Bhutan Travel Notes

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Australian Embassy in New Delhi

Australian Compound
No. 1/50 G Shantipath
Chanakyapuri
New Delhi.  INDIA 110021
Tel   +34 91 4139 9900
Fax  +34 91 353 6692
www.india.embassy.gov.au

Smartraveller

The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers.
www.smartraveller.gov.au

Time Zones

Bhutan time is (GMT+ 6) and therefore 4 hours behind Australia. Bhutan does not practise daylight saving.
www.worldtimeserver.com

Voltages and Plugs

Bhutan uses 230V (50Hz). Plugs come in a variety of types are of the two-round-pronged European type, the three flat prong type or with two samll and one large circular hole. The best converter to bring with you would therefore be a universal adaptor. 
www.korjo.com/Adaptor-Guide

Currency

To obtain the most up-to-date exchange rate you may wish to visit
www.xe.com/currencyconverter

The currency of Bhutan is the Ngultrum (symbol Nu).    1 Ngultrum = 100 chetrum (Ch).
Notes are in denominations of Nu 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of Nu 1, and 100, 50, 25, 10 and 5 chetrum.

Indian Rupee is also acccepted as legal tender, however 500 and 1000 Rupee are not acepted. US Dollars are also accepted.

Credit Cards and ATM machines

You should not count on using a credit card in Bhutan. Credit cards are accepted at the government-run Handicrafts Emporium, a few other handicraft shops and some of the larger hotels in Thimphu, but these transactions do take time. The credit-card companies charge high fees and the verification office is only open from 9am to 5pm. This precludes paying your hotel bill at night or when you check out early in the morning.

The major banks in Thimphu, Paro and Bumthang now have ATM’s and you can withdraw local currency via Visa & MasterCard credit & debit cards & Cirrus/Maestro endorsed bank debit cards. The ATM’s do not always work and usually you’ll only be able to draw at small amounts in any single transaction.

Cash

Bhutan is predominantly a cash society. Leading foreign currencies, meaning in most cases, US Dollars are accepted in the majority of large tourist orientateed businesses, but smaller places will only accept Bhutanese currency. US Dollars can be exchanged at the Bank of Bhutan but this process can be very time consuming. We will allow time at the airport on arrival for tour participants to exchange some cash. Travellers are advised not to take traveller’s cheques as they can be hard to exchange. Some major hotels in Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing will also exchange foreign currency, but finding which places do so and the process itself, can be tedious, so we advise changing the money you feel you will need at the beginning of the trip.

Travelers Cheques are NO longer accepted.

Telephone & Communication

Mobile telephones

Currently a Telstra & and Optus sim card mobile phone will work in Bhutan. Smart phones are starting to work well although you may need to switch between local telco providers before yours will work. We recommend you contact your Telco in Australia for up to date advice. Beware of prepaid phone cards which have been recommended from Australia as they do not usually work in Bhutan.

A local Bhutan sim card with prepaid call credits can easily be purchased on arrival and is perfect for roaming whilst in the Kingdom and great for iPads.

Check with your local provider that your phone can switch on ‘Global Roaming’ and that your provider has coverage in the places you are visiting. Mobile phones can be very useful for SMSing  (especially if you get lost!). International calls are often expensive, as is checking your message bank as calls have to be routed through Australia.

Should you choose to purchase a local sim card please check with your local provide prior to departure to make sure your phone is unlocked and will accept another sim card.

 

Internet

Most of the standard tourist class hotels now have limited WiFi and a business centre where you can use the hotel PCs . Generally speaking WiFi is free for at least a few hours use. All of the luxury resorts & lodges offer a wireless internet facility however not necessarily in guest rooms. Some more remote valleys, like Phobjikha, have intermittant power and internet supply so please factor in for some inconsistency as you travel.

Purchasing a local SIM card for your smart phone or iPad will give you wifi most of the way through the Kingdom for those who need more conncetivity.

Business Hours in Bhutan

Offices and Banks  9.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday
Shops  8.00am – 8.00pm daily, some shops close on Tuesdays.
Smaller towns and Villages may not open until later or as long on the weekends

Personal Safety

Bhutan is generally a very safe country, however as more tourists travel to Bhutan greater care should be taken.

  • We strongly recommend the use of a money belt to keep your cash, cards and travel documents safe. This should be kept under your clothes at all times. This is a precaution that should be taken anywhere due to the difficulties that can be experienced in trying to replace stolen items.
  • Take photocopies of all important documents (passport, credit cards, airline tickets, insurance) and keep one copy securely in your luggage and leave another copy at home.
  • It is generally helpful to take a business card from the hotel you are staying at. This can assist hugely if you get lost. If you also have a key card for your hotel, make sure you keep these two cards separate or you run the risk of allowing a thief access to your room
  • Take extra care in crowded places and try not to ‘advertise’ the fact that you may be carrying valuables by having something like an expensive camera over your shoulder. Put it in your bag or under your coat. And men, try to avoid keeping your wallet in your hip pocket.
Duty Free

The following goods may be imported into Bhutan by persons over 17 years of age. 200 cigarettes per person and 150g of pipe tobacco and 2 litres of spirits. Please note that cameras, videos, mobile telephones and all other electronic equipment for personal use must be registered with the authorities on arrival and will be checked by customs on departure. Please note: All tobacco will be subject to a 200% custom tax payable on arrival.

Prohibited Imports include firearms, narcotics, plants.
Prohibited Exports include the export of antiques, religious objects, manuscripts, images and anthropological materials is strictly prohibited (regarded as those 100 years or older) and closely monitored by the Bhutanese authorities.

What to Pack

Clothing (general)
The time of the year you visit this destination will dictate the type of clothing it is appropriate to bring. It would always be advisable to take a rain coat or a water proof windbreaker. For daytime activities, we suggest a wardrobe that is versatile, casual and comfortable. It is recommended that “layered” clothing might offer the best comfort in a variety of conditions due to the frequent temperature changes through the day. Always expect the weather to be changeable. Expect the nights to be cold so make sure you have some warm clothing.

Beyond the normal wardrobe we suggest

  • comfortable walking shoes (very important)
  • sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat, the sun can be strong even when it is cold
  • folding umbrella and/or light raincoat
  • ladies should have a scarf with them in case it is required to cover your head at religious sites
  • prescription medicines for the full duration of your time away and a written copy of your prescriptions including what they are for, provided by your doctor
  • extra prescription eye glasses (if required)
  • Torch
  • Hiking pole as the hills can be very steep and there are no rails on any stairs. These come in particularly handy on the way down! Make sure your stick is collapsible
  • Light comfortable walk shoes with good grip is essential
  • A travel kettle, cup and tea/coffee/milo, powdered milk and sweetener
  • If you use a hairdryer you should bring one with you as hotels in Bhutan do not supply them.
  • Batteries and film/memory cards are very difficult to find so make sure you bring what you will need for the duration of the trip
  • Any necessary personal items or medicines as they are probably not available in Bhutan
  • It is also worth knowing that Thimphu unfortunately suffers from the same problem as Kathmandu in the shape of hundreds of stray dogs who like to commune loudly at night – so if you are a light sleeper you might pack some earplugs!
Etiquette
  • Many people do not like being photographed. Always ask before photographing someone
  • It is appreciated if you dress reasonably smartly for festivals eg: no jeans or sport-shorts
  • You should also ensure you are respectfully dressed when visiting Dzongs. You are no longer allowed to wear shorts, short skirts, sleeveless tops or for men t-shirts WITHOUT a collar. Sandles and thongs are also not allowed.
Food & Drink

Water
Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. ASA will ensure that bottled water is provided every day.

Eating
Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised.  Avoid all dairy products. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled. Hotels use powdered milk.

Snacks
As there will be a number of days spent walking, it is worth considering bringing along a few snacks for during the day. Fruit is widely available but many people find it helpful to have some muesli bars or small chocolate bars to snack on during these walks for an energy boost. It is worth noting that there is really no such thing as ‘dessert’ in Bhutan,  so if you have a sweet tooth, it is wise to provide your own indulgences!

Alcohol
While beer and whiskey are widely available in Bhutan and are fairly cheap, other alcohol is not. There is some wine available but it is limited and expensive. If you wish to drink anything other than beer or whiskey during the tour you will need to bring your own. Alcohol can be purchased duty free in Bangkok Airport.

Cigarettes
Smoking is rare in Bhutan and the purchase cigarettes is banned. If you are a smoker you will need to bring your own supply, which you can purchase duty free in Bangkok. Be aware, though, that you will pay duty on every single cigarette as you enter Bhutan. To avoid having to count each cigarette individually, it is worth leaving your carton unopened in order to save time on arrival, as you will then only need to count one packet as individual cigarettes.

The following goods may be imported into Bhutan by persons over 17 years of age. 200 cigarettes, 150g of pipe tobacco and 1 litre of spirits per person. Please note that cameras, videos, mobile telephones and all other electronic equipment for personal use must be registered with the authorities on arrival and will be checked by customs on departure. Please note: All tobacco will be subject to a 200% custom tax payable on arrival.

Climate

We suggest that prior to departure you check the weather forecast for the most up-to-date information.
www.worldweatheronline.com

Average minimum/maximum Temperatures (˚C)

City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
South 2/8 2/9 6/14 9/17 12/18 13/18 14/19 14/18 13/18 10/16 6/12 3/9
Thimphu -10/1 -8/1 -6/4 -5/7 -1/10 3/12 5/14 4/14 3/12 2/12 0/11 -8/9