From Australia, fly to Bangkok, overnight and then take an early morning flight with Druk Air to Paro via Calcutta or Dacca. Other services operate from Delhi (via Kathmandu) and Bagdogra. Paro, the only international airport is in West Bhutan, about 1 hour’s drive from the capital Thimphu. During monsoons, unpredictable weather forces can delay flights and travellers are advised to include an extra day in their itinerary.
The road from Bagdogra (the nearest Indian airport) enters Bhutan at Phuentsholing, the border town. It is a 3-4 hour drive from Bagdogra which can be reached by plane from Calcutta and Delhi. From Darjeeling or Gangtok (Sikkim), it takes 7 hours to Phuentsholing and then approximately 6 hours from Phuentsholing to Thimphu or Paro. The Samdrup Jongkhar border in Eastern Bhutan is now open.
Valid passports and an entry visa are essential. Travellers to Bhutan are permitted only if arrangements are made by a registered tour company. Visas are issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thimphu and must be obtained before departing for Bhutan. Druk Air tickets cannot be purchased without visa clearance. At your port of entry your visa will be stamped in your passport on payment of USD 40.You will also require two passport photos. Extension of visas, for up to 6 months, can be obtained in Thimphu at a cost of Nu. 510.
N.B. Visas cannot be obtained at Bhutanese embassies.
When to visit?
The best times to visit are from March to May and September to November, though of course visitors are allowed at any time. We have offered suggested itineraries based around the major festivals but can arrange itineraries to suit individuals at any time of the year.
What to wear?
Cotton Shirts, T- shirts, long shorts or light pants and light sweaters in Summer (June-Sep). Warm shirts and pants and a warm jacket are recommended for the rest of the year. Rain gear for the monsoons and comfortable shoes and a second pair of walking shoes if walking or trekking. A gortex jacket is good for all year round as the temperature can vary a lot during the day and evening. Formal clothes are not required and revealing clothing should never be worn.
Transport is via small , mainly Japanese minivans or 4 wheel drive vehicles, driven very carefully and courteously along the steep and winding National Highway. Bhutan has few roads, so many people in East Bhutan have rarely visited West Bhutan and vice versa. The only other vehicles are the fabulously decorated carrier trucks from India.
DISTANCES AND DRIVING TIMES IN BHUTAN
|FROM||TO||DISTANCE (KM)||DRIVING TIME (appr.)|
|Phuntsholing||Bagdogra (India)||170||4 hrs|
|Thimphu||Wangdi Phodrang||70||3 hrs|
|Thimphu||Punakha||77||3 hrs 15 mins|
|Punakha||Wangdi Phodrang||13||45 mins|
|Wangdi Phodrang||Trongsa||129||4 hrs 30 mins|
|Trongsa||Bumthang||68||2 hrs 30 mins|
|Trashigang||Chorten Kora||52||1 hr 30 mins|
|Trashiigang||Samdrup Jongkhar||180||6 hrs|
|Samdrup Jongkhar||Gauhati (India)||110||3 hrs|
|Samdrup Jongkhar||Phuntsholing||380||9 hrs 30 mins|
Accommodation varies widely, but is always clean and comfortable (once you get used to the hard beds). Outside of Thimpu all accommodation is lodge or chalet style guest houses, often well located and with lovely views. Accommodation is graded into category A, B & C and we use Category A wherever possible. Accommodation is at a premium especially during festival periods.
The local currency is the Ngultram, which has the same value as an Indian rupee and is exchanged at approximately 49 Ngultram to the US Dollar. US dollars can be exchanged at banks for Ngultrams. There is no black market.
Credit cards are rarely accepted anywhere (this may change in time) and there are no ATM facilities. Travellers cheques are accepted in most places, but cash is best.
Bhutan standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and 5 hours behind Australia
Export of antiques, plants or animal products are strictly prohibited. Cameras, video cameras, computers and personal electronic equipment must be declared on arrival and will be checked upon departure.
A 220 Volts, current operates. Electricity in Bhutan is reasonably reliable, but you are advised to bring a small surge protector for delicate electronic equipment. In many parts of Bhutan electricity is generated through hydro electricity, either from larger projects, such as Chukha dam, or mini hydro plants. At peak usage times the power can go off or the lights will be very dim.
Reliable telephone and fax services are available in all towns in Bhutan. International connections are excellent. Now internet and e-mail facilities are also available in most logdes and there are some internet cafes as well.
Carry plenty of films and batteries and rechargeable batteries for digital cameras. Photo shops in Bhutan do not sell equipment or accessories of any quality. There are no sophisticated photographic services. You are allowed to take video footage, but is it always best to check with your guide about what you may film.
The crime rate in Bhutan is very low; the country lives up to its nickname of the Land of Peaceful Dragon. Even so there are Police Stations in almost all regions.
Traditional handicrafts: intricate and beautiful textiles, jewellery, finely woven rice baskets, masks, Buddhist Thankas, religious paintings and woodcarving are available to purchase. These items are not cheap as they are not actually made for the tourist market and are original and authentic artworks. Some shops in Thimpu have imported goods from India for sale.