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New Travel Policy of BhutanIndependent travel is not allowed in Bhutan. Tourists need to book a trip through travel agent. Based on the newly released tourism policy, the price of your Bhutan tour generally consists of the following two parts:
- SDF (Sustainable Development Fee) of USD200 per person each night that goes directly to the Government Exchequer.
- Your tour costs in Bhutan, including visa, accommodation, meals, transport, guide/ driver services and so on.
Dress properlyAs a religious state, Bhutanese may be a little bit conservative. Women are not advised to wear exposed clothes such as shorts and vests. Tourists should dress formally when going to important religious buildings. No clothes with pictures or words with religious colors are advised. Otherwise, Bhutanese may think that tourists don't respect their culture. When entering temples, you may be required to take off hat and shoes.
ElectricityElectricity is provided in all major towns with a voltage of 220/240 volts. Round hole two-pin and three-pin sockets are common. Multiple plug sockets are available in most hotels. Visitors can take flat-to-round converters on their own, just in case.
Currency and BankingBring enough cash, at least 100 US dollars. Tourists can withdraw money from some Bhutanese banks such as Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Internet banking services are available in these banks. ATMs can be found in major towns, but many are only available to local customers. Tourists can withdraw money from some by using Visa or Master Card. Credit cards can be used in few handicrafts shops and hotels. It is necessary and easy for tourists to exchange cash to local currency, but they had better do that in Thimphu.
Medicare and Travel InsuranceMedicine for malaria should be prepared if you want to visit southern part of Bhutan or those regions adjacent to India. Furthermore, you are advised to bring some essential medicine including antibiotic medicine, painkillers, cold medicine, diarrhea medicine, or carsick medicine. You'd better apply for a travel insurance in your home country before trip because there is no such kind of service in Bhutan at present.
PhotographyTourists can usually take photos of mountain ranges, flora and fauna, distinctive architectures, but photography may not be allowed inside temples, Dzongs, and relevant religious places. Confirm with the tour guides before taking photos.
ShoppingOne thing you need to keep in mind is that antiques and religious relics are not allowed to purchase. You can buy handicrafts such as textiles, wood carving items, wooden bowls, carved masks of various animals, hand-made paper products, and bamboo crafts. Thimphu Weekend Market open from Friday to Sunday is worth a visit. More than 200 different kinds of colorful rice in all shapes are the most interesting scene in the market. Visitors can also see peppers in all shapes, sizes and colors, as well as local betel nuts.
TipGenerally speaking, people don't tip in Bhutan, but as many western tourists visit there, tour guides and drivers in Bhutan are accustomed to receiving tips. If you are satisfied with tour guides or drivers, you can give tips to acknowledge their services. Usually, you are advised to tip USD 50 based on the services.
Communication and InternetBhutan Telecom and Trashi Telecom are two major communication operators. Tourists can buy Bhutanese SIM card and a top-up card. 3G services are only available in Thimphu, Paro and Punakha, but tourists can only open 3G services in Thimphu. Usually, free WIFI is provided at the hotels in western and central parts of the country.
AccommodationHotels can be divided into three levels: luxury, A and B levels. The luxury hotels may cost USD 400-1,200 per night. The price of A/B-level hotels is much lower. Uma Resort, Taj Tashi, and Amankora are the top three choices. Uma Resort and Taj Tashi can only be found in Paro and Thimphu. Amankora is avialable in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gantey and Bumthang.
FoodYou are able to eat green vegetables and non-pollution food in the country, even the domestic animals are raised by natural fodder. Bhutanese mainly eat beef, pork, vegetables and rice. Locals' most favorite vegetable is peppers. Of course, tourists can be satisfied with the local food based their own taste. Buffet consisting of beef, pork, fish, and various vegetables is provided for tourists' choices.
Holidays and FestivalsHolidays and festivals are regularly held each year in many Dzongs and temples. One of the most popular festivals is Tshechu held on the 10th day of an auspicious month based on the Tibetan calendar. The performers in splendid attire and masks dance Cham to commemorate Padmasambhava, which will be a feast for your eyes.
Other Tips1. Bhutanese are friendly towards tourists, but you are not advised to give money or candies to kids, or give medicines to the locals.
2. No smoking in public.
3. Take good care of your valuable belongings; never leave valuables in hotels or cars.
4. Tourists are likely to suffer from altitude stress because of high altitude. Learn to do self-massage to reduce the altitude stress or take some medicine.
Useful NumbersCalling Code: +975