan Inc. is not a medical facility and has no expertise or responsibility regarding what medications or inoculations you and your physician decide are necessary for your safe participation in the trip.
Entry requirements are subject to change; check with the Centers for Disease Control for updates. All shots should be entered on your International Health Card (yellow card), which is provided by the facility giving the shots. Keep it with your passport while traveling. This provides an important personal record for you to refer to when making future travel plans. We recommend you discuss the following with your physician: Polio. Bhutan was certified Polio free on 27 March 2014 when the region was declared polio free by WHO.
People who have received the primary series of at least three doses of polio vaccine are considered fully immunized. People who are unsure of their status should receive the vaccine (three doses spaced at intervals). Hepatitis The vaccines HAVRIX and VAQTA (two injections, six to 18 months apart) give long-term protection against Hepatitis A and are worthwhile if you travel regularly to developing countries.
A booster is strongly recommended (effective for 10 years).
The CDC recommends the shot or the oral vaccine, Vivotif Berna, a course of four capsules, one every other day for a week, with full effectiveness reached in a week. You may not be able to take the oral vaccine simultaneously with mefloquine (for malaria prevention).
In hotels and lodges, do not brush your teeth with tap water; always use bottled water. Don’t use ice in your drinks unless you are sure it was made with treated water. When in doubt, ask your Guide or Discovery Bhutan team for guidelines.
GETTING IN SHAPE
For your own enjoyment, we recommend you make a special effort to be in good physical condition for the journey by hiking, running, swimming, bicycling, or engaging in other forms of aerobic exercise well beyond your normal routine. Walking up and down flights of stairs is also an effective way to train for the steep ascents and descents in the Himalaya. Weekend hikes that involve long sections of uphill and downhill walking are great for conditioning your legs.
On this trip you will be traveling and/or hiking at higher altitudes. Individuals vary widely in their ability to acclimatize. Since physical fitness does not confer any protection or facilitate acclimatization, it is impossible to predict how you will adapt to the altitude. The greatest protection is avoiding rapid ascents and allowing time for acclimatization. Normal physiological changes at altitude include headache, nausea, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, irregular breathing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling of the ankles and eyelids.
It is not uncommon to experience some of these symptoms when you first arrive at high altitude and then have them decrease in severity within a few days. It is important that you inform your Trip Leader immediately of any symptoms or discomfort, however minor, so that he or she can help you monitor the situation. While acclimatizing, avoid pushing yourself too hard, however physically fit you may be or feel. Pace yourself comfortably, rest often. You may find that you walk more slowly than others in the group, or slower than you are used to.
The prescription drug Diamox is now accepted as an effective prophylactic against the early symptoms of altitude sickness. Most people start taking it a day before going to altitude and continue until they feel they are comfortably acclimatized, although some decide to continue its use throughout their time at altitude. Consult with your physician for directions concerning proper usage and dosage. You can also read more about it at the Himalayan Rescue Association’s website www.himalayanrescue.org/hra/altitude_sickness.php. Please note: Diamox is not effective in dealing with more serious symptoms of altitude sickness and it is important you keep your Tour Leader or Guide informed of any symptoms you are feeling.
Medical services are not readily available in Bhutan and helicopters are use for evacuation purposes. In the event of illness requiring evacuation, there are risks involved and evacuation may take few hours or more. Trip members requiring evacuation are responsible for payment of all evacuation costs directly to Discovery Bhutan Inc. office. Acceptable forms of payment are cash or credit cards. If you use your credit card, be aware that a service charge will be assessed in addition to the actual cost of the evacuation.
Bhutan experiences great variations in its climate. In general summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, while winter temperatures are usually below 15 degrees Celsius. The northern regions are colder than the southern tropical region and travelers are recommended to pack accordingly.
Other suggested items to pack are a pair of sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, umbrella, camera, travel sickness tablets, antiseptic cream, insect repellent cream, altitude sickness medication, if trekking above 3000m.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE OF BHUTAN
Weather in Bhutan depends upon the altitude. In the northern parts of the country where mountains rise up to 7,000m, weather conditions are similar to arctic. Southwards, closer to India, the weather is hot and humid in summer and cool in winter. The monsoon rains are usually heavy. Winters can be a good time to visit the lower parts, but then the highest areas are freezing.
Bhutan has four seasons:
- Spring (Mar–May): Warm days and cold nights. Average maximum temperatures of 75.2F vs. minimums of 35.6F – (especially at high camps). This is a great season for camping and trekking.
- Summer (Jun–Aug): Warm days and balmy nights with rain most afternoons. Average maximum temperatures of 78.8F vs. minimums of 57.2F.
- Fall (Sept–Nov): Warm days and cool nights. Average maximum temperatures of 74F vs. minimums of 35F – (especially cold at high camps). There can be rain in the early part of autumn. This is another great camping and trekking season.
- Winter (Dec-Feb): Crisp sunny days great for mountain views and cold dry nights. Average maximum temperatures of 68F vs. minimums of 24.8oF – snow may fall but won’t settle for long in the Western and Central valleys.
Dress on the trip is very informal, with the exception of two or three hotel dinners for which you may want to dress up a little (jackets are not required for men). Basic laundry service is available at hotels and Resorts.
For women: shorts are frowned upon, but if you feel you must bring shorts, make sure they come to the knee (or below). Long baggy pants are comfortable and appropriate. Sleeveless shirts are not appropriate at any time.
For men: wearing running shorts or hiking bare-chested is not appropriate. Knee-length walking shorts are fine for men.
Dress Code for Entry to Dzongs
You will not be allowed inside a Bhutanese dzong (a building that contains government offices as well as religious offices) unless you are wearing appropriate dress. Both men and women must wear a collared shirt (long sleeves), full-length pant or skirt, and shoes with socks. You will not be allowed to enter wearing a hat, shorts, short skirts, slippers, flip-flops, or casual t-shirts. We recommend keeping a lightweight collared shirt (does not have to be a button-up—a polo shirt is OK) in your daypack. When entering the dzong you might be asked to remove your shoes.
Synthetics insulate and keep you warm even when they are damp. Polypropylene, Capilene, fleece, and other synthetic fabrics are excellent insulators and are far lighter than wool; they also have the added benefit of drying quickly. Avoid cotton clothing for hiking. Cotton is not a good insulator, especially as a first layer next to the skin. Once it gets wet from perspiration, it stays wet and keeps you cold. Cotton is fine for city wear and touring.
Your waterproof jacket and waterproof pants are essential to protect you from rain and wind. Gore-Tex and equivalent fabrics are waterproof and breathable, so they are the best choice. Your waterproof jacket and pants should be roomy enough to fit over other layers of clothing.
The clothing list below is provided as a guideline only. Please try to keep your clothing and gear to a minimum:
Hiking pants. Synthetic hiking pants are a practical choice. Jeans are not suitable because they are made of dense cotton. Sturdy hiking shorts, modest and knee-lengthLong-sleeved shirts. Quick-drying “travel” fabrics like nylon are ideal.T-shirts (synthetics are best)
Full or half sleeve collared shirt (for dzong and monastery visits) Fleece sweater Gore-Tex waterproof jacket with hood. A poncho is not adequate. Gore-Tex waterproof pants (preferably with leg zippers so they can be taken off without removing your boots) Shade hat with wide brim
Medium-weight waterproof hiking bootsRunning shoes, Tevas, or other comfortable shoes for city wearHiking socks. Thorlo hiking socks (moisture-wicking synthetic with padded toes and heels) are excellent, as are SmartWool. Casual socks for city wearUnderwear; synthetics dry fasterSleepwearCasual city/hotel attireBathing suit for hotel pools (where available).
Bhutan is approximately 30 minutes ahead of Indian National Time, which makes it about 13 hours ahead of Pacific Time. Daylight Savings Time in the US may affect these times.
The international dialing code for Bhutan is +975. Please contact your cell phone company for specific instructions for international use. Charlotte Travel will provide Free SIM card worth US$5 to all our customers.
Email & Internet Access
Internet access is generally reliable in all part of Bhutan. The WIFI is available in all the hotels in Bhutan but Hotels in Thimphu and Paro has a decent WIFI connection.
Bhutan has 230-volt current, 50 cycles. Plugs have have three round pins in a triangular configuration (Type D) or two round pins (Types C, E, and F), but the most common socket configuration is three round pins (Type D). Please remember to bring a converter and plug adaptor kit for appliance use.
CHECKED BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE (Drukair/Bhutan Airlines)
The checked baggage allowances on scheduled international flights are as follows:
- Business Class 40 kg (88 pounds)
- Economy Class 30 kg (66 pounds)
Infants paying only 10% of the applicable airfare are not entitled to any free baggage allowance.
Please ensure the carry-on bags in the cabin do not exceed the dimensions of 55 cms X 40 cms X 20 cms and a maximum weight of 7 Kgs.
If any of your baggage exceeds the weight limits, you may be required to pay excess baggage charges.