1.How long before should I start planning?
A:There are limited hotels and flights to Bhutan. Spring and fall season are the busiest tourist seasons. If your trip times with a local festival, there will be higher demand of hotels and flights than usual. The airline and hotels usuallys start accepting booking one year before and they fill up soon. So, your operator should be ready to book the reservations as they open up. So, strat planning your trip as early as possible.
2.How do I obtain visa for Bhutan ?
Bhutan visa is a part of the tour. Only your tour operator can obtain visa for you. You will be sent visa clearance or approval document before your tour commences. You will get actual visa stamp on your passport upon arrival in Paro airport immigration.
3.Can I travel to Bhutan without booking a tour with an operator?
Unfortunately, not. Bhutan government doesn't allow independent traveling. You need to book a tour with a licensed tour operator and arrange visa through them.
4.Is there a cap on total number of tourists Bhutan allows in a year?
No, there is nothing as such.
5.How do I book flights to Bhutan?
There are only two airlines serving Bhutan: Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines and currently they serve Bangkok, Singapore, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Bagdogra, Guwahati, Kathmandu and Dhaka. Bangkok, Delhi and Kathmandu are the most preferred cities to fly into and out of Bhutan. You can book these flights on the airline's website or we can help you with. These airlines don't have ticketing agreements with other international carriers and so you need to book the international flight separately to one of these gateway cities. Please, plan minimum an overnight stay in the gateway city before and after the trip for a safe connection.
6.Is there any risk of altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness?
Unless you are on a high altitude trekking trip, you will be at an altitude of 8,000 ft or lower elevation. Some days, you may travel over higher altitudes but you spend short period of time there and so there is very slim chance of getting altitude sickness.
7.What's the fitness level required for travel to Bhutan?
You don't have to be athletic but you are expected to be reasonably fit. Bhutan is a mountainous country and the tour involves walking in uneven surface, terraced lands and hills. Most temples or monasteries are situated atop a hill or in the hillside. Some hotels and resorts also have their buildings spread in multi-level terraces and requires climbing stairs. Most trip involves short and long day hikes, although they are optional. If you are not leading an active life, please, consider starting some mild exercises such as walking, swimming, jogging or some cardio exercises.
8.Do I have en suite bathroom in the hotel?
Yes, most tourist class hotels offer en-suite bathroom with running hot and cold water.
9.Do the hotels have western style toilet?
Yes, most tourist class hotels and businesses have western style flush toilets. But once you are away from the town, there may be primitive latrine or you may have to go behind the bush while on the hiking trail. So, women are advised to wear skirts which is easier for squatting. Also, keep a roll of toilet paper in your back-pack all the time.
10.Do the hotels provide hair dryers?
Unless you have chosen up market hotels, majority hotels do not provide hair dryers in the room. Some hotels do provide the hair dryer on request but there may be limited supplies. So, it's advisable to bring one for yourself.
11.Do the hotels have wi-fi in the room?
Yes, most hotels do have wi-fi in the room but speed is not that great. If the wi-fi network is not good in your room, it may be better in the front desk area. If you bring an unlocked phone and buy a local sim with data package, it may solve your problem.
12.Will bottled water be readily available?
Yes it will. All Far & High tours include daily two bottles of water. If you need more, you can buy with our driver in nominal price. If you are on a trekking trip, our trekking staff provides boiled water. Trekkers are advised to bring water bottle and medications.
13.Do I need a walking stick?
All Bhutan tours features short or long walking and hiking, although long hiking trips may be optional. Whether you need a walking stick depends on your fitness level and balance.Unless you are on a trekking trip, you don't need to bring a fancy mountaineering style ski-poles. If you are hiking the Tiger's Nest, there are usually locals renting out the sticks.
14.Can I use my cell phone in Bhutan?
It depends. If your cell phone has a GSM technology, it should be able to connect to the local network. If you plan to bring your phone , please contact your provider and activate the international roaming service.Alternatively, you can also bring an unlocked GSM phone and by a local sim. You need to provide one picture and passport copy to buy a local sim.
15.What's the baggage allowance on Bhutan flights?
Currently, both Bhutan Airlines and Druk Air offer 30 kg (66lb) checked-in baggage allowance on economy class and 40kg (88l) on business class. They also allow a small cabin bag that does not weigh more than 5lb (11lb)
16.Do I bring any gifts for the people we meet? If yes, what should I consider bringing?
Yes, you will have opportunity to meet the local people as well as monks and sometime you have stop in the local schools. In fact, your trip includes a visit to a farm family. It's Bhutanese tradition to bring some gifts to the host family. You can consider bringing something useful for them, such as over the counter medicines, vitamin supplements, bandages, reading glasses, school supplies for the children, thermometer, blood-sugar meter etc.
17.What currency should I bring to Bhutan?
Bhutan accepts most major international currencies such as US Dollar, Euro, British Pounds, Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Japanese Yen etc.However,US Dollar is the most popular one. Your Bhutan tour is all inclusive, that means, hotels, meals, transport and guide fee are included. All you need extra money is for drinks, tipping and souvenirs.How much money you need depends on your spending habit. On our tours, daily two bottles of water is included. Price of soda or beer depends on where you are buying them. A bottle of water or soda drinks costs about a quarter (US 25 cents) and about a dollar in tourist-class restaurants or hotels. A bottle of beer (650 ml) costs about $2 or 3. We think, $ 5-10 a day should be sufficient for drinks.
$100 bills get a better exchange rate than $50 bills and below. You can then exchange more in Thimphu at the bank (note there’s ONE). The bills should be 2000 and above series otherwise it will not be accepted anywhere for exchange. Hotels do change money but the exchange rate is usually lower than that at the bank. However, as a suggestion and to avoid making trip to the bank and wasting time in the line, our office in Bhutan can arrange local currency for you and at far better rates. We need an advance notice though. (FYI) Banks are usually closed on weekends and on all government holidays so it is inconvenient for you to exchange the money during these hours.
18.Do I have to tip the guide and drivers?
Tipping is optional but due to influence of tourism, a good handshake tip is expected at the end of trip. How much to tip? There is no standard structure of tipping as such. Use your best judgment. Depending on the group size and tour length, a collective amount of $25 to $50 per day to the guide and about half of that to the driver should make a good tip. If you are on a trekking trip, other people to tip are cook, kitchen-aides and horsemen. You will be provided suggested amount on your final trip dossier.
19.Are credit cards and ATM cards useful in Bhutan?
Credit cards are accepted by tourist class hotels, restaurants and large souvenir shops only but they might charge high merchant commission, usually 4 to 7%. Your bank also may charge international transaction fee. So, credit cards should be for back up only. Small vendors do not accept credit card. There are ATM machines in Thimphu and Paro but please, do not count on them. Only Master, Maestro, Cirrus and Visa card will only be used and in limited places listed above. So, bring US$ cash. Larger bills ($100) have better exchange rates than smaller bills of $50 and less.
20.Are travelers checks accepted in Bhutan?
Travelers checks can be used at the airport and in Thimphu only but most shops will not accept a travelers check –so please don’t count on them as use of traveler checks have declined fastly. In Bhutan, we suggest that you change your money upon arrival.
21.I read that one should not wear shorts while visiting temples. Can you clarify on this?
It's always advised to wear ankle length skirts or pants. Calf-length skirts are also okay but certainly above the knee skirts are not welcome.
22.Do I need to bring a few roles of toilet paper?
All the hotels and tourist class restaurants have western style toilet and they provide toilet paper rolls. On hiking trails, there may not be toilets and you may have to go behind the bush. So, you need to always have a roll of toilet paper in your backpack. You don't need to bring it all the way from home as you can grab one from your hotel or buy locally.
23.What sort of power adaptor do I need?
In Bhutan the power sockets are of type D, F and G.The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Some power plugs at hotels actually accept the US-style of power plug, too. If you are traveling to multiple countries in one trip, we would suggest you buy an universal adapter.
24.Will I need a swimsuit?
Majority hotels in Bhutan don't have swimming pools but there are a few up market hotels in Thimphu and Paro with swimming pools.
25.What kind of shoes do I need?
It depends on how much ankle support you need. Hiking boots may not be necessary, unless you are on a trekking trip. A good walking waterproof shoes with good grip will work for most of the trips.
26. I read that smoking is banned in Bhutan. Is that correct?
Yes, smoking is banned and there is no sale of tobacco products in Bhutan. But foreign tourists are exempt from this. You can bring in 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%. There are certain designated places such as smoking room in some hotels or restaurants where you are allowed to smoke but smoking in public places and gatherings is strictly prohibited.