13 Amazing Bhutan Travel Tips | Travel to Bhutan with Yak Holidays International.
1. Who can travel to Bhutan?
No backpackers or budget travel to Bhutan, unfortunately. This is not discriminatory, but a simple check to over tourism.
Bhutan travel @ Spanish Actress, Pilar De Cano Macarena traveled to Bhutan for Snowman Trek.
Bhutan has always been an outlier in its pursuit of happiness for its citizenry. Its unique policies seek to bring about a holistic progress to the country. One such policy has been about who is allowed to travel to Bhutan. Being conscious of its fragile Himalayan environment, its age old tradition and culture, and the unadulterated Buddhist way of life. The country encourages limited tourists each year which means travelling to Bhutan comes with a minimum daily tariff.
This policy automatically screens out backpackers and budget travelers. The government’s idea has been to make traveling to Bhutan a unique experience. A country that is sought after as a destination that promotes high end, socially conscious tourism. Moreover, Bhutan is a small, environmentally sensitive country that could be easily overwhelmed if its entry is opened to all.
We help plan our clients’ Bhutan travel to each tiny detail so that your travel in Bhutan becomes an experience of a lifetime.
2. Best time to travel to Bhutan | Seasonal & Festival Guide.
The best time to travel to Bhutan is during the spring months (March, April and May) and autumn months (September, October, November). Considered peak seasons, spring and autumn in Bhutan means colorful flower blossoms, crisp air and bright sun, blue skies and cultural festivals.
Bhutan is a four season country. And weather greatly determines how and where you travel in Bhutan and what you get too see as you visit Bhutan.
The Best time to travel to Bhutan is March, April, May:
March marks the end of winter and on set of spring in Bhutan. The valleys look beautiful with blooming flowers like Rhododendrons. The weather will be dry and the air will be crisp and clear. The prominent Mask dance festivals in Paro and Ura valley in Bumthang draw huge number of tourists.
Travel to Bhutan in June, July and August (Summer):
However, some tourists prefer travel to Bhutan in June, July or August (Summer) to avoid the maddening crowd and High Daily Tourist Tariff. It may not be the Best time to travel to Bhutan weather wise. However the weather is not that bad in Bhutan as one would imagine. Unlike in other parts of South-East Asia, it does not rain so heavily in Bhutan during summer. You can still witness some of the best festivals like Haa Summer Festival, Kurjey and Nimalung festivals.
The other Best time to Travel to Bhutan is September, October and November – Autumn:
60 – 70 % of the total tourist arrivals are during these 3 months. Most festivals in Bhutan fall during this time of the year; the rainfall is less and is the perfect time to trek in the Bhutanese Himalayas. These months are certainly the Best time to travel to Bhutan.
Travel to Bhutan in December, January and February – Winter:
Winter in Bhutan is not very cold. It is warm during the day time and night will be bit chilly. All the Hotels have room heating facilities and even in your car. The sky will be clear and mountains covered with snow. If you are into photography, this is the best time to travel to Bhutan. You can also witness festivals in Trongsa, Nabji Khorpu, Druk Wangyal in Thimphu etc.
Please check the festival dates:
3. Bhutan travelers first get to see Mt. Everest.
Approach to Bhutan is always a scramble for the best seat in your airplane on your Bhutan trip. It’s your ultimate mountain flight, and a bit more, since it showcases what many would have dreamed all their lives. A close view of the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest. Yes, you heard it correct. As you enter Bhutan, the Himalayan Mountains greet you first. And then we greet you at the airport.
It’s first come, first serve basis at the check-in counters of your port of entry into Bhutan. If you’re travelling to Bhutan from Delhi (India), Mumbai (India) or Kathmandu (Nepal), you may request the ground staff at the check-in counter to assign you a seat on the left, possibly by the window. If you’re traveling to Bhutan from Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, or Kolkata (India), you may request for a seat on the right.
The view of the Himalayas on a Drukair flight from Delhi – Kathmandu – Paro.
If you are travelling to Bhutan from Delhi, Mumbai or Kathmandu, you will see a spectacular mountain panorama, indeed five peaks all above 8,000 m: Mt. Cho Oyo (8,188 m), Mt. Everest (8,848 m), Mt. Lhotse (8,516 m), Mt. Makalu (8,463 m), Mt. Kangchenjunga (8,586 m), and Mt. Jomolhari (7,326 m). But if you enter Bhutan from Bangkok, Singapore or Kolkata, then you will see the panoramic Mt. Kangchenjunga and Mt. Jomolhari.
The chances of seeing these wonderful high points on the earth’s surface will be higher if you’re traveling to Bhutan in winter, early spring, or in late autumn. Also, morning flights mean better chances since there will less or no clouds obstructing the mountain ranges. Come to think of it, your daily tariff is worth every penny if you are lucky enough to view these famed Himalayan mountain ranges.
4. Bhutan is a veritable museum.
Taktshang Monastery/Tiger’s Nest.
The country’s rich culture and tradition, diverse flora and fauna and the natural scenic beauty make Bhutan trip a memorable experience. From ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries to several endangered species of animals, the country presents itself as a natural museum. Every nook and cranny of Bhutan boasts sites of historical and cultural significance.
Bhutan is famed for its Dzongs or fortresses. Each district has one and most of them were built about 400 years ago. They are massive complexes and serve both spiritual and temporal purpose. They house the monk body and as well as function as an administrative Head Quarter. Of course, your Bhutan travel will not be complete without witnessing an archery match or a mask dance. You will also be able to see centuries old suspension bridges built with locally produced cast iron. We will facilitate your internal travel to Bhutan with much flexibility so that you do not miss any important or significant landmark.
5. Great adventure awaits you in Bhutan.
Travelling to Bhutan itself is bound to be an adventure of the highest sort. Experiencing Bhutan through many unique adventures the country offers and adds up to elevate your overall travel experience.
Bhutan has some of the toughest trekking routes like the famed 25 day Snowman Trek. There are other easy 2 day to somewhat difficult 5 day routes. But all these treks lead into the Himalayas. Then there are wonderful and refreshing day hikes that take you through the ups and downs of a Himalayan life.
Many Bhutan travelers choose to experience other outdoor adventures like white water rafting or biking through its circuitous roads and trails. For example, the Tour of the Dragon is one of the most sought after mountain biking events. The participants for this event come from several countries around the world. We recommend white water rafting for fun as well as for to view the scenic beauty of Punakha valley.
6. Bhutanese food is spicy and exquisite.
Late Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and television personality, who was in Bhutan in 2017, has spoken very highly of Bhutan’s highland food. Bhutanese love meat and cheese and rice. Most hotels serve a mix of Continental, Bhutanese Chinese and Indian cuisine. You could also try the pure Bhutanese dish, like the one they serve at Simply Bhutan Museum Restaurant.
In rural Bhutan, where water is often scarce, people ball up soft rice in their hands to clean them, then eat the meal with hand, and later again play with the last bit of the rice to clean the hand. Most Bhutanese do not use fork and spoon. When you travel in Bhutan, you could also try tasting meals directly with your hand. There are also several cafes and eateries in most towns that offer variety of food, including burgers and fries.
Bhutan is known for its healthy, locally grown red (also called brown) wholegrain rice. Thin strips of dry beef cooked with radish and dry red chili is something the red rice lovers go for. You could also try cottage cheese stir fired in butter, and wash it all down with suja, Bhutan’s unique salted butter tea.
7. A cultural carnival of sorts.
Sheila Poh and her husband Curtiz Jr. witnessing Punakha Festival, 5th March 2020.
The cultural side of travelling to Bhutan is generally the major highlight of a typical tourist experience. This is because Bhutan is known for its unique culture that it has taken great pains to preserve and promote. Bhutan has positioned its age old tradition and culture as a way of exerting its geo-political soft power. The result is a country that deeply attaches itself to its historical roots.
Experience this idea of culture based self preservation by coinciding your Bhutan visit with one of the annual festivals. There are many happening all throughout the year. Depending on your timing of Bhutan visit, we will work out an itinerary that features at least one major festival.
At these festivals, you will be able to experience Bhutan’s way of life first-hand and interact with the local people. We will help you dress up in Bhutan’s national dress of gho (for men) and kira (for women). Expect lots of fun, smiles and genuine hospitality from Bhutan’s shy, respectful and dignified people. Write yourself into their memories!
8. Hike the day in a journey inward.
People often travel to Bhutan not just to see places and people or experience their culture and way or life, but also to seek that journey inside oneself. Bhutan’s provides a perfect milieu for self-reflection and introspection. You could just hike yourself into the depths of your awakened soul. The magic feeling of being alive in the beautiful Himalayan landscape is at the heart of physical adventure.
The beautiful day hikes in and around Thimphu, Paro and Punakha add deep value to your Bhutan visit. These are light and uplifting hikes along reliable trails that pass through pine forests, rhododendron bushes and farmhouses. The air is crisp and birdsongs keep you company. The lightness of being overtakes you as you enjoy the nature’s precious gifts of life and what makes life possible. Many day hikes will take you through human settlements and paddy fields where you get the opportunity to interact with village folks and experience their way of life. The easy altitudes afford deeply satisfying personal fulfillment, and you may wish the journey inward had begun earlier. But since you’re here now, we would go any lengths to help make your experience as memorable as possible.
9. Homestays for an up close cultural and social experience.
As Bhutan continues to evolve into a luxury tourist destination, so does the country’s hospitality related infrastructures like hotels. That’s why you could choose to stay and eat in a high end five star properties. You could also opt for humbler and more authentic food and accommodation in a community based property like the homestay.
Tourists typically seek rich and authentic experience, as close as possible to the native lifestyle. This means you may want to experience the country and not just see it casually. You may want to engage with the people you come across and participate in their act of living. At least, this is what we consider as important for our guests. Therefore, we suggest that you consider expanding your dreams. If you spend a night in a luxury hotel, we also advise you to spend at least one night in a homestay.
The experience is poles apart. In a homestay, you could try cooking your own meal from locally sourced organic vegetables and whole grains. The people of Bhutan are known for their warm hospitality and this is bound to enrich your visit to Bhutan. You will also experience the Bhutanese culture up close if you choose to spend a night or two in a homestay.
10. Bring cash US dollars for shopping and tips.
Part of what makes traveling to Bhutan an authentic and exotic experience is the country’s slow start and approach to the contemporaneous idea of development. The wheel moves in a slow motion, so that you may be able to catch the much needed breath and unwind yourself more satisfactorily.
While machines are replacing certain aspect of life in Bhutan, old norms still rule supreme. For example, you’ll realize how important it is to carry actual cash as you start your Bhutan travel. Most shops prefer cash to cards. Indeed, a lot of these shops have not stalled the card payment facilities. Cash would also come in handy when you tip a guide or a waitress. So, do carry some amount of cash in US dollars when you travel to Bhutan.
11. Thank you for not smoking.
Areca nut and betel leaf with a dash of lime known as Doma.
Yes, smoking is banned in Bhutan. In fact, sale of all forms of tobacco products is prohibited in the country. You may bring in small quantities of tobacco for personal use. But then, you cannot smoke in public places. These include restaurants, market places, sport complexes, streets, pubic parks and offices. Also, note that most public places do not have designated legal smoking zones. This means you may light up in your room (provided you’ve asked for a smoke-OK room) or in solitary spaces.
However, people in Bhutan are known for their fondness for a different kind of stimulant, locally known as doma, a quid of areca nut and betel leaf with a dash of lime. In Bhutan, chewing doma defies time and space, age and gender and is a fundamental part of the Bhutanese culture and ethos. You may want to try a quid but be careful about some instant side effects like flushing, sweating or even a mild kick of sorts.
12. Dip yourself in a hot stone bath.
Another highlight of your travel to Bhutan could be what locals call the ‘hot stone bath’. It’s a traditional way of cleansing yourself. It’s an ancient practice, part of Bhutan’s search for an indigenous alternative to the Western idea of wellness.
Bhutan’s hot stone baths draw on both Indian Ayurvedic and Tibetan traditional medicine practices.
A hot stone bath consists of a water filled wooden tub and red-hot river stones. First, the stones are roasted in a fire for hours. They are then immersed in the water filled wooden tub. As stones sizzle in the cold water, you dip your hand to check the temperature and ask for the desired adjustment. You then lie on the tub as long as you want, soaking in the rich minerals released by the stones into the water. Leaves of Artemisia plant are added to the hot water to raise the bath’s medicinal value. The stones are in a separate chamber of the tub so that you will not be hurt.
Soaking in medicinal waters is part of Bhutan’s age-old culture. The people believe that one can be cured of many illnesses like joint pain, arthritis, hypertension and stomach ailments through frequent baths in such medicinal waters. It’s said that Bhutan’s hot stone baths draw on both Indian Ayurvedic and Tibetan traditional medicine practices. We recommend you try this healing bath at least once, especially after your tiring hike to the Tiger’s Nest.
13. Learn some Dzongkha, the national language.
Our valued clients, Hollywood actor and actress, Keith and his beautiful wife Katrina’s travel in Bhutan.
Your guide and most Bhutanese you’ll generally meet during your Bhutan travel will speak fairly good English. And this could be a hindrance, especially if you’re interested in picking up some local language skills as you travel through different parts of the country.
Dzongkha, Bhutan’s national language is part of the Tibeto-Burman languages. While there are other local languages and dialects, native to regions and tribes, Dzongkha is understood by most people. We recommend you let us know in advance if you are interested in learning some Dzongkha during your Bhutan visit. Accordingly, our guide will try his best to teach you some Dzongkha. He will also make opportunities for you to interact with locals in the native language.
We look forward to co-creating lasting memories and experiences with you. Let’s dig Bhutan together! Joenpa lekso, a warm welcome!
How to Travel to Bhutan?
You can travel to Bhutan by directly flying into Paro International Airport in Bhutan from one of the following international destinations: New Delhi (India), Kolkotta (India), Gaya (India), Guwahati (India), Bagdogra (India), Singapore, Bangkok (Thailand), Kathmandu (Nepal) and Dhaka (Bangladesh). You can also travel to Bhutan overland from the Southern part of country and enter Bhutan from one of the following border towns namely Phuntsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar.
Travel to Bhutan from USA (US) | Flights to Bhutan from USA (US):
There is no direct flight to Bhutan from the United States of America (USA / US). However, if you plan to travel to Bhutan from East Coast of the USA (US), then you have to fly to New Delhi, Kathmandu or Kolkata to connect your flight into Bhutan.
If you plan to travel to Bhutan from the west coast of USA (US), then you have to either fly to Bangkok or Singapore from where you can connect your flight into Bhutan.
Travel cost to Bhutan:
For tourists travelling to Bhutan in groups of 3 people or more, the Minimum daily travel cost to Bhutan / cost of Bhutan trip are as follows:
Peak season months March, April, May, September, October & November: US $250 per person per night.
Lean season months June, July, August, December, January & February: US $ 200 per person per night.
F I T Surcharge will be levied for smaller groups as follows:
Solo traveler: US $ 40 per night.
2 people in a group: US $ 30 per person per night.
The Minimum Bhutan travel cost includes:
- Accommodation in minimum of 3 star Hotels (4 & 5 star require extra payment).
- All three meals a day.
- Licensed driver and local tour guide during your entire Bhutan trip.
- Transport within the country by SUV, Mini Bus or larger Coaster Bus depending on the size of group.
- Entry fees for museum and Monuments.
- Royalty US $ 65 per person per night.
While on the Trek, the travel cost to Bhutan covers:
- All 3 meals.
- Services of a Guide, Cook and Helper.
- Ponies/ Yaks to carry the supplies.
- Trekking permit fees.
- Tents and equipment.
Bhutan Travel Guide:
All Bhutan Travel guides are trained and certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. Our guides are sincere, informative and fluent in English. The government organizes trainings and workshops to the guides on regular basis to update them. Japanese, Spanish, German and French speaking guides can be provided at an extra cost.
Bhutan Travel Advisory:
An important Bhutan travel advisory note for all the International tourists who book their trip through “Middle man” based in Nepal and India. Please note that these “Middle men” are commission agents who operate trips through local Bhutanese agents. They under pay the Bhutanese agents and as a result, the services you get in Bhutan are compromised. There are also chances that your visa may not get approved. To avoid such disappointment, it is very advisable to book your trip directly with Bhutanese agents.