Bhutan: The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small mountainous country situated on the eastern side of the Himalayas. It is officially a Kingdom but its progressive royal family is slowly transitioning it from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy/democracy (2008). Bhutan is also notable for pioneering the concept of gross national happiness hence the aka the Kingdom of Happiness moniker. Thimpu is it’s capital. Originally headed by a spiritual leader known as Zabdrung Rinpoche, the territory was composed of many fiefdoms and governed as a Buddhist theocracy Buddhism is still practiced by the majority of it’s people.
VISA Permit: Will be done in advance by our guide through the Online Permit System of Bhutan that facilitates the online processing of permits for regional tourists through registered Bhutanese tour operators and TCB certified hotels.
Currency: Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) It is at par with the Indian rupee, which is widely accepted in the country. Major banks have ATM’s now which allow cash withdrawals. In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores. BUT- there will be occasions when cash is the only thing accepted. (American currency is accepted but I suggest clean notes of smaller denominations.)
WIFI: Most Hotels now have Internet available but at the Shaman festival we will be staying in camps so will be without Wi-Fi for 2 nights.
Electricity: All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets. It is recommended that you bring flat-to-round pin converters for your electronics if necessary, however, most hotels offer multi plug sockets. Generators will be provided at the campground but it is always smart to keep your devices and batteries charged.
What To Pack:
- Footwear: Butan is a hikers paradise so well fitting hiking shoes/boots are a good idea. If they are waterproof it is a nice addition. Some areas of our hikes especially through the Gangtry Valley may be in marshy areas. It is recommended to bring mole skin for possible blisters. We will be required to take our footwear off in temples so it is advisable to bring socks- in part because the floors may be cold but also to keep your feet clean. (FYI I bring an ample supply of disposable socks for this purpose.)
- Clothing: Autumn, from late September or early October to late November, follows the rainy season. It is characterized by bright, sunny days and some early snowfalls at higher elevations. Layers are best in this climate.
- Bhutan is a Bhuddist country so it is best to dress modestly and respectfully especially when we are planning our visits to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. Long pants and long sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places. “As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.”
- Sun Screen- Even though it may not feel as warm, the sun can be very strong at higher altitudes and so bring lots of high SPF sunscreen and hats and long sleeved shirts (with SPF ratings).
- Note: Bathroom Facilities are not always excellent and while we are on the road, we may need to make “requested stops” as needed so bring hand sanitizer.
Camera Gear: Bring lots of cards and extra batteries. We don’t expect rain but if your gear is not waterproof, a plastic cover is good to have. And if you are only planning to photograph with your cell phone OR even if you intend to rely mainly on your regular camera, make sure you have cleared it’s memory for all those extra shots. A comfortable day bag will be a nice way to avoid tired shoulders at the end of the day. And it goes without saying that you should know your equipment before you come and have your manuals or copies on your computers.
- Vaccinations: Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, please seek advice from your doctor with regard to vaccinations and appropriate medication you should have prior to your travels. As a minimum you should have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations. Here is the link to the CDC https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/bhutan
- Motion Sickness: Travelers who are susceptible to motion sickness might consider natural Ginger remedies and should also seek advice from your doctor.
- Altitudes: We are travelling in the Inner Himalayas so altitudes range from 3000 meter at Paro to higher at the mountain passes. We will not be spending long periods at the mountain passes. Rest, ease of exertion and drinking lots of water are recommended. Again, if you have any concerns about altitude sicknesses please consult your physician.
Travel Insurance is highly recommended. Bhutan does not have modern world-class medical care. (see attached information about Travel Guard. Note: to be purchased within 15 days of booking this tour.
Cuisine: Red rice, buckwheat and maize are the staples of their diet. The local diet also includes pork, beef meat, chicken, and lamb. Soups and stews of meat and dried vegetables spiced with chilies and cheese are prepared. made very spicy with cheese and chilies, might be called the national dish for its ubiquity and the pride that Bhutanese have for it. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned into butter and cheese. Popular beverages include black tea, locally brewed ara ( a , and beer.
Shopping: Some popular handicraft items available for purchase are hand-woven textiles of raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products or finely crafted gods of silver. Other items you may be interested in are the exquisite Buddhist thangkha paintings or Bhutan’s wide array of colourful and creative postage stamps. You can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and in other major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.
Smoking: Bhutan is the first nation in the world to ban smoking. It has been illegal to smoke in public or sell tobacco. Violators are fined the equivalent of $232—more than two months' salary in Bhutan. (Tobacco Act of 2010)
Birding: Bhutan is a paradise for bird lovers and ornithologists. Over 670 species of birds have been recorded and many more are yet to be discovered. We may have sighting along the road so we will make stops for viewing and photos when we are able.