A thoughtfully made Bhutan cultural tour itinerary not just offers tourists with multiple exploration and experiences but also the chance to discover some of its unbelievably inspiring places and culture authentically. Like every culture, Bhutan has its own reasons and purposes. Bhutan is one of your ultimate travel experience and a journey to the destination. A vacation to Bhutan will give you the whole freedom to build a unique and personal trip in fulfilling your desire to travel and to discover your new self.
Visa for Bhutan
Your passport must have at least 6 months’ validity. You will also make sure that you have an additional page for a visa for Bhutan, as well as space for the visas for any countries you are visiting en route. If you need to get a new passport please do so well before your planned trip so that there is no delay in applying for your Bhutanese visa. The visa is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within Bhutan as Bhutan has very few embassies abroad. No foreign missions abroad grant Bhutan tourist visas. You may apply in advance through a tour operator such as Alpine Eco Trek and receive confirmation that your application has been approved before you travel to Bhutan.
We recommend you apply early for the visa because the process takes a little more time than a normal visa application. Once you send your personal information, Alpine Eco Trek submits your application first to the Department of Tourism (DOT) and then to the Foreign Ministry, both based in Thimphu. The visa is not issued until the DOT has checked that the tour payment has been received into its bank account. The confirmation and reference number then sent to Alpine Eco Trek and a copy will be sent to you. You have to show this at the check-in desk for Druk Air. You cannot board the Druk Air flight without this document so it is very important to have it along with your passport.
Upon your arrival in the country, either at Paro Airport or at Phuentsholing/Samdrup Jonkhar (if you are entering by road) the actual visa is stamped on the passport. At this time at the place of entry you have to present a passport photo with your passport number written on the back and pay the visa fee, directly to the immigration officer. The going rate is US$50 cash. Before departing for Bhutan you have to prepare the cash in advance. Please keep in mind that the visa is issued for exactly the same number of days and dates as booked by you. If circumstances arise for a visa extension once you are in Bhutan it can be arranged.
The Bhutanese authorities strictly monitor the export of any religious antiquities or antiques of any kind from the Kingdom. Personal videos, cameras, personal computers, portable telephones or any other electronic device should be registered with the customs authorities on arrival at Paro and will be checked by the same on departure.
Accommodations in Bhutan
There is no star categorization of hotels in Bhutan but five-star standard accommodations are also available in Bhutan. We at Alpine Eco Trek provide the best hotels available. There are comfortable hotels built in traditional design at all tourist destinations. Read more about hotels in Bhutan
Meals in Bhutan
Traditional Bhutanese food is hot and spicy. For our visitors, however, Chinese, Indian, and Continental fares are also served. The more adventurous can try hot Bhutanese dishes. Meals are normally served buffet style in the hotels but you can always order your own meals of your choice at all the restaurants and hotels.
Bhutan Cuisine & Food:
- Cucumbers with Onion and Cheese
- The Bhutanese serves soothing side dishes like this one to temper pepper laden entrees.
- Buckwheat Dumpling with Bok Choy & Poppy Seed
- The spicy filling provides a sharp contrast to the subtle flavor of the pasta
- Buckwheat Noodles with Egg Strips and Scallion
- Tossing the noodles with egg, scallion, and tomato gives this delicious dish a shot of color.
Climate in Bhutan
Temperatures vary according to elevation. Temperatures in Thimphu, located at 2,200 meters above sea level in west-central Bhutan, range from approximately 15° C to 26° C during the monsoon season of June through September but drop to between about -4° C and 16° C in January. Most of the central portion of the country experiences a cool, temperate climate year-round. In the south, a hot, humid climate helps maintain a fairly even temperature range of between 15° C and 30° C year-round, although temperatures sometimes reach 40° C in the valleys during the summer.
Bhutan is 6 hours ahead of GMT and 15 minutes ahead of Nepal.
Transportation in Bhutan
The country has a fairly good internal road network, measuring about 3,200 km. The main routes consist of an east-west highway and four north-south highways. The road network connects all dzongkhags and 16 dungkhags. Major towns and villages are also connected by motor roads. However, some areas can only be reached by mule tracks, foot trails, cantilever and suspension bridges.
The lifestyle, manners, and customs of the Bhutanese are in many respects unique to the area. The strongest influence on social conventions is the country's state religion, and everywhere one can see the reminders of Buddhism and the original religion of Tibet, Bonism. There are no rigid clan systems and equal rights exist between men and women. The majority of the Bhutanese live an agrarian lifestyle.
Major Bhutan Holidays
Nov 11th, Birthday of HM Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Dec 17th, National Day of Bhutan
Photography in Bhutan
The photography opportunities on the trip are immense. Carry plenty of films and batteries. Photo-shops in Bhutan does not sell equipment or accessories. Places to photography in Bhutan
TO protect against unforeseen accidents and mishaps, we advise you to have a travel insurance policy from your country. Alpine Eco Trek regrets the unavailability of such policies in Bhutan.
Currency in Bhutan
Currency used is 1 Ngultrum (NU), broken into 100 chetrums (Ch). The Ngultrum is pegged to the Indian Rupee (which is also accepted as legal tender). Notes are in denominations of NU100, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of NU1, and 100, 50, 25, 10 and 5 chetrum. Leading foreign currencies are accepted but travelers' cheques are preferred as the exchange rates are better. These can be exchanged in any Bank of Bhutan branches or at all BTCL hotels. You are advised to carry your money in the form of Traveler's Checks (preferably American Express) OR cash (US Dollar) which might be needed for incidental expenses.
Banks in Bhutan do not accept credit cards. Visa Card and American Express credit cards are accepted in a few shops. No other credit card is accepted so far.
Communications in Bhutan
Bhutan country code is + 975. Telephone communication is very reliable. Free Wi-Fi, Internet service is available in every tourist lodge/hotel as well as in town Cafes at cheaper rates.
Night Club in Bhutan
Thimphu has around five licensed night clubs that operate on a weekly basis, on Saturday night and some of them on Wednesday as ladies' night.
Tipping in Bhutan
Small gifts, such as pictures or objects from your home country, are appreciated. For guides, drivers, cooks, and porters on tours and treks, cash is appropriate, as is clothing or items you wish to give.
Shopping in Bhutan
Traditional handicrafts, textiles, jewelry, baskets, and masks. Paintings and woodcarving make good buys. The Handicraft Emporium is a nice place to shop, located on the main street of Bhutan's capital city. It is open daily except for Sunday and offers a magnificent assortment of hand-woven and handcrafted goods.
Equipment for Bhutan Tour
Casual clothes are fine. Use a layering system, starting with thermal underwear and adding a shirt, pile jacket, and windbreaker or parka as necessary.
- Woolen/Cotton trousers (warm clothes for mornings and evenings)
- Down jacket (wind stopper) - especially for higher altitudes
- T-shirts or long-sleeved shirts (not sleeveless) • Sandals or flip flops
- Sun hat
- Comfortable shoes (sneakers)
- Pairs of socks and vests
- Torch (flashlight)
- Sunglasses, spare glasses and contact lenses
- Sunscreen lotion
- Insect repellent cream and your personal medical kit
- Thermal underwear and long jorns will be of essential use
You will be outside a lot, and much of this time is at altitudes above 2,500 m (7,800 ft); so there is plenty of sun and wind. Bring a supply of sun cream and some lip protection, such as Blistex; these items are not available in Bhutan.
- Be sure to carry earplugs (and spares) to reduce the noise from the barking dogs at night. The Bhutanese are Buddhists and do not euthanize or pound stray dogs.
- There are occasional electric outages throughout the country; so you should always keep a torch (flashlight) beside your bed. You will also need while visiting some monuments and monasteries as some monasteries do not have electricity in order to protect the artworks and paintings.
- Carry a pair of sunglasses (as protection from high altitude glare).
- A Swiss army knife has many uses, such as cutting cheese and opening bottles.
- You will also want a small rucksack or backpack to carry your camera, water bottle and other essentials in the vehicle and when you are hiking or visiting monuments.
- Tours must be booked through a recognized Bhutanese Tour Operator such as Alpine Eco Trek, with entire land arrangements provided by one and the same operator.
- For cultural tours, booking arrangements must be completed 60 days in advance, but for cultural tours during festivals, arrangements must be completed 90 days in advance. The spring and autumn festivals are our prime times for tourism; if the booking is not done early it can be difficult to confirm flights and hotels.
- Booking arrangements should be completed at least 90 days in advance for trekking groups, as this activity requires a lot of detailed planning. Alpine Eco Trek offers you a choice of the most excellent and finest organized holiday experiences in the entire Himalayas.
If the above itinerary could not meet your needs and requirements, we can design a tailor-made itinerary to suit your needs. It is also possible to combine with some other activities such as white water rafting, hiking tours, and wildlife safari in Nepal or Tibet tours and Mount Kailash tours.