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Alpine Bhutan Travel
Post Box 1382
Thimphu Bhutan

tel. +975 1761 2210
fax. +975 2 334911
alpinebhutan@yahoo.com
www.alpine-bhutan.com

 

 

 Complete Bhutan Travel Information

 

Travelling to Bhutan is not as hard as you might think. 

Royal Bhutan Airline, Druk Air, links the country to a number of Asian hub cities like Bangkok, Calcutta, Delhi and Kathmandu. If you are in Delhi or passing by in Bangkok, it is just a matter of boarding the flight on Druk Air and you would be soon descending into the fabled kingdom.

Bhutan requires that tourist travel to Bhutan only on pre-paid, pre-planned tour itineraries booked through a local travel operator in the country like Alpine Bhutan Travel. Bhutan is very concerned about the negative impact of uncontrolled mass tourism on the local people, the local culture, the local traditions and the local environment as is evident in many regional countries. Bhutan follows a strict tourism policy of "Low Volume, High Value", with a set daily tariff to be paid by the tourists. This tourism policy may not really sound like music to the ears of budget travellers and back-packers, however, it helps to keep out the ills of mass tourism while optimising the inflow of tourist dollars. 

How can I book a tour to Bhutan? It is just a click away. With the coming of internet in Bhutan in 1999, it is so easy to book a tour directly with a tour operator in Bhutan like Alpine Bhutan Travel. We will answer your questions and help you in customizing a tour that suits your interests.

Booking a tour directly with Alpine Bhutan Travel offers the convenience, flexibility, security and knowledge only a local travel professional can offer. Moreover, when you book a tour directly with us, you save a lot since we are doing away with middleman mark-ups. The commission and cuts that accrue to the middleman are saved, which we finally pass on to you. 

Financial security for your tour payment is guaranteed. When you are making a tour payment, you would be depositing money directly into the bank account of Department of Tourism, which is an agency of the Royal Government of Bhutan. Department of Tourism maintains accounts in New York, London and Singapore where you can deposit the money by either wire transfer or account to account transfer. The Department of Tourism would then disburse the money in local currency to Alpine Bhutan Travel bank account in Bhutan only after your arrival in Bhutan. In case you are not able to travel to Bhutan due to any reasons, refund of the your tour payment is also guaranteed, subject to terms and conditions of tour cancellation. So, you should note that you are dealing with an agency of the Royal Government of Bhutan and your financial security on tour payment is absolutely guaranteed.

Alpine Bhutan Travel is a government licensed tour operator based in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. (License No. 1021218). You can choose one of our tour packages or we will tailor a tour to suit you. With personalized service, an experienced staff and excellent contacts in Bhutan, we are committed to making your trip to this wildly beautiful country a memorable one!

 

 

Bhutan's Tourist Tariff Policy

Visa for Bhutan

Bhutan Air Ticketing & Druk Air

Entering Bhutan by Road/Land 

Accommodation

Food in Bhutan 

Transport in Bhutan

Travel Insurance

 

Credit Card use in Bhutan?

Foreign Exchange Rate

Climate in Bhutan

What to bring

Tour Guides in Bhutan

Electricity in Bhutan

Photography and Kits

Dangers and Annoyances

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bhutan's Tourism Policy and Tourist Tariff

 


Bhutan is very cautious of opening its doors to tourism since mass tourism has overrun the regional countries. Therefore, Bhutan rather follows a policy called "Low Volume, High Value" tourism where a standard set price is charge per night halt in Bhutan. As one journalist visiting Bhutan said "Bhutan doesn't want to see tourists as plunderers but contributors to the country", tourists tariff in Bhutan is on the higher side.

  

Travel to Bhutan is only possible with a pre-planned, pre-paid tour booked through a licensed tour operator in Bhutan like Alpine Bhutan Travel Service. However, you can decide on what you want to see and when you want to see it. We can tailor a tour plan to suit your individual needs. 

 

The tourist tariff for peak season and off season are given below:
[NOTE: Due to the increase arrival of tourists in Bhutan, after 2007, 10 months in a year (instead of 6 months right now) is declared as Peak season with its corresponding high tariff.] 

 

Peak Tourist Season: January, February, March, April, May, June, September, October, November and December

Tariff: US $ 200 per person per night .

 

Off Season:  July and August 
Tariff: US $ 165 per person per night.

Smaller groups pay daily surcharges of:
US $ 40 per person for individuals travelling alone; and
US $ 30 per person for groups of two travelling together.

 

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Visa for Bhutan


Visa is not issued by Bhutanese Embassies abroad. Visa approval must be obtained prior to your entry into Bhutan. You must forward the following passport details to your travel agency to apply for visa approval on your behalf. The travel agency in Bhutan would process your visa approval in the foreign ministry in Bhutan.


The following information must be sent to us to process visa approval:-

1. Full name as in passport:
2. Permanent address:
3. Occupation:
4. Nationality:
5. Passport Number:
6. Date of Issue and Expiry date:
7. Date of birth and place:
8. Place of Issue:
9. Exact duration of visa required:
10. Date of entry and exit and sector:

The Foreign ministry would issue a number to us, which we will in turn send it to you. The number is needed in order to board Druk Air flights to Bhutan. The actual visas are issued on payment of US $ 20 upon arrival in Bhutan. You will also need two passport size photographs for visa processing.


Visas are also extended only in Thimphu by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs only.
 

 

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Bhutan Air Ticketing

 

 

Bhutan National Airline, Druk Air,  flies to cities of neighbouring countries only. The cities include Bangkok in Thailand, Delhi and Kolkata in India, Kathmandu in Nepal, and Dhaka in Bangladesh. You would have to get a connection flight to one of these cities before you board Druk Air flight to Bhutan. 

It is advisable to purchase plane tickets to one of these cities abroad because it is expensive to arrange from Bhutan. However, since Druk Air tickets are sold only in Bhutan, we would arrange for the Druk Air ticket once the visa has been approved. We would then arrange to either send by post to your address or forward it to Druk Air outstation in the above mentioned cities' airport so you can collect it from there.

 

Note: The Tourist tariff in Bhutan doesn't cover your home plane ticket or Druk Air ticket.

 

Druk Air (Royal Bhutan Airlines)



Druk Air is the only company operating in the country. It has recently bought two Airbus A319s, on top of the two British Aerospace BAe 146 jets. Druk Air fly to and from Paro airport in Bhutan, the country's only airport. Druk Air has regular flights a week from Bangkok, New Delhi, Kolkata and Katmandu. Once a month, there is special stopovers in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Yangoon, Manmyyar. 


Each of these routes offer views of some of the highest mountains in the world - Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga, and Bhutan's revered peaks of Jhomolhari and Kula Gangri.
Druk Air flights are sometimes delayed by unfavourable weather conditions. So visitors would do well to include an additional day in their itineraries for unexpected weather delays.
Druk Air tickets are issued only in Bhutan. We can book them for you and send them to you or to the Druk Air out stations in Bangkok, Delhi or Kathmandu.

 

 

 

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Entering Bhutan by Road  

 

Bhutan is accessible by road. If you reach North East India, it is easy to come to Bhutan by road through the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. You can fly till Bagdora airport West Bengal, India, from where it is only three hours drive to the border town. The Indian hill stations of Darjeeling, West Bengal and Gangtok, Sikkim are only 5 hours away by road from Phuentsholing.

You can exit the country via the Phuentsholing also. We would be glad to reach you till the airport at Bagdora or railway station in Siliguri, both in West Bengal at no extra charge.

 

 

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Currency in Bhutan and Foreign Exchange Rate
 

The currency in Bhutan is Ngultrum (Symbol - Nu.). It is divided into 100 Cheltrum. Ngultrum is pegged to Indian Rupee on par, meaning 1 Ngultrum = 1 Indian Rupee. As in neighbouring countries in the region, Indian Currency is accepted in Bhutan, except the 500 Rupee and 1000 Rupee denominations. This high denominations were banned since there a few cases of fake bills being circulated by counterfeiters in India. 

The foreign exchange rate as it stands as of August 2007 is 1 US$ = 40.80 Nu  , 1 Euro = 54.50


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Using Credit Card in Bhutan?

 

Visa and American Express credit cards are accepted in few places but have limited use. Travellers cheques as well as Euro, US Dollars, Pound Sterling, Swiss Francs, Singapore Dollar, Australian Dollar and Japanese Yen can be exchanged at banks and most of the hotels.


Cash in US Dollar or Euro bills in small quantity is the most practical and convenient for personal expenses in Bhutan. Credit Card can only be used at some handicraft shops, and the processing fee for Credit Cards transactions in Bhutan are very high. Most of the handicraft shops charge a processing fee of 7% on the sum. American Express and Visa are accepted cards in Bhutan, but they would have very limited use.

 

 

 

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Climate in Bhutan

Climate in Bhutan is Bhutan varies drastically from place to place with a short range. The land rises from the southern moist sub-tropical foothills at an altitude of about 200 meters above sea level to snow-capped peaks of over 8,000 meters in the north. The central temperate belt, which is the touristy valleys, ranges from about 900, to 4,500 meters above sea level. The capital city Thimphu, is situated at 2,400 meters above sea level.
 
The climate along this belt defies generalization but it can be safely said that spring (March to May) brings warm days and cool nights with the mercury averaging 15-20 oC at daytime. With June come occasional downpours and summer temperatures peak at over 20o C. The milder months of Autumn (September to November) are less wet and are the best time of the year for trekking. But in the trekking routes during Autumn, the temperature dips below 0o C at night. 

 

The winter months of December, January and February are the coldest and night time temperatures often plummet below 10C in higher altitude valleys. Once or twice there are snow fall in colder valleys of Thimphu, Paro, Trongsa, and Bumthang.

However, winter offers its own charm of crystal clear sunny blue skies and unhindered view of snow-capped mountains.

 

 

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What to bring

 

It maybe troublesome and expensive to carry much because Druk Air observes a baggage weight limit of 30 kg (66 lb). You should come prepared for vast contrasts in weather.  Casual clothes are generally most suitable. Warm clothes are a must in winter since the temperature drops below 0 C. Trekking shoes, rain gear, windbreakers, sun caps and sunglasses are important for trekking and outdoor activities. Revealing clothes are discouraged in public places and religious sites.

Sunblock cream and lip protection will be of help. On a sunny day, the sun can be scorching. Bringing an earplug might help you to sleep at night. Bhutanese being Buddhist can't bring ourselves to get rid of the dogs. So, barking dogs at night has been cited as disturbing their sleep by some tourists in the past.

 

 

 

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Travel Insurance

 

Generally, it is very safe in Bhutan. But if you plan to trek or engage in adventure sports in Bhutan it is advisable that you draw a travel insurance policy in your home country since such services are not available in Bhutan. 

 

 

 

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Accommodation

 

Our travel agency has built over the years a close relationship with the best hotels in every town in Bhutan. Over all, hospitaIt is a fact that Bhutan doesn't have a five star hotel till date (two 5-star international resort chains are in Bhutan - Uma Paro and Aman Resorts), but all tourist are housed in the Department of Tourism (DoT) approved and classified hotels only. All tourist hotels are comfortable and clean. 

When you are out trekking, we have tents. Horsemen/porters would be pitching and dismantling the tents. Fires are built at camping site for warmth. 

 

 

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Tour Guides

 

You will be accompanied by an English-speaking tour guide throughout your stay. Our tour guides are licensed and trained in programs conducted by the Department of Tourism. They have mountain guide training, including safety and first aid instructions. They are well versed in local history and local knowledge. Plus their extensive experience and knowledge of western culture would make you feel at home.  

For other non-English speaking tourists (French, Japanese, German, etc.), we arrange guides on need basis.
Tour Guide fee is included in the tourist tariff.

 

 

 

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Food

Bhutanese cuisine is hot and spicy. Chilly is one of the main ingredients, blending with cheese and a variety of vegetables and meat. But our tour guides will take you to the restaurants and hotels where food more palatable to western taste like Continental, Chinese, Thai and Indian foods are on the menu. The chefs in these establishment are foreign trained. Of course, Bhutanese dishes are on the menu. You make the choice.

Beverages and foreign drinks are available in these hotels and restaurants.

For trekking, we have trained cooks accompanying you aside from porters. They would build fire, cook food and act as security from wild animals. The cost for food and non-alcoholic drinks are already included in the tourist tariff. But for alcoholic drinks, you have to pay at the counter.

 

 

 

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Transport in Bhutan

You will have a driver and a vehicle at your disposal at all times. Alpine Bhutan Travel Service will arrange Toyota and Hyundai cars for smaller group sizes, and 4WD SUVs and deluxe tour buses for larger tourist group sizes.


Every vehicle is well maintained and thoroughly checked before trips to ensure safety and comfort for all clients. For trekking, we have horses and porter to carry personal luggage of tourists, tents, food stuffs and cooking utensils. Transportation within the country is included in the tourist tariff.

 

 

 

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Electricity in Bhutan


The voltage in Bhutan is 230 Volts, 50 cycles AC. Electricity is quite reliable in Western Bhutan towns. In smaller central towns, electricity is generated by mini-hydels and you would experience blackouts. Bhutan uses the standard Indian round pin sockets. If there is a need for a plug conversion, it is cheaply and easily available in most Bhutanese towns.

 

 

 

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Photography Film and Equipments


Bring as much as film rolls as you might need. Bhutan is a photographer's paradise...everything seems exotic and unique that would would end up taking more shots than you would usually do in other places. Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Bumthang has colour photo printing shops. But the quality is not up to the professional standard.

You would do better to bring along special equipments and batteries for you digital camera. UV filter for your telephoto lens camera is recommended to cut down on UV light in thin air.

 

 

 

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Dangers and Annoyances


Bhutan is one of the safest places to visit. Let aside such big problems such as political unrest, the usual banes of travelling in Asia - theft and begging - are also absent in Bhutan. Despite the political unrest in other parts of the region, Bhutan is a safe destination. However, travelling to Bhutan presents its own set of small and uniquely Bhutanese travel annoyances.

 

Dogs: Due to the Buddhist belief of respecting all forms of life, there are many street dogs roaming all valleys in the country. Dog barking at night is one of the annoyances in Bhutan. Bring along a ear plug to help you sleep at night. 

Sunburn: The low latitude of the country combined with the high altitude means the solar radiation is intense. Even on cloudy days you would get sunburn if your skin is exposed to the sun in Bhutan for a long time. Therefore, bring along a pair of sunglasses (or if you are trekking bring an extra pair to make allowance for breakage), sun cap and sunscreen lotions.

 

 

  

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1999- March 2008 Alpine Bhutan Travel.     Pictures Christine Potocnik