Nestled at the eastern end of the Himalayas, Bhutan is no ordinary place! It is the only country in the world that measures gross national happiness as an indicator of its prosperity. A spiritual, modern country with one foot still rooted in its past, Bhutan has embraced modernisation without losing its soul. The government’s ‘high quality-low volume’ tourism policy ensures a visual and spiritual feast for all visitors. The mountain nation is home to some of the most revered pilgrimage sites of the Buddhist world, including the Taktsang Lhakhang. Popularly known as the “Tiger’s Nest” Monastery, it is perched precariously on a sheer rock face. It is a colourful, fascinating place full of temples, mountain fortresses and spectacular views!
Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of departure from Bhutan. You will need at least one blank page in your passport. Please be sure to fill out the "Emergency Next of Kin" section in your passport
A visa is required for all travellers (expect those from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives). Bhutan travel visas are only issued on arrival but must be applied for in advance of travel. We will apply for visa approval for the whole tour group before we travel. Therefore, it is imperative we have your full, up to date passport details as soon as possible to ensure your visa is applied for before departure. Please forward your passport number, issue and expiry date, date of birth and place of birth to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bhutan visa fee and Tourism Development Fee are included in your tour price. You will be issued with a visa clearance letter in Nepal before the flight to Bhutan.
• Consular Information
There are only three international embassies located in Bhutan – India, Bangladesh and Kuwait. The UK has a representative office in Thimphu, offering very limited services. Embassies the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand are located in other India or other Asian cities, offering coverage to Bhutan. Please check with your relevant government for the relevant contact details.
N.B. Please note, visa and entry requirements, regulations and restrictions can vary on a regular basis. Please ensure you check in good time prior to travel the current requirements applicable to you.
HEALTH, INSURANCE AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
• Travel Insurance
It is company policy that all passengers must have valid travel insurance prior to travelling, to include but not limited to health insurance and cancellation insurance. It is vital that ALL members of the travelling party are fully insured for the dates of travel. All pre-existing medical conditions must be declared to the insurer and the correct cover must be taken in regard to the specific type of holiday you are taking. Please advise them that you will be visiting Bhutan and trekking at altitude – some policies have a limit on altitude and the activities covered.
The details of your insurance must be advised to The Big Journey Company at least 6 weeks before your departure date. Please make sure to write down important information from your insurance policy, such as the company’s 24hr emergency telephone number (including dial code from abroad) and your policy number and take these with you on tour.
• General Health
Please talk to your doctor or travel health clinic in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information for your personal needs. Bhutan is located at a high altitude above sea level - the altitude at Thimphu is 2,334m. You may wish to speak to your doctor about how this may affect any existing medical conditions. You might also want to discuss precautions available to you to avoid the inconveniences that altitude causes to some people.
Wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
We recommend you carry a simple travellers’ first-aid kit containing any basic items that you feel may be required, including remedies for minor stomach complaints.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to your Big Journey Company tour escort.
• Passengers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility
The Bhutan and Nepal Tour is an Activity Level 3 tour and will require a high level of physical activity over an extended period. It is not suitable if you have limited mobility. Please check our Activity Levels description page to see if this level is suitable to you or contact us if you require further information on the activities involved in the tour.
If you or any member of your party has any medical problem or disability which may affect your holiday, please provide us with full details before we confirm your booking, or as soon as possible at the time they occur, so that we can try to advise on the suitability of your chosen arrangements. Please note, we may require you to produce a doctor’s certificate certifying that you are fit to participate in the tour.
• Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us prior to travel if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it is wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. Restrictions apply on bringing medication into Bhutan but is permitted for personal use. Please check with the delegation for Bhutan in your country if you have any queries over medication allowances.
- Pack a sufficient supply of any medications you are taking, copies of the prescriptions and the telephone/fax numbers of your doctor.
- Please note, some countries require that prescription drugs be carried in their original container, with the label clearly visible. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement.
Prior to travel, please consult your doctor to discuss the destinations you are visiting, the latest immunisation information and requirements as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
There are currently no specific certificate requirements under International Health Regulations however please take note of the information below.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. Vaccinations for Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Tuberculosis, Rabies and Malaria may be recommended depending on the tour you are taking and your medical history. For further information, please see: wwnc.cdc.gov/travel/countries
You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre and discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Any feverish illness during or after returning from travel must be reported to a doctor immediately
• Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Please inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible, and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or smaller cruise ships. Also,
- Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
- Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
- Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
- Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
- Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel, so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
• Special Dietary Requirements
Please let us know in good time prior to travel if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
• What to Pack and Wear
Given the variable weather we’re likely to experience as we travel, you will need clothes for warmer weather as well as a warm, waterproof jacket. Pack light and remember the basic essentials: camera and attachments; a good pair of lightweight binoculars; adaptor plugs; toiletries including insect repellent and sunblock; medications and prescriptions; extra reading glasses; sunhat; and notebook or journal. Make sure you have comfortable, practical footwear for the treks and clothing that can be worn in layers.
• Luggage Allowances
International airlines are often strict about the size and weight of checked in baggage and carry-on luggage. Prior to your departure, please contact your airline or visit their website for specific luggage requirements, as size and weight limitations may vary according to the airline and destination.
Nepal & Bhutan Tour – For the flights between Kathmandu to Bharatpur and Pokhara to Kathmandu, travellers are permitted 1 piece of hold luggage per person, the weight of which should not exceed 20kgs. You are also permitted one piece of cabin baggage per person, which should not exceed the 5kg in weight and must be no more than the following dimensions: 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (20 x 14 x 9ins). There will be a charge for all excess luggage. Usual restrictions on prohibited items, including those on liquids, apply on these flights.
Luggage handling is not included in our Bhutan tour. It may be available at the hotel for a local charge.
Laundry services may be available in some hotels on the tour but will be limited.
The main language of Bhutan is Dzongkha (Bhutanese), though there are many variations and regional languages across the country. English is the language of teaching in schools and spoken widely across the country, especially by younger generations.
The time zone in Bhutan is GMT+6, 6 hours ahead of London GMT.
The weather and visibility in Bhutan in the autumn season, from September – November, is perfect for touring and trekking. The temperature is moderate during the day, with cool mornings and evenings. It is cooler at altitude and for a large part of the tour, you will mostly be at an altitude above 2,500 metres so we must be prepared for cold weather. Average temperatures range from 20° C / 68° F during the day, to below 0° C / 32 °F at night.
Bhutan is a unique country in that it only uses clean and green energy, generated by hydropower. Almost the entire country is well connected with electricity at between 220-240 volts with a frequency of 50hz. Three types of plug are used - Type G (UK style three square pins) and Type D (three round pins, used in India and some African countries) and Type F (3 round pins, similar to the European style plug). You will need a plug adaptor and/or converter depending on which electrical appliances you bring with you. Please note, when walking, access to electricity will be limited – pre-charged or solar powered power bars are useful for your electronic devices.
MOBILES & INTERNET COMMUNICATION
Bhutan has a good communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone/mobile phone providers offer coverage and there are landline phone networks. In populated urban areas, there should be good mobile signal but as we head into rural areas, signal may fluctuate. Internet and Wi-Fi are accessible in most urban areas and most hotels and restaurants provide WIFI. Please check data roaming charges for Bhutan with your service provider before leaving home as these can quickly become very expensive.
The currency of Bhutan is the Ngultrum (BTN). Indian rupees are also commonly accepted in Bhutan and for major purchases, some shops may accept US Dollars. Credit cards are widely accepted at mid-high range establishments, but it is advisable to carry money in cash with you as well. ATMs are widely available in in most towns but not so in smaller villages. Therefore, it is prudent to get your cash in Thimphu or Paro rather.
A number of larger shops in the big cities now accept card payments. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards however many places do not accept cards such as Diners Club or American Express. If you intend to use any of your debit or credit cards whilst away, please make sure that you contact your bank before you leave to inform them that you will be travelling in order not to cause any problems using your cards or whilst on the trip.
Bhutan can be quite inexpensive for western visitors, as due to the country’s tourism regulations, accommodation, transport and most meals are already included in your package price. However, please bring along some money for drinks, snacks and of course, souvenirs.
• Bank Opening
Bank opening hours are short, especially in summer. Banks in Bhutan are usually open 9am – 1pm Monday to Friday, some may be open on Saturday mornings.
After feedback from previous guests, we offer a group tipping package for this tour. Look out for more information in your pre-tour emails.
Grains compose the basis of Bhutanese cuisine – rice, buckwheat and maize, served with pork, beef, chicken and lamb. You will find lots of soups and stews, made with meats, chillies and cheese, simmered for hours. Dairy also features highly in the Bhutanese diets – with butter and cheese being main components of many dishes. Tea is a favourite drink.
Some meals are included as part of your tour – please check your individual departure for the relevant meal inclusions.
It is not advisable to drink the tap water in Bhutan, nor that from any wells, streams or rivers unless it has been boiled or purified first. Bottled water can be bought at supermarkets, kiosks and many shops.
Bhutan offers lots for visitors to buy. It is renowned for its fabrics, in bright, colourful and traditional designs. You will also find a lot of local handicraft, carvings and jewellery on offer to buy. In the capital, Thimphu, there are just three shopping streets, and a market selling only artisan Bhutan produce that should not be missed!
• Opening Hours
In the cities and towns, most retail shops are open from 8am – 8pm Monday–Saturday, though may vary locally. Most shops are closed on Sundays, with the exception of certain grocery shops and souvenir shops.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Crime levels in Bhutan are low. However, there’s a risk of petty theft, particularly in airports in popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Please take sensible precautions to protect your belongings, particularly your passport, money and credit cards. When in large crowds or major tourist destinations, you should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
This tour travels at altitude – please discuss with your doctor how this may affect you and any existing conditions you may have.
Please don’t encourage begging by giving sweets or money to local people who may approach you on the street. Recognized charities often have collection boxes in hotels. We recommend that you make any donations in these boxes, where you can be assured that the funds will be properly used.
Pack your patience and good humour alongside your passport! Contrasts between the values and priorities of the international traveller and the local community are an interesting and illuminating part of the travel experience.
Bhutan was the first country in the world to impose smoking bans and banning the sale of tobacco. Smoking is banned in all indoor public places, and most outdoor public spaces. Though the sale of tobacco is prohibited, small quantities can be imported for personal use, and there are usually designated outdoor areas where people can smoke.
Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom. About 75% of the population are Buddhist. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the King.
Bhutan offers photo opportunities one after another. You will return with many photos that can never be repeated. Remember to pack your camera, along with the charger, spare batteries and a spare memory card!
The best preparation for days trekking is… trekking! Getting out for hikes and short walks in your home country. Even regular walks in the park, if you can’t escape to the countryside much, are a good way to prepare! Well worn-in walking boots or shoes are a must!
ARRIVAL IN BHUTAN
Please note, standard hotel check-in is around 3pm, so should you arrive earlier than this, your room may not be available upon arrival. For those arriving early morning, we will do everything we can to work with the hotel to get you an earlier check-in subject to availability.
TOUR HOTEL INFORMATION
Please check your tour paperwork for hotel information attaining to your tour departure.
OTHER COUNTRIES ON TOUR ITINERARY
For those continuing their stay in Nepal, India or Tibet, please check the relevant Travel Tip pages for information on these countries as they may differ to Bhutan.
FLYING & TRAVEL HINTS
• Photocopy the personal information pages of your passport; leave one copy at home with a friend or family member, and take a copy with you, but pack it separately from the passport itself.
• It is advisable to carry all your travel documentation as well as valuables and essential items in your hand luggage, such as camera, toiletries, reading material etc.
• Duty-Free shopping is always tempting, but please check the current Duty-Free limits applicable in the country of your destination.
• Longer flights can be made a little more enjoyable by wearing loose clothing and good, comfortable shoes. Walking in the aisles regularly, eating sensibly and drinking plenty of fluids (not alcohol) is also advised.
• Where possible, try to get some sleep during the flight and upon arrival at your destination, most people adjust better to the local time if they wait until the evening before sleeping – this should relieve some of the effects of jet lag.
If you have any other questions that we have not covered here; then please send us an e-mail to: email@example.com
Please note, the above information is provided as a guideline only. Although every effort has been made to provide complete and accurate information, The Big Journey Company makes no warranties, express or implied, or representations as to the accuracy of content on this website. The Big Journey Company assumes no liability or responsibility for any error or omissions in the information contained in the website.
Updated December 2019