Bhutan Travel Info

All the things you need to know
before traveling to Bhutan.
The Bhutanese pride themselves on a sustainable approach to tourism in line with the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Firstly, to bust a myth: there is no limit to tourist visa. Making it appear as one of the world's more exclusive destinations. However, it is all inclusive, accommodation, food, transport and an official guide are all provided. You don't have to travel in a large group and you can arrange your own itinerary. What you won't find is backpacker-style travel.

History and Geography

Bhutan, where the time stands still, the nature and religion combines and maintain the tiny Buddhist kingdom as the last Shangri-La. Sandwiched between Tibetan platue and Indian sub-continent which is the pearl of the Himalayas.

Virgin peaks rises up to 25,000 ft to the north of the kingdom and beneath steep glacial walls, alpine highlands fall to misty forests. Mountain streams cut through gorges on their way down to warmer valleys and wide marshes in the heart of the kingdom.

One distinct landscape drops finally to the jungle and grasslands of the southern plains. To those people who have accustomed to this domain of extremes and have always led their life with the principles of Mahayana Buddhism, It is a paradise on earth where respect of life, in all its many incarnations, endures like the land itself.

Accommodation

Bhutan offers generally modest but clean hotels. There are none of the chain hotels in Bhutan although a couple of high end resorts have been opened in some districts. Visitors are advised not to expect luxury or five star hotel services. Bhutan's local hospitality is, however, an insight into a society where tourism may be a new venture, but where visitors are greeted with true warmth and friendship. Generally, tourist facilities and services are good in western Bhutan, but the quality of service and facilities decreases the further east we go. This is because tourism is less developed in more remote east.

Weather and Climate

The most popular time to visit Bhutan tend to be the spring months of March, April, and May and the autumn months of September, October, and November because the weather is more mild and many of the significent festivals take place during these months.

In the autumn the skies are clearer and blue; affording views of the high Himalaya and various vantage points. Autumn is also the time of year when the black-necked cranes migrate to central and eastern Bhutan for the winter.

The skies are less clear during the spring and the flowers are in bloom. The downside of traveling during these peak months is that there are more tourists in general, and Druk Air reservations need to be made well in advance to ensure availability.

The summer months of June, July, August, and even early September are typically the monsoon months, so you may encounter rain fall.

The winter months of December, January, and February can be cold, but the skies are clearer and blue. Some tours & treks can be closed during these months due to weather. The upside of traveling during the off-peak months is that reservations are easier to secure, and there will be fewer tourists around. But truly, Bhutan is spectacular any time of the year, and your trip will be an wonderful adventure no matter when you decide to visit!

Clothing

Due to wide range of temperature and climatic conditions, it is advisable to bring appropriate clothing. In the months of October, November, December, January and February, mornings and evenings will be cold. You will have to being in warm clothes (thick overcoats not necessary). While the months of February, March, April, May, June, July, August and September the days are warmer. June, July and August will be little wet and some rain gear would be necessary. Clothes as per season, sunglasses/spare glasses or contact lenses, pair of casual shoes, washing kit, shaving kit, towel, hat, umbrella, camera, film and accessories, maps, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, sun screen cream, lip salve or soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, preparation for the relief of sunburn. You may not be tuned to the Asian drugs so it is always better to bring own brand.

Communication

Communication system improved impressively after the advent of modern technology in Nepal. Since the past few decades, Nepal Government has been providing reliable postal services. Many private courier service companies have opened up to provide high quality services. Besides hotels, communication centers in many places of the country provide telephone service for making local and international telephone conversation. They also have fax machines and other latest machines to help you communicate globally. Cell phones in today’s time have made communication very easy in Nepal. You can visit local cyber cafes for internet access. While trekking in the remote parts of the Himalayas, you can easily have access to telephone facility but sometimes bad weather may disturb telephone connection.

Visa Procedure

Unless you are employed in Bhutan or you are a close relative of a person employed in Bhutan or you are a Royal invitee, all foreigners except Indians must process their Bhutan visa through a Tour Operator.

Book a trip and supply us your passport information, occupation and home address details and leave the rest to our expert hands. Bhutan visa processing is a part of the tour arrangement. You must bear a passport with validity of 6 months or more at the time of travel and make sure that there are enough blank pages for the entry and exit stamps.

Visa is applied at Department of Tourism at Thimpu and has to be approved by Foreign Ministry. The latter issues a clearance number which is required while checking in Druk Air flights. The Bhutan Department of Tourism has made it mandatory to produce the evidence of full pre-payment of your tour in order to apply visa for you.

Visa clearance letter is issued a few days ahead of your arrival in Bhutan. All Druk Air Stations, Paro immigration and other ports of entry are faxed a copy of the letter and we will also provide you a copy of the visa letter by fax or scanned copy by e-mail. Having the visa copy or reference number handy, helps in speedy checking in flight and clearing immigration. Your passport is stamped with actual visa upon arrival at Paro airport or Phuntsoling (if you are entering Bhutan overland). Visa fee is pre-paid by us. Photographs are not required any more.

Bhutan visa will be valid for the period of booked tour only. It’s possible to extend visa but you have to buy the package tour paying the standard rate set by the government. With your trip application, you will have to supply us a copy of your passport, occupation and home address.

Tourism Policy

The tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable. For this reason the number for tourists visiting Bhutan are kept to an environmentally manageable level through Government regulated tourist tariff. It is mandatory to have your trips organized through any one of the registered tour operators in Bhutan as no other missions or embassies will arrange your travel to Bhutan. Bhutanese missions or embassies will not arrange your travel or tourist visa to Bhutan.

Traveling Insurance

It is imperative that you have full comprehensive insurance cover to protect against unforeseen accidents and mishaps. Such policies are not available in Bhutan. It should adequately cover baggage and travel delays, helicopter evacuation, transportation and medical assistance in case of treks.

Weather and Climate

In addition to the standard Buddhist festivals, there are yearly festivals celebrated with great fanfare in each district. The most renowned of these are the Tsechu (10th day) festivals, commemorating the deeds of Padmasambhava. Locally referred to as 'Guru Rimpoche' or, simply as 'Guru,' this eighth century master introduced the Nyingma school of Buddhism into Tibet and Bhutan. Each 10th day of the lunar calendar is said to commemorate a special event in the life of Padmasambhava; and some of these are dramatized in the context of a religious festival.

Most festivals lasts from three to five days - one of which, usually, falls on the 10th day of the lunar calendar. Of these festivals the Paro Tsechu, in the spring, and the Wangde and Thimpu Tsechus, in the fall, are the most impressive. These festivals are very popular with western tourists. The festivals in Bumthang and East Bhutan attract fewer tourists and those who want to get a more authentic flavor of Bhutan's cultural and religious extravaganza will be well rewarded.

Paro Tsechu
All religious and lay people of Paro and neighborhood areas, dressed and adorned in their finest attend the festivals, with a belief that they will get their sins washed away and will accumulate merits. This is also an occasion of social gatherings. There will be a series of mask dance performances mainly by monks with some folk singing and dancing as well.

Thimphu Tsechu
The Thimphu Tsechu (religious festival) is one of the biggest and most spectacular of the Buddhist festivals faithfully celebrated in Bhutan, Himalayan Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon. Both monks and lay people perform in the dances and dramas as an act of meditation, seeking to personify the deity that they portray. Masked and dressed in elaborate costumes of silk brocade, dancers demonstrate the triumph of good over evil and the power of compassion to the haunting sounds of trumpets, cymbals and flutes. Today this beautiful and sacred festival remains a wonderful manifestation of a religious faith that is still a crucial part of Bhutanese daily life.

Jambay Lhakang Bumthang Drub
This festival held in the picturesque valley of Bumthang gained its popularity from the visits of tourist in the recent years. In addition to the mask dances, Jambay Lhakhang Temple built in the year 659 host the "Mewang" (Fire blessing) and "Tercham" (Dance of Treasure). It is believed that the Tercham can bless the infertile women with children, and is only performed during the night.

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