Tips and Budget – Bhutan

Planning to travel to Bhutan – no worries! I have put together this page with handy tips for you based on my experience. It is a very safe, welcoming and pleasing country. So read on and best of luck for your journey to the country where GDP is measured as Gross national index of happiness…

  • Best time to visit Bhutan is during the ‘festival time’ – Tshechu time. To get more information about festival season is Tourism Council of Bhutan
  • Always book in advance – I had booked 4 months in advance as this will not only give you options to choose good hotels but it will be slightly cheaper as well in terms of air ticket prices
  • Always carry a fleece jacket with you even if you are travelling in peak summer. Peak summer in Bhutan is around June and July which is also the onset of rains. Don’t forget to carry an umbrella with you.
  • In Bhutan, be prepared to walk a lot – carry good pair of walking shoes and a back support belt (if you have back problems)
  • Contrary to what is said (and what was told by the banks here in India), I had no problem in using INR currency notes of 500 and 2000 denomination in Bhutan – best is to check with your hotel before leaving India. Credit cards (AMEX, MasterCArd or Visa) are widely acceptable. Carry cash as well about INR 15000 per person is enough for food and local travel. Remaining expenses like hotels and cab should be pre-booked. Indian currency is widely accepted in Bhutan (also 1INR = 1Nu so no worries on conversion rate!)
  • Pre-book hotel and cabs – hotels in Bhutan will give you a soft copy of the payment receipt. Do carry that with you
  • There are no Ubers and Olas in the country – I could not find any travel agencies as well. So, I asked the hotels in which I was staying to arrange for the cabs and that is very convenient since you can settle cab bill also with the hotel bill (later on, I did take quotes from Thomas Cook and the prices were very similar to the prices quoted by them)
  • Carry passports with you – for Indian citizens, there are no Visa requirements but they do check your passports at the immigration counter.
  • if you have to travel to places like Punakha, you will need to obtain permits from Thimpu (there are other places also where you can obtain permits – do check about those with the hotel you are staying with or your travel agent)
  • Timings of tourist places: Most of the monasteries and Dzongs close by 5 PM everyday – in case you have these places in your itenary for the day, ensure that you check the timings with the driver and hotel before hand
  • Dress: Most of the tourists are expected to dress appropriately especially if you are visiting a Dzong or a monastery. You will not be allowed to enter these places in case you are in short pants/capris/half sleeves. Long pants and long sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places.
  • Medicines to be carried along – always carry few basic OTC medicines (especially holds true if you have kids with you) such as crocin, brufen or voveron (whichever suits you), sofromycin etc.
  • Tickets to tourist places: Whenever you are leaving the hotel for a site-seeing activity or a local excursion, do carry cash with you as some of the places have entry tickets which can be bought only with cash. Don’t forget to buy tickets at Tiger Nest base camp
  • Shopping: You can buy yalk wool bags, key chains, Budha statues, junk jewellery, phallus talismans, yatha or yalk wool shawls at many shops and markets. For shopping, best place where you can haggle up to some extent are handicraft huts in the Thimpu main market. All other places also offer the same stuff but at higher prices.
  • Although all the people speak in Dzongkha, most people can speak in English and few can understand Hindi as well – so communication will not be a problem and you don’t have to worry on that front.
  • Estimated budget: If you book well in advance, economy ticket per person would cost around  INR 17,000.  4/5 Star hotels stay for a period of 7 N and 8 D would cost around INR 130,000 (for two adults and one child) and cab expense would be around 35,000 for the entire trip. Shopping and food would cost another INR 20,000.  So in all it comes to around INR 2,50,000 for a very comfortable trip staying at best hotels. If you want to do solo travel, you could go for budget hotels and travel by local taxis – this can save you about INR 70,000.

For real life experience of Bhutan, do visit the country….you can have a glimpse of my experience now by visiting other pages on Thimpu, Punakha and Paro!