Visas for Bhutan
Visas are initially granted for stays of up to 30 days. Visa applications for all tourists are processed by the travel/tour agent through the Tourism Authority of Bhutan (TAB). Only once the visa has been cleared can visitors travel to Bhutan. The Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited (BTCL) can apply for an extension of tourist visas for an additional fee per person. Visas are issued (stamped in passport) on arrival at Paro Airport or at Phuentsholing check post. Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process and should be applied for at least 30 days prior to arrival in Bhutan.
Please note that visas are only issued to tourists once the trip is booked with full payment and will be stamped in your passport on payment of US$ 50 at the point of entry. Please note that air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased without visa clearance.
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.
There is no star categorization of hotels in Bhutan and five-star luxuries are not available. However we Alpine Eco Trek provides the best hotels available. There are comfortable hotels built in traditional design at all tourist destinations.
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 half an hour ahead of India.
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.
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 AND FOOD
- Cucumbers with Onion and Cheese.
- The Bhutanese serve 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.
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 17, National Day of Bhutan.
The photography opportunities on the trip are immense. Carry plenty of films and batteries. Photoshops in Bhutan do not sell equipment or accessories.
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 used is 1 Ngultrum (NU), broken into 100 chetrum (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.
Monday - Friday: 9 am to 3 pm.
Saturday - 9 am to 11 am.
TELEPHONE: Bhutan country code is + 975. Telephone communication is very reliable
INTERNET: Wi-Fi, Internet service is available in every tourist lodge/hotel as well as in town Cafes at cheaper rates.
NIGHT CLUB: Thimphu has around five licensed night clubs which operate on a weekly basis, on Saturday night and some of them on Wednesday as ladies' night.
TIPPING: 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.
Traditional handicrafts, textiles, jewelry, baskets, and masks. Paintings and woodcarving make good buys.
The Handicraft Emporium
The Handicraft Emporium is 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.
Shopping hours: 9.00am - 10.00pm
Operates from Monday to Sunday accept on Tuesday.
WHAT TO BRING
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 to visit 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.