With a total land area of 38,394 square kilometer, Bhutan is strategically located between India and China at the eastern end of Himalayasand the landscape ranges from subtropicalplains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, with some peaks exceeding 7,000 metres (23,000 ft).The capital and largest city is Thimphu. It’s a deeply Buddhist land that offers an opportunity to glimpse another way of living, an alternative vision of what is truly important in life.Bhutan is the last Shangri La where traditional culture is proudly cherished and natural heritage is equally treasured. While maintaining its distinct and amazing cultural identity Bhutan now is straddling the ancient and modern world.
The climate in Bhutan varies widely depending on the elevation. In the southern border areas it is tropical; at the other extreme, in the high Himalayan regions, there is perpetual snow. Bhutan has moderate temperature climate having dry winters and hot/wet summers. Temperatures in the far south range from 15°C in winter (December to February) to 30°C in summer (June to August). In Paro the range is from -5°C in January to 30°C in July, with 800mm of rain. In the high mountain regions the average temperature is 0°C in winter and may reach 10°C in summer, with an average of 350mm of rain.
The ideal time for visiting the country is autumn, from late September to late November, when skies are generally clear and the high mountain peaks rise to a vivid blue sky. Spring, from March to May, is recognized as the second best time to visit Bhutan for touring and trekking.
In Bhutan every aspect of daily life is shaped by Buddhist beliefs and aspirations. The majority of the Bhutanese population lives in central Bhutan, depending on agriculture of crops, and livestock breeding. Daily life revolves around the care of livestocks and farm labour. In Bhutan women are the head of the household and she decides on the division of farm labour and there are only few forms of labour traditionally viewed as exclusively male or female, such as weaving and spinning for women and harrowing and ploughing for men.
Unlike most other countries, visas for entering into Bhutan are issued only when you arrive in the country, either at Paro Airport (by air) or at Phuentsholing (by road from India). You must apply in advance through an officially approved local tour operator (either directly or through an agent) and receive approval before you travel to Bhutan. We at Alpine Club of Himalaya do all visa processing for Bhutan. Your visa application is submitted to the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Thimpu and they issue the visa approval letter to us after screening properly that you have completely paid for your trip. With this approval in hand, a final application is made to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Bhutan Visa, which takes upto a week's time. When the visa clearance is issued, it sends a confirmation number to us and to Druk Air because this ONLY airline in Bhutan will not issue your tickets to Paro until it receives this confirmation number. Thus, through this process the actual visa endorsement is stamped in your passport when you arrive at one of the above said two entry/exit points for tourists to Bhutan.It is useful to have a photocopy of the visa clearance, or at least the visa number, to expedite the visa process. For the visa you need a passport having at least 6 months validity period.You should carry some additional form of identification and a photocopy of your passport in case you lose your passport. No country other than India has the facility for issuing a replacement passport in Bhutan.
Getting Into Bhutan
Bhutan, being landlocked between two Asian giants of China and India,is accessible either through land or by air. Unless you are an Indian national, the Department of Tourism (DOT) rules require that you either enter or exit Bhutan on a Druk Air flight. Foreigners can get into Bhutan only through a Tour Company.
Druk Air is the ONLY airline in Bhutan and flies to Kathmandu (Nepal); Delhi, Calcutta (India); Bangkok (Thailand); Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Rangoon (Burma).
Getting into Bhutan by road is possible ONLY from India. The two border crossings fromIndia into Bhutan that are permitted to foreigners are at Phuentsholing border with the Indian state of West Bengal, and at SamdrupJongkhar, on the border with the state of Assam.
Bhutan has recently implemented restrictions on smoking and the sale of tobacco products.
Upon arrival at Paro airport, all your baggage must be affirmed and cleared through the customs at the entry. Personal effects are permitted free entry. All visitors are required to complete a customs form and hand it over to the customs authorities on arrival. All articles for personal and professional use must be declared on the customs form. Druk Air allows 20 kg in economic class and 30 kg in business class. An extra 5 kg allowed for storing in the overhead baggage bin or under the passenger’s seat.
• 200 cigarettes.
• 1liter of spirits.
• Personal items for daily use, instruments or appliances for professional use.
Please note that cameras, videos, mobile telephones and all other electronic equipment for personal use must be registered with the authorities on arrival and will be checked by customs on departure. All tobacco items are subject to 200% custom tax on arrival.
Prohibited Imports: Firearms, Narcotics, Plants.
Prohibited Exports: Antiques, religious objects, manuscripts, wildlife & plants, images and anthropological materials.
Health concerns in Bhutan too are similar to those in other Asian countries: high risk of acquiring traveller's diarrhoea, respiratory infection, or a more exotic tropical infection. And if you trek there are risks associated with altitude sickness and accidents. Bhutan does not officially require any immunization certificates to enter the country.
• Aspirin or Panadol - for pain or fever
• Antihistamine - as a decongestant for colds, allergies and to help prevent motion sickness;
• Antibiotics - useful if traveling off beaten track but they must be prescribed
• Kaolin preparation (Pepto-Bismol), Imodium or Lomotil - for stomach upsets
• Rehydration mixture - for treatment of severe diarrhea
• Antiseptic, mercurochrome and antibiotic powder or similar 'dry' spray - for cuts and grazes.
• Calamine lotion to ease irritation from bites or stings
• bandages and band aids for minor injuries
• scissors and/or tweezers
• insect repellent
• sun block lotion
• water-purification tablets
• throat lozenges (Strepsils)
• Sulamyd 10% eye drops
• Acetaminophen (Paracetamol, Antacid tablets)
A travel insurance policy that covers medical expenses, evacuation, theft and loss is recommended. Make sure the insurance also covers all the adventure activities during your stay in Bhutan. Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payment directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
The unit of Bhutanese currency is ngultrum (Nu), and is equivalent to one Indian rupee. One ngultrum is equal to 100 chetrum. Bhutanese money comes in denominations of Nu 1, 5,10,20,50,100 and 500 notes and coins come to the value of 25 and 50 chetrum and Nu 1. Indian rupees upto 100 denomination is freely used anywhere in Bhutan (but Bhutanese currency, ngultrum are not accepted in India). Foreign currencies must be exchanged only through banks or through authorized dealers and the receipts of the transactions should be retained safely. Visitors can exchange money at foreign exchange counter upon arrival at Paro airport.
ATMs: ATM facilities recently being introduced in Bhutan, is used by local people only.
Credit Cards:Credit Cards are not widely accepted in Bhutan. And if accepted at few big handicraft shops and some of the larger hotels in Thimphu, these transactions do take time. The credit-card companies charge high fees, usually a percentage of the overall purchase, and the verification office is open only in bank hours from 9am to 5pm. This precludes paying your hotel bill at night or when you check out early in the morning.