Bhutan Travel Tips
According to the government regulations, Bhutanese tourist visa must be applied through a travel agency authorized by the government, which can effectively limit the number of tourists entering the country at one time. However, visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives can get a visa on arrival as long as they hold passports with a minimum validity of 6 months. If you decide to travel to the country, you need to contact a local tour operator first and confirm your itinerary. After full payment, the tour operator will apply visa for you. What you only need to provide is a colored scanning copy of passport information page. When the visa is done, the tour operator will send a scanning copy to you and you need to print it out. This scanning copy is a proof of official visa.
New Travel Policy of Bhutan
Bhutan government imposed a new tourism policy effected from Jun 20, 2022. All international tourists to Bhutan must pay a “Sustainable Development Fee (SDF)”, which costs USD200/night/person. Children between 6 -12 enjoy 50% off on SDF and children under 6 are exempted from this. These SDFS go directly to the Government Exchequer. In addition, tourists need to pay for the tour costs like accommodation, meals, transport, entrance tickets, guide and driver services etc. The visa will also be processed by the travel agency and takes around 5 to 7 working days.
Accommodation grade in Bhutan is divided into luxury, A and B levels. Luxurious hotels include Uma Hotel in Paro and Punakha, Taj Trashi Hotel in Thimphu and Aman Resorts in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gantey and Bumthang, and the prices of them range from 300 to 1400 dollars. If tourists want to stay in luxury hotels, they need to pay extra money. Tourists also can choose A or B level hotels which are clean and generally equipped with hot shower, hair dryer and television; meanwhile, they don't need to pay extra.
Bhutanese especially like eating chili peppers and pepper products. Chili sauce is essential seasoning in restaurants. If you like eating spicy food, Ema Datshi and Dried Chili Salad are unmissable. Bhutanese stews are also delicious, such as Phaksha Paa. Sonam Trophel in Paro Tshongdue and Zombala in Hong Kong Market, Thimphu are two well-known restaurants which serve local dishes. If you want to eat pizza and cake, and drink a cup of coffee, Ambient Cafe in Thimphu is a nice place.
The most memorable souvenirs in Bhutan are handmade crafts including textiles such as scarves, Kira, Thangka and stamps. The price of Thangka is determined by size and drawing. Opening from every Friday to Sunday, Thimphu Weekend Market is worth a visit. There you can buy local agricultural products such as dried fish, spices, fruits and vegetables, clothing and handicrafts, and religious souvenirs such as wooden bowls, prayer beads and prayer wheels. Bhutan's stamps have attracted worldwide attention. You can buy commemorative stamps or customize an exclusive stamp in Thimphu Post Office.
Tshechus is the most famous and biggest festival in Bhutan, especially the Paro Tshechus and Thimphu Tshechus held respectively in spring and autumn. The festival is held to praise the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Rinpoche. During the celebration, local people wearing their finest clothes and gorgeous accessories will gather in the Dzong to pray and watch performances. Usually the performers are lamas and followers in ferocious masks and exquisite costumes, and their vivid performance convey benevolence to people. The most anticipated part is Thongdroel Ceremony in final day, and people who are fortunate to witness this ceremony are thought to have accumulated a tremendous amount of merit. Visitors can watch performances, taste local foods, buttered tea and highland barley wine, and even dance with the locals. If you visit the country during the celebration of Tshechus, you will have a wonderful time.
Phone Call and Internet
Bhutan Telecom and Trashi Telecom are two major communication operators in the nation. Tourists can buy SIM cards and rechargeable cards in official stores authorized by these two operators. The 3G network service can be only opened in Thimphu and Paro. Internet access in the country is easy, because hotels in western and central Bhutan commonly serve free WIFI, and internet cafes are also easy to be found.
The voltage of Bhutan is 220 or 240V with round hole two-pin or three-pin sockets. You'd better bring a plug adaptor.
Dos and Don'ts
Bhutan is a country where nationals have strong religious faith, so you should respect their faith and try to do as them do. Here are some tips for you:
Take off your shoes and hat before entering a temple.
Don't touch children's or others' head.
Don't smoke in public places.
Don't use plastic bags.
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