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Bhutan Tips & Tricks: Every FYI You Need To Know

BY WENDY HUNG

The Happiest Country in Asia makes Bhutan one of the most unique destinations in the world with full of things to see and must-do’s. Just in case you’re too lazy to flip through a guidebook, here’s a quick rundown of etiquette, Wifi info, cash exchange, SIM cards…and more!

bhutan tiger's nest

5 things to avoid:

  1. Powered By DAJ Expeditions logoDo not be clueless about Gross National Happiness – a unique concept Bhutan promotes toward well being and sustainability that integrates the country’s economic, social and environmental objectives.
  2. Avoid tank tops and shorts. In other words, dress respectfully. Especially when you enter dzongs. Women – Try to stay away from revealing clothing and always have your shoulders and knees covered. Men – Try not to tie your jackets around your waist and don’t leave your jackets unzipped.
  3. Don’t hike up Tiger’s Nest without bottles of water. It’s a 10,000 feet hike, for those who need to bring hiking poles, do it.
  4. Avoid bringing gifts for local children since the Bhutanese government want to discourage children from the culture of begging.
  5. Avoid heading to Bhutan without a pre-paid arrangement since it’s not possible to attain an entry visa for Bhutan unless tour itineraries have been made with a licensed and pre-approved tour operator which includes the $250 tourist tariff.

SEE ALSO: 15 Must-Do’s You Can’t Miss In Bhutan

Weather:

The best time to visit Bhutan is during spring (March – May) and autumn (September – November.) Expect dry but warm weather, sunny but chilly during mornings and nighttime.

  • December – February: There’s been snow especially during January and February in recent years.
  • March – May: Best time to visit with temperature ranging from 23°C to 27°C, at night it can drop to 18°C.
  • June – August: Expect lots of rain and monsoons.
  • September – November: Best time to visit as well. Expect European autumn weather, and less rain than summertime.

Bhutan landscape

Visa requirement:

In order to attain a visa for Bhutan, travelers must work with a licensed, approved tour company who will prepare every part of the visa application process. Bhutanese law requires visitors to come through via a licensed local tour company. As explained by DAJ Expeditions, “The Bhutan Government Regulations require the deposit of Tour Payments in full prior to processing your visa. Upon your payment assurance, DAJ Expeditions will duly process your visa application. You can fill out the Online Visa Form then email it to DAJ Expeditions. The visa will be stamped at the entry point on your arrival. Bring two passport size photographs and there is a Visa Fee of USD 40 per person which can pay in advance to DAJ Expeditions.”

Language:

The national language is Dzongkha, which is the native language of Western Bhutan’s Ngalops. Here are some useful phrases to keep in mind:

  • Hello – Kuzoo zangpo la
  • How are you – Gadaybay zhu ga?
  • Thank you – Kaadinchey la
  • How much – Gademchi mo?
  • Goodbye – Log jay gay

Etiquette:

Bhutan is a disciplined Buddhist traditional society and they follow a highly refined system of etiquette called “driglam namzha.” When you visit Bhutan, you’ll notice the Bhutanese’s respect for authority, devotion to marital and familial institutions. It’s shown in the way they behave toward one another, how to conduct themselves in public, even how to eat in public and especially how to dress.

Local clothing is conventional, and you’ll notice a national dress code that is authentic and beautiful.

Downtown Thimphu, Bhutan

Safety:

Bhutan remains as one of the safest countries for tourists to visit.

Money exchange:

In Bhutan, Bhutanese ngultrum (BTN) is the currency. There are no coins. For better exchange rates, use bigger bills such as USD 50 or USD 100. You’ll get 5% less if you were to exchange with a USD 20 bill or less.

There was a counterfeit which occurred in 1996, so do not use any USD 100 bills that were made in 1996. Try to stay away from using cash that has tears, holes or marks.

Visa and MasterCard are sometimes accepted in hotels and larger boutiques. But mostly, credit cards are not accepted in smaller stores. There is an American Express office in Thimphu so the cards are also accepted in selected locations.

If you need to exchange cash, do so at the airport which has the same rate as other banks in town. Since exchange rates at hotels aren’t as good, if you need to, ask you guide to find a local bank where you can exchange cash.

If you’re staying for two weeks, USD 300 is more than enough to cover tips (go down to “tips” section for more details.) You’ll only be spending money on shopping and souvenirs since lodging, meals, gasoline should be previously covered in your tour package price.

Besides BTN, travelers can also use Indian rupee. 

Phone & SIM card:

Smart phone will work in Bhutan, but you do need to switch to local providers. When you arrive, you can purchase local SIM cards which can give you great Wi-Fi connectivity.

Bhutan’s country code is 975.

paro dzong bhutan

WiFi Access:

Luxury hotels now have free Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby but it’s not necessarily free in guest rooms. Other hotels have Wi-Fi for free for a few hours, and the connection may be poor. Don’t not expect internet connection in remote valleys/cities.

Electricity:

Voltage in Bhutan is 230V and AC 50Hz (cycles per second), power sockets are type D/F/G. Make sure your appliances like shavers, hairdryers, curling irons, camera chargers, laptops, etc. have a switch to change the voltage to 230.

Water:

Drinking bottled water is advised for travelers. Your guide will most likely prepare a huge supply of bottled water in the car for you during the trip.

iPhonography Ordinary People Series Bhutan

Tipping:

Since your trip to Bhutan is pre-paid, tipping in restaurants and hotels is not necessary. But if you’re going on treks, you may want to tip your sharpa or horseman (Tiger’s Nest) then ask your guide how much is adequate.

Tipping is a personal choice, but if you’d like a reference to go by:

  • USD 20 per day: drivers
  • USD 10 per day: guide
  • USD 0.50-1 per bag: porters or bellmen

For more information, visit DAJ Expeditions.

Photos: Jetset Times

Wendy Hung contributor profile Bhutan

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Author:Jetset Times

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