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General Information
Climate

The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general the eastern region of the country is warmer than the central valleys.However, bear in mind that the higher the altitude, the cooler the weather, and that with a brisk wind blowing down off the mountains, even a low-lying valley can become quite chilly. The central valleys of Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Mongar, Tashigang and Lhuentse enjoy a semi-tropical climate with cool winters, whilst Paro, Thimphu, Tongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate, with summer monsoon rains and winter snowfalls which may block passes leading into the central valleys for days at a time. Winter in Bhutan is from mid-November till mid-March, and at this time of the year the climate is dry and sunny for the most part, temperatures peaking at around 150c. in the daytime and falling below zero at night. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with light rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. At the end of September, after the last of the big rains, autumn suddenly arrives, and is a magnificent season for trekking until November.

Health

No vaccinations are currently required for traveling to Bhutan. However, visitors coming from an area infected with yellow fever are required to have had a yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days before their arrival. Cholera vaccinations are strongly recommended for visitors coming from a cholera infected area. Anti-malarial medication is also recommended for all travelers who will be visiting rural areas of districts bordering India.

Money

Bhutan's currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.), with 100 Chetrum = 1 Ngultrum. The Ngultrum is fixed to the value of Indian rupee. Tourists are advised to carry their money in the form of traveler's checks (preferably American Express) with some cash (US dollars would be best) which might be used for incidental purchases/expenses. There are bank branches in all major towns.

Electricity

In Bhutan, electricity runs on 220/240 volts, with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets. If you bring electrical appliances, also pack appropriate adapter plugs. Thimphu electrical appliance shops stock adapter plugs, but they are unlikely to be available elsewhere.

Communication

Clients will be able to check their email and make international telephone calls from most towns while touring Bhutan. While internet cafes are more widespread in the western region, even in the far east there are public IDD calling booths. IDD calls may be made and received at most accommodations used by us, and at least in Thimphu, hotel internet access is assured also. Our guides carry satellite phones on the Laya and Lunana treks, where groups are away from regular means of communication for extended periods of time.

Timing

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

Accommodation

There are comfortable hotels, lodges and guesthouses at the tourist destinations. Generally speaking, hotels in western Bhutan are better appointed, while accommodation establishments in the central and eastern part of the country are more modest, with fewer amenities. There is no star categorization of hotels and five star luxuries are not available. We have carefully selected the list of accommodation units with the best of location, service and ambience. Away from the towns and villages, there are purpose-built cabins on some of the principal trekking routes. But there is nothing like camping out in the forest or at the foot of a mountain! Wherever you spend the night, the warm Bhutanese hospitality will make you feel welcome.

Clothing

Due to the wide range of temperature and climatic conditions it is advisable to dress in layers. For protection against cold, layered clothing is better than one or two thick garments. Clothing should preferably be made from natural materials, which allow the body to breathe.

You will be offending people if you walk around in skimpy or tight fitting clothes. Shorts are not welcome and women are advised to wear below the knee skirts or fairly loose trousers. Do not wear sleeveless T shirts (singlets, vests) as outer garments. Dress modestly and respectfully for visits to monasteries, dzongs and other religious institutions, and refrain from smoking while on the premises. Hats, caps etc. should be removed before entering the premises.

What to Pack

The following is fairly exhaustive list of what you should pack for the trip: Clothes as per season, sunglasses/spare glasses, pair of casual shoes, knife, hat, umbrella, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries), insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, scissors, sun cream, lip salve, soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhea pills, a preparation for the relief of sunburn, and any medication you take regularly, or might need to take for a periodically recurring condition, such as asthma.

Bring about twice as much film as you are expecting to use, and plenty of spare camera batteries, as these are unlikely to be available locally.

Photography

The photographic opportunities on all trips are immense. The natural scenery is superb, and you will also wish to record the local people, their houses and shops etc. Always ask by a gesture if it is ok to do so. Don't take your destination as a living museum! Also, note that photography in shrine rooms of dzongs, monasteries and religious institutions is generally not permitted. Outdoor photography is usually permitted, but when visiting such places, please check with your guide before taking any photographs.

Shopping

Hand-woven textiles, carved masks, woven baskets, wooden bowls, handmade paper products, finely crafted metal objects, thangkha paintings and Bhutan's exquisite postage stamps are the items mostly purchased by travelers in Bhutan. The buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden.

Gratuities

Tipping is a purely at discretion which evolves around the experience and level of satisfaction which you felt from the services provided by our organization.

Visa

Visas are required for traveling to Bhutan, the visa fee is US$20 for unlimited duration of stay, paid on arrival. No foreign mission abroad grants Bhutan tourist visas.

All information as mentioned on the visa application form must be forwarded to us for processing with the concerned authorities at least three weeks prior to date of travel, but note that for all FITS / GITs traveling during festivals, details should be sent at least 6 weeks prior to date of travel, as this is the peak time for tourism.

Please submit the required information by fax or email. A Bhutan visa application data form would be forwarded on request. We do not require any additional photos or visa forms in advance.

Whether entering Bhutan by land or by air, each client should bring two passport size photographs with name/ passport number printed clearly on the back, and US$20 (in cash) for the visa fee. Visa applications are cleared in advance, and visa clearance numbers issued, and clients' passports are stamped on arrival at the port of entry.

For travelers entering Bhutan by Druk Air, visa clearance is required for the issuing of Druk Air tickets. The visa clearance number is forwarded to the Druk Air station at which the flight originates. Travelers without a visa clearance number on record will not be permitted to board their flights. For travelers entering the country by land from India, through the southern border town of Phuentsholing, the visa is stamped on arrival, as per visa clearance number. Travelers without a visa clearance number on record will not be permitted to enter the country.

Tariff

The INTERNATIONAL TOURIST TARIFF is set by the Royal Government of Bhutan and is valid for all-inclusive packages. The daily tariff is in the US$150-US$240 range, with US$200 per day charged for adults traveling in groups of three or more. A daily surcharge is applied for groups of fewer than three people. Children under five years of age travel free, and those aged 6-12 travel at a much reduced daily rate. Discounts are available for students under the age of 25 and for diplomats from foreign embassies/missions accredited to Bhutan. Discounts are also provided for stays of more than 10 nights in the country.

Accessibility

The most convenient way of entering Bhutan is by Druk Air, the country's national (and so far only) carrier. As flights can be delayed due to weather conditions (particularly during the summer months), it is advisable to allow 24 hours before any onward connection.

Druk Air flies regularly between Bhutan and the following countries: Bangladesh (Dhaka); Burma (Yangon); India (Kolkata, Delhi); Nepal (Kathmandu); Thailand (Bangkok)

Arrival/departure by land is also possible, through the southern border town of Phuentsholing. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, West Bengal, about 4 hours drive away. Phuentsholing is a convenient entry/exit point for travelers wishing to visit the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal along with Bhutan. It is sometimes possible to arrange land exit from Bhutan through the southeastern border town of Samdrup Jongkhar, which is approximately 3 hours drive from Guwahati, capital of the Indian state of Assam.

Customs

Visitors are required to complete a passenger declaration form for checking by concerned officers on arrival. The following articles are exempt from duty: -

  • Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor
  • 2 liters of alcohol (spirits or wine)
  • 400 cigarettes, 150 gms of pipe tobacco, 2 boxes of cigars (or 50 pieces)
  • Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
  • Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.
  • 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

    Import/export of the following goods is strictly prohibited

  • Arms, ammunitions and explosives
  • All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs
  • Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
  • 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.Our advice should be sought before committing to such purchases.

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