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Destination: Bhutan

Bhutan

What can I expect from Bhutan?

Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom located in the eastern Himalaya region, between the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and India. Lonely Planet has also recently named Bhutan top travel destination 2020 praising the country’s environmental awareness and preserving its natural beauty. Bhutan has become the world’s first carbon negative country by absorbing more than 6 million tonnes of carbon per year.

Dzongkha is the official language of Bhutan, a Sino-Tibetan language that also uses the Tibetan alphabet. Bhutan is the only Vajrayana Buddhist nation in the world, and the profound Buddhist teachings remain well preserved and play a strong role in all aspects of life for the Bhutanese people. The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has been called “The Last Shangrila.” because of its pristine environment and harmonious society.”

COVID-19 Travel Information for Bhutan

Bhutan officially opened their borders to all travelers on 23rd September 2022. Visitors may be subjected to random RT-PCR testing at the points of entry to maintain covid-19 surveillance for new variants. These tests are free of charge.

Things to See and Do in Bhutan

  • Hike to the Tiger Nest Monastery
  • Trek the Phobjikha Valley
  • Drink Local Butter Tea
  • Visit the many Dzong Fortresses
  • Watch the Yaks in the mountains of Laya
  • See Phallus Art in Punakha
  • Visit the Buddha Dordenma Statue in Thimphu
  • See Bhutan's Only Traffic Police

Typical Costs When Traveling

The Bhutanese government is preventing mass tourism from destroying Bhutan’s environment. Independent travel to Bhutan is opening up but it’s not something the government encourages. This means, most tourists coming to Bhutan have to visit the country through a travel agency, which provides a tour guide and driver.

In the past, the government in Bhutan had a “Minimum Daily Package” to control tourism and protect the environment. This daily fee includes all accommodations, meals, transportation, guides, and cultural programs.

Part of this tourism fee also goes back to Bhutan’s free education, free healthcare, and poverty alleviation, which is pretty awesome in my opinion.

In June 2022, the Bhutan government passed the Tourism Levy Bill which abolishes the “Minimum Daily Package”. 

Under the new act, the sustainable development fee (SDF) is raised from 65 USD per night to 200 USD per night.

How much does it cost to visit Bhutan?

With this new policy, Bhutan tour prices are expected to rise by 30%.

Previously, a 7-day tour in Bhutan, which is the average duration for most visitors, would cost at least 1,740 USD, which includes the current SDF, lodging, all meals, and the transportation services of a trained guide and driver. If operators try to keep out-of-pocket expenses to a minimum, they expect this cost to be at least $2,500 USD.

RECOMMENDED TOUR COMPANIES

I visited Bhutan with Druk Asia Tours & Treks, the largest tour company in Bhutan. Since 2012, Druk Asia has also been Royal Bhutan Airlines (Drukair) officially appointed General Sales Agent.

Druk Asia has served more than 15,000 visitors coming to Bhutan, ranging from large groups to solo travelers. In fact, nearly 2,000 solo travelers and 6,500 double pax groups visited Bhutan with Druk Asia.

BHUTAN TOURS AT A GLANCE

  • Full Customization. Druk Asia fully customizes your Bhutan tour - whether you are visiting for your honeymoon, trekking, photography, or the local cuisine!
  • Dedicated & Experienced Guides. Druk Asia has more than 30 professional guides with a combined 10 years of experience and 3-month-long tourism training by the Bhutanese government.
  • Only The Best Hotels. Guests stay at amazing hotels with a minimum of 3 stars - and you can upgrade to 5-star luxury resorts if you want to treat yourself!
  • Guaranteed Visa approval. Druk Asia takes care of your Bhutan travel visa and also books your flights to and from Bhutan. The online travel dashboard also shows you your detailed itinerary, the list of hotels and information about your guide before your arrival.

What can I expect from Bhutan?

Bhutan is a place unlike any other I’ve ever visited. I did not know much about the country before traveling to Bhutan but I left wanting to return to see even more. The best time to visit Bhutan is between October and December when the air is clear and fresh with sunny skies. March and April are also a great time to visit as the climate remains dry and pleasant; plus the famous rhododendrons bloom spectacularly in late spring flooding the valleys with stunning colors.

Bhutan is often referred to as the last Buddhist kingdom and Buddhism plays a vital role in the country. The official religion in Bhutan is Vajrayana Buddhism, a form of Buddhism that spread from medieval India to to Tibet, Bhutan, and other parts of East Asia. Taking pictures inside temples is strictly prohibited. Tour guides are heavily fined when tourists in their group take secret photos inside temples!

TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR BHUTAN

I’m always surprised how many people travel without travel insurance. For me, it’s as essential to travel as buying a plane ticket, backpack or accommodation, and I never go without it.

Although Bhutan is very safe, unexpected disasters, accidents or other kinds of damage can always happen.

Adequate insurance not only provides you with medical coverage (if you get sick or break your leg), but also covers things like your camera full of epic shots getting damaged or stolen, your flights getting cancelled, or you getting caught up in a natural disaster.

In short, it’s an insurance against potential issues that arise when you’re traveling and can save your life (or at the very least, a lifetime of debt).

BOOK | I recommend booking World Nomads travel insurance

Recommended Bhutan Travel Guides

If you want to learn more about Bhutan and have a handy travel guide in your pocket, check out these three options below:

Bhutan Travelog: Bhutan Travel Guide

Bhutan Travelog aims to provide readers with information about Bhutan's history, values, and customs, as well as travel tips and recommendations. This book also includes 9 exclusive first-hand accounts from different travelers who have visited Bhutan to give readers a glimpse into this idyllic country. Buy this book.

Lonely Planet Bhutan

Lonely Planet Bhutan is your passport to the most up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, as well as what hidden discoveries await you. Join the pilgrims at the colorful Changangkha Lhakhang, hike to the dramatic cliff-hanging Taktshang Goemba, and stroll through Thimpu's bustling weekend market with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Bhutan and start your journey right away! Buy this book.

Bhutan - Culture Smart: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Culture Wise! Bhutan will provide you with a more in-depth understanding of the country's history, values, customs, and age-old traditions. It highlights changes in people's attitudes and behavior as the country modernizes, and it offers practical advice on how to meet Bhutanese people on their own terms, paving the way for a more meaningful experience of this fascinating and beautiful country. Buy this book.