The name Bhutan is said to be derived from the ancient Indian term Bhotana, which means the end of the land of the Bhots (the Sanskrit name of Tibetans). It could have also been extended from the Sanskrit word “Bhu’uttan” or high land. Ancient Tibetan writers called their fertile neighbour Lho Mon or Lho Yul, paradise of the South or the Land of the Monpas. The Bhutanese refer to their country as Druk Yul or land of the Peaceful dragon.
Bhutan was not unified under a central authority until the 17th Century. However, religious presence in the country acted as a spiritual cohesion for many years. Guru Padmasambhava made his legendary trip from Tibet across the mountains flying on a tigress’ back arriving at Taktsang Monastery, Tiger’s Nest in the Paro valley. Guru Padmasambhava is recognized as the father of the Nyingmapa religious school. Many of Bhutan’s celebrated ancestors descend from the Nyingmapa School. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan Lama of the Drukpa school designed the present systems of the intertwined religious and secular government. He fought and won battles against the Tibetans in 1639 and so unified the country and established himself as the country’s supreme leader. Within five years of his death the whole country had come under the control of the central government. At the end of 19th century, the Penlop of Tongsa overcame the Penlop of Paro and was afterwards recognized as the overall leader of Bhutan. Ugyen Wangchuck was elected the first King of Bhutan in 1907 AD.
Bhutan - The Buddhist Kingdom lies east of Nepal and west of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, south of Tibet and north of the Indian state territories of West Bengal and Assam. Bhutan is a land-locked country surrounded by mountains to the north and west. The altitudes in the south range from 300 to 1,500 meters, from 1,300 meters in the east around Tashigang to a high of 5,600 meters over the highest pass. The altitude at Thimpu, the capital, is 2,560 meters.
PEOPLE & RELIGION
Bhutan’s indigenous population is the Drukpa. The three main ethnic groups, the Sharchops, the Ngalops & the Lhotshampas (of Nepalese origin) make up today’s Drukpa. The national language is Dzongkha. The Buddhist faith has played & continues to play a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical & sociological development of Bhutan and its people. It permeates all strands of secular life. Annual Tsechus & Dromchoes are spiritual occasions in each district. Throughout Bhutan, stupas & chortens line in the roadside commemorating a holy place. Prayer flags are found fluttering on long poles maintaining a constant communications with the heavens. Bhutan retains the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism as its official religion.
The national currency is the Ngultrum (Nu). 100 Chetrum=1 Nu. Exchange rate is approximately USD 1=Nu. 45.85 (September, 2008). Indian Rupees circulate at par and is widely used except for the denomination of Rs 500 and Rs1000
VISA credit cards are accepted in few shops in the capital and surroundings. American Express credit cards are accepted in few hotels and shops at a higher commission. Visitors are advised to carry traveler cheques (preferably American Express) with some cash (US Dollars)
Bhutan Standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT. There is only one time zone through out the country.
Bhutan has four distinct seasons. The southern plains close to the Indian border are warmer and more tropical than higher central valleys.
Spring is arguably the most beautiful time of the year in the kingdom. The fierce cold that characterizes the winter months tends to subside towards the end of February (around Bhutanese New Year, Lhosar). Rhododendron begins to bloom, first in the warmer east. At the height of spring, the end of March, the whole kingdom comes to life with the spectacular flaming red, pink and white of the rhododendron blossom.
The annual monsoon from the Bay of Bengal affects the south and central regions. The north is inhabited in the summer months when nomads return to the higher plains to tend to their yak herds. The end of the monsoon is also a popular time to visit, marks the closing months of summer. The days are filled with glorious cobalt skies and warm weather.
The autumn months of September to November bring shorter days and cooler evening. The days remain lovely with crisp clear skies. Views over the high Himalayas are usually only possible from September to March.
Clear skies in the winter months bring with then cold weather but it's also the best time of the year to view the snow-capped peaks of the high Himalayan Mountains.
A visit to Bhutan can be planned anytime of the year but the best period is from mid September to November and March to June. There are many festivals during these months, and visitors should take advantage of trekking and the Tsechu.
The flow of tourists in Bhutan has been increasing every year but there has been little change in the infrastructure. Due to this we face room/guide/vehicle problems mainly during Paro Tsechu, Thimphu Tsechu, Wangdi Tsechu & Jambaylhakhang Drup. Inorder to avoid such problems we suggest to our agents to try & avoid the main festivals and try to include other festivals like Punakha Dromche, Nimalung festival & Nalakhar Tsechu where the tourist inflow is much less. The dances performed are similar in all the festivals.
ACCESS (GETTING IN AND OUT)
Bhutan is least air connected country in the world. Only Druk Air, the national flag carrier of Bhutan links Bhutan with other country and it is the best way too. Following stations are connected with Druk Air flight:
INDIA : Delhi, & Calcutta
NEPAL : Kathmandu
THAILAND : Bangkok
BANGLADESH : Dhaka
Entry / Exit to / from Bhutan is also possible through Phuntsoling(Indo- Bhutan Border), the southern Bhutanese border town. Bagdogra, in the state of West Bengal (India) is the nearest airport approx. 04 hour drive from this place. For travelers wishing to visit Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal along with Bhutan, Phuntsholing serves as the convenient point. This is 08 hours drive from Kakarvitta (Indo - Nepal Border) and Thipmu is 6 hours from Phunttsholing.
Exit from Bhutan can be made through Samdrup Jongkhar also. This frontier Bhutanese town is approx. 3 hours drive from Guwahati, the capital City of Assam State. Samdrup Jongkhar is the authorised exit point only and an important link for visiting north-east India.
Please note, if you wish to enter by land you will need Indian visa as you will be traveling in India for a day
DRIVING TIME & DISTANCES BETWEEN PLACES
All mode of transport within Bhutan is by motor vehicles as there are no domestic airlines or trains. However motor roads are well maintained and link all parts of the nation. The mountainous terrain and winding roads restrict the average driving speed of vehicles to less then 40 kilometers peer hour. All Transport vehicles are well maintained and Tourist coaches are imported from Japan which makes it very reliable and comfortable.
|Approx. Driving Time
||03 - 04 hours
||07 - 08 hours
||05 - 06 hours
||07 - 08 hours
||03 - 04 hours
||Guwahati (Assam, India)
||Bagdogra (West Benal, India)
|Siliguri (West Bengal, India)
|Darjeeling (West Bengal, India)
|Kalimpong (West Bangal, India)
|Gangtok (Sikkim, India)
|Dooars (Chalsa) (West Bengal, India)
The roads are winding and narrow by western standards. Since bhuatn is a mountainous country it takes time to travel from place to place for example to travel 127 kms it may take 5 hours.
You can apply the visa through us. The copy of your passport with your occupation is required in advance to allow required time of one week for processing with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We will apply for the Bhutan visa and send you a copy of your visa, paper visa, which is also forwarded to all Druk Air station office. Without the visa approval number, Druk Air will not issue a boarding pass. You will receive the copy of visa only three or four days before your travel date.
Clients entering or exiting from Phuntsholing should have Indian Visa, which they can obtain from their home country (from Indian Embassy) as it takes long to get it in Bhutan.
Actual visa is stamped on the visitor's passport on arrival at the port of entry. No Embassies, Consulates and Missions of Bhutan are authorized to issue visas.
A visa fee of US$ 20 will be charged on arrival for a period of 15 days. Extension of visa, for period not exceeding 6 months, can be obtained in Thimphu on payment of Nu. 520 (USD 17). Charges for visa fee and extensions are not included in the tourist tariff.
To protect against unforeseen accidents and mishaps, it is advisable to obtain travel insurance from your country. It should adequately cover helicopter evacuation and medical assistance.
Traditional Bhutanese food is hot and spicy. Spicy chilies and cheese blended with a wide variety of vegetables are found on many Bhutanese menus. For our visitors, however, Chinese, Indian, and Continental dishes are served. The more adventurous can try the local delicacies like the tasty and fiery the national dish of Bhutan, Emma Datshi that is made with chilies and Local Bhutanese cheese. Meals are normally served buffet style in the hotels. On trekking tours, a trained cook will accompany your group to provide simple but nutritious dishes. All meals except liquor and beverages while you visit in Bhutan are also included in our package.
The maximum elevation that you can reach on a Bhutanese road is 3150m in the west and 3750m in the east. There are rare cases where individuals have suffered from altitude problems.
While casual clothes are fine, sleeveless top, shorts and caps are strictly not permitted for entry into Dzongs, government offices and monastic festivals. To withstand Bhutan’s changeable weather, it is advisable to bring travel cloths and warmer clothes for evenings.
OCTOBER - MARCH -> Warm clothing
APRIL - SEPTEMBER -> Light Cotton Clothing
However, a warm sweater and a jacket are always advised.
Anyone who enjoys outdoor life and is physically fit can participate in our treks and tours. However some treks may be rigorous and difficult because of high altitude and therefore a good training of fitness for at least a month at home is required for going to an altitude 4000 mts.
There are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Bhutan or within the continent. However it is recommended that you be protected against Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A, Malaria.
ELECTRICITY & PLUGS AND SOCKETS
230-240 volts, 50 cycles A.C. The current is variable. If you do bring electrical appliance, bring along an international converter kit with a set of adapter plugs.
Plugs and Sockets
Bhutan uses the standard Indian round pin sockets which come in variety of sizes. Most European round pin-plugs work, but their pins are usually smaller than the Indian variety and fit loosely and provide an unreliable connection. There are plenty of Electrical shops in Thimphu where you can buy an adapter if you have any trouble plugging in an appliance.
Hotels do the laundry, but vary few Hotels have dryers. Same day service is possible depending on the availability of sunshine. There are few dry cleaners in Thimphu and Phuntsholing.
Reliable telephone and fax services are available in all towns in Bhutan. International connections are excellent. Internet cafes are few in number and available only in a few places. Most tourist hotels have internet connection. Prepaid SIM card can be purchased and you can use your mobile phones in most of the major towns in the country.
The country’s exquisite postage stamps, lovely hand woven fabrics, carved masks, woven baskets, wooden bowls, handmade papers, finely crafted metal objects, thanka paintings are popular items purchased by foreign visitors. Buying and selling of antiques id strictly forbidden in the kingdom.
In general, tipping is neither compulsory nor there is any fixed amount. It is dependent on how much the individual did to make your travel more enjoyable.
Bhutan is a photographer’s paradise. However, it is recommended to seek permission before you photograph people and places of interest.
The primary precaution one should take is to have an ample supply of any special medicines, as they probably may not be available in Bhutan.
SMOKING IN PUBLIC PLACES
On the 17th December 2004, in keeping with the decision of the Bhutanese parliament, the nationwide ban on the sale of tobacco products was implemented making Bhutan the first country in the world to do so. The maximum amount of cigarettes that can be imported for personal consumption is 200 pieces. For other tobacco, the maximum import amount is 50 grams. For pipe tobacco, it is three tins of 50 grams each.
Smoking in public places which includes parks, discotheques, entertainment centers, sports facilities like football grounds and archery ranges, commercial centers including shops, bars and restaurants, institutions like Dzongs, hospitals, schools, and government offices, public transport carriers, public gatherings such as monastic festivals, official receptions, national celebrations, and vegetable markets is banned.
BAR AND PUB:
They are open from 1300 hours in the afternoon to 2300 hours in the night with traditional dance and Bhutanese songs. You can buy all kind of alcohol, imported beer, Local Beer, Scotch whisky, Local Bhutanese Whisky, Juice and teas. People who are interested can also join and dance with the dancers or sing.
Night life in Bhutan is not like in other part of the world, we do have night life which is on sudden days in a week. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Wednesday is considered as a ladies night where ladies do not have to pay an entrance fees. Friday and Saturday is usual day where everyone has to pay an entrance fee of US$ 5 per person. On the Wednesday it remains open till 12:00 mid night and Week End till 2 am in the morning. Smoking in the disco club is prohibited.
LIST OF DZONGS, MONASTERIES, TEMPLES, SITES AND TSECHUS OPEN FOR TOURIST.
Phuntsholing main town
Kharbandi Gomba, Phuntsholing
MONGAR DZONG KHAG
Mongar Festival (Tshechu)
Tashichhodzong, when the monks are in Punakha.
Thimphu Tsechu Festival
National Memorial Chorten
Tashigang Tshechu Festival
Ranjung AMA Monastery/Institute
Zangtopelri Temple, Kanglung.
Paro Tshechu Festival
Ta-Dzong National Museum
Taktshang Monastery from the the view point/cafeteria
Bitekha Dzong (on the way to Haa).
TASHIY ANTSI DZONGKHAG
Chorten Kora Stupa
Chorten Koro Mani (Festival)
Gom Kora temple as well as Tshechu Festival.
Womrong Zangtopelri temple.
Zangtopelri Temple, Samjong Town.
Punakha Dzong when the monks are in Thimphu.
Punakha Dromchen (Festival).
Wangdiphordang Tshechu Festival
Gantey Gomba Monastery only up to Courtyard,
Gantey Tshechu Festival
Jambey Lhakhang Drub (Festival)
Tamshing Phala Choedpa (Festival)
Ura Temple as well as Tshechu, Festival.
Namkhe Nyingpo Temple / Festival
Trongsa Tshechu Festival
Ta Dzong (watch tower).