Visitors must have a visa clearance approved prior to arriving in the kingdom.The cost of the visa is USD 40 per person. No foreign mission or embassy abroad grants Bhutan tourist visas. Bhutan Expeditions can apply for an extension of all tourist visas, should a visitor wish to remain in the country for more than their original plan.
VISA • All information required in the visa application form must reach us at least three weeks before the intended arrival date to enable processing with the concerned authorities. Alternatively, a copy of visa application form can be filled out by tourists and mailed/faxed/ e-mailed to us. It is not mandatory to sign it as Bhutan Expeditions will sign each form on behalf of the visitors. • The actual visa is stamped on arrival in Bhutan but it must be cleared in advance and a visa clearance number issued. • For all travelers entering Bhutan by Druk Air, the visa clearance is forwarded to the concerned overseas Druk Air stations. Without a visa clearance number, passengers are not allowed to board the flight. • For travelers, entering the country by road through Phuentsholing (the border town in southern Bhutan) the clearance number is forwarded to the Immigration office at Phuentsholing for reference and the visa is stamped on arrival. • Visa fee is US $ 40 per person for a 14 day visa which can be further extended without additional fees • For all visitors traveling during festival times, visa particulars must be sent at least 8 weeks in advance as festivals are a peak time for tourists and all tour formalities have to be completed well in advance. Bhutan Expeditions will advise all visitors of their visa status before their intended departure dates.
RESERVATIONS • For all Cultural Tours, the booking must be completed 4 weeks in advance, but for tours during festival periods, at least 8 months advance reservation is required. Spring and autumn festivals, during the peak seasons, require early flight and hotel reservations in order to get confirmations. • For trekking groups, it is important to book at least 16 weeks in advance, as these require a lot of detailed planning.
ENTRY POINTS • The best way to enter Bhutan is by Druk Air, the national air carrier. The following places are served by Druk Air.
• Entry/Exit to/from Bhutan is also possible through Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar, the southern Bhutan border town. Bagdogra and Guwahati, in the state of West Bengal and Assam (India) are the nearest airport, approximately 4 hours drive away. For travelers wishing to visit the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal along with Bhutan, Phuentsholing serves as a convenient entry or exit point.
• CUSTOMS Visitors are required to complete the Customs Form and hand it over on arrival. The following articles are exempted from duty; 1. Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor. 2. 2 litres of alcohol, 400 cigarettes, 150 gms of pipe tobacco..Bhutuan has strict laws against use and possession of tobacco products. Please declare your tobacco items to the customs and obtain the receipt of the tax paid, which will be required at all times. 3. Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use. 4. Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use. The articles mentioned under 3 and 4 must be declared on the Customs Form. If such items are disposed of in Bhutan, by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty.
The Import and Export of the following goods are strictly prohibited: 1. Arms, ammunitions, explosives and military stores. 2. All narcotics and drugs, except medically prescribed drugs. 3. Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species. 4. Antiques.
All visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items. Custom authorities will not allow any old/used items to be taken out of the country if they have not been certified as non-antique. The import of plants, soil etc. is subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival.
MONEY The Bhutanese unit of currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.), with 100 Chetrum = 1 Ngultrum. The Ngultrum is fixed at par with the value of Indian rupee. Presently, US $ 1 = Nu. 60 (which fluctuates as does any currency). Visitors are advised to carry the bills of US $ 100s, printed no earlier than the year 2000. The older bills are not accepted and the exchange rate for the smaller denominations are less by 10%.
LANGUAGE “Dzongkha”, ‘the language of the ‘Dzongs’, is one language of the Tibetan family. Originally spoken only in Western Bhutan, Dzongkha is now the Bhutanese national language. English is commonly spoken in the main towns and it is also one medium of education in schools throughout the Kingdom.
ACCOMMODATION There are comfortable hotels, lodges and guest houses at all tourist destinations. Western Bhutan has better hotels, while in the central and eastern parts of the country, accommodation establishments are simpler and offer minimum facilities. The star categorization of hotels are under process and many of the hotels are yet to confirm to the system. Bhutan Expeditions will carefully select accommodation units with the best location, services and ambience for our visitors. Away from the towns and villages there are purpose-built huts on some of the principal trekking routes. Otherwise, there is nothing like camping out under the clearest night skies that you have ever seen. Wherever you spend the night, the warm Bhutanese hospitality will make you feel welcome.
TOUR ESCORTS All our tours are escorted by well trained, English speaking, knowledgeable guides, certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan Secretariat, Royal Government of Bhutan.
FOOD Bhutanese delicacies are rich with spicy chilies and cheese. The hotels and lodges on Bhutan Expedition’s selected list offer delicious Chinese, Continental, Indian and Bhutanese cuisine. Even on treks, our cooks prepare dishes of all kinds suitable for western tastes.
CLIMATE The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general the east of Bhutan is warmer than the west. The central valleys of Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuntse enjoy a semi tropical climate with very cool winters, whilst Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Trongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate, with heavy monsoon rains in the summer and heavy snow-falls in the winter, which often block the passes leading into the central valleys. Winter in Bhutan is from mid-November until mid-March, and at this time of the year the climate is dry, with day time temperatures falling below zero. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with the rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. At the end of September, after the last of the big rains, autumn suddenly arrives, and ushers in a magnificent season for trekking until mid-November.
CLOTHING Due to the wide range of temperature and climatic conditions, it is advisable to bring as assortment of appropriate clothing. For protection against the cold, layered clothing is better than a few thick items, so choose your clothes accordingly. Clothes should preferably be made from natural materials, which allow the body to breathe. You will offend people if you walk around in skimpy or tight fitting clothes. Although there are normally opportunities to wear shorts, we would advise women to wear skirts or loose trousers. Men should not wear singlets while visiting temples/official buildings. In general, visitors should wear decent casual clothes (a collared shirt/coat with long trousers/skirts and no hats) while visiting Dzongs and temples.
WHAT TO PACK The following is a fairly exhaustive list of what you should pack for your trip: clothes as per the season, sunglasses/spare glasses or contact lenses, a pair of casual shoes, washing kit, shaving kit, towel, hat, umbrella, camera, film and accessories, books, maps, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit and safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, nail clippers, scissors, sun cream, lip salve, soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhoea pills, and a preparation for the relief of sunburn.
PHOTOGRAPHY The photographic opportunities on all trips are immense. You will wish to record the local people, their houses and shops, etc. Always ask by gesture if it is acceptable to do so. Don’t regard local situations as living Museums. Also, while visiting Dzongs and religious institutions, please follow your guide’s instructions carefully.
HEALTH INFORMATION No vaccinations are currently required for traveling to Bhutan. However, if you are arriving from an area infected with yellow fever, you are required to have a yellow fever vaccination and it must be administered at least 10 days before your arrival into Bhutan. Also if arriving from cholera infected areas, the vaccination is strongly recommended. Anti-malarial medication is also stongly recommended for all travelers who are visiting rural areas in the districts that border India.
SHOPPING The country’s exquisite postage stamps, lovely hand woven fabrics, carved masks, woven baskets, wooden bowls, handmade papers, finely crafted metal objects and thangka paintings are the items mostly purchased by travelers in Bhutan. The buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in the kingdom.
GRATUITIES Tipping is neither compulsory nor is there any fixed amount, but it is normally expected - the bottom line in determining whether and how much to tip is to ask yourself how much the individual concerned added to the value of your travel experience.
ELECTRICITY In Bhutan, electricity runs at 220/240 volts, 50 Hz. If you do bring electrical appliances, bring along an international converter kit complete with a set of adaptor plugs.
TIME Bhutan is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country.
OTHER INFORMATION Tourism has been strictly limited in Bhutan in order to preserve and nurture the traditional culture. The Bhutanese are highly religious people and therefore it is important to show respect and understanding for local customs, especially while visiting religious institutions. The tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable. For these reasons, the number of tourists visiting Bhutan is kept to an environmentally manageable level.
Tariffs set by the DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM, Royal Government of Bhutan
International Tourist tariff
a. The tariffs for tourists visiting in a group of 3 or more persons are as follows: High Season Tariff (January, February, March, April, May, June, September, October, November and December): US$ 250/per person per night.
Low Season Tariff (July and August): US$ 200/per person per night.
The rates are the same for cultural tours, treks or any other special interest tours.
b. These minimum daily package rates are inclusive of the following services: i. Accommodation on twin sharing/double room basis ii. All transfers and sightseeing within Bhutan iii. Services of an accompanying guide iv. All meals (but not beverages) v. Royalty (used mainly for infrastructure building, free education and health facilities for the people) & taxes to the government vi. Riding ponies and pack animals on treks vii. Fees for entering temples & monuments viii. Tourism Development fee
c. The rates given above are applicable per tourist per night in Bhutan. On the day of departure, the local agent’s obligation shall be limited to breakfast only and any extra requirements shall be payable on an actual basis.
d. The above rates apply uniformly irrespective of location and the type of accommodation provided/requested. All accommodation establishments shall be approved by the government.
Tariff for Individual and Small Groups (FITS) a. Individual tourists and smaller groups of less than three persons shall be subject to a surcharge, as follows: Single individuals: US $ 40 per night.
Group of 2 persons: US $ 30 per person per night . These FIT surcharges are net payable (non commissionable)
Eligibility for Discounts from the Tourist Tariff A) There shall be no charge for children up to the age of 5 years. However, those between the ages of 6-12 years accompanied by the elders/guardians shall be given 50% discount on daily basis. B) Full time students below the age of 25 years holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions shall also be given 25% discount on a daily basis. C) A discount of 50% on daily rates shall be given to one person in a group of 11 to 15 people. 100% discount shall be given to one member in a group exceeding 16 persons. Cancellations Tour Programmes booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows: • Within 30 days of start of Programme -- Free • Within 21 days - 10% of rate • Within 14 days - 15% of rate • Within 7 days - 30% of rate • Less than 7 days or without notice - 50% of rate • After arrival in Bhutan - 100%
Delayed Arrival/Departure There shall be no fixed charge for the number of days of delay in arrival of visitors due to weather conditions, Druk Air problems or road blocks except for minimum charge on hotel cancellation, transport & guide. There shall be no charge for the number of days of delay in departure of visitors due to the weather conditions, Druk Air problems or road blocks. They will be charged only the actual expenses for accommodation, food, transport and any other services required.
Single Room Supplements The quoted package rates are valid for accommodation on a twin sharing basis and the following supplements will be applicable in case of single room accommodation: For festival seasons: US$ 50/per single room per night For other seasons: US$ 25/ per single room per night
Remittance of Tour Payment Tour payment must be settled latest by one month prior to the date of arrival in Bhutan. Visas will be cleared by the government subject to advanced payment only.