A refuge, a haven, a place where you can be one with nature — these are just a few words to describe a country that intrigues and invites tourists. Bhutan is like the world’s well preserved little gem — its main feature is the unparalleled beauty of its natural sights.
It’s safe to say that Bhutan — despite its minimum tariff of USD 250 a day — is still every tourist’s dream destination. This small yet interesting country is considered the last Himalayan Kingdom. At Bhutan, tradition and development blend seamlessly together — despite its recent tourism boom, the country still proudly embraces its rich Buddhist traditions. Visit one of Bhutan’s iconic landmarks — Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest Monastery — and see why it’s closely associated with the country. On more relaxed days, join one of the festivals, or learn a new skill such as Bhutanese archery. Always bring a camera with you — Bhutan is filled with panoramic views and breathtaking vistas that should be immortalised in photographs.
Except for those coming from Maldives, Bangladesh, and India, tourists should obtain a visa before entering Bhutan. You are required to pay your holiday in advance to the Tourism Council of Bhutan before they can formally issue your visa. Daily visa costs USD 250 during peak season and USD 200 during regular seasons. Currently, Bhutan has one international airport — the Paro International Airport, which caters flights to and from Bangkok, Konkata, Delhi, Daka, Katmandu, Singapore, and Mumbai. Most overland borders are open for crossing and you can take the bus to the capital city Thimphu.
Bhutan’s local currency is the ngultrum (BTN), but most establishments also accept US dollars for payment. Just bring enough BTN with you since you will need it to buy personal necessities and small souvenirs. Indian Rupees (INR) are also accepted in the country.
Most ATMs in Bhutan are located in Paro and Thimphu, the country’s major cities. Best to have enough USD, BTN, and INR with you since most ATMs can still be unreliable.
Banks and major establishments such as hotels will exchange your USD for BTN and vice versa.
Bhutan’s official language is Dzongkha. Dzongkha is heavily spoken in Western Bhutan. Other Sino-Tibetan languages spoken in different parts of the country include the Sharchopka of the east and Bumthangka of Bhumtang. Most people — especially those from the South — can also speak Nepali. In urban areas, people communicate well in English.
Bhutan’s warm, temperate climate makes it a great place to visit any time of the year. The high season — March to May, and September to November — provides the best Himalayan views. Low season — runs from June to August — often sees rainy days, but it’s the best time to see mountain flowers in full bloom.
Bhutanese cuisine is a delicious mix of Indian, Nepali, and Tibetan influence. Most tourists make the biggest food mistake by eating only in hotels. Don’t hesitate to try more local restaurants to get a real taste of Bhutanese food. The country’s most popular dishes — Ema Datshi, Kewa Datshi, and Shamu Datshi — are rich in spice and cheese. Meat lovers will love the savoury dishes made from yak, beef, and pork. As for comfort food, Bhutan has Jaju, a milk vegetable soup made from spinach, milk, and butter.
Traveling in Bhutan
When in Bhutan, hold onto your travel permits tightly. Most districts in the Eastern and Northern part of Thimphu require permits from tourists for them to proceed. Traveling around Bhutan is quite an adventure since the roads are winding and have a lot of twists, turns, and steep inclines. Traveling via bus can be quite uncomfortable so renting a car is your best bet. Hitchhiking around Bhutan is another popular option but it doesn’t come for free — you’re expected to give something to the driver before alighting from his car.
Unique compared to most of its neighbouring countries, Bhutan continues to charm tourists with its stunning sights, beautiful culture, and warm people. It may not be a backpacker’s country, but it’s every traveler’s haven. Bhutan always has something for you at any time of the year.