Kingdom of Bhutan
On the roof of the world, sandwiched into the Great Himalayas, sits Bhutan, Land of The Thunder Dragon, in a small, independent, autonomous kingdom. 72% of the country is forest, and Bhutan is home to rare and endangered flora and fauna.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is nestled in the lap of the eastern Himalayas bordering India in the south and China in the north. This tiny kingdom is mostly agrarian and almost devoid of industrialization.
It is a trekker’s paradise and an environmentalist’s dream. Bhutan is renowned for environment conservation, good governance, religious and cultural preservation. It is a country with well-preserved heritage and culture, where religion and traditions of every ethnic group are an active part of life.
This spiritual land is the last kingdom of Vajrayana school of Mahayana Buddhism creating a unique identity. Bhutan is a unique blend of old and new – a country that is open to the modern world in balance with its ancient traditions.
Isolated, charming, peaceful and religious, the Bhutanese are a pragmatic, sensitive people who take from the west what will benefit their people and leave the rest ~ Francoise Pommaret
Bhutan is impossible to visit as an unaccompanied traveler, requiring use of government authorized tourism companies and native guides. You cannot tour the country on your own. Travelers to Bhutan must be tourists or guests of the government. All tourists must travel on a pre-planned, pre-paid guided tour booked through a registered tour operator . Tourism is tightly controlled to minimize western influence and the majority of control is in the form of a tourist tax of USD$220 – $250 per person per day.
This hefty tax serves its purpose well, as less than 7,000 tourists visit annually, compared to estimated 1,000,000 who visit neighboring Nepal.
Those fortunate enough to visit Bhutan describe it as a unique, deeply spiritual and mystical experience. This kingdom is an adventure like no other.
Facts and Figures
Land area: 38,394 square kilometres
Forest area: 72.5 %
Altitude: between 240metres and 7541metres above sea level
Language: official language “Dzongkha”, English widely spoken
Religion: Vajrayana stream of Mahayana Buddhism (Also known as Tantric Buddhism)
Currency: Ngultrum (equal to Indian Rupee)
National Tree: Cypress
National Bird: Raven
National Flower: Blue Poppy
National Sport: Archery
National Animal: Takin
Bhutan lies in the Central Himalayas, between China to the north the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal to the south and east, and Sikkim to the west with a total area of about 47,000 square kilometers.
Spring (March to May) has warm days and cool nights. June begins summer and day temperatures of 27 – 29 °C. Rain July though mid-September.Autumn months of September to November are ideal trekking with clear skies and mild weather. In December temperature falls; days will be warm, but nights are cold with temperature falling below zero.
Bhutan standard time is 6 hours ahead of the GMT and 30 Minutes ahead of IST (Indian Standard Time).
Visa is compulsory for all visitors entering Bhutan except for Indian Travelers. You have to send visa fee of US$ 20/per person along with other payments. At entry port the visa is stamped on passport. All visa applications must reach Bhutan at least 14 days prior to intended arrival date.
Visas are issued when a confirmed booking through a Bhutanese Licensed Tour Operator is made. Bhutanese Embassies and missions abroad do not issue visa for entry to Bhutan.
In order to board Druk Air you need visa clearance. Your visa clearance will be forwarded to Druk Air office and also we will forward the copy to our respective guests. If you are travelling with the Magical Mystical Tour, Visa Application form will be sent to you.
Visa will not be accepted without total payment (land tariff, visa fee and etc). We will provide details and necessary information once booking is confirmed. Extension of visas, for up to 6 months, can be obtained in Thimphu for Nu. 510.
By Air: Druk Air, the national carriers is the only service operator in the kingdom and operates several flights per week from Bangkok (Thailand), Delhi & Kolkata (India) and Kathmandu (Nepal) to Paro (Bhutan). The Paro International Airport is located a 2 hour drive from Thimphu, capital of Bhutan.
By Land: Phuentsholing, a Bhutanese town in the south west has road access to India. It is located about 170 km from Indian domestic airport Bagdogra, West Bengal. Phuentsholing is about 179 km from Thimphu, capital of Bhutan and is about 7 hours drive distance.
Season to Visit Bhutan
Bhutan has four seasons, and every season has its own beauty. The best season that are spring – March, April and May, and autumn September, October and November where festivals (Tshechus) take place.
During the summer season (months of June, July & August), monsoons would be in and it is likely rain. Winter (December, January and February) are extremely cold. Some of the upper trek routes remain closed due to heavy snow.
Brief Information to Visit Bhutan
What sort of clothes you should bring depends on what season you visit. Please note that even summer can be very cool night and morning.
Internet facility is available in Bhutan at good bandwidth (speed) of 56 kbps from DrukNet (Only ISP in Bhutan), office is open Monday to Friday 9 am till 4pm. Saturdays, most offices remain open 9am to 12 noon. You can buy internet packages where you will get a username and password. Username and password allows you to hook up to internet anywhere within Bhutan using phone line wherever one exists. For more information on this please visit www.druknet.bt.
Bhutan has an electrical power supply system of volts, 50 cycles AC. Electrical appliances you bring must have appropriate converter and adapter plugs to meet low voltages requirement.
Bhutan’s airline (Druk Air) allows free luggage weight up to 20 kgs for economy class and 30 kgs for business class. You will have to pay charges for excess weight beyond this limit, but the possibility of your baggage getting offloaded and not reaching you is high. Carry handbaggage to a minimum as there is no cabin space.
The Bhutanese currency is called Ngultrum. Ngultrum (Nu in short) is at par with the Indian currency, Rupees. Ngultrum is accepted in some border Indian towns, and Rupee are accepted throughout Bhutan. Please note Indian Ruppess of 500 and higher denominations are not accepted in Bhutan. One US $ is roughly equal to 44 Nu.
More information on up-to-date currency exchange visit www.bnb.com.bt
Most travelers’ cheques are accepted but shops generally charge a levy on credit cards. Payments can be made with American express, VISA and the JCB cards although these hotels and shops are usually confined to Thimphu and Paro.
Cash is more convenient, particularly in districts outside Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing towns.
Bhutan is a tiny country with only one time zone. Bhutan Standard time is 6 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), one hour behind Bangkok time, 30 minutes ahead of the Indian time and 11 hours ahead of the standard New York time. Bhutan’s time matches Bangladesh time.
On 17th December 2004, Bhutan became the world’s first nation to introduce a complete ban on tobacco sales, following a resolution taken by the National Assembly. Smoking is also now restricted to private areas. However, tourists are allowed to bring 1 carton cigarettes subject to payment of 100% customs duty and 100% sales tax.
There is a wide variety of accommodation available in Bhutan from the simple farmhouse to high–end resorts.
Most tourist hotels are clean and basic and offer simple comforts and culinary fare. In the east facilities are not as good as in the west, however, the Department of Tourism does monitor the quality of accommodation.
Bhutan Embassy Information
There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan. Although no formal diplomatic relations exist between the United States and Bhutan, informal contact is maintained through the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India. Updated information on travel and security in Bhutan may be obtained at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, at any other U.S. Consulate in India, the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal, the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh and the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi is located on Shanti Path, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi 110 021, India, telephone (91)(11) 2419-8000, fax (91)(11) 2419-8407. In the case of an emergency involving a U.S. citizen, please call the 24-hour operator at (91)(11) 2419-8000 and ask for American Citizen Services.
Bhutan has two foreign embassies in India and Bangladesh
Indian Embassy, Indian House, Thimphu
Telephone: 975 2 322162
Fax: 975 2 323195
Bangladesh Embassy, Thori Lam, Thimphu
Telephone: 975 2 322539
Fax: 975 2 322629
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
A consular officer from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi periodically visits Bhutan to renew passports, provide notarial services, and take applications for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi informs U.S. citizens enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program in advance regarding dates for these visits.
entry by air is available only via India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Thailand, U.S. citizens traveling to Bhutan may also consider enrolling with consular sections in these locations:
US Embassy in New Delhi
Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021
Telephone: 91 11 419 8000
Fax : 91 11 419 0017
URL : http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov