Travel to Bhutan

Bhutan Bhutan Bhutan Bhutan

Bhutan is often described as Shangri La.  Imagine monasteries against a majestic Himalayan snow-capped mountain backdrop, festivals that haven’t changed since medieval times, gorgeous textiles and handicrafts, endless trekking opportunities and stunning flora and fauna.

Interestingly, Bhutan made a decision not to welcome backpackers, and set a $250 per day tariff on each visitor. For middle class travelers this is not a hardship as the $250 covers accommodation, food, transport and an official guide – but it definitely keeps out the budget traveler.

Environmental protection goes hand in hand with cultural preservation in Bhutan. By law, at least 60% of the country must remain forested for all future generations. Not only is Bhutan carbon neutral, but it actually absorbs more carbon than it emits! For the visitor, this translates into lovely forest hikes and superb birding across a chain of national parks. Whether you are spotting takins or blue poppies, trekking beneath 22,000 foot peaks or strolling across hillsides ablaze with spring rhododendron blooms, Bhutan offers one of the last pristine pockets in the entire Himalaya.

Thimphu  Sitting in a large valley at around 8,000’, Thimphu is the Bhutan’s capital and the seat of government. The population of the city is around 100,000 and is the country’s only ‘metropolis’.

Paro  Scenic Paro, a town situated close to Thimpu, is the site of the country’s only international airport and the hub of West Bhutan. From here such attractions as the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery is accessed. 

Gantey  sits at a height of 9000’ and acts as gateway to the famous Phobjikha Valley, thus enjoying great sweeping views of the valley from its promontory position. This sleepy town is dominated by the ancient Gangtey Goemba, a monastery that was founded in 1613.

Haa The small town of Haa can be found in a valley of the same name a few hours drive southwest of Paro, and reached by crossing the Cheli La Pass which sits at 12,000’. From the top of the pass there are great views of Paro on one side and the Haa Valley on the other.

Punakha  The charming region of Punakha is home to one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan. It can be reached by a scenic 3 hour drive from Thimphu after you have crossed over the Dochu La Pass where, if you are lucky, you might get a view of the Himalayas that form the northern border of Bhutan.

What makes Bhutan so fascinating is the pervasive blending of ancient and modern…everything! The Bhutanese are well educated, laughter-loving and globally aware, yet their adherence to Buddhism is strong and their reverence for simple happiness is deep.


The population of Bhutan is about 800,000.  75% of the country practices Buddhism, while the remaining 25% are Hindu.


Bhutan’s official language is Dzongkha, but 18 other languages including Nepalese are spoken. English is the language of instruction in schools and is widely spoken.


In the 7th century AD Buddhism was introduced into Bhutan. Ever since, Buddhism has been an integral part of the culture of Bhutan however for centuries the people of Bhutan were disunited. Then in 1616 Ngawang Namayal became spiritual leader of Bhutan. He took the title Zhabdrung Rinpoche. Under him Bhutan became a united country.

In 1627 two Portuguese Jesuit priests became the first Europeans to visit Bhutan. Meanwhile the British were becoming increasingly powerful in India. Bhutan initially made a treaty with the British in 1774 however Britain and Bhutan quarreled over the Duars (the lowest hills of Bhutan). War finally broke out in 1864. After the war the British took the Duars.

In 1910 Bhutan and Britain signed a treaty. Britain agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of Bhutan as long as the Bhutanese accepted British advice on its external relations. In 1947 India became independent. In 1949 India signed a treaty with Bhutan. India agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese affairs as long as Bhutan accepted Indian advice on its internal affairs!

In the 1960s Bhutan ended its isolation and the king of Bhutan introduced a number of reforms although he was keen to preserve Bhutanese traditions. In 1999 satellite TV was allowed in Bhutan for the first time.

In the early 21st Century Bhutan became a democratic country. In 2005 the king unveiled a new constitution. The first democratic elections for parliament were held in 2008.


The Bhutanese Ngultrum is the currency of Bhutan. 1 Bhutanese Ngultrum equals about 16 US cents.

Best Time to Travel

October to December is the ideal time to visit Bhutan as the air is clear and fresh with sunny skies. January and February are colder, but from then until April the climate remains dry and pleasant and in late spring the famous rhododendrons bloom spectacularly, flooding the valleys with color.

Health Requirements

No vaccinations or medications are required for travel to Bhutan, but please check with your travel clinic for their recommendations.

Visa Requirements

All US passport holders who wish to travel to Bhutan require a passport valid for at least six months with at least one blank visa page. Asia Answers will assist in the procurement of visit visas.

Tipping & Porterage

Tipping in Bhutan is not compulsory, but is appreciated.
Hotel and restaurant bills automatically include service charges of 20%, therefore further tipping is unnecessary.
Tour guides generally receive10USD per traveler per day, and drivers receive 6USD per traveler per day.
Trekking guides should be tipped around 8USD per day.

Credit Cards

A few stores in Thimpu accept payment by credit card, but will add a surcharge. As you have prepaid most of your expenses, you will only need to cover personal purchases and tips. Take US dollars in cash for these.

Electrical Appliances

Bhutan plug types are C / D / G. Residential voltage is 230 V. Frequency is 50 Hz
For information on plugs and voltage, please visit


Bottled, or tap water that has been boiled, is highly recommended.

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