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Facts

Population

710,000

Capital City

Thimphu

Another fact

Answer

Plug types

Voltage: 230V, Frequency: 50Hz

Religion

Buddhist, Hindu

Currency

Ngultrum (BTN) Exchange rates

Timezone

UTC +6 hours

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  • What to expect

    Bhutan is a breathtakingly beautiful country, with dramatic mountain scenery and fascinating monasteries, fortresses and temples. Its isolation has created a unique culture steeped in ancient beliefs, with a strong Tibetan-Buddhist influence evident throughout the country.

    Bhutan is a high altitude country, so it is important to allow yourself time to acclimatise to the lower oxygen levels. Visitor facilities and infrastructure may not be what you have experienced in other more visited Asian destinations, and sometimes schedules need to change to accommodate unexpected occurrences, such as local festivities.

    Accommodation will be cosy and comfortable, and on par with Western-style accommodation, though with local touches. Road travel may be slow through the mountains, however roads are generally in good condition.

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Flight times

From London

approximately 10 hours

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Events

Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed here. As major holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our the UK-based Asia specialists for details.

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  • January

    on the seventh day of the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar is the winter solstice, celebrated by some Bhutanese like the new year. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • January/February - the Traditional Day of Offering

    is marked, where Bhutan's citizens give thanks to the founder of their country. It is celebrated with feasting and participation in traditional sports, like archery. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • February/March - Losar

    is the Tibetan new year, a huge 15 day celebration where people clean out their homes and prepare food and drink. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 21-23 February

    is a holiday celebrating the birthday of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the current head of state. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • April/May - Shabdrung Kurchoe

    is held, a national day of mourning for a Tibetan Buddhist lama who unified Bhutan in the 1600s. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 2 May

    is the birth anniversary of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, Bhutan's third king. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 2 June

    is the coronation day of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan's fourth king. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 15 June

    is Parinirvana Day, commemorating the day when Buddha was said to have achieved complete nirvana upon the death of his physical body. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 10 July celebrates the birthday of Guru Rinpoche

    the founder of Bhutan. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 3 August

    is a holiday marking Buddha's first sermon. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • September - Blessed Rainy Day

    marks the end of the monsoon and beginning of the harvest season. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 6 October

    is a holiday celebrating Dashain, the main Nepalese and Hindu festival, where houses are cleaned and families gather. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 1 November

    celebrates the coronation of Bhutan's fifth and current king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 11 November

    marks the birthday of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan's fourth king. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • November -

    Lhabab Duchen marks Buddha's return to earth after attaining nirvana. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • 17 December

    is National Day. Celebrations include a public address by the king and a procession. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.

  • Health & Fitness

    Travellers to Bhutan should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. Western medical facilities are limited and effectively available only in the capital. In remote areas, medical facilities are basic. Some of the diseases known to exist in Bhutan include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS.

    We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks. You should also consult your doctor with regard to malaria risk. We strongly recommend you consult your preferred doctor for the most up-to-date health advice at least one month prior to travel.

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  • Visa Information

    All foreign tourists to Bhutan require a visa. Independent travel is not permitted in Bhutan; you must apply for a tourist visa in advance through a licensed tour operator and receive approval before you travel to Bhutan. Visas are issued only when you arrive in the country, either at Paro airport or (if entering by road) at Phuentsholing.

    Please note Bhutanese visa regulations and arrangements are subject to change and it is your responsibility to ensure your visa is in order before you travel. We strongly suggest that you check with the relevant embassies in your country of residence that these guidelines are applicable to you.

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  • Safety and security

    Bhutan is a safe country, however petty street crime occasionally occurs. Throughout your stay, always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers. These documents should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals.

    You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible. It is best to wear minimal jewellery and to keep your spending money close to your body in a secure place when out on the street. Read our safety guidelines for further information.

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Reading

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  • The Raven Crown by Michael Aris

    an informative book chronicling the Wangchuck Dynasty, who have ruled Bhutan for over 100 years. It also features over 100 rare historic photographs.

  • Beyond the Sky and the Earth by Jamie Zeppa

    an evocative and spiritual memoir of a young woman's time living and teaching in Bhutan, and falling in love with a local man along the way.

  • Treasures of the Thunder Dragon by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk

    a photographic journey highlighting Bhutan's beauty, from its ancient fortresses to colourful festivals. It features areas of Bhutan seldom seen by Western visitors.

  • The Circle of Karma by Kunzang Choden

    by the first Bhutanese woman to write a novel in English, this book captures a slice of 1950s Bhutan and the restrictive gender roles found in the country pre-modernisation.

  • Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon by Katie Hickman

    an account of a year travelling in the remote eastern part of Bhutan, including encounters with lamas, hermits and a sorceress.

  • Bhutan Kingdom of the Dragon by Robert Dompnier

    a French photographer's beautiful photos of Bhutan and its people, with a particular emphasis on people going about their everyday lives.

Useful words & phrases

  • Hello (or hi)

    Kuzuzangbo la

  • How are you?

    Cho Gadebe yo

  • Thank you

    Kadrichay

  • What is your name?

    Cho meng gaci mo

  • My name is…

    Nge meng...ing

  • Where do you come from?

    Cho gati la mo?

  • I come from...

    Nga...la ing

  • Can I take a photo

    Pa tabney chokar la?

  • Expensive!

    Gong bom!

  • No

    Me

  • Yes

    Ing/yo

  • Where is the toilet?

    Chapsa gati in-na?

  • Getting around

    Arrival and departure transfers

    In Bhutan, explore villages, markets, monasteries and fortresses on foot. There are often plenty of steps and stone paths so good footwear is essential. There are lengthy treks involved in reaching some sites, such as a two hour optional uphill trek to the Tigers Nest Monastery, but most sites are easily accessible.

    Travel between destinations in Bhutan is typically by comfortable mini van or mini bus - there are no larger buses or coaches in the country as they are not practical on the mountain roads. Road travel is slow and most roads are winding and often steep. Outside Paro and Thimpu taxis are rare.

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  • Internet

    Telecommunications are still in their formative stage in Bhutan, a country which only introduced television to its citizens in 1999. Internet cafes exist only in the largest towns, and while hotels increasingly provide WiFi services and/or internet access via a terminal, they are frequently slow or down.

    Most hotels have IDD phone connections and there is a surprisingly good mobile network, however you should contact your service provider prior to departure to confirm they have a global roaming agreement in Bhutan.

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  • Food & drink

    Bhutan's cuisine shares many similarities with those of its Himalayan neighbours. Lentils, rice and vegetables play starring roles, and a lot of dishes feature chilli, sometimes toned down for visitors. Outside larger towns there are limited dining options outside hotels.

    Tap water should not be consumed, but bottled water is readily available. Soft drinks and beer can be found for purchase, however wine is considerably expensive in Bhutan. Western snack foods are in limited supply, but most towns have a bakery.

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  • Tipping

    We believe tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for receiving great service, and while it is accepted practice in Asia, it should never feel like an obligation. At the beginning of each trip, your Western tour leader or local guide will ask for a small sum (around 50 cents a day) to cover tips for hotel porters and boat crews throughout the trip.

    This helps prevent over tipping and having to always carry small change. We are confident that you will be extremely happy with the service you receive from our guides, drivers and tour leaders, and in many cases will choose to show this through a tip, so we do not include compulsory tipping for any Travel Indochina representatives on any of our trips. The choice to tip is always completely up to you.

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  • Swimming

    Not surprisingly, there are few opportunities for swimming in landlocked Bhutan, and very few hotels have swimming pools. There are some local hot stone baths where stones are used to heat spring water, said to have a therapeutic effect.

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