ROAD & ACCOMMODATION
A journey to Bhutan is not a luxury vacation but a true adventure; the accommodations are basic with comfortable twin beds and attached bath (In some remote places it is common bath). There is no central heating system in Bhutan; heats are provided in the room through a small Oil radiator heater in the western and central part of Bhutan. In the eastern and some part of central Bhutan due to unpredictable electricity a wooden stove is provided. Accommodations provided are approved by the Tourism Department of Bhutan. For those who like to have luxury hotels, we can provide with additional cost in few cities of Bhutan, for more details please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lingkor@druknet.bt.
Traveling through the winding road of rugged Himalayan terrain is not an easy task; it is advised that one should be equipped with motion sickness medication. Travelers who are prepared, willing to compromise the usual habits and requirements, and be ready to listen and to learn, will be able to appreciate properly the exceptional discoveries that can be made there. What particularly impresses travelers is of course the beauty of the landscape but perhaps even more so is seeing the ancient old culture that thrive in this tiny kingdom and the friendliness of the people.
It is hard to generalize about Bhutan’s weather since the mountain climate varies enormously from region to another. It varies with the altitude and can also reach extremes of heat and cold within the 24 hours at any given altitude. Southern Bhutan is tropical, with monsoon season. The East is warmer than the West. The central valleys of Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuntshi enjoy a semi tropical climate with very cool winters, whereas Haa, Paro, Thimphu, Trongsa, Bumthang and Phobjikha have a much harsher climate, including occasional snowfalls in winter. The north of the country where most of the treks are organized is inhabited up to 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) in summer. The climate there is rough, with monsoon rains in summer and heavy snowfalls in winter. In those valleys, where most tourist activities are concentrated, the winters (mid-November to mid-March) are dry, with daytime temperatures of 16-18 degree Celsius (60-65 degree F) if the sun is shining. By contrast, the evenings and early mornings are cold, with nighttime temperatures falling below freezing. Snow covers the mountaintops but reaches the valleys only two or three times each year. Spring lasts from mid March to the beginning of June (27-19 degree Celsius / 80-84 F) by day and 18 – 20 degree Celsius / around 65 degree F at night. Summer temperatures are 23-24 degree Celsius / 73 – 75 F by day and 15- 16 degree Celsius / 59-61 F at night. At the end of September, after the last of the big rains, autumn suddenly arrives. All at once the sky clears, a brisk breeze picks up and temperatures start falling towards freezing at night although bright sunshine continues to keep the days warm.
Lingkor Tours & Treks will apply for your entry approval with the Royal Government. You will need to provide us with your passport details such as,
Full name as it appears in your passport,
Date and place of birth,
Date and place of issue,
by email ( email@example.com or Lingkor@druknet.bt or by fax (975-2-323402). Once Royal Government of Bhutan approves your entry into Bhutan, your actual visa will be stamped upon arrival at the airport. The visa fee of USD20 is added in your land cost, as such during your arrival at the airport, you need not have to pay the visa fee. Please note that you will have to check if your passport is valid at least 6 months during the travel in Bhutan. Please make at least 3 photo copies of your passport and store it in different bags this is in case if you loose the passport.
GETTING INTO BHUTAN
Visitors can enter Bhutan through overland or by air. You can fly into Paro airport by Bhutan’s National carrier (Druk Air) from Kathmandu, Delhi, Calcutta, Dhaka, Yangon and Bangkok. Please visit the website of Druk Air (www.drukair.com.bt) for latest schedule and information. The other alternative is, you can drive in overland via India (Bagdogra airport, Siliguri, New Jalpaiguri, Sikkim, Darjeeling & Kalimpong) to Phuntsholing - Bhutan.
For those who are flying into Paro will need to book their seats way in advance especially during peak season. Druk Air is always at the mercy of weather and operates from an airport that is “daylight restricted: and totally dependent on weather. Flights can sometimes be delayed. It is recommended that passenger keep at least 24 hours transit time for connecting flights out of Paro.
DRUK AIR BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE
Passengers are allowed to carry free baggage not exceeding 20 Kgs (44 pounds) in Y class and 30 Kgs (66 pounds) in J class. Any excess will be charged, for excess baggage charge please visit www.drukair.com.bt. Hand carry baggage is allowed only one piece; the size is not exceeding 45+35+20cm (17.5+13.5+8 inches) and the weight not exceeding 5 kgs (11 pounds). Nu 300 (Local Currency) departure tax is charged at the Paro airport.
Bhutanese currency is the Ngultrum (abbrev. Nu.) Which, is divided into 100 Cheltrum? Bank notes come in denominations of 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 Ngultrum. One Ngultrum is equivalent to one Indian Rupees. Ngultrum has no value outside Bhutan. You should bring petty cash or traveler’s checks for miscellaneous expenses such as, mineral water ($1 per liter), tips to driver, guide, trekking crews, donations to monasteries, airport departure taxes in Thailand and Bhutan. You may exchange traveler’s checks or US cash at your hotel, banks and designated foreign currency exchange counters (such as the Paro airport). Visa is accepted in few stores in Thimphu only, but is often accompanied by a bank charge of 5-7%. There are no ATM machines in Bhutan at this time.
Purchasing Souvenirs: Unlike other tourist destinations, Bhutan’s stores normally do not like to be bargained, however, it is always good to bargain a little but not much like in India and Nepal.
Note: Importation of narcotics (opium, heroin, cocaine, etc.), pornographic media and firearms are strictly prohibited. The export of antiques and wildlife products is prohibited. If you purchase a souvenir that looks old, have your guide clear it as a non-antique item with the Department of Antique Preservation. Customs authorities pay special attention to religious items.
ARRIVAL: You will receive a baggage declaration and immigration form in the plane prior to landing. Please fill the form accurately as it appears on your passport. The main purpose of the declaration form is to ensure that you re-export anything you bring into country. List all expensive equipment that you are carrying, such as cameras, video cameras and portable computers etc. Customs officials usually want to see the items that you listed, and then they endorse the form and return it to you. Don’t lose it. You must return the form, and may be asked to show the items listed when you leave the country. <TOP>
Departure formalities are straightforward, but you must produce the form that you completed on arrival and show the items listed on it. A lost form means complication and delays. If you lose the form, let your guide know as soon as possible so that special arrangements can be made to avoid inconvenience.
After completion of customs, immigration and baggage claim, your guide will be waiting at the Exit door of the airport main lobby. Your baggage will be handled by your driver then transfer to your destination town.
CLOTHING FOR CULTURAL TRIPS
The wide range of temperatures does not make dressing easy. The best solution is to wear several layers, such as a cotton shirt, pullover, wool cardigan and jacket, which can be taken off or added as needed. Do not bring delicate clothes: conservative sportswear is the appropriate style for a traveler in Bhutan. Even in summer you will need a sweater or a light jacket in the evening. An umbrella is a must in all seasons. It is more useful than a raincoat and acts as protection not only against the rain but also against the sun, which can be fierce at these altitudes. Comfortable sports shoes are strongly recommended; mountain boots are not necessary unless you plan to go trekking. From May to October, cotton clothes are sufficient, plus a woolen sweater or light jacket. From November to the end of April, on the other hand, you will need very warm cloths including long underwear or woolen tights to wear under trousers, and a warm jacket.
GEARS DURING TREKS
Provided Gear during trek
- Tents, stoves, fuels
- Cooking and eating utensils
- Sleeping pads (3/4inch thick form mat)
- Guide & First aid kit
- Trekking permit
- Food and animal pack
- Duffel bag – extra – large 7000 cu. in.
- Small duffel bag for storing non – trek gears are left at our office in Thimphu.
- A bag pack to carry camera, water bottle and other items required during the day.
- luggage tags & locks.
- Sleeping bag with stuff sack rated to 10 degree F
- Rain jacket and pants, roomy and water – repellent.
- Insulated parka/ski jacket (REQUIRED) dawn or synthetic, rated to 20 degree F, able to fit over other layers of cloth.
- Midweight fleece or wool sweater
- Fleece pants pr tights
- Midweight thermal underwear tops and bottom, synthetic or wool
- Expedition-weight thermal tops/bottoms
- Hiking Pants/skirt (1)
- Hiking shorts (April – September trips)
- Long sleeved shirts (2)
- Hiking Socks & Liner socks (5) wool or synthetic
Bring all your customary medicines with you plus a laxative, an anti-diarrhea medicine (an oral rehydration solution is also very helpful in case of diarrhea), antihistamine tablets, anti-nausea tablets (in case of mountain sickness), eye lotion, lip salve and one or two syringes with disposable needles.
EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
In addition to the medication supply you may want to bring with you: sunscreen lotion, sunglasses, a water flask, a flashlight with extra batteries, a folding pocket knife, a hat or headscarf in summer, cap and gloves in winter, disinfectant tablets for water (trekking), insect repellent (summer), earplugs (in the night the barking dogs can be a nuisance). Coffee – lovers may want to bring their own preferred brand. There is no good coffee available in Bhutan.
You should plan to bring all your own photographic equipment, including film and batteries. You can find film for prints and slides in Thimphu. There is no way to get a camera repaired in Bhutan. Video cameras are permitted but 16 mm movie cameras are not, the later being considered professional equipment and subject to duty. There are restrictions in taking pictures in Temples and monasteries you visit, please ask your guide before taking pictures. Bhutan’s electricity is 220V 50HZ.
To assure that you are in good health, contact your physician and have a fairly rigorous exam than regular one. Your doctor is the best source of information about immunizations and medicines; he knows your medical history and is in touch with local public health officials. Ask and follow his advice in medical matters regarding the trip. Vaccination requirements and recommendations do change frequently, so each traveler should check with their physician or a traveler’s clinic for the most up to date information. Recommended vaccinations: Typhoid Fever, Gamma Globulin, Tetanus-diphtheria, Polio, Measles and Malaria.
FOOD & WATER
1. Keep your mouth closed when you take a shower, use treated water to brush your teeth, and do not accept ice cubes in your drinks. You may purchase bottled mineral water at hotels and restaurants while in towns. (About $1 per liter.)
2. Do not drink unboiled or untreated water. While trekking, we will provide lots of boiled water at all meals, however, we recommend water purifying tablets, although our trekking crew will boil the water, but due to the high altitude water do net reach the boiling level.
3. In Bhutan we advise against eating any fruits (without peeling), salads etc. If the food is not well cooked and hot, do not eat it. During your trek the kitchen staff will be preparing fresh foods every day, cakes, breads, and even salads!
4. Try to keep your hands away from your face and out of your mouth. It is wise to wash your hands often with soap, or wipe them with "towelettes".
5. Altitude and alcohol do not mix well. One beer is okay. Many drinks will inhibit your ability to acclimatize.
Who’s who? There are three major ethnic groups in Bhutan with their own dialect, namely,
1. Sharchogpa (speaking Tsanglalo): Sharchogpa meaning easterners are from the Eastern part of Bhutan and are recognized as the original inhabitant of the country. They are indo-mongoloid and is unclear where they migrated from and when they arrived in Bhutan.
2. Ngalong (speaking Dzongkha): Ngalongs are considered to be the Tibetan descendants who arrive Bhutan in the ninth century during the political instability in Tibet. These immigrants settled in the western part of the country.
3. Lhotshampa (Nepali): Nepalis started migrating into Bhutan and settled in the south during the late 19th century. Lhotshampa represents numerous Nepali-speaking ethnic groups such as the Brahman, Chettri, Gurung, Rai and Limbus.
4. Minority groups: Bumthap, Mangdip, Kurtoep, Khengpa, Layap, Brokpa and Tibetan form about 1% of the population. Many of this group comprises fewer than 5000 people.
Dos & Don’ts: Bhutanese are considered quite open and liberal compare to its neighboring countries. There are many complex customs and traditions in Bhutan, but you are not expected to follow all of these. Just follow the western standards of common courtesy and be respectful of religious sentiment. Most important, ask your guide before doing anything. You should also follow the normal Asian standards of courtesy and behavior in Bhutan. These include respect for religion and the monarchy, modest dress and no public displays of affection. In most of the Temples and monasteries shoes are not allowed please remove before entering.
Men: Trousers are best. Men should always wear a shirt in public. T-shirts are acceptable. If you would like to wear shorts, please bring longer shorts (for instance Gurkha shorts). Short jogging shorts are not appropriate.
Women: In Bhutan, pants are probably the best choice. However, many women also find that a long skirt is great for travel and always puts most local people at ease. Many women find trekking in long johns or tights and a skirt is a functional combination. During the trek shorts are okay to wear, however, during your sightseeing you will not be allowed to enter Temples and monasteries if in shorts. Long or short sleeve shirts are best. This means halter-tops; jog-bras and thin blouses are not appropriate attire. There are no reliable feminine health supplies available in Thimphu. You are advised to bring these items with you.
Begging: There are no beggars in Bhutan (With the exception of monks or recluses, who ask for a donation, which brings you merit in your search to reach Heaven). This is not a custom of the mountain folk of the Himalayas. Children have begun asking for pencils, candy, and money along some trails. Please do not support this, and is against the government law. Instead give them a conversation. Oftentimes, what they seek is contact and attention. Many Westerners like to entertain locals by using a Polaroid camera. Please do so with discretion.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Bhutan is a safe country; in fact it is the few safest countries in the world. But like anywhere in the world, it is wise to be a little cautious. Simple safety precautions such as not wearing excessive jewelry, being careful when crossing roads (remember: left-hand traffic), look before stepping, and taking care of valuables will keep you out of trouble. Valuables such as money, traveler’s checks, passports and flights tickets are best held with you all the time.
SUGGESTED READING MATERIALS
The lonely planet guide book (BHUTAN), BHUTAN: Himalayan Mountain Kingdom by Francoise Pommaret, BEYOND THE SKY AND THE EARTH: A journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa.
THOUGHTS & IDEAS
Please remember to always pack essential items such as your passport, money, eyewear, a change of clothing, hiking boots and medications in your carry-on baggage, in case your luggage is delayed. Make sure boots are broken-in. Bring moleskin for foot treatment. Thin liner socks worn under regular hiking socks may minimize the risk of blisters. The liner sock should be synthetic, not cotton. Test your sock combination before you go on the trip. Always test your layers before a trip. Your outer layer should fit easily over the inside ones without binding and bunching up. Travel clothes, extra gear and purchases can be left in a storage room at our office in Thimphu, Bhutan. It is prudent to bring an extra duffel bag for this purpose. Stuff sacks are great for sorting gear. Use different sizes/colors to differentiate contents.
GENERAL TERMS & CONDITIONS
LAND BOOKING: All land booking should be made through our Thimphu office, or through email firstname.lastname@example.org or Lingkor@druknet.bt. All reservation requests are normally confirmed by returning fax or e-mail. In case immediate confirmation cannot be made, information of the booking status will be advised.
Lingkor will only coordinate the requests for flight reservation and issuance of Druk Air (Royal Bhutan Airlines) tickets. Once confirmed you will be advised to wire the fare directly to Druk Air corporation. For fare rates please refer the website of Druk Air (www.drukair.com.bt), there will be a small service charge for our services.
Airfare on Druk Air must be wired within two weeks from the date of booking. Failure to which the confirmed seats on Druk Air will be cancelled automatically. Please note that as per the Druk Air regulation trip cancelled 60 days prior to departure date will be charged with US$ 25 as documentation fee and during the month of Mar., Apr., Sep., Oct., and Nov., (Peak Season) between 60 – 30 days of arrival there will be 50% cancellation charge on Druk Airfare and 100% cancellation charge for cancellation after 30 days of arrival. During rest of the month trip canceled within 15-30 days prior to departure, 50% of the cost and below 15days 100% of the cost.
Participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability, pay a single supplement. If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate. However, if a roommate is not available, the forced single supplement will be charged.
Cancellation must be notified in writing, you can either email us or fax us your cancellation notice. Tour programs booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows:
a) Within 30 days prior to arrival free
b) Within 29 days 25% of the cost
c) Within 21 days 50% of the cost
d) Within 14 days 75% of the cost
e) After 7 days 100% of the cost
Please note that our cancellation policies apply in every instance. There will be NO EXCEPTION FOR ANY REASON. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you purchase TRAVEL INSURANCE.