Travel and Medical Insurance:
The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan now offers a dedicated travel and medical insurance plan designed for visitors. To ensure you have comprehensive information about this insurance scheme, we recommend contacting your travel agents here in Bhutan. Alternatively, you can visit their website at www.ricb.com.bt for details.
Currency and Banking:
Bhutan’s official currency is the Ngultrum (Nu), which is pegged to the Indian Rupee. It’s advisable to carry traveler’s checks or cash, particularly in American Express and US dollars. ATM facilities for foreign currency are limited to a few towns, including the capital city Thimphu, and Visa and American Express credit cards are widely accepted.
The financial sector in Bhutan has expanded significantly, with several banks catering to various needs. Some notable banks you can utilize during your stay in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, Bhutan National Bank, Druk PNB, Bhutan Development Bank Limited, and Tashi Bank. Many of these banks offer SMS and internet banking services, and ATM facilities are available in various locations, especially in Thimphu and the border town of Phuentsholing. While traveler’s checks can be easily exchanged, it’s essential to note that ATM and internet facilities are scarce in the interior regions, so it’s best to conduct your banking transactions in Thimphu.
Customs and Import/Export Regulations:
Bhutan allows certain items to be exempt from duty, including personal effects, a limited quantity of alcohol and cigarettes, professional instruments, and personal electronic equipment. Visitors should complete a passenger declaration form upon arrival, and items falling under specific categories must be declared. It’s important to note that items disposed of in Bhutan through sale or gift may be subject to customs duty. There are strict prohibitions on importing and exporting items such as arms, narcotics, wildlife products, and antiques. Plants and soils are subject to quarantine regulations, and caution is advised when purchasing old or culturally significant items, as they may require clearance certificates for export.
Bhutanese speak a variety of languages but Dzongkha is the national language and one ofthe most widely spoken languages. English is also a medium of communication and most Bhutanese speak English. Communicating in English especially with the people in the urban areas and the towns will enhance your knowledge on Bhutan.
Most Bhutanese dishes are rich and spicy with a lot of cheese and chilli. It is advisable that visitors stick to the Chinese, Continental or Indian cuisine that is served in most restaurants. Visitors can also choose among the various vegetarian and non-veg food. You can also try out momos, the Tibetan dumplings and for those daring, you may try out the ema datshi dish served with cheese and chili and other typical Bhutanese dishes.
For people who love shopping and taking home gifts, Bhutan offers a variety of goods that revolve mainly round textiles. You may shop for items like hand-woven textiles that is either in raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products or finely crafted gods of silver. You can also shop for thangka paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamp. One can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and also in major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.
Bhutan experiences a great variation in its climate. Summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 Celsius, while winters are cold. In winters temperatures are usually below 15 Celsius. So bring with you a couple of warm clothes and comfortable shoes to go with the weather, the terrain and the program. You might want to consider ‘what to wear’ for hikes, trekking and sightseeing, as well as for dinners, appointments and functions that we have for you.
Others that you could consider bringing with you would be a pair of sunglasses, sun screen lotion and a hat; antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhoea pills, altitude & car sickness medicine; insect repellent, flash light (w/spare batteries) umbrella, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries)etc.
Clothes and other Paraphernalia
With great altitudinal variations weather is quite erratic in Bhutan. So be prepared to brace the erratic weather as you step outdoor. We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.
While safety is not much of a concern, however it is good to come prepared for any mishap. One needs to avoid walking alone or roaming the streets after 9 PM as you may never know of any mishap that may occur. The capital city has begun to see burglaries, street fights and an increasing number of drug abusers. It is advisable that you keep a safe distance and be in your rooms. Or else you may visit the town in groups or with your guides.
Also please ensure that your belongings especially your passports, route permits, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. There have been incidents where visitors found their important documents missing.
Over the years, many quality hotels have come up in Bhutan. Most hotels in Bhutan meet the recent standardization policy, most tourists accommodate in a 5 star or a 3 star hotel. The hotels are well maintained and have all basic amenities such as geysers and shower rooms and are properly maintained. Visitors can be assured of their warmth and comfort of the hotels, and the ambience and the hospitality offered by the hotels are incredible. The 5 star hotels are mostly located in Thimphu and in Paro; towns like Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang also have a variety of hotels that are comfortable. Away from town, you may find it tempting to camp outside in the forest or make a night halt at the purpose-built-in cabins sprinkled along some main trekking routes.
Guides and Interpreters
Bhutan has a good team of interpreters and guides who are well-versed in history and possess good communication skills. They are all certified who undergo training conducted by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. There are also guides who speak fluent Japanese, Thai and other European languages.
Avoid drinking unboiled water or taking ice cubes at all times as most water sources in Bhutan are untreated though they have their source in the mountains. One can come across treated and bottled water readily in any town and are affordable.