Bhutan, the beautiful Buddhist kingdom nestled high in the Himalayan clouds, is a must for any traveller. Known for its ancient monasteries, dramatic landscapes, stunning treks and dizzying altitudes, it has something for everyone. If you’re planning a trip to the peaceful landlocked nation, then these travel tips are the perfect place to start.
- Know which seasons to visit, as different months bring different experiences. Expect clear skies in October to December – perfect for hiking – whilst from March to May their famous rhododendrons are in bloom. The monsoon season is from July to August, and light morning rains are an almost daily occurrence.
- Book ahead during peak periods, such as autumn and spring, to ensure you don’t miss out. Though there is no limit on the number of tourists that can visit Bhutan each year, the government has adopted a unique policy of ‘High Value, Low Impact tourism.
- Take note of popular festivals, such as the Paro and Thimpu Tshechu, for a truly cultural experience. Providing a unique showcase of colourful dances, elaborate costumes and centuries old traditions, they aren’t to be missed.
- Consider a home stay and live like a local. You’ll learn what life is truly like for a Bhutanese family and experience unparalleled hospitality that a hotel cannot offer. It’s important to remember that whilst some households use modern facilities, others don’t have access to electricity or warm water.
- Learn a few phrases in Dzongkha and impress the locals. Though most people are fairly fluent in English, it doesn’t hurt to put in the effort to thank people in their native tongue. Please is Kuzoozangpo La and thank you is Kaadinchhey La.
- Pack layers as they weather can often be unpredictable, even when travelling in spring and autumn. Across the year in Thimphu (the nation’s capital), the temperature ranges from -2.5°C in January to 25°C in summer.
- Buy hand crafted items rather than antiques. Not only will this ensure you’re supporting local businesses, it’s actually illegal to export antique items out of Bhutan, and you may face hefty fines.
- Think carefully about alcohol and cigarettes as neither are particularly encouraged. The sale of alcohol is banned on Tuesdays, whilst Bhutan is the only country to have banned the sale of cigarettes completely.
- Take note of the minimum daily spend amount before planning your trip. Unlike other countries, Bhutan requires travellers to pay a minimum travel fee of between US$200 and $250 per day – which includes a $65 Sustainable Development Fee that goes towards free education, healthcare and poverty alleviation.
- Book through a tour company. Not only can they arrange your daily fees, the Bhutanese government requires you to travel with a licensed tour operator, such as Viktorianz, rather than travelling solo.
As you can see, Bhutan really is something else. With spectacular scenery and breathtaking views, there is a lot to be thankful for when visiting the Himalayan kingdom. With proper preparation and a sound understanding of the country itself, your trip will be far more enjoyable.