Frequently Asked Questions About Bhutan Travel
We have designed the below FAQS to address many queries of people who are planning and preparing to visit Bhutan. The below listed questions are the general guideline to assist your holiday plan in the country of the thunder dragon. The relevant answers help you to organize and manage the perfect holiday plan before you set your journey. These are the rough guides to make your travel easy and comfortable. You will find many outstanding travel books anywhere in the world for detail information- just grab and go through it. If you can’t – don’t worry, you can easily find it in Nepal and Bhutan.
Where is Bhutan?
Bhutan, officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked country located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. To the west, it is separated from Nepal by the Indian state of Sikkim, while further south it is separated from Bangladesh by the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. The unique and traditional cultural practice of people makes it as one of the popular tourist destinations in the world.
Why is Bhutan popular destination?
Bhutan distinguishes itself from its two large neighbors because of its unique cultural and environmental features. Due to its pristine environment and harmonious society, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan has been called ‘The Last Shangrila’. Perched high in the Himalayas, it is the world’s last remaining Buddhist Kingdom. The philosophy of Gross National Happiness is the major tool to judge the development using a holistic approach of well being not just based on gross domestic products. Most of the people in Bhutan depend their life on agricultural activities. In addition, the current generation receives free education, and all citizens have access to free, although basic, medical care. The sale of tobacco products is banned and smoking in public areas is an offense punished with fines.
The major attractions in Bhutan are the most colourful and vibrant festivals, weekend market, quirky shops, museums and landmarks like the National Memorial Chorten, the only capital in the world without traffic lights, the highly ornate Drukwangyal Lhakhang (temple) and the 108 chortens, beautiful glacial valley and various sacred sites in the Himalayas including different flora and fauna. Thus, Bhutan can be the best option for any travelers to explore the himalalayan culture in the land of the thunder dragon.
Is Bhutan politically safe destination to travel?
Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. It has multi –party democratic political system with many active political parties, ideas, ideologies and leaders. Bhutan is always a safe destination for all kinds of travelers.
How to enter Bhutan?
One can enter Bhutan by air or by road via private car, public bus and train. Paro International Airport is the only entry point to Bhutan by air. It is located in the south west of the country and served only by the country's flag carrier Druk Air. Druk operates four planes which fly routes to Bangkok inThailand; Delhi, Kolkata, Bodhgaya/ Gaya, Bagdogra, Guwahati in India; Kathmandu in Nepal; Dhaka in Bangladesh.
If you come by road via private car , there are three land border crossings located along southern border to India only. Phuntsholing in the west, Gelephu in the central region and Samdrup Jongkhar in the east. No border crossings are open along the Chinese northern border. Road permits are also required; however, these are processed by your local tour operator, along with your visa.
If you are planning your trip by road via public bus, you can get public buses from Kolkata, Siliguri to Phuentsholing/Jaigaon. One can easily get private buses and shared taxis from Phuentsholing to Thimphu, but a comfortable option is to book a Bhutan Post bus, which leaves each morning at 7 AM (Bhutan time) from the post office. Public buses from Kolkata depart from Kolkata's Esplanade bus station at 7PM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and from the Phuentsholing Bhutan Post office at 3PM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The journey takes around 18 hours. Public buses from Silguri to Phuentsholing/Jaigaon depart from across the main highway from the bus station, near Heritage Hotel, at 7:30AM and 1:30PM daily. It is roughly a four hours journey. The buses are comfortable and operated by Royal Bhutan Government.
If you are planning your trip to Bhutan via train, Hasimara, New Jalpaiguri Station (NJS) and 'New Alipurduar' (NOQ) are the nearest railway stations as Bhutan has no railways. Hasimara on the main Kolkata/Siliguri line to Assam is the nearest railway station to Phuentsholing, 17 km away. 'New Alipurduar' (NOQ) railway station is a better option than New Jalpaiguri if you want to reduce your road journey to Jaigaon. From here, Jaigaon is only about 60 kms and can be covered in about 1 hour 15 minutes by a direct taxi. Alternatively, bus services from New Alipur Duar town to Jaigaon are also available. Most of the trains going to Guwahati stop at this railway station. It is also a shorter route for those coming from Guwahati or other north-eastern states of India.
Do I need visa to travel Bhutan?
All tourists (except nationals of India, Bangladesh and Maldives) must obtain a visa prior to departure. All tourists must book their travel through a local licensed tour operator (or international partner). Visas can be applied for online by your local tour operator and it is not required for any traveler to visit Bhutanese Embassy or consulate. The payment of your trip must be paid in full before a tourist visa is issued. After receiving full payment, visa clearance takes no longer than 72 hours. Visas are issued on arrival to residents of India, Bangladesh and Maldives only. As travel to Bhutan almost invariably requires at least one flight change in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Singapore or Thailand, ensure that you meet the visa requirements of those countries before transiting through. Nepal and Thailand offer visas on arrival or visa waiver for many nationalities. India generally requires visas for most nationalities, though 50 nationalities can obtain an electronic visa online without having to send their passports or visiting an embassy. Check your local Indian embassy/consulate for details. We try our best to provide the up to date information, but the rules do changes. So we always recommend you to be updated yourselves. You must show the copy of your Bhutan Group visa at the check-in for your flight to Bhutan and on arrival at the immigration in Bhutan where you will have your Bhutan visa stamped into your passport.
What is the Tourist Tariff for Bhutan Travel?
The Tourism Council of Bhutan operates the daily tariff for all tourists entering the country. It is not possible to enter Bhutan as a tourist without paying this tariff except if you are from India, Maldives or Bangladesh. For these three countries all the visitor requires is to produce their identity card of their country. The daily tariff covers:-
- A minimum of 3 star accommodation – Luxury hotels may incur an additional fee
- All meals – Breakfast, lunch, dinner
- A licensed Bhutanese Tour Guide for the extent of the stay
- All internal transport – excluding any internal flights
- Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
- All internal taxes and charges
- A royalty of $65 (which is included in the tariff price)
The minimum tariff is (for a group of 3 persons or more) USD $250 per person per night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November and USD $200 per person per night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December. The rates are applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan. Groups of two or less shall be subject to a surcharge, over and above the minimum daily rates applicable, as follows:
Individual, US$ 40 per night
2 persons, US$ 30 per person per night.
How can one book a tour packages to Bhutan?
Any tour packages of Bhutan should be booked with registered travel agent or any international partner. We take the responsibility to make your tour unique and memorable. You can easily book any customized tours to Bhutan with Massif Holidays. We are the international partner of reputed Bhutanese Travel Agent.
Will somebody come to pick up me at the airport on my arrival?
Yes, our airport representative will be displaying the Massif Holidays sign board or your name card outside the airport terminal to pick up you. Then you will be transferred to your respected hotel by our tourist vehicle.
What sort of accommodation can I expect in cities like Thimpu, Punakha etc?
Normally we provide standard rooms with twin sharing accommodations at three star category hotels in Thimpu , Punakha and main cities including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Accommodation in these cities can be upgraded as per your request.
What are the toilets like in Bhutan?
You will have to adjust to different standards of hygiene and sanitation while in Bhutan. The standard toilet is of the squat variety and this may take some getting used to, although western style, flushable toilets can be found in large hotels and some tourist areas.
Is the credit cards accepted in Bhutan?
Major city of Bhutan like Thimpu & Paro accept credit cards but not essentially in all shops and restaurants. Visa, Mastercard and Visa Maestro has also now been compatible with most ATM's in Bhutan.
What sort of transportation do I get?
You will get transportation as mentioned in our itineraries. Most of our itineraries include private, comfortable tourist vehicles. We also arrange yak, horse or mule rides in trekking tours if you want to have such experiences. This is briefly mentioned in our email while booking any tours with us.
What is the best season to visit Bhutan?
September to December is the ideal time to visit Bhutan as the air is clear and fresh with sunny skies. January and February are colder and then until April the climate remains dry and pleasant and in late spring the famous rhododendrons bloom spectacularly, flooding the valleys with colour. Heat and humidity increase from May, and from June to September the monsoon rains cover the mountains.
Visiting Bhutan in December - February
From December to February Bhutan is at its coldest; especially in the mountains, but clear skies reward those who brave the low temperatures. The valleys are warmer and sunny with clear views of the incredible Himalayas. Due to colder temperatures, visitor numbers will be lower.
Visiting Bhutan in March - April
March and April are among the most popular times to travel as temperatures are pleasant and the valleys are abundant in nature; especially as all the flowers start to bloom. Early April witnesses the Paro Tshechu, so book ahead to get the best accommodation and flights.
Visiting Bhutan in May
Similar to Nepal, Bhutan's landscapes are at their best at this time of year before the monsoon arrives, with colourful rhododendrons carpeting the hillsides. Temperatures increase in May, bringing humidity as well as cloud over the mountains. However, fewer visitors and lower prices can make it a perfectly viable time to visit. The rhododendrons should also still be in bloom - ideal for photographers and nature lovers.
Visiting Bhutan in June - August
June to August (and sometimes into September) is monsoon season in Bhutan. Although showers can occur at night without spoiling daytime explorations, conditions aren't ideal for trekking. Sightseeing is still possible - just be prepared with a raincoat! It’s also ideal for retreating to a spa. Views are best in the mornings following night-time downpours.
Visiting Bhutan in September- November
These are ideal time of the year for hiking, seeing festivals (particularly the popular Thimphu Tshechu) and enjoying stunning views and pleasant temperatures. Expect it to be around 25°C in the sun, but there will be cooler temperatures in the evenings and at higher altitudes. The majority of travellers (around 80% of all international visitors) want to visit Bhutan in October, so plan well in advance to ensure you get your preferred accommodation and good value flights.
Best Trekking Time in Bhutan (October to November and March to April)
Trekking is a wonderful way to see the beautiful scenery of this wonderful, little-visited country. These months offer the best weather for mountain walks and overnight stays in characterful teahouses.
What are the weather/ temperature like in Bhutan?
The climate in Bhutan varies from places to places and valley to valley. Being a small country its weather varies from north to south and mainly affected by altitude. Northern Bhutan borders with Tibet and perennially covered with snow. European-like weather is experienced in western, central and eastern Bhutan. Winter lasts here from November to March. But in Punakha summer is hot and winter is pleasant. Southern part has sub-tropical climate with hot weather. Temprature in Southern part ranges from 15°C in Winter (Dec-Feb) to 30°C in Summer (Jun to Aug). Capital city- Thimphu the range is from -2.5°C in January to 25°C in August and with a rainfall of 100mm. 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. Precipitation varies significantly with the elevation. The average rainfall varies from region to region.
Is there any problem for vegetarian people?
Completely NO PROBLEM for vegetarian people as we always recommends going vegetarian in the mountains to avoid any food poisoning. All hotels and restaurants in cities serve the vegetarian food.
Who will guide us in trekking/tour?
We provide the professional government license holder fluent English speaking tour guides. We can also provide French, Spanish, Japanese, German or Italian speaking guides as per your preference. All guides will be local Bhutanese people who are carefully selected on the basis of their appropriate experience, leadership skills and personal skill. They are all trained, certified and approved by the Bhutans government.
Do I get the hygienically standard foods & water in the camps during the trek?
All your foods and water are served when it is hygienically prepared on tented camps. During tented camp trekking, our crew has a good combination of Guides, Sherpas, Cooks, Kitchen staffs and Porters. Guides and cooks are technically, practically and theoretically well trained where as kitchen staffs and porters are practically well trained. We serve boiled and medically purified drinking water in tented camp trekking.
Do we book our international flight to and from Bhutan/Nepal?
We always recommend you to book your own International flights but we also arrange it upon your request. Out Bhutan tour/trek packages includes some days stay in Nepal so your flight to and from Kathmandu – Paro will be arranged from us.
Is Massif Holidays environmentally & socially responsible?
Being a part of society and environment, we have lots of social and environmental responsibilities. We are operating any of our holiday packages without making any harm to environment and social code and conduct. We jointly participate with Kathmandu Educational Environment Project (KEEP) for different clean up campaigns and social awareness programs. We have decided to contribute certain amount of our profit for the developments and maintenance of different trekking trails & child orphanage home. We believe on “joint hands can hold the Universe” and kindly appeal all our travelers to contribute something in our social and environmental project.
What is the minimum number requirement of Bhutan Tour/Trek?
Bhutan holiday packages require minimum 1 person to book a trip and can be extended upto 15 people in a group. We have also indicated the minimum numbers of people in “Trip Fact” section of every tour packages. We operate the group joining trips, private group trips and individual trips. If you want to do any private trip we are ready to organize for solo traveler as well. We operate any kinds of trip from one person to big groups.
Does your company help to arrange domestic & international flights, hotel reservation, and other travel services?
We deal with all kinds of travel services like domestic flights, international flights, hotel reservation, and private transportation rental and many other travel services.
What will be the maximum altitude in trekking/ tour?
We have mentioned the highest altitude related to your tour/trekking in “Trip Highlights” section. Please find the related Massif Holiday Packages and feel free to write us to get the complete information about your trip from our export corresponding team.
What are the recommended souvenirs from Bhutan?
Shopping in Bhutan is one of the most popular holiday activities as Bhutan has lots of unique & local made things to offer. Shopping tour is also one of the most popular activities done by lots of foreigners. Travels have always full of option for Shopping in Bhutan with various things like the woven clothes, Yathra- A brightly coloured woven material, Dappa- a hand made wooden bowl, Bangchung- Small bamboo woven baskets with two tightly fitting halves and other clothing materials, metal works. These are the remarkable and most unique items from Bhutan.
Do I need to tip my guides and driver? How much would that be?
This is very personal question and difficult thing to tell. Tipping is not obligation but the way to thanks your guide and other staff. Normally the level of your satisfaction should be reflected on tipping. We have seen everything from USD 10 to USD 1000 per person for guides and porters. Our recommendation will be always to spend minimum 10% of your total trip cost for tipping to all local staffs. You can also talk in detail about it in our pre-trip meeting in Kathmandu.
Can I add any extra days on trek/tour?
Of course, we are ready to operate your holidays as per your interest and requirements. But it depends on the conditions. You can spend extra days on your loving or favorable places or even can make it shorter if we are able to manage the booking of your hotel and other activities as per your changed schedule. We will always do our best to manage your hotel bookings, flight booking and everything but it is not 100% fixed.
What is the internet access like in Bhutan?
You will be able to find some internet cafes in Thimphu and Paro. Most large hotels also have internet access. As expected, rural and remote areas will have limited to no internet access.
Can I use my mobile/cell phone while in Bhutan?
You will be able to use your mobile phone in some of Bhutan’s cities, although more remote areas may not have network coverage. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your mobile carrier before you leave home if you wish to use your mobile while in Bhutan.
Do I need to buy travel insurance before coming Bhutan?
Absolutely. All travelers travelling with Massif Holidays are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
Can we change the itinerary?
Depending on any given situation, you can modify it to some extent after consulting with your guide. However, the date of your trek completion should always coincide with the original itinerary. You should keep in mind that this is an adventure trip into some of the most remote regions on earth, where any unforeseen events may compel you to go for a change in your itinerary. In such cases, the Massif Holidays expert team will suggest the best alternative similar to your original itinerary.
NOTE: - The above mentioned questions with answers are the outline information before stepping on the road. Please contact our expert team to get more and detailed information about your trip.