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Bhutan, located in the eastern Himalayas, borders China to the north and India to the south, east and west. The altitude varies from 300m (1000ft) in the narrow lowland region to 7000m (22,000ft) in the Himalayan plateau in the north. The foothills are tropical and home to deer, lion, leopards and the rare golden monkey. The Inner Himalaya region is temperate; wildlife includes bear, boar and sambar and the area is rich in deciduous forests. Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, lies at a height of over 2400m (8000ft) in a fertile valley. It resembles a large, widely dispersed village rather than a capital. The yearly religious Thimphu Festival is held in the courtyard directly in front of the National Assembly Hall. A visit to the Paro Valley and the Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery clinging to the face of a 900m (2952ft) precipice is highly recommended. Restaurants are scarce and most tourists eat vegetarian food served buffet-style in their hotels. Cheese is a popular ingredient, the most popular being dartsi (cow’s milk cheese). Rice is ubiquitous and is sometimes flavored with saffron. The most popular drink is souza (Bhutanese tea).


Bhutan is located in the eastern Himalayas, bordered to the north by China and to the south, east and west by India. The altitude varies from 300m (1000ft) in the narrow lowland region to 7000m (22,000ft) in the Himalayan plateau in the north, and there are three distinct climatic regions. The foothills are tropical and home to deer, lion, leopards and the rare golden monkey as well as much tropical vegetation including many species of wild orchids. The Inner Himalaya region is temperate; wildlife includes bear, boar and sambar and the area is rich in deciduous forests. The High Himalaya region is very thinly populated, but the steep mountain slopes are the home of many species of animals including snow leopards and musk deer.


Constitutional Monarchy. Head of State and Government: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck since 2006.

Head of Government
Prime Minister Jigme Thinley since April 2008 (third non-consecutive term of office).

Dzongkha is the official language. A large number of dialects are spoken, owing to the physical isolation of many villages. Sharchop Kha, from eastern Bhutan, is the most widely spoken. Nepali is common in the south of the country. English has been the language of educational instruction since 1964 and is widely spoken.

Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion; the majority of Bhutanese people follow the Drukpa school of the Kagyupa sect. Those living in the south are mainly Hindu.

GMT + 6.

220 volts AC, 50Hz.

Services are restricted to the main centers. Country code: 975. All other calls must go through the international operator. Outgoing international code: 00.

Mobile telephone
Coverage is extensive but since the mobile network is now superseding the landline service, oversubscription can lead to problems.

Access is growing. There are Internet cafes in large towns and access in major hotels across the country.

Airmail letters to Bhutan can take up to two weeks. Mail from Bhutan is liable to disruption, although this is due not to the inefficiency of the service but rather to the highly prized nature of Bhutanese stamps which often results in their being steamed off the envelopes en route.
Post Office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat 0900-1200 (summer); Mon-Fri 0900-1600, Sat 0900-1200 (winter).

There are very few papers, Kuensel is the autonomous weekly. The Bhutan Times and Bhutan Observer are privately-owned.

Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) is the state-run radio station.

Buddhist festivals, full of masks, dancing and ritual, generally center on Dzongs (fortified monasteries) in cobbled courtyards, the most famous of which is at Paro. More than 40 religious or folk dances are performed by the monks recounting tales of Buddhist history and myth. Formal dress is required for all festivals.


There are four distinct seasons similar in their divisions to those of Western Europe. The Monsoon occurs between June and August when the temperature is normally between 8° and 21°C (46°-70°F). Temperatures drop dramatically with increases in altitude. Days are usually very pleasant (average about 10°C/50°F) 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: woolens for evenings, particularly during the winter months.


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 flavoured 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 specialities
• 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-flavoured 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.

Currency Information

Bhutanese currency is the ngultrum (nu). The approximate exchange rate is 45.00 nu for one US dollar (this will vary 1 or 2 nu, plus or minus) The ngultrum is on par with the Indian Rupee (both the Nu and Indian Rupee can be used in Bhutan). US Dollars and other world currencies as well as traveler's cheques can be exchanged at banks in the larger towns (hours 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, Mon to Fri) and at the larger hotels. In the capital town of Thimphu some of the smaller bank branches are open Saturday and Sunday for currency exchange. Ngultrum or rupees will be what you will need for your purchases while in the more rural towns and villages.

Currency exchange
Leading foreign currencies are accepted but traveller's cheques are preferred and receive a better exchange rate. Major hotels in Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing will also exchange foreign currency.

Credit, Debit cards & ATM’s
Most cards have limited acceptability. ATMs only accept Bhutanese bank cards

Travelers cheques
These can be exchanged in any branch of the Bank of Bhutan or at all BTCL hotels. Travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.

Currency restrictions
None, but foreign currency must be declared on arrival.

Banking hours
Mon-Fri 0900-1500, Sat 0900-1200

Exchange Rate Indicators
Date Feb 10
£1.00= Nu73.34
$1.00= Nu46.50
€1.00= Nu64.12.


  Passport Required? Visa Required? Return Ticket Required?
British Yes Yes Yes
Australian Yes Yes Yes
Canadian Yes Yes Yes
USA Yes Yes Yes
OtherEU Yes Yes Yes
Japanese Yes Yes Yes

Valid passport required by all.

Required by all except nationals of India.

(a) Tourists to Bhutan are obliged to use Druk Air (the only airline serving Bhutan) either on entering or leaving the country. The government may refuse entry to those wishing to visit for mountaineering, publicity and other research activities.

(b) There are two ways of entering Bhutan: by air to Paro Airport or by road to the Bhutanese border town of Phuntosholing. All travelers entering the country by road must ensure that they have the necessary documentation for transiting through that part of India to Phuntsholing. Consult the Passport/Visa section for India. Visitors are also advised to contact the Government of India Tourist Office to check exactly what special permits or other documents may be necessary as these regulations are subject to change at short notice. (b) Visitors are required to book with a registered tour operator in Bhutan which can be done directly through an affiliated travel agent abroad. (c) A yellow fever certificate is required by all if arriving within six days from an infected area.

General Information

47,000 per sq km (18,146 sq miles).

682,321 (2005).

Population Density
14.5 per sq km.


South Asia (between Assam in northeast India and China).

Country dialing code

International Travel

One of the smallest national carriers in the world, Druk Air has a fleet of two BAe-146 (Whisper Jet) aircraft. An international team of flight attendants, trained by Thai Airways International add to the airline's credibility.

Druk Air is the only airline that serves Bhutan, so most visitors to Bhutan are introduced to the kingdom in its care. Few are disappointed. The final leg of a journey to Bhutan begins in Calcutta, Dhaka or Kathmandu and involves a flight of no more than one hour - however it's an hour that travelers will always remember. As the airplane rises towards the foothills of the Himalayas, the mountains rise to eye-level with the aircraft. On clear days from Kathmandu, the airplane flies past the summit of Everest.

With that said the most convientient gateway city in terms of the most flights per week is Bangkok. Depending on the day of the week the flights departing from Bangkok will make one stop in either Calcutta or Dhaka. Total flight time 3.5 hours. Delays do occur on account of the changeable Himalayan weather. Travelers are advised to build an extra day or two in their itineraries in case of flight cancellations. Confirmation of travel during festival seasons (March, April, September, October) must be made at least three months in advance to ensure seats with the airline. The aircraft has a seating capacity of 72. 10 Business Class seats and 62 Economy Class seats.

International airports
Paro (PBH), Bhutan’s only airport, is located in a deep valley, some 2190m (7300ft) above sea level, surrounded by hills and high mountains. Operating conditions are fairly difficult and the approach into Paro airport is entirely by visual flight rules. Buses and taxis are available to the city center (travel time – 90 minutes).

Departure tax

The nearest railhead is Siliguri (India).

The road from Bagdogra (West Bengal) enters Bhutan at the border town of Phuentsholing, which is 179km (111 miles) from Thimphu.

Bhutan Duty Free

The following goods may be imported into Bhutan.
• 200 cigarettes.
• 1l of spirits.
• Personal effects for daily use, instruments or appliances for professional use and electronic equipment for personal use.

Note: Cameras, videos, mobile telephones and all other electronic equipment for personal use must be registered with the authorities on arrival and will be checked by customs on departure. Import of plants/soil is subject to quarantine. All tobacco will be subject to a 200% custom tax on arrival.

Prohibited Imports
Firearms, narcotics, plants.

Prohibited Exports
The export of antiques, religious objects, manuscripts, images and anthropological materials is strictly prohibited (regarded as those 100 years or older) and closely monitored by the Bhutanese authorities.

Internal Travel

Druk Air operates an hour-long scenic mountain flight – the so-called ‘Kingdom of the Sky’ – which offers visitors spectacular views of the mountains, lakes and waterfalls that are part of Bhutan’s beautiful scenery. The plane’s seating capacity is 72, with 32 window seats. However, there are no domestic airline routes within Bhutan.

Traffic drives on the left. The country has a fairly good internal road network with 3100km (1926 miles) of surfaced road. The main routes run north from Phuntsholing to the western and central regions of Paro and Thimphu, and east–west, across the Pele La Pass linking the valleys of the eastern region. The northern regions of the High Himalayas have no roads. Bus: Those services which were formerly government owned are now privately run, though yaks, ponies and mules are the chief forms of transportation. The main routes are from Phuntsholing to Thimphu, Thimphu to Bumthang, Bumthang to Tashigang, Tashigang to Samdrup Jongkar and from Tongsa to Gaylegphug. Documentation: International Driving Permit is required.



Markets are held regularly, generally on Saturday and Sunday, and are a rich source of local clothing and jewellery, as well as food. The Handicraft Emporium on the main street in the capital is open daily and offers a magnificent assortment of hand-woven and handcrafted goods. Some hotels have a souvenir shop. Silversmiths and goldsmiths in the Thimphu Valley are able to make handcrafted articles to order. Bhutanese stamps are collectors' items. Shopping is otherwise limited and bargaining is not customary. Phuentsholing has a small department store, the only one of its kind in Bhutan.

Shopping hours: Mon-Sun 0800-2000 for most shops.

Gratuities & Tipping
Tipping is not compulsory and is left entirely to the discretion of the individual. It is not normal to tip in restaurants or taxis.

Types of visa and cost
Tourist: US$20 (payable in hard currency).

Visa Note
(a) Air tickets cannot be purchased without visa clearance. (b) Visas are only issued to tourists booked with a local licensed tour operator, or through a foreign travel agent. All applications are submitted through the tour operator. (c) Visas are issued (stamped in passport) on arrival at Paro Airport or at Phuentsholing check post.

Visas are initially granted for stays of up to 15 days. The Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited (BTCL) can apply for an extension of tourist visas for an additional fee per person.

Working Days Required
Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process and should be applied for at least 60 days prior to arrival in Bhutan.


Vaccinations - Special Precautions
Diphtheria - Yes
Hepatitis A - Yes
Malaria - Sometimes
Rabies - Sometimes
Tetanus - Yes
Typhoid - Yes
Yellow Fever - No*

Inoculation regulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice in the case of doubt. Where 'Sometimes' appears in the table above, precautions may be required, depending on the season and region visited.

* A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required by all travellers coming from an infected area.

Food & drink

All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilized. Milk is unpasteurized and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised, but make sure that it is reconstituted with pure water. Avoid all dairy products. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Pork, salad and mayonnaise may carry increased risk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Other risks

Hepatitis E occurs; hepatitis B is endemic. Giardiasis is common. Meningitis is a sporadic risk and vaccination is advised. Tuberculosis exists. There is a small risk of Japanese encephalitis in southern lowland areas. Altitude sickness may be a problem. Rabies is present. For those at high risk, vaccination should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay.

Health care
There is no reciprocal health agreement with the UK. Full medical insurance is strongly advised. Medical facilities are good but scarce.

Bhutan Travel Advice
Travellers must arrange any visit to Bhutan through an authorised travel agent. Those travelling independently are not permitted to enter Bhutan. Most visits are trouble-free.

While the threat of terrorism in Bhutan remains low, a series of bomb blasts occurred in Thimphu, Samste, Chukha and Dagana on 20 January 2008, injuring one person. The Royal Bhutan Police have also confirmed that an unexploded bomb was found in a vegetable market in Dagana.

This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organisations for the latest travel advice:

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Tel : 0845 850 2829.
Website :

US Department of State
Website :

Entry & Exit Requirements
Independent travel is not permitted in Bhutan. Visitors are required to book travel through a registered tour operator in Bhutan. This may be done directly or through a travel agent abroad. Entry by air is available only via India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Thailand. The border with China is closed.
The minimum daily tariff is set by the Bhutanese Department of Tourism and cannot be negotiated. The rate includes all accommodations, all meals, transportation, services of licensed guides and porters, and cultural programs where and when available. The rate is the same for both cultural tours and treks. At this time, the only carrier servicing Bhutan is Drukair, the Bhutanese government airline. Drukair will board only travelers with visa clearance from the Tourism Authority of Bhutan.