Bhutan General Information

Bhutan Introduction
Bhutan, known as the the land of the thunder dragon. Located between Tibet to the north and the Indian territories of Assam and West Bengal to the south. The Druk Kingdom is a land of immense natural beauty with rich ancient culture and tradition. Bhutan is one of the few unexplored tourist destinations in the world. Often referred to as Shangri-La. Buddhism is the national religion of Bhutan. Buddhism is believed to have been first introduced in Bhutan the 8th century B.C. The Bhutanese people love themselves to be called Drukpas. Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. The Tibetan origin people dominate the northern, eastern and western part of Bhutan, while the Nepalese origin people dominate the southern part. Bhutan was opened to the modern development in the 1960s after the years of self-imposed isolation with the building of the first schools, hospitals and roads.


Bhutan Gerography

The Kingdom of Bhutan lies in the eastern Himalayas. The Kingdom has a total area of about 47,000 square kilometers. Located in the heart of the high Himalayan mountain range, Bhutan is a land-locked country surrounded by mountains. The sparsely populated Greater Himalayas, bounded to the north by the Tibetan plateau, reach heights of over 7,300 meters, and extend southward losing height, to form the fertile valleys of the Lesser Himalayas divided by the Wang, Sunkosh, Trongsa and Manas Rivers. Monsoon influences promote dense forestation in this region and alpine growth at higher altitudes. The cultivated central uplands and Himalayan foothills support the majority of the population. In the south, the Daurs Plain drops sharply away from the Himalayas into the large tracts of semi-tropical forest, savannah grassland and bamboo jungle.


Bhutan Visa and Permit

Most countries issue visas from their embassies abroad and stamp it in your passport, but in Bhutan the Visas are issued only when you arrive in the country, either at Paro airport or (if entering by road) at Phuentsholing. All applications for tourist visas must be initialised by a Bhutanese tour operator and are approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thimphu.


It’s not necessary to fill in a special visa application form. Just provide the following information to the operator in Bhutan: your name, permanent address, occupation, nationality, date and place of birth, passport number and its date and place of issue and date of expiration. If any item is missing the whole process is delayed. Double-check that the information you send is correct; if there are any discrepancies when you arrive in Bhutan, there’ll be further delays and complications in issuing the visa. When the visa clearance is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it sends a visa confirmation number to the tour operator and to Druk Air. Druk Air will not issue your tickets to Paro until it receives this confirmation number and then rechecks the visa information when you check in for the flight.


Visa extensions

Since tourist visas are issued for the full period you have arranged to stay in Bhutan, it’s unlikely that you would need a visa extension.


Visas for indian nationals

Upon arrival, Indian visitors are issued a 14-day permit, which may be extended in Thimphu. No passport or visa is required, but some form of identification such as a passport, driving licence or voter’s registration card is necessary. Indians arriving by road at Phuentsholing need five photos: three for the Indian certificate and two for the Bhutanese permit. Those arriving by air need two photos for the arrival permit in Paro.

Restricted-area permits

All of Bhutan outside of the Paro and Thimphu valleys is classified as a restricted area. Tour operators obtain a permit for the places on your itinerary, and this permit is checked and endorsed by the police at immigration checkpoints strategically located at important road junctions. The tour operator must return the permit to the government at the completion of the tour, and it is scrutinised for major deviations from the authorised program.

There are immigration checkpoints in Hongtsho (east of Thimphu), Chhukha (between Thimphu and Phuentsholing), Rinchending (above Phuentsholing), Wangdue Phodrang, Chazam (near Trashigang), Wamrong (between Trashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar), and in Samdrup Jongkhar. All are open from 5am to 9pm daily.


Permits to enter temples

Tourists are allowed to visit the courtyards of dzongs and, where feasible, the tshokhang (assembly hall) and one designated lhakhang in each dzong, but only when accompanied by a licensed Bhutanese guide. This provision is subject to certain restrictions, including visiting hours, dress standards and other rules that vary by district. Permits are issued by the National Commission for Cultural Affairs and all the necessary paperwork will be negotiated by your tour company. If you are a practising Buddhist, you may apply for a permit to visit certain dzongs and religious institutions usually off limits. The credibility of your application will be enhanced if you include a letter of reference from a recognised Buddhist organisation in your home country.


Tourist Accomdation

There are comfortable hotels, lodges and guesthouses at our 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. Bhutan All Seasons has 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.

Climate and weather
Geographically, Bhutan is a land of dramatic contrast. From the near tropical southern border with India, steep slopes climb to snow-capped heights of over 24,750 feet/ 7,500m at the northern border with Tibet. Consequently, temperatures vary greatly between day and night and at different altitudes, so layered clothing for changing conditions, is recommended. In the central valleys, the summer rains are not as heavy as in the south and occur mostly in late afternoon and at night. From mid-May to the end of September, the weather is warm at night (60-64F/17-18C) and in the day (72-78F/22-26C). In winter, the sky is bright and it is sunny but cold, especially when the sun hides behind the mountains in the mornings and evenings. At night, the temperature falls below zero. Spring and Autumn are very pleasant with warm days and cool nights.

Language

Dzongkha, spoken only in western Bhutan, is the national language. Nepali is spoken in the south, Sharchop in the east, and Bumthapka and Khengka in the central Bhutan. English is commonly spoken and is the medium of instruction in schools.


Communication

Telephone and fax services are available in all major towns. International connections, internet and e-mail facilities are also available in most of the places. There are numerous internet cafes in every town.


Electricity

Electricity runs at 220 / 240 volts, 50 cycles AC current in Bhutan. Electricity is fairly reliable, though in the exteriors you might experience a few blackouts.Go to Top


Food and Drinks

Bhutanese food is a tantalizing blend of hot Himalayan flavours. Northern Indian cuisine mixes with the chillies of the Tibetan plateau and traditional recipes from Bhutan 's villages to create sizzling and memorable tastes. Chanterelle mushrooms, apricots, asparagus, a wide variety of chillis and a host of spices grow in abundance in Bhutan 's valleys. These spices, fruits and vegetables are prepared with beef, chicken, pork, and dried yak or with each other to make dishes that resemble elements of both Chinese and Indian cuisine.


Clothing

Due to wide range of temperature and climatic conditions, it is advisable to bring appropriate clothing. From May to September normal traveling cloths plus a light woolen sweater or a light jacket and a light walking boots are sufficient. From November to end of April on the other hand, you will need very warm cloths including underwear or woolen tights to wear under trousers, thick socks, strong boots and down jacket.


Customs and Regulations

The Bhutanese authorities strictly prohibit the export of any religious Antiquity or antiques of any type. All personal electronics, Cameras, Video Cameras, Computers and personal electronic equipment may be brought into the country but they must be listed on the customs form provided on arrival at Paro and will be checked on departure. Two liters of Alcohol and reasonable quantity of cigarettes may be brought in to the country without duty.