BHUTAN – Travel in the Country

I planned on going to Bhutan in the spring of 2013 but the difficulties of obtaining an Indian Transit Visa ended those thoughts. But I am going in October, 2013. I wired from my home bank, the $3,058 total cost (flights and the all-inclusive fees) for 8 days/7 nights. This included a single supplement of $40/day. Going with a group of 4 or more would save that. Otherwise there is no cheaper way. That is Bhutan and how they do it – $290/day all-inclusive. Flights are also not cheap. Mine from Bangkok economy was $900 with taxes and fees.

Having gone through all this last year, I approached booking the trip in a different way this time. I made a list of every non-Bhutanese travel company that offers trips. I phoned all their 1-800 numbers. Only one offered a trip that I could join in the October 18 to November 12 time frame. It would have cost about $1,000 more than mine as they have to hire the same local tour operators that I used. I also emailed about 20 Bhutan travel agencies. The price was basically identical but some broke the rules and gave me a small discount. The company I chose was the only one that obtained specific flights that were all booked out. Not quite sure how they did it but book at least a few months ahead to save flight problems. They become booked out especially around festivals which are frequent.

As there is no travel guide to Bhutan, I have extensively edited the Wikitravel document and that is included here. It is necessarily very long and I have tried to give as complete a guide to travel in the country as possible.

Bhutan is a small country in the Himalayas between the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and India. With an area of 47,000 sq km, there are 672,000 people (2005 census).
Besides the stunning natural scenery, the enduring image of the country for most visitors is the strong sense of culture and tradition that binds the kingdom and clearly distinguishes it from its larger neighbors. Bhutan is the only Vajrayana Buddhist nation in the world and the world’s last remaining Buddhist Kingdom. The profound teachings of this tradition remain well preserved and exert a strong influence in all aspects of life.
Due to its pristine environment and harmonious society, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan has been called “The Last Shangrila.” Bhutan is a unique country both culturally and environmentally. Perched high in the Himalayas, It is still termed as a third world country with subsistence farming practiced in much of the country. In broad terms the land is fertile and the population small. In addition, the current generation receives free education, and all citizens have access to free, though rudimentary, medical care. The sale of tobacco products is banned and smoking in public areas is a fineable offense.
Major sources of income for the kingdom are tourism, hydroelectric power and agriculture.

Culture
While traditional culture has been very well preserved, the opening of the country to TV and internet in 1999 has had a major effect, and modern-day culture is mostly centred on bars and snooker halls. As a result, there is very little or no evidence of quality contemporary art, theatre or music. Culturally Bhutan is predominantly Buddhist with Dzongkha as a national language, and a common dress code and architectural style. Bhutanese people primarily consist of the Ngalops (western Bhutanese, closely related to Tibetan culture), Sharchops (Eastern Bhutanese), and Lhotshamphas (Southern Bhutanese), a people of Nepalese Gurkha origin, respectively.
Gross National Happiness.This ideology was the brain child of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who, having gained a modern education in India and the UK, realized that mere economic success did not necessarily translate into a content and happy society. Consequently, soon after his coronation in 1974, the young king began to float the idea of developing a new set of guidelines by which to govern the country. Slowly these ideas took shape, and in 1998 the GNH indicator was established. GNH stands for “Gross National Happiness” and is defined by the following four objectives: to increase economic growth and development, preserve and promote the cultural heritage, encourage sustainable use of the environment, and establish good governance. While the concept of GNH receives much international praise and is a major draw for tourists, potential visitors should be aware that the idea is very much in its incubation stage, and there is very little evidence of GNH in the country itself.
Recommended reading: Beyond the Sky and the Earth – a novel by Jamie Zeppa telling the true story of a young Canadian’s (Jamie) experiences teaching at schools in Bhutan – very entertaining and informative. The Circle of Karma – an excellent novel by acclaimed local author Kunzang Choden – insights into the life of Bhutanese women.
Buy. Woven cloth. Bhutanese handwoven fabric is prized around the world, and is available stitched into clothing, wall hangings, table mats and rugs.
Yathra. A brightly colored woven material made from wool and dyed with natural colors. Dappa. Hand made wooden bowls. The halves of the bowl fit tightly together so they can be used to carry cooked food, which is their function in Bhutan. However, they also make excellent salad or cookie bowls. Dappa are a specialty of the Trashi Yangtse region, but can be purchased throughout the country. Bangchung are small bamboo woven baskets with two tightly fitting halves. They are a specialty of southern Bhutan, but available throughout the country.

History
The first humans probably arrived sometime after the Ice Age, and little is known about Bhutan’s prehistory. Historical records began with the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century, when Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) visited Bhutan and established monasteries.
In 1865, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding some border land. Under British influence, a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years later, a treaty was signed whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. This role was assumed by independent India after 1947. Two years later, a formal Indo-Bhutanese accord returned the areas of Bhutan annexed by the British, formalized the annual subsidies the country received, and defined India’s responsibilities in defense and foreign relations.
In December 2006, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck transferred power to his oldest son, the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, bestowing upon him the title of the fifth Druk Gyalpo. The Fifth King is Boston and Oxford educated and is held in high esteem throughout the country. The kingdom became a parliamentary democracy in March 2008 at the initiation of the Fourth King.
Guru Rinpoche. It is not possible to travel far in Bhutan without seeing images of a man wearing a tall elaborate hat and with eyes that are open wide and staring forward into space. This is the great 8th century sage of Vajrayana Buddhism, Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche as he often called. According to legend, Padmasambhava was reincarnated into a lotus blossom as an eight year old child, and from very young he possessed great wisdom and insight. Furthermore, he had mastery of the elements and was able to transform harmful action and substances into something positive and beneficial. A body print of the great sage exists to this day at Kurjey Lhakhang in Jakar, and he is also associated with many other sacred sites in Bhutan, with perhaps the most notable being the cliff-hanging Taktshang Monastery in Paro.

Weather
Although geographically quite small, Bhutan’s weather varies mainly depending upon the elevation. In the North of Bhutan on the borders with Tibet, it is perennially covered with snow. In the western, central and eastern Bhutan, you will mostly experience European-like weather. Winter lasts here from November to March. Punakha is an exception as it is in a lower valley and summer is hot and winter is pleasant. Southern Bhutan bordering with India is hot and humid with a sub-tropical climate. While the monsoon affects northern Indian it does not command the same influence in Bhutan. There are four distinct seasons similar in their divisions to those of Western Europe.

Geography
Bhutan can culturally and geographically be divided into three regions, which are further divided into 20 districts or dzongkhag: Central, Eastern, and Western Bhutan
Cities: While Bhutanese villages are generally very picturesque, the towns are characterized by their concrete, utilitarian structures – notable exceptions are Trashiyangtse and Trashigang. Thimphu – the capital city. Jakar – an administrative town in the north and the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan. Paro – the location of the international airport and Taktsang Monastery. Punakha – a former winter capital of Bhutan, It still hosts the monastic body in winter. Phuentsholing – on the Indian border, is the point of entry for travelers arriving by bus from West Bengal. Samdrup Jongkhar – in the southeast, is the point of entry for travelers arriving from Assam. Trongsa – a small administrative town famous for its dzong and the Tower of Trongsa

Visas
Bhutan is a unique destination and as such it has a few unique rules. All tourists must obtain a visa before arriving in Bhutan. Visas are applied for online by your local tour operator and it is not required that you visit a Bhutanese Embassy or consulate. Your holiday must be paid in full, via a wire transfer, to the Tourism Council of Bhutan account before a tourist visa is issued. The money remains with the Tourism Council until your travel in-country is complete before the local tour operater is paid. Bhutan does not restrict tourist numbers any longer and operates an open door policy. All tourists must book their travel through a local licensed tour operator (or international partner). Visa clearance takes no longer than 72 hours, once full payment has been received. At your point of entry the visa will be stamped in your passport on payment of US$20, two passport photos will also be required. Visas are issued on arrival to residents of India, Bangladesh and Maldives only.
As travel to Bhutan almost invariably requires at least one flight change in India, Nepal, Singapore or Thailand, ensure that you meet the visa requirements of those countries before transiting through.
Tourist Tariff
The Tourism Council of Bhutan operates the daily tariff for all tourists entering the country. It is not possible to enter Bhutan as a tourist without paying this tariff. The daily tariff covers: a minimum of 3 star accommodation (luxury hotels may incur an additional fee), all meals, a licensed Bhutanese Tour Guide for the extent of the stay, all internal transport – excluding any internal flights, camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours, all internal taxes and charges, and a royalty of $65 (which is included in the tariff price).
The minimum tariff is (for a group of 3 persons or more): USD $250 per person per night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November. USD $200 per person per night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December. The rates are applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan. Groups of two or less shall be subject to a surcharge, over and above the minimum daily rates applicable, as follows: Individual, US$ 40 per night, 2 persons, US$ 30 per person per night.
There is no charge for children up to the age of 5 years. Children aged between 6 to 12 years accompanied by parents/ guardians shall be given a 50% discount on daily rates and 100% discount on Royalty. Full time students below the age of 25 years holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions shall also be given a 25% discount on daily rates. A discount of 50% on daily rates shall be given to one person in a group of 11 to 15 people. 100% discount shall be given to one member in a group exceeding 16 persons. A 50% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 8th night and 100% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 14th night.
It is illegal to undercut tariff prices and tour operators found to be undercutting have their licenses terminated.
Royalty
The royalty, which is included in the daily tariff, is the Tourism Council of Bhutan sustainable tourism policy fee. This royalty of USD $65 goes directly to the government to provide free education and healthcare, as well as poverty alleviation.

Access
By plane: Paro International Airport (PBH) is the only entry point to Bhutan by air. It is located in the south west of the country and served only by the country’s flag carrier Druk Air. Druk operates 2 planes which fly routes to Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bodhgaya/Gaya, Bagdogra, Guwahati in India, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Singapore and Mumbai. There are two domestic airports, but in October 2012, they were not operational. Bagdogra Airport, serving the city of Siliguri in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, is a four hour drive from the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing.
By car: There are three land border crossings located along the southern border to India only. Phuntsholing in the west, Gelephu in the central region and Samdrup Jongkhar in the east. No border crossings are open along the Chinese northern border. Road permits are also required, processed by your local tour operator, along with your visa.
By bus: From Kolkata: The Royal Bhutanese Government runs a service to Phuentsholing. These buses depart from Kolkata’s Esplanade bus station at 7PM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and from the Phuentsholing Bhutan Post office at 3PM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The journey takes around 18 hours. The buses are comfortable, which is also complemented by the excellent highway connectivity to Kolkata. From Siliguri: There is frequent service between Siliguri and Phuentsholing/Jaigaon. It is roughly a four hour journey. As of October 2010, some sections of the road from New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri to Phuentsholing were in very bad shape. Buses operated by Royal Bhutan Government depart from across the main highway from the bus station, near Heritage Hotel, at 7:30AM and 1:30PM daily. From Phuentsholing: There are private buses and shared taxis from Phuentsholing to Thimphu but a comfortable option is to book a Bhutan Post bus which leaves each morning at 7 AM (Bhutan time) from the post office.
By train: There are no railways in Bhutan. The nearest options (both in India) are: Hasimara on the main Kolkata/Siliguri line to Assam is the nearest railway station to Phuentsholing, 17 km away. Extending travel by train till Hasimara would save your freshness for Bhutan. New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP) in Siliguri is a popular choice for travellers heading to Bhutan by land. There are direct shared taxis from NJP to Jaigaon or there is the option of buses from Siliguri bus station. Alternatively you can also take a local train to Hasimara takes around 3 hours. Trains from NJP should be booked ahead, as it is a popular stations amongst locals.
Get around
The roads that cross the country are characterized by their twists, turns, and steep inclines, but despite the difficult topography, they are generally very well-maintained and safe. Due to the mountainous terrain, roads are frequently blocked by rock falls during the summer season. At an altitude of 3750 meters, the section of road that runs through the Thrumshingla Pass connecting Bumthang and Mongar is the highest in the country and offers some spectacular scenery. However, due to the steep sides of the valley it is especially susceptible to rock falls.

See
The majority of tourists do “cultural tours” where they visit important destinations. Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, and Jakar are popular destinations. Further afield, the unexplored region of Zhemgang (birders paradise, excellent wildlife viewing) and Eastern Bhutan have just been opened up to tourism. If you are an adventurist and want to explore the unexplored, the east of Bhutan is the place for you. This unique and yet untouched part of the country offers the ultimate experience.
Monasteries: Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), Paro. This is one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world, and Guru Rinpoche visited here in the 8th century on his second visit to Bhutan. It is the most recognized and visited monument in Bhutan. It is believed that he arrived on the back of a winged tigress, hence the name, Tigers Nest. The temple is built on a 1,200 meter cliff and was built in 1692. The hike up to the Tiger’s Nest can be very strenuous and you can rent a horse to bring up the mountain for about USD $10.
Hundreds of monasteries dot the landscape in some of the most pristine and remote areas.
Kurje Lhakhang, Jakar has a temple built around a cave with a body print of Guru Rinpoche embedded in the wall. Guru Rinpoche practiced meditation here on his first visit to Bhutan and as such it is the earliest Buddhist relic in the country.
Dzongs/Fortresses: Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the city of Thimpu in Bhutan, on the western bank of the Wang Chu. It has traditionally been the seat of the Druk Desi (or “Dharma Raja”), the head of Bhutan’s civil government, an office which has been combined with the kingship since the creation of the monarchy in 1907, and summer capital of the country. The main structure of the whitewashed building is two-storied with three-storied towers at each of the four corners topped by triple-tiered golden roofs. There is also a large central tower or utse. Built in 1216, Semtokha Dzong in the Thimphu Valley was the first dzong built in the country.
The dzongs are ancient fortresses that now serve as the civil and monastic administration headquarters of each district. Apart from the architecture, which in itself makes a dzong worth visiting, they also hold many art treasures. Dzongs dot the countryside and were built without the use of cement, nails or plans.
Trekking: Bhutan is a popular place for trekking, though the walks are generally quite tough as there are no places to stay or eat in the higher regions, and so all food and camping equipment must be carried in. The Fall and Spring are the best seasons for undertaking a trek. In the Summer, the paths are too muddy, while in Winter they are snow covered. However, despite the difficulties of the treks, all efforts and discomforts are more than compensated for by the stunning scenery and extremely friendly, gentle and hospitable people that are met along the way.
The Druk path is the most commonly trekked from Paro, to the capital Thimphu. The Jomolhari, and Laya Gasa trek are also very popular and the Snowman Trek is reported to be one of the toughest treks in the world, taking a approximately 30 days. The recommended season for this trek is mid-June to mid-October.
There are many other treks available.
Scenery: Bhutan pristine environment offers ecosystem which are rich and diverse, due to its location and great geographical and climatic variations, Bhutan’s high, rugged mountains and valleys boast spectacular biodiversity, earning it a name as one of the world’s ten most important biodiversity hotspots.
Recognizing the importance of environment, conservation of its rich biodiversity is one of its development paradigms. The government has decreed that 60% of its forest resources will be maintained for all time through a recently enacted law passed by government. Today, approximately 72% of the total land area is under forest cover and about 26% of the land area fall under protected areas comprising of four parks. As a result, Bhutan offers a wonderful raw and unexploited environment that is generally very much appreciated by international travelers.
35% of Bhutan is made up of protected national parks. Namely, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (1,300 sq.km), TrumshingLa National Park (768 sq. km), Royal Manas National Park (9,938.54 sq. km), Jigme Dorji National Park (4,349 sq. km), Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (1,545 sq. km) and Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (650 sq. km).
Archery: This is the national sport of Bhutan and competitions are held throughout the country at most weekends. Visitors are very welcome to watch and also to add voice to the boisterous cheering that accompanies these events.
Festivals
Festivals or Tshechu (“tenth day”) are another major draw card to Bhutan and are held every year in various temples monasteries and dzongs across the country. The Tshechu is mainly a religious event celebrated on the tenth day of the month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birth day of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However the month of Tshechu depends place to place and temple to temple. Tshechus are large social gatherings where people from various villages come together to witness the religious mask dances which are based on incidents from as long as 8th century from the life of Guru Padmasambhava and to receive blessings from lamas. The event also consists of colorful Bhutanese dances and other entertainments. It is said that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once to receive the blessings and wash away the sins. Every mask dances performed during Tshechu has a meaning or a story behind. In monasteries the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages they are performed jointly by monks and village men. Among many Tshechus in the country most popular are Paro and Thimphu Tshechus in terms of participation and audience. Besides the locals many tourists from across the world are attracted to this unique, colorful and exciting culture. Tourists are fast realizing that the smaller more rural festivals are much more intimate.

Common Languages
Dzongkha. The mother tongue of most people residing in Western Bhutan, and the kingdom’s official language. Sharchopkha is the major regional language spoken in Eastern Bhutan. Bumthangkha is spoken in the Bumthang region. Nepali is spoken by most people of the borders. English and Hindi are understood by most people in urban areas.
Usage: La: The suffix ‘la’ is an honorific, and many Bhutanese feel that their remarks sound too harsh if it is not used, and this carries over even into English. So, don’t be surprised if you hear expressions such as “Yes-la” or “I’m not sure-la”. It just implies respect. Reach: In Bhutan, the verb ‘reach’ means to ‘take’ or ‘accompany’ (a person). For example: “I’ll reach you to the bus station” means “I’ll take/accompany you to the bus station. Cousin-brother, Cousin-sister: Extended families living under one roof are common in Bhutan. As a result, the dividing line between siblings and cousins is blurred, and so it is not uncommon to be introduced to a “cousin-brother” or “cousin-sister”. Although these people are just cousins, the English word implies a more distant relationship than is the fact in Bhutan. BST: the exact meaning of this phrase is ‘Bhutan Standard Time’, but as Bhutanese people are notorious for being late or just not turning up at all, it has taken on the meaning of ‘Bhutan Stretchable Time’. Therefore, when someone arrives late, they will often excuse themselves by saying that they are running on BST.

Food and refreshment
While there are ample restaurants on highways between main towns and the hygiene standards at such places are acceptable, the quality of the food is very low and the choice of dishes limited. In addition, the dining halls offer an environment no better than a bus station waiting room. Therefore, it is generally better to prepare food and refreshment for the journey at the point of departure.
Rice is a staple with every meal. Vegetable or meat dishes cooked with chili and/or cheese comprise the accompanying cuisine. Bhutanese food has one predominant flavor – chili. This small red condiment is not only added to every dish but is also often eaten raw. So, if you don’t like spicy-hot food, make this abundantly clear before ordering a meal. Otherwise, you’ll be spending the next hour dousing your mouth with cold yogurt or milk.
Vegetarian dishes. Ema-datsi – ema means chili and datsi is a kind of cottage cheese, so ema-datsi is a kind of spiced-up Welsh rarebit. Kewa-datsi – a potato, cheese and chili dish. Shamu-datsi – a mushroom, cheese and chili dish. Kewa-datsi and shamu-datsi tend to be less hot than ema-datsi; all three dishes are generally served with rice. Mutter paneer – though not a Bhutanese dish, this Indian staple of curried peas and cheese is readily available throughout Bhutan and is therefore an additional choice for vegetarians. Cheese momo – a small steamed bun that traditionally contained cheese, cabbage and sometimes onion. However, these days other vegetables, including green papaya, may be substituted for cabbage. Khuli – buckwheat pancakes – a specialty of Bumthang. They are often served with ema-datsi as an alternative to rice. Puta – a dish of buckwheat noodles usually served with curd – a specialty of Bumthang. Imtrat run canteens sell excellent Indian dishes along with tea from 9.30AM to 4.30PM. The quality of the food is very good, while the price is low. The canteens are located throughout the country, especially along main highways.
Drink: Ara – a local spirit brewed from rice or corn. It is popular in rural areas. Tea – located next to the tea growing regions of Assam and Darjeeling, a steaming cuppa remains the popular drink in Bhutan, with both the butter variety (suja) and sweet milk kind (ngaja) readily available throughout the country. Coffee – the coffee culture that has swept most of the planet is just beginning to creep into the country. However, for the most part, coffee in Bhutan means the instant variety and it is served simply white or black.

Sleep
All towns connected by motorable roads have hotels, though the standard varies considerably. International standard hotels are mostly found in tourist areas or major towns, while five star accommodation is only available in Paro, Jakar, Punakha, Gangtey and Thimphu.
It is important to note that the hotel rates shown on the city articles are only relevant to people who have residency, visa exemption (generally this only applies to Indian nationals) or who are visiting the country as an invited guest. Other visitors can only enter the country as part of a tour, for which the daily rates are set by the Bhutanese authorities at around $250 per person per night irrespective of the hotel rates.

Learn
Buddhism: It is possible to receive instruction on Buddhist practice at any monastery, though for discussions on Buddhist philosophy it is better to consult with the khenpos or loppons (teachers) at Buddhist colleges (shedra), such as, for example, Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery in Jakar, Tango Monastery near Thimphu or Chokyi Gyatso Institute in Deothang. Deer Park Thimphu [13] holds various Dharma related events in the capital, including weekly meditation sessions.
Weaving: Bhutanese woven cloth is prized throughout the world for its unique designs and high quality, and there is a weaving center in Khaling in Trashigang.

Work
There are a few NGOs based in Bhutan, so it is possible to arrange volunteer work. However, Bhutan is very selective about who it engages in this field. In addition, it is highly unlikely that a position can be found while visiting Bhutan, so those interested in undertaking volunteer work here should first seek employment with NGOs overseas and then express a preference to be located in Bhutan.

Stay safe
While drug abuse, gang and domestic violence are common in urban areas, these crimes are kept within their communities and rarely, if ever, affect tourists. Indeed, Bhutan remains one of the safest places in the world for tourists. Police in Thimphu are quite active, they keep doing rounds around the city late nights to ensure safety. Bears are a threat in remote mountainous regions.

Stay healthy
Hospitals and clinics are located throughout the country, even in the remotest areas. However, travelers should not expect hi-tech facilities, and at many of the Basic Health Units the resident doctor is often away. Indigenous medical facilities are located in all district capitals, with the largest being in Thimphu, so it is also possible to have ailments diagnosed and treated using natural herbal compounds while in Bhutan.
Waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, giardia and even typhoid are not uncommon in Bhutan, especially during the summer monsoon season. Therefore, ensure that all water has been thoroughly boiled or otherwise purified before consuming. In case of emergency, it is advisable to carry first aid material, which might include a few antibiotics and acetaminophen.
Altitude sickness can strike at altitudes as low as 2,500m. Be aware of this before embarking on expeditions in the mountains. If you suffer palpitations, shortness of breath or severe headaches, inform your guide and head to a lower altitude immediately. Take altitude sickness seriously. It can and does kill.
The Street dog population is very high in Thimphu (and to a lesser extent in many of the towns). Most of the animals are extremely docile and there are very few cases of tourists ever being bitten. Still, it is best to err on the side of safety and not to disturb the animals. Moreover, if bitten, immediately receive a rabies vaccination.
Malaria and Dengue fever are not common problems in Bhutan, though there are outbreaks in the Indian border regions during the summer monsoon season.

Respect
The king and former king are accorded a great deal of respect in Bhutan. It is wise to bear this in mind when conversing with local people.
Sacred objects. Always pass mani stones, stupas and other religious objects with your right side nearest to the object, and turn prayer wheels in a clockwise direction. Never sit on mani stones or stupas.
Clothing. When visiting temples, remove shoes and head gear and wear clothing that expresses respect for the sacred nature of the site. You will need to wear pants and long skirts.
Donations. At monasteries, it is custom to make a small donation to the monks as a sign of respect; and also to the Buddhist statues as a means of developing a generous and spacious mind. There are many places in each temple where you can donate, and it is expected that you donate to each place. Remember to have small notes for this gesture. However, this is not mandatory.
Smoking. It is illegal to smoke at monasteries and in public places. Products containing tobacco (cigarettes, chewing tobacco etc) are effectively banned throughout Bhutan (which remains the only country in the world to do so) and penalties for possession or use may be severe.

Money
US dollars are widely accepted. Bhutanese currency is only needed for expenses personal in nature and buying small souvenir items. Credit Cards: Visa Mastercard and Visa Maestro has also now been compatible with most ATM’s in Bhutan most of which are concentrated in Thimphu and Paro. Money exchange: banks and Major Hotels change major currencies. ATM. The main banks operate ATMs that accept international cards such as Visa and Mastercard. However, as the service it is not overly reliable, it is best to have other funds on hand. Western Union Money Transfer. Thimphu Post Office. This facility can receive transfer of funds from overseas, but cannot make payments from customers’ personal accounts.
Also, be keenly aware that the import and export of Indian rupees to and from India by foreign nationals is illegal.

The international dialing code for Bhutan is 975
WiFi is readily available in the majority of hotels throughout the country. Many of the internet cafes offer WiFi also. Most population centres have internet cafes, although they are relatively expensive, and the connection is slow. Please make sure your travel agent find an appropriate internet cafe in advance if you need a connection for work.
Most of Bhutan has mobile phone coverage, which is smart phone capable. B-Mobile has agreements with North American, some Asian and European countries on mobile roaming.

About admin

I would like to think of myself as a full time traveler. I have been retired since 2006 and in that time have traveled every winter for four to seven months. The months that I am “home”, are often also spent on the road, hiking or kayaking.
I hope to present a website that describes my travel along with my hiking and sea kayaking experiences.

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