Plan Your Trip
It’s good to stay informed. Find answers to common travel related
questions. You can also check these frequently asked questions.
It’s good to stay informed. Find answers to common travel related
questions. You can also check these frequently asked questions.
Commercial airlines are the most convenient and stress-free way for travellers to get to Bhutan although you can also get there by road from India.
Drukair is the national carrier of Bhutan and operates regular and seasonal flights from five international cities: Bangkok (Thailand), Changi Airport (Singapore), Kolkata and New Delhi (India), Kathmandu (Nepal) & Dhaka (Bangladesh).
Bhutan Airlines is a private carrier and operates daily flights from Bangkok (Thailand) to Paro (Bhutan) via Kolkata (India). It also flies to New Delhi (India) via Kathmandu (Nepal) thrice a week.
Paro Airport is the sole international airport of the four airports operational in Bhutan. The rest are domestic airports. Located in a deep picturesque valley and surrounded by high snow-capped mountains, Paro Airport is considered one of the most gorgeous and spine-tingling airports in the world by travelers and journalists alike. Flights are restricted to daylight hours only.
Both Drukair and Bhutan Airlines flies all year round from Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) to Paro and may probably be the best entry point to get to Bhutan by air. It’s a five hour journey and flights depart early between 5:30AM and 7:30AM.
TIP: We strongly encourage you to take full-fledged airlines instead of budget airlines when flying to Bangkok from your place. This is to make sure you have the chance to reschedule your return flight in case your Bhutan flight is delayed from Paro on your way back home because of bad weather.
The only way to come to Bhutan by road is from India. In case you are taking this route, we strongly advice you to arrange an Indian travel agency for drive through the India road. Since you’ll also be travelling through areas highly prone to strikes, we suggest you request your Indian tour agency to arrange for a police escort. They’ll tell you if it’s needed. Your guide and driver from Bhutan will then meet you at the Bhutan entry point.
Bhutan is a mountainous albeit breathtaking land. This means that the nation is tied together in a web of roads and air connections. There are no trains. Bhutan’s national carriers, Drukair and Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services, ties all major regions with domestic flights and helicopter connections year round, with the latter servicing many places unreached by airplane. The less expensive mode albeit a tad longer journey is via roads, which while amazing connects all major towns and settlements in the country.
NOTE: Transportation via road in the country is covered by the daily minimum tourist fee in the form of SUV or a mini-bus, but air travel is not. There is a separate charge over and above the daily minimum fee if you desire to travel by air in Bhutan and you must inform Bhutan Spicy Shangri-La when planning your trip to Bhutan.
Neither too cold or too hot, Bhutan is
that rare year round destination.
Spring (March, April & May) is that time of the year when Bhutan is festooned with a kaleidoscope of red rhododendrons, yellow orchids and blue poppy, Bhutan’s national flower, among many other wild and flamboyant foliage. It is a favorite time to visit the country. The temperature is pleasant even up in the mountains making the season great for moderate-altitude trekking and white water rafting including scenic mountain bike adventures. Spring is also host to one of the most iconic and spectacular cultural festivals in Bhutan— the Paro Tsechu— where you are likely to see the King of Bhutan sitting on the ancient carved stone floor among his people watching the mask dance. More at Things To Do.
Autumn (September, October & November) is the traditional tourist peak season in Bhutan. The skies are the clearest blues with plump cumulous clouds hanging over sunny meadows and rolling hills for days on end. The earth is an explosion of colors of wild flora and fauna. It’s a great season for some really cool high altitude trekking through sacred mountains, ravines and lakes. With many festivals lined up, it is also the season of festivals in Bhutan. From the blistering naked mask dances in the Switzerland of Bhutan in Bumthang, to the spiritually relaxing black necked crane festival in the hallucinatory vista of Phobjikha, the list of “must-see and experience” in Autumn are endless. More at Things To Do.
All visitors to Bhutan are required to pay a daily minimum tariff of USD 250 per person during the peak seasons from March to May (Spring) and from September to November (Autumn). The tariff is USD 200 per person in the non-peak seasons from December to February (Winter) and from June to August (Summer).
The daily tariff covers: (1) A night’s stay in a 3-star hotel or farm stay (4 or 5 star hotels require added fee); (2) All meals per day in a standard restaurant or hotel; (3) A licensed Bhutanese tour guide (for the duration of your stay); (4) Internal transport via SUV/mini-bus (domestic flights require added fee); (5)Camping equipment & haulage; (6) All internal duties including tourism royalty of USD 65 to the government. The royalty goes to building roads, bridges, hospitals and schools. More at FAQ
Sadly, you can’t apply for Bhutan visa yourself and Bhutanese embassies do not give travel visa services. But fret not. Bhutan Spicy Shangri-La can apply for your visa on your behalf. But for that to happen, you’ll first have to book your tour with us and seal the deal by making full payment of the total tour cost in the name of Bhutan Spicy Shangri-La in USD.
Upon completion of the transaction, we can then apply for your visa. Visa fee is USD 40 per person and is not included in the daily minimum tariff. Upon getting the visa, we will then send an electronic copy of it to you. You’ll print out a copy and at the time of your entry to Bhutan present it at the Bhutan airport check-in counter and immigration point. More at FAQ
Spring or Autumn, Summer or Winter. Indoor or outdoor, hotel or tent. There are many things to consider, before taking a trip to Bhutan. Here you will find a range of questions that hopefully will answer some of the questions you might have.
And it depends pretty much on when you are travelling to Bhutan. If your trip is during the Fall, or in the Spring, we recommend you bring warm comfortable clothes including down jackets and woolen sweaters.
Altitudinal changes account for most of the differences in temperature in Bhutan, so layered clothing helps you adapt to the changing weathers and locations. Don’t forget to bring warm socks and scarfs including hats and sunglasses.
Winter in Bhutan gets pretty chilly, so wool jumpers and long sleeved (thermal) tops helps on top of down jackets. It’s raining in Summer and up on higher altitudes, chilly too, so bring layered clothing but don’t forget your t-shirts. Pack in a leather or denim jacket too.Bring suitable footwear
Also regardless of the nature of your visit to Bhutan, you will often have to travel a lot on foot, and frequently in hilly and uneven terrain. Therefore it is important to bring good, waterproof walking boots or walking shoes with a sturdy molded sole. If it is the first time you are using this type of footwear, make sure you break the boots in before departure so as to avoid blisters.
Bhutan is known for its spicy dishes. Most Bhutanese can’t eat their food without chili. In fact the fiery ‘Ema Datsi’, a cheese and chili dish, is the national food of Bhutan. And Bhutanese eat a lot of rice including a lot of dried pork, beef and yak meats. But have no worries you can get buffet style meals with choice of continental, Bhutanese and Indian cuisines in your hotels and restaurants. Our cooks, who accompany treks and camping tours, are also well trained and can make various dishes.Always go for bottled water
We have glacial fed rivers and streams, and while we have no problems drinking directly from it, especially while on treks, we wouldn’t recommend it for you. Always go for bottled or distilled water.
For the beverage enthusiasts, Bhutan has a fine selection of whiskies and beers including craft beers, all made in Bhutan. You can get them in almost all hotels and restaurants in the country. You can also get imported wines and whiskies if you want. Don’t leave Bhutan without trying the “ara”, the local fire spirit made from wheat or corn, or rice. If you want us to pack a whiskey or a craft beer for you for your trekking trip, don’t feel shy to let us know
There are two dozen languages in Bhutan. Dzongkha is the national language and widely spoken, and is the only language with a native literary tradition in Bhutan. It’s always a good idea to learn a phrase or two in Dzongkha. The locals will value your respect and it may open doors that might have otherwise been closed.
Phrases like “Kuzu-zangpo-la” which means “Hello, nice to meet you…” and “Named samed kadrin-chey la” which means “Thank you so much” works like a charm every time. If you are inspired, you can add these words too— “Lok jay gay-la”, which means “See you next time”, and “Laso-La”, which means “Goodbye”.
The common currency used in Bhutan is the ‘Ngultrum’ (Nu.) and is pegged to the Indian Rupee. There are banks in all major towns, and it is often possible to change money at hotels, but it is more the exception than the rule, and not surprisingly the exchange rate is rarely favorable.Credit card
International credit cards are accepted like Visa and MasterCard including American Express. Credit cards can be used at many hotels, restaurants and shops, but it is recommended that you bring some cash with you to Bhutan just in case.Accepted currencies
The three currencies accepted within Bhutan are the Ngultrum, the Indian Rupee and the US Dollar. Currencies accepted as foreign exchange within banks in Bhutan are US Dollar, Pound Sterling, Euro, Japanese Yen, Swiss Franc, Hong Kong Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Singapore Dollar, Danish Kroner, Swedish Kroner, and Norwegian Kroner.
Souvenirs from Bhutan are unique, handmade works of art. Each product is designed by a Bhutanese artist and is infused with the country’s unique tradition and custom in its presentation. You’ll find them in handicraft shops across the country. There are hand-woven Bhutanese textiles of raw silk/silk, or carved masks of wild animals, or woven baskets of cane and bamboo, or wooden bowls known as Dapas, or even handmade paper products or finely crafted Buddhist gods of silver. Perhaps, you may be interested in the exquisite Buddhist thangkha paintings to hang in your living room, or Bhutan’s well known and wide array of colorful and creative postage stamps to gift to your particular friend.Himalayan Viagra
Just in case, there is also a Himalayan version of Viagra for males, made from cordyceps, for strength and over all happy health. Cordyceps were much sought after by Chinese Emperors in the ancient days for its high medicinal qualities. Don’t feel shy to ask your guides to get you one if you are interested. Disclaimer: It’s sold only in Bhutan so buy at your own risk. Bhutanese have no problems with it.Currencies accepted
Handicraft shops accept the Bhutanese Ngultrum (Nu.), the Indian Rupee (at par 1 to 1 with the Nu.), and the US Dollar. The only credit card accepted at these shops is Visa. Please note, banks will not perform cash advances on credit cards. There are also no ATM machines available for international transactions. Traveler checks can only be cashed at banks in the accepted listed currencies.Do not take antiques
Remember, it is illegal to export or remove Bhutanese antiques from Bhutan. If you are not sure, certificates are available from the Department of Antiquities to determine if the item is an antique or not. An antique is a religious item which is 70 years old or more.
Bhutan is a (somewhat) high-tech society. There are more mobile network subscribers than fixed network subscribers. The mobile phone system in Bhutan is GSM 900/1800, and with the exception of a few settlements and some uninhabited areas, the system covers almost all regions of Bhutan. If you have international roaming mobile coverage, you should check with their coverage provider if Bhutan is included. If not, identify this before arrival, SIM card and recharge card is easily available in town.Fixed network telephone services
Fixed network telephones are found in almost all hotels and restaurants, from where you can call anywhere in the world. Please remember the time difference when phoning home.Internet and e-mail – take your laptop with you
Hotspots have been established in almost all major hotels so that you can access the Internet, and most hotels also offer connections from their rooms. There are Internet cafés and Wi-Fi in most coffee shops.
“BHUTAN” by Lonely Planet (6th Edition) is the best all-round book for travellers to Bhutan. There is everything to know about Bhutan, from the perspective of tourism, in that book, in a nutshell. Other books about Bhutan can be found at amazon.com
The voltage supply in Bhutan is 220 volts, 50 cycles AC with a three prong plug (same as in India).
Bhutan has the same latitude as Miami (USA) & Egypt. During the summer the weather is warm and pleasant with occasional rain fall. In general, the higher the altitude, the cooler the weather, and with a cool breeze blowing down off the mountains, even a low-lying valley can become quite chilly.
Monsoon seasons are rainy. Winter season is incredibly beautiful with occasional snow, clear warm days, chilly evenings which makes it perfect for hiking and sightseeing with the whole of the mountains and valleys in clear view.
Paro and capital Thimphu has moderate climate with temperatures of -3/12 in winter to 13/25 degrees in the summer with a yearly rainfall of 800mm.
By law, smoking is banned in public places in Bhutan. So no smoking in restaurants, parks, offices, towns, official buildings, etc. Or you’ll be fined. Please find out from your hotel if you can smoke in your room or balcony.Sale of cigarettes is banned
Sale of tobacco products are also banned in Bhutan but you can import cigarettes for personal consumption subject to tax. Tourists are allowed to bring in 200 sticks of cigarettes (standard rectangular carton with 10 packets of 20 sticks each) OR 30 pieces of cigars. You cannot bring both. All cigarettes/cigars are subject to 100% customs duty and sales tax. (About Bhutan currency Nu. 1,600 a carton, or about USD 25). Please declare the taxable items at the airport customs and pay the taxes.No ban on alcohol
Tourists are allowed to bring in one bottle (one liter) of alcohol. There is no tax on it.
There is a hospital in all towns, and in the settlements there is usually a nursing clinic. It is recommended that visitors bring their own medicine and any other medication that is used regularly, as special products are not always available. Medical treatment is free of charge in Bhutan. Severe cases of illness require evacuation to Bangkok by air.No vaccination check
Bhutan is a non-Malaria region except for its southern parts. Strict hygiene standards are enforced in the food production areas by the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA). Bhutan also does not check for vaccinations for foreigners upon entry. However, being up to date with usual Asian vaccinations is recommended.Health insurance
For travelers going on treks, we strongly recommend that you purchase comprehensive insurance and have a complete medical check up before you leave home for Bhutan. Please inform us of any pre-existing medical condition or any history of altitude sickness.
Getting lost in Bhutan is highly unlikely. A “city” such as the capital Thimphu, the most populated area in the country, has just about 100,000 inhabitants. In any case, you’ll be accompanied by a licensed guide, so getting lost is not very common. Also most Bhutanese in the cities can understand and speak English. They’d be happy to show you the way to your hotel or restaurant. It is recommended, however, not to walk alone at nights on the streets.
Try to travel light. At 20kg per person, Bhutanese airlines baggage allowance is pretty tight and the charges for going over can be quite expensive compared to other countries.