Checklist

Before coming to Bhutan, make sure that you attend to the following:

Travel/Medical Insurance

The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for our visitors. Hence it is important that you get detailed information about the insurance scheme from your travel agents here in Bhutan. You may also visit the web site at www.ricb.com.bt

Money

Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) that is at par with the Indian rupee. It is however recommended that you carry travelers’ cheque or cash, preferably American Express and US dollar instead, as the ATM facilities for foreign currency is limited to just few towns including the capital city Thimphu. Visa and American Express credit cards are also widely accepted.

Banking

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 services and facilities while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Many of these banks provide you with SMS and internet banking facilities. There are also ATM facilities that you can avail and ATMS are located in a number of places where you can withdraw your money especially in Thimphu and in the border town of Phuentsholing. Traveler’s cheque can be easily withdrawn and exchanged into local currency. However, as you travel into the interior, ATM and internet facilities are almost non-existent and we suggest that you do your banking facilities while in Thimphu.

Electricity

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 hydro power.

Communications

The country has a good network of telecommunication facilities. Almost every town has an internet cafe and IDD calling booths from where you can log on to and send messages home and to your loved ones. Also most hotels in Thimphu and Paro have internet access. Mobile (cell) phone is also widely used with international roaming facilities.

Travelling Kits

Bhutan experiences a great variation in its climate. Summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 Celsius, while winters are cold. In winters temperatures are usually below 15 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, sun screen lotion and a hat; antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhoea pills, altitude & car sickness medicine; insect repellent, flash light (w/spare batteries) umbrella, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries)etc.

Photography

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 are restricted unless you have a special permission from the Department of Culture. 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.

Shopping

For people who love shopping and taking home gifts, Bhutan offers a variety of goods that revolve mainly round textiles. You may shop for items like hand-woven textiles that is 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 thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamp. 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 is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.

Gratuities

Tipping is a purely personal matter. We do not have any tradition of giving tips and we clearly leave it up to you as to whether you want to give tips to your guides and drivers.

Customs

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) Antiques

Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on 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.

Language

Bhutanese speak a variety of languages but Dzongkha is the national language and one of the most widely spoken language. 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 on Bhutan.

Clothes and other paraphernalia

With great altitudinal variations weather is quite erratic in Bhutan. So be prepared to brace the erratic weather as you step outdoor. 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.

Time

Our standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country.

Office hours

Office hours in Bhutan are divided into two timings – the summer timing and the winter timing. The summer timing begins at 9AM Bhutan standard time and goes on till 5Pm 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 9AM in the morning till 4 PM in the evening. However, these timings are followed only in Thimphu and few other Districts. These 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 9AM till 5PM irrespective of the season.

Health: Inoculations

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.

Tobacco/Smoking

We have a duty to protect Bhutan from Drugs and Tobacco Products. To do this we need your help and cooperation. If we stop you and ask you about your baggage please co-operate.

**Please do not carry tobacco goods that are over the limits. For more information please see following link.

Tobacco Control Act

Accommodation

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 their warmth and comfort of the hotels and the ambience and the hospitality offered by the hotels are incredible. The 5 star hotels are mostly located in Thimphu, and in Paro, towns like Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang 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 in cabins sprinkled along some main trekking routes.

Food

Most Bhutanese dishes are rich and spicy with a lot of cheese and chilli. It is advisable that visitors stick to the Chinese, Continental or Indian cuisine that is served in most restaurants. Visitors can also choose among the 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 efficient measurement systems readily available, most of the shop keepers in the capital city make use of electronic and weighing scale. However, as you travel further east, you will find the ordinary weighing scale in place.

Safety Precautions

While safety is not much of a concern, however it is good to come prepared for any mishap. One need 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 who undergo training conducted by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. There are also guides who speak fluent Japanese, Thai and other European languages.

Public Holidays:

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 is observed especially while conducting annual tshechus (Religious festivals). For this one may contact your service provider or your travel agent.