The easiest way for visitors to enter Bhutan is by air on Druk Air and Buddha Air, Bhutan's national carrier and Nepalese airline operating in Bhutan. Druk Air's fleet consists of two British Aerospace jets, BAe 146s, which are especially designed for Bhutan. Flights to Bhutan are available from Tribhuwan International Airport Kathmandu in Nepal, On clear days the flight into Paro from Kathmandu offers spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain range, including Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Chomolhari, Kula Kangri and many other peaks of the Himalayas.
Paro Airport, located in the mountains, is subject to the vagaries of nature, and weather conditions sometimes prevent flight landing and takeoff. Druk Air itself has an impeccable safety record, without a single mishap since its inception in 1983. We can book your air-seats in and out of Bhutan well in advance, avoiding last-minute rush during the peak tourist seasons of spring and autumn.
If you want to enter Bhutan by land then the border town of Phuentsoling is the only entry point to Bhutan other than flying in. In the reverse order visitors can fly into Bhutan and exit by surface to India through Phuentsoling.
Visa and Fee
All travel must be arranged through an authorized travel agent or hotel. Bhutan's government charges daily tourist fees, applicable to all foreigners, except Indian nationals. For group travel, a flat fee of US$200 per person per day (US$165 in July and August) covers basic all-inclusive accommodation, transport and a guide. Independent tourists pay US$30 per person per day (based on two travelling together, for solo travelers the charge is US$40) as well as US$65 'royalties' per person per day (US$55 in July and August). In addition, tourists other than Indian nationals pay a one-off visa charge of US$20 and a tourism development fee (to aid infrastructure) of US$10. All these charges are included in our tour packages.
In the major towns such as Thimpu, Paro, and Phuentsoling, comfortable hotels await the visitor, while in smaller towns, modest, but adequate, hotels, lodges and guest houses are available. Your tour agent should ensure that the best available accommodations are arranged for you. The Tourism Authority of Bhutan (TAB) regulates hotel standards and all travel regulations in Bhutan. The costs of the accommodations are included in our organized tour packages.
Food and Drink
Traditional Bhutanese food is hot and spicy. For our visitors, however, Chinese, Indian, and Continental fares are served. The more adventurous can try the local delicacies like the tasty, but fiery, ematatshi, the national dish of Bhutan, made with red chillis and cottage cheese. Meals are normally served buffet style in the hotels. On trekking tours, we serve simple but nutritious and tasty dishes, freshly cooked by our trained cooks. The daily tour cost includes all meals while in Bhutan as well as other services, including trekking arrangements, as required. Your only extra expenses will be mineral water, liquor, laundry, souvenirs and optional tips to the guide, driver and hotel staff.
We use comfortable and safe Japanese cars, jeeps, vans and coaches to transport our guests. The cost of transport is already included in the daily tour cost. All our drivers are fully trained in safety and are well experienced in driving in Bhutan. You will find that you are more comfortable driving through the winding hilly roads of Bhutan, where sane driving prevails, and drivers are unusually courteous to each other, unlike in some of the neighboring countries.
All tourist groups will be accompanied throughout their stay in Bhutan by an English-speaking guide and have a vehicle and driver at your disposal at all times.
All of our guides are trained by the Tourism Authority of Bhutan (TAB) and licensed by the Government. Our trekking guides and cooks undergoe an additional mountain guide training, including safety and first aid instruction. TAB has received assistance from the Austrian Government in the form of trainers and funds to establish the training programs for tourist guides.
A visit to Bhutan can be planned anytime of the year but the best period is from mid-September to May. The peak seasons, when most visitors come to Bhutan, are during the Spring and Autumn. Spring is from April through June and Autumn from September through November. There are many festivals during these periods, and visitors come to take advantage both of the pleasant climate and the wonderful festivals. However, Bhutan has limited tourism infrastructure and during peak seasons facilities are packed. For those wanting to avoid the busy tourist periods the winter months of December, January, February, are recommended.
Daily Tour Costs
The Tourism Authority of Bhutan (TAB) regulates all tourism related activities in Bhutan. All tour operators are registered with them, and the TAB also fix the daily tariff rates. Thirty-five percent of the daily cost goes directly to the TAB and hence to the national treasury. These funds are used by the government for the socioeconomic development of Bhutan. Hospitals, schools, and roads are built and maintained with the income. TAB has released a travel information booklet detailing their role and the regulations by which all tour operators are governed.
Contact us if you have any questions regarding the tour costs. The daily rate may sound high at first, but remember that this includes all your accommodation, all meals, guided tours, and all transportation within Bhutan as per tour itinerary.
What to Bring
The following list will cover your needs for a vehicle-based cultural tour. Since you will be travelling in private vehicles, there is less concern about weight than if you were transferring your own luggage on and off various forms of public transport. There is a 20 kg (44 lb) weight limit (30 kg or 66 lb in business class) on Druk Air flights. You should try and keep to this allowance. Even if you are willing to pay for excess baggage, it travels standby and may be offloaded. As with all travel, the less you carry, the easier it is to move about.
Casual clothes are fine, but please also do take along a set of dress-up clothes (jacket and tie for men, dresses for women) for festivals or in the likely event that you are invited to a Bhutanese home or social function. Thimpu and other towns in Bhutan have a small-town atmosphere, and you might easily find yourself in the company of a high government official. If you have scheduled your trip during a festival, you definitely should carry a set of dressy clothing. Bhutanese people dress quite formally, and dirty jeans do not fit-in on such occasions.
Even in the summer, it can be cool in Bhutan, and it is downright cold in winter. Days can be quite warm, especially in the lower regions such as Punakha and Phuentsoling, and you could start off driving in the cold of dawn and be uncomfortably warm by midmorning. Use a layering system, starting with thermal underwear and adding a shirt, pile jacket and wind-breaker (or parka) as necessary. If you are not trekking, you will need:
Underwear (including thermals for cold weather)
Cotton skirt for women
Pile jacket or sweater - even in summer
Down jacket - in winter; not needed in summer
T-shirts or short sleeved (not sleeveless) cotton shirts
Sneakers or walking shoes and socks
Sandals or flip-flops
Rain jacket (Gore-Tex if possible), otherwise a poncho or nylon jacket
Dress-up clothes for festivals
All hotels provide sheets, blankets or quilt, and a pillow. Unless you are trekking, you won't need to carry a sleeping bag. Most hotels also provide some sort of heating in winter, either an electric heater or a wood stove. The heating, plus the pile of blankets on your bed, should keep you warm.
You will be outside a lot, much of the time at altitudes above 2,500 m (7,800 ft); so there is plenty of sun and wind. Bring a supply of sun cream and lip protection, such as Blistex; these items are not available in Bhutan.
There are several things that you should carry to make a trip to Bhutan more comfortable. All of the following items are essential:
A folding umbrella; especially if you are traveling during the monsoons. Rain is possible any time, and is almost certain from June through August.
Be sure to carry ear plugs (and spares) to reduce the noise from the barking dogs at night. There are a lot of dogs in Bhutan as the Bhutanese love dogs.
There are occasional electric outages throughout the country; so you should always keep a torch (flashlight) beside your bed. Carry a pair of sunglasses (as protection from high altitude glare).
A Swiss army knife has many uses, such as cutting cheese and opening bottles.
Bring a small clock with an alarm to help you wake up, because not all hotel rooms have telephones.
If you are on a cultural tour, it's OK to bring a hard suitcase, though a soft bag is more versatile and easier to pack into the luggage space of a vehicle. For those trekking in Bhutan a strong duffel bag as luggage is best. You will also want a small rucksack (back pack) or waist pack to carry your camera, water bottle and other essentials in the vehicle and when you are walking around town or visiting monuments.
Pre Departure Information
Once your tour or trek in Bhutan is confirmed we will provide you with a detailed Pre Departure Information packet which contains a list of recommended clothing & equipment along with many other details that will help you prepare for you tour/trek in Bhutan.