Travel tips

Time
Bhutan time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country.
Language
Dzongkha, “the language of the dzong”, belongs to the Tibetan linguistic family. Originally spoken only in western Bhutan, Dzongkha is now Bhutan’s national language. English is commonly spoken in the main towns and is the principal medium of instruction in schools throughout the kingdom
Precautions
Bhutan is one of the safest countries in the world however you should still exercise caution when visiting. Please ensure that your belongings especially your passports, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. Please refrain from leaving such items within sight in locked vehicles while sightseeing.
People prone to car sickness should bring appropriate medicine as the winding roads on the mountains have plenty of curves and turns.
Travel & Medical Insurance
We strongly advice travelers to get a comprehensive travel & medical insurance before traveling to Bhutan. If you are coming on a trek, your medical/travel insurance must include provision for evacuation by helicopter and repatriation – should this be necessary.
Climate
The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general the eastern region of the country is warmer than the central valleys. However, the higher the altitude, the cooler the weather, and that with a brisk wind blowing down off the mountains, even a low-lying valley can become quite chilly.
The central valleys of Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Mongar, Tashigang and Lhuentse enjoy a semi-tropical climate with cool winters, whilst Paro, Thimphu, Tongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate, with summer monsoon rains and winter snowfalls which may block passes leading into the central valleys for days at a time. Winter in Bhutan is from mid-November till mid-March, and at this time of the year the climate is dry and sunny for the most part, temperatures peaking at around 15c. in the daytime and falling below zero at night. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with light rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. At the end of September, after the last of the big rains, autumn suddenly arrives, and is a magnificent season for trekking until November.
What to Pack?
Clothing
Due to the wide range of temperature and climatic conditions it is advisable to dress in layers. For protection against cold, layered clothing is better than one or two thick garments. Clothing should preferably be made from natural materials, which allow the body to breathe.
Shoes
Bring comfortable sport shoes for light hikes & sightseeing; hiking boots for treks; semi formal shoes for dinners/appointments/functions.
Trekkers
Here are the items which we recommend you to bring along:
  • Sleeping bags (if you prefer to use your own, we provide used but clean sleeping bags and foam mats)
  • Mountain trekking shoes (soles with good grip that have already been broken in)
  • Running shoes (to use after arriving at camp in the evening)
  • Sandals or slippers (useful at camp site)
  • Socks (bring plenty, wool ones dry quicker than cotton)
  • Light warm jacket and/or fleece / down jacket
  • T-shirt and inner wear (bring enough as spares)
  • Rain and wind proof gear
  • Gloves, scarves, other clothing
  • Water bottle
  • Cap/hat to prevent sun exposure
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip protection, sun burn relief cream
  • Insect repellent
  • Tooth paste, tooth brush and other sanitary items
  • Camera with extra charger (no facility to charge battery during trek)
  • Small sewing kit & safety pins, pocket knife, scissors
  • Flash light with spare batteries
  • Your favorite sweets and/or snacks for energy
  • Your favorite card game
  • Personal medicines and/or medical kit
  • Water proof bags/pouches to protect your clothes, electronics and personal items
  • Backpack & waterproof backpack cover in case of rain
  • Duffel bags or bags without wheels (easier for ponies to carry) to pack your belongings
Communications
You will be able to check your email and make international telephone calls from most towns while touring Bhutan. Internet cafes are widespread in the every small town.
Bhutan has a comprehensive mobile (cell) phone network with global roaming also assessable. Sim cards are available at the Bhutan Telecom/B-mobile and Tashi Cell outlets and authorized dealers.
Internet
Most hotels in major towns have free wifi services (either in the room, or lobby or both).
Accommodation
Most hotels in Bhutan are in the 2-3 star level and are referred to as Standard Hotels. A few luxury 4 & 5 star accommodations are also available (Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang). The standard accommodations all offer the necessary facilities, and are properly maintained. In general hotels in western Bhutan (Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue) are better appointed than the rest of the country. Accommodation establishments are more modest with fewer amenities in the more remote areas of central (Gangtey, Trongsa, Bumthang) and eastern Bhutan (Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Samdrup Jongkhar).
Food
Bhutanese delicacies are rich with spicy chilies and cheese. The tourist restaurants will normally tone down the chilly for visitors. Chinese, Continental, Bhutanese and Indian cuisine are also available in the hotels and local tourist restaurants.
For trekking groups, Far East Hamalaya’s own trained cooks will prepare dishes suitable to western taste in the above range, and every effort will be made to accommodate the individual dietary preferences of your clients. Visitors need to give advance notice of any special dietary requirements so that we can make appropriate arrangements when the catering team assembles provisions.
Shopping
Hand-woven textiles, carved masks, woven baskets, wooden bowls, handmade paper products, finely crafted metal objects, Thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps are the items mostly purchased by travelers in Bhutan. Thimphu & Paro has the most extensive range of the handicraft items. It is recommended to carry cash such as Euro, Pounds, US dollars, Japanese Yen and related travelers’ checks for expenses in Bhutan. Credit cards are new to Bhutan and only few shops may accept it.
The buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden. Be cautious when considering the purchase of old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate. Far East Himalaya’s advice should be sought before committing to such purchases. It is best to buy more expensive items at reputable shops, which provide receipts as proof of purchase.
Note:
  • Sale of Tobacco products is banned in Bhutan. Import of Tobacco products for personal consumption requires payment of import duty. Kindly bring your own Tobacco products and declare at the Customs counter at the airport in Paro or if traveling by road at the Immigration/Customs check points. You will have to carry with you the Customs Receipt (proof of import duty payment) at all times as you may be asked to show the Customs Receipt by the local authorities if seen smoking in public areas.
    The permitted amount is 300 sticks of cigarette or 150 grams of tobacco products or 50 pieces of cigars. You will be charged a 200% import duty.