Bhutan Travel Information - Himalayan Smile Treks

Bhutan Travel Information

BY AIR:
Bhutan’s only airport is located at Paro. Bhutan’s national airline Druk Air flies from Paro Airport in Bhutan to New Delhi, Calcutta, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Dhaka and Rangoon ( Myanmar). Please check the flight schedule at Druk Air’s official website.

BY ROAD:
The visitors can fly to the nearest Indian airport, Bagdogra in North Bengal. From Bagdogra, they can travel by road. It takes 3-4 hours drive to reach Phuentsholing located on Indo-Bhutan border, the gateway to Bhutan. The visitors from Nepal can also travel by road through Kakrivitta, the eastern border town of Nepal. It takes about 5 hours drive from Panitanki, the Indian Customs check post. It takes about 7-8 hours drive from Sikkim and Darjeeling to reach Phuentsholing. It takes 6-7 hours drive from Phuentsholing to Thimphu or Paro airport. However, one side journey (entry/exit) needs to be taken by air. If travelling overland via Indian territories, a transit pass from the government of India is required to travel through prohibited areas of India on Bhutan’s border. You are required to apply to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi some months before departure to Bhutan.

VISA AND PASSPORT:
The visitors are required to possess valid passport and visa for entry to Bhutan, except for Indian nationals. Visitors to Bhutan must have a visa approved prior to arriving in the kingdom. Those who have not had a visa approved will not be permitted to board their Druk Air flight to Bhutan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thimphu issues visa to all foreign travelers. For obtaining visa for you we will do all procedures.

Bhutanese embassies or consulate abroad do not issue tourist visa. The Druk Air ticket cannot be purchased without first obtaining visa. Visa application at least three months in advance is advisable.

A two-week visa costs US$20 and is stamped on the passport at Paro Airport (or entry port) during the immigration process. Visas are approved and issued prior to entry, with the pre-payment of travel itinerary. The visitors are required to produce two passport size photographs. The visa can be extended upto six months in Thimphu. The visitors to Bhutan are advised to finalize their travel plans well in advance. Visa applications must reach the Thimphu, Bhutan office of Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited (BTCL) at least 60 days prior to the intended arrival date, earlier if traveling to the Kingdom in the peak months of September, October, November, March, April or early May. The BTCL will advise all visitors of their status before their intended departure date. The actual visas are stamped in the passports at the entry points, either Paro Airport or Phuentsholing (land entry or exit).

The cost/price of package/group holiday is fixed by the Royal Government of Bhutan. The package tour covers all costs including accommodation, all meals, transport, services of government registered guides etc. For more information please visit the official website of the Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited or contact to Himalayan Smile Treks and Adventures Pvt. Ltd.

BHUTAN STANDARD TIME:
Bhutan standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT.

DECLARATION AT CUSTOMS:
All visitors are required to complete the customs form upon arrival at Paro. Upon arrival you will be issued a “customs form” this form must be filled out, with declarations, and returned to authorities before leaving the kingdom.

The following items are exempted from customs duty:

–  personal effects for day to day use
– 2 liters of alcohol, 400 cigarettes; 150 gms of pipe tobacco
– instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
– photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods.
Cameras, video cameras, computers and personal electronic equipment must be declared on arrival and will be checked upon departure. Export of antiques, religious antiquities or antiques, plants or animal products are strictly prohibited.

CREDIT CARDS:
Credit Cards have very limited use in Bhutan. American and Visa Credit Cards are accepted in a very few shops. Traveller Cheques are accepted in almost all shops and establishments.

CURRENCY:
Bhutan’s currency is called Ngultrum or (Nu. 100 Chetrum makes a Nu. Ngultrum or (Nu) is at par with Indian Rupee. Indian Rupee is legal tender in Bhutan. Current exchange rate is approximately US$ 1 = Nu. 48. There are several banking facilities which accept Pound Sterling and US Dollars. (Hours 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, Mon to Fri). In the capital town of Thimphu some of the smaller bank branches are open Saturday and Sunday for currency exchange.

HOTELS AND ACCOMMODATIONS:
There are comfortable hotels and lodges available for the travelers.

CLIMATE:
Bhutan’s climate ranges from tropical in the south, to temperate in the center of the country, to cold in the north like in Nepal. In Thimphu and Paro valleys, the winter daytime temperature averages 60 degrees Fahrenheit during clear winter days but drops well below freezing during the night. Mid December to early January can be a beautifully clear and dry time in Western Bhutan. Late December through mid February is the period of heaviest snow fall in the higher elevations.

WHAT TO BRING:
Bhutan’s changeable climate means you have to bring an assortment of clothes, including rain gear. A layered wardrobe probably makes the most sense. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are essential even if you are not hiking. Because of the altitude, a hat or cap and a good pair of sunglasses are essential. Warm clothes are recommended for the evening. Because of the long distances between towns and villages bring the medicines you’ll need along with some first-aid supplies. A good flashlight (torch), water bottle and polarizing filter for your camera will also come in very handy. We have also found the addition of a day pack or shoulder bag and a telescoping walking stick to be very handy.

FESTIVALS:
Religious festivals (Tsechu) are important events and celebrated throughout the kingdom. The Teschu is really a festive time for Bhutanese. The tsechus are the most colourful of all Bhutanese gatherings and celebrated at every Dzong (fortress).

TRANSPORTATION:
There are no domestic airlines or trains. However the main roads are well maintained. The main highway runs from west to east connecting all the major towns. Mode of transportation within Bhutan is by motor vehicles only.

AIRPORT TAX:
International departures Nu 300.

COMMUNICATIONS:
International telephone and fax services are available in various towns in Bhutan. Internet and e-mail facilities are also available in most of the towns.

CUISINE:
Tourist hotels have a choice of Bhutanese, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Continental food.

LANGUAGE:
Dzonkha is the national language. English is the medium of instruction and official correspondence. English is understood and spoken in all towns. All tour operators, hotel staff, tourist guides speak fluent English. Nepali is spoken in southern Bhutan. Besides, some guides are trained to speak Japanese, French and little Spanish.

SHOPPING:
Traditional handicrafts, textiles, jewelleries, baskets, masks. Paintings and woodcarving are preferred by most tourists.

DISTANCE/TRAVELING TIME

From To Distance (KMs) Driving Time
Thimpu Paro 65 2 hrs
Thimpu Phuntsholing 176 6 hrs
Phutsholing Bagdora 170 4 hrs
Thimpu Wangdi Phodrang 70 3 hrs
Thimpu Punakha 77 3 hrs 15 min
Punakha Wangdi Phodrang 13 45 min
Wangdi Phodrang Tongsa 129 4 hrs 30 min
Tongsa Bumthang 68 2hrs 30 min
Bumthang Mongar 198 7 hrs
Mongar Lhuntshi 76 3 hrs
Mongor Tashigang 90 4hrs
Tashigang Chorten Kora 52 1hrs 30 min
Tashigang Samdrup Jongkhar 180 6hrs
Samdrup Jongkhar Gauhati(India) 110 3hrs
Samdrup Jongkhar Phuntsholing 380 9hrs 30 min