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Bhutan > Travel Guide
Imagine a land hidden from the world for centuries, a pristine natural environment free of pollution and crime, guided by an official policy known as Gross National Happiness.

Welcome to Bhutan, known to its people as Druk Yul - Land of the Thunder Dragon. Situated in Himalayan mountain splendor, with India and China its only neighbors, Bhutan is one of 10 biodiversity hotspots and the only remaining Mahayana Buddhist kingdom.

The scenic majesty of its soaring mountains and pristine valleys, coupled with the vibrancy of its cultural life, makes Bhutan one of the last undiscovered destinations; an adventure to feed the soul and enrich the senses.

Bhutan's iconic sight is Tiger's Nest Monastery, built into a cliff face 2,950 feet (900m) above the ground near Paro. Another key attraction is Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of the royal family. Trekking and mountain biking are popular attractions too, as are the many Buddhist festivals that bring out the extroverted side of the famously friendly people.

It is at times a wonderfully strange place: the walls of many buildings are emblazoned with drawings of giant penises - an invocation of good luck and fertility. All new structures must follow the ancient style and people are obliged by law to wear traditional dress in public. Monks have broadband access, and cigarette sales are illegal. And, uniquely, 70 percent of the land is owned by women as inheritance is matrilineal.

Bhutan remained closed to the outside world until the 1960s when its borders slowly began opening. Tourism is based on a high-value, low volume principle in a bid to avoid the destructive effects of mass tourism suffered by Nepal and India. Visitors must spend a minimum of USD250 per day on a pre-determined itinerary, a strong deterrence for budget travellers.

Under the guidance of the current monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, Bhutan is slowly changing, as its economy matures and its fledgling government engages more with the world. Improved communications and widespread Internet access is affecting the younger generation and exposing them to the exciting though uncertain world beyond the borders of this, the last Shangri-La.

Visa and Passport:
Valid passports are essential for the entry into the Kingdom of Bhutan. Your visa clearance is organized and issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thimphu upon the receipt of your tour payment and then Ghale Treks will follow up and have the visa sent to you along with your Druk Air flight tickets.

However, your final visa will be endorsed and stamped on your passport at the port of entry to Bhutan, either Paro if entering by air or Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar by road. Currently, no foreign embassy’s or missions abroad issue Bhutan visas. Travelers to Bhutan are permitted only through Government registered tour operators such as Ghale Treks.

Visas for Indian nationals:
For Indian visitors coming to Bhutan – You don’t have to apply for Bhutan visa in advance like foreign tourists. You are required to bring your passport or voter’s registration card to apply visa at the border on arrival, if you come by road. Indian visitors are issued a 14-day permit upon arrival and it can be extended at Thimphu, if required. Indian nationals arriving at border need five passport sized photographs: three for the Indian certificate and two for the Bhutanese permit. Those arriving by air need two passport sized photographs for the arrival permit in Paro.

Money:
The local currency is the Ngultrumbut subdivided into 100 Chetrums. The currency is pegged to the Indian rupee on scale of 1:1. The Ngultrumbut was only introduced in 1974 before which the country had no currency, relying on a system of bartering to acquire goods.

Money exchange: Banks and large hotels operate a money exchange service for major currencies
ATM: Bhutan does not operate an international ATM service, though certain shops specializing in tourist goods accept payment by credit card.
Western Union: Thimphu Post Office. This facility can receive transfer of funds from overseas, but cannot make payments from customers' personal accounts.

Weather and Climate
The climate varies with altitude, with the highest temperatures and rainfall occurring in the south which bears the brunt of the monsoon between June and September.

Temperatures drop dramatically with increases in altitude though days are usually very pleasant with clear skies and sunshine. Nights are cold and require heavy woolen clothing, particularly in winter. Generally, October, November and April to mid June are the best times to visit - rainfall is at a minimum and temperatures are conducive to active days of sightseeing. The foothills are also very pleasant during the winter.

Required Clothing
Lightweight cottons in the foothills, also linens and waterproof gear, light sweaters and jackets for the evenings. Upland areas: thick, warm clothing for evenings, particularly during the winter months.

Food and Dining
There is a fair choice of restaurants in Paro and Thimphu but most tourists eat in their hotels where hygiene is good and chefs temper the spicy Bhutanese dishes to suit Western tastes. Rice is the staple (sometimes flavored with saffron or of the red variety) apart from in central Bhutan where the altitude makes rice cultivation difficult. Buckwheat is more common here. The country is replete with apple orchards, rice paddies and asparagus, which grows freely in the countryside and there are over 400 varieties of mushroom including orchid mushrooms.

Things to know: Meals are often buffet-style and mostly vegetarian. Meat and fish are now imported from nearby India, and Nepali Hindus living in Bhutan are licensed to slaughter animals. Usual precautions apply.

National specialties:
• Datse (cow’s milk cheese), sometimes served in a dish with red chillies (ema datse).
• Tshoem (curry), usually served with rice.
• Eue chum (pink rice), a nutty-flavored variety unique to Bhutan.

National drinks:
• The most popular drink is tea, sweet or Tibetan style with salt and butter.
• Ara is a spirit distilled from rice.
• Chang (a kind of beer, cereal-based and generally home-brewed).

Legal drinking age: 18.

Tipping: Not widely practiced.

Accommodation
Hotels vary in style and quality. All government approved hotels are clean and well maintained with hot and cold water facilities. All hotels are equipped with telephones, fax machines and international dialing.  

Clothing & Temperature
Bhutan's climate ranges from subtropical in the south to temperate in the central highlands to cold and even sub freezing in the north. The climate can be unpredictable and the temperature can vary dramatically. In Thimphu and Paro, the winter daytime temperature averages 12 degrees Celsius but drops well below freezing at night. Warm woolens are recommended in the winter and it is advisable to bring light sweaters or jackets even in the summer. Comfortable walking shoes are indispensable to all while trekkers should be equipped with strong boots and medium to heavy sleeping bags.

Photography & Filming
Photography is permitted nearly everywhere in Bhutan. However it is not permitted in the Dzongs (Fortresses) and monasteries. Any commercial filming in Bhutan requires prior permission to be sought from the Royal Government and the payment of a royalty. We will assist you with all the formalities.

Time
Bhutanese time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and half and hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time.
Bhutan Tour Package