Guidelines for traveller
Guests of the kingdom are required to have guide accompaniment throughout their stay in Bhutan. You will have a very fluent English speaking guide and driver at your disposal at all times. This is not to say you have to have your hand held everywhere you go. We are very accommodating and we can be flexible. Our guides have all been trained and licensed by the DOT (Department of Tourism). Our trekking guides and cooks undergo additional mountain training, including safety and first aid. None of our guests have ever needed a rescue, but we have helped lost trekkers from other tour agencies get out of the high passes safely. All guides are licensed by the Department of Tourism. All guides speak good English. French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Spanish or German speaking guides can also be arranged.
Dzongkha, the Language of Dzong belongs to the Tibetan Linguistic family originally spoken in western Bhutan. It is now the National Language. English is widely spoken in the main towns and it is the principle medium of instruction in schools throughout the kingdom.
Bhutan being tiny country has only one time zone. Bhutan Standard time is 6 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), one hour behind Bangkok time, 30 minutes ahead of the Indian time and 11 hours ahead of the standard New York time. Bhutan’s time matches with Bangladesh time.
Bhutanese currency is called Ngultrum. Ngultrum (Nu in short) is as par with the Indian currency, Rupees. Ngultrum is accepted only in some bordering Indian towns, whereas Rupee is accepted throughout Bhutan. However, please note that the Indian Ruppess of the 500 and higher denominations are not accepted in Bhutan. One US $ is roughly equal to Nu. 80. More information on up-to-date currency exchange visit www.bnb.com.bt.
Most travelers’ cheques are accepted but shops generally charge a levy on credit cards. Payments sometimes can be made with American express, VISA and the JCB cards although the hotels and shops that accept are usually confined to Thimphu and Paro.
Cash is always more convenient, particularly in the districts outside Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing towns.
Postal & Communication Services
The Bhutanese postal system is reliable, you can send mails from hotels and post offices and no special procedures are necessary. If you mail cards or letters from the Thimphu post office, you can buy exotic Bhutan postage stamps from the philatelic bureau or get your photo made into stamps and use them on your letters and postcards. Bhutan Post offers outgoing EMS [expedited mail service], which is a reliable and fast international mail delivery facility that is cheaper than courier services. It also has a LUM [local urgent mail] service for delivery within Bhutan. DHL is the only international courier to operate from Bhutan. Most of the kingdom’s major towns have both domestic and international direct dial facilities. Internet Service in Bhutan was introduced in 1999. All the hotels in Bhutan have WIFI connections. And Bhutan is also connected with the GSM mobile services.
Exports of antiques, plants or animal products are strictly prohibited. Visitors are required to fill up the Custom Form on their arrival. Cameras, video cameras, computers and other electronic equipment for personal use must be declared on the Custom forms. Some articles, which are exempted from duty, are 2 liters of wine/any other alcohol.
The custom authorities will not allow you to take any old items if they have not been certified as non-antique. Therefore all tourists should be cautious in purchasing any old items.
To protect against unforeseen accidents and mishaps, we advise you to have Travel Insurance policy from your country. It should adequately cover helicopter evacuation and medical assistance. Happy Bhutan Adventure will not be liable for any kind of injury, illness or death during the tour/trek in Bhutan.
Medical & Health Cares
Anyone who enjoys out door life and is physically fit can participate on our treks and tours. How ever some treks maybe rigorous and difficult because of high altitude and therefore a good training of fitness for at least a month at home is required for treks going to an altitude in excess of 4000 meters, there are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Bhutan or within the continent. However, its recommended that you will be protected against Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A, Malaria, especially if you are traveling out of Bhutan. If you have heart condition, please check with the doctor to ensure that you are fit to undertake high altitude treks.
The wide range of temperature does not make dressing easy. From May to Sep. cotton clothes are sufficient, plus a woolen sweater or light jacket. From November to the end of April, on the other hand, you will need very warm clothes including long underwear or woolen tights to wear under trousers, and down jacket or coat etc. The necessary things you should pack for the trip are sunglasses/spare glasses or contact lenses. A pair of casual shoes, washing kit, shaving kit, towel, hat umbrella, camera, film and accessories, maps, insect repellent, hand cream, sun screen cream, lip salve or soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, preparation for the relief of sunburn. You may not be tuned to the Asian drugs so it is always better to bring own brand.
The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general, the east of Bhutan is warmer than the west of the country. The central valley of Punakha, Wangdiphodrang, Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuntse enjoy a semi tropical climate with very cool winters, while Thimphu, Trongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate, with heavy monsoon rains in the summer and heavy snow fall in winter. Winter in Bhutan starts from mid-November till mid-March, and at this time of the year the climate is dry with day time temperature of 16-18° C and night time temperature falling below zero. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with the rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. Autumn starts from the end of September, after the last of the big rains, and it is a magnificent season for trekking-lasting till mid-November.
When to Visit Bhutan
Bhutan has four seasons. Every season has its own beauty and adventures. The best season that we can recommend you are the spring season – March, April and May. Other suitable season is autumn in months of September, October and November where most of the festivals (Tshechus) take place. For sightseeing purpose of the great Himalayan mountains ranges, autumn season is recommended as the best time to visit Bhutan as during this time the skies are very clear and you can catch the rare glimpse of the great Himalayan mountain ranges.
During the summer season (months of June, July & August), the monsoons would be already in and it is likely that one may encounter rain. Winter Season (December, January and February) are extremely cold. Some of the upper trek routes may remain closed due to heavy snow fall.
Mode of transport within Bhutan is by motor vehicle only. however we have domestic flights from Paro to Yongphula in the eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in central Bhutan and Gelephu in southern Bhutan.The main highway runs from west to east connecting all major towns.
What to Bring for your Bhutan Trip-Depending on the time of year you visit Bhutan, you may need to modify this list. Keep in mind that even in the summer sometimes it can be cool at night. It is best to dress modestly, meaning no tank tops, short skirts, shorts (except for hiking), or revealing clothing. The electricity in Bhutan runs at 220/240 volts. If you bring electrical appliances, you will need to bring an international converter kit and adapter plugs.
If you are on a cultural tour, it’s OK to bring a hard suitcase, though a soft bag is more versatile and easier to pack into the luggage space of a vehicle. For those trekking in Bhutan a strong duffel bag as luggage is best. You will also want a small rucksack (back pack) or waist pack to carry your camera, water bottle and other essentials in the vehicle and when you are walking around town or visiting monuments
For all tours:
Additional items for trekking:
Altitude of Locations:
HAA: at 2,700 m (8,850 feet)
PARO: at 2,200 m (7,200 feet)
THIMPHU: at 2300 m (7,500 feet)
PUNAKHA / WANGDI: at 1,300 m (4,260 feet)
PHOBJIKHA/GANGTEY: at 3,000 m (9,840 feet)
TRONGSA: at 2,200 m (7,200 feet)
BUMTHANG: at 2,600 m (8,530 feet)
TANG VALLEY (BUMTHANG): at 2,800 m (9,185 feet)
URA: at 3,100 m (10,170 feet)
MONGAR: at 1,600 m
TASHIGANG: at 1,150 m (3,775 feet)
TASHIYANGTSE: at 1,850 m (6,000 feet)
Altitude of mountain passes:
CHELI LA PASS: at 3810m (between Paro & Haa)
DOCHULA PASS: at 3050 m (10,000 feet) (between Thimphu & Punakha / Wangdi)
PELE LA PASS: at 3,300 m (10,825 feet) between Wangdiphodrang & Trongsa
YUTONG LA PASS: at 3,400 m (11,155 feet) between Trongsa & Chummey valley in Bumthang
KIKI LA PASS: at 2,900 m (9,515 feet) between Chummey valley & Bumthang
URA LA PASS: at 3,600 m (11,810 feet) between Bumthang & Ura valley
THUMSHING LA PASS: at 3,800 m (12,465 feet) between Ura valley & Mongar
KORI LA PASS: at 2,450 m (8,000 feet) between Mongar & Tashigang
Acute mountain sickness
Acute Mountain Sickness is caused by a lack of oxygen when traveling to higher elevations. This usually occurs in individuals exposed to an altitude over 7,000 feet (2,100 m) who have not had a chance to acclimatize to the altitude before engaging in physical activities. (Rare below 12,000 feet) Mountain climbers, trekkers, skiers, and travelers to the Andes or Himalayas are at greatest risk. While individual tolerance varies, symptoms usually appear in several hours, with those in poor physical condition being most susceptible. Headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and poor appetite occur initially. Inability to sleep is also frequently reported. In more severe cases thinking and judgment may become impaired. An uncommon but potentially fatal complication called high altitude pulmonary edema, caused by fluid build-up in the lungs, can also occur.
The symptoms of acute mountain sickness can be prevented or minimized by gradually ascending (less than 500 meters/day) over several days to give your body a chance to acclimate to the higher altitude. Taking the prescription medication Diamox (acetazolamide) 250 mg three times a day has been shown to speed up the acclimatization process and can be taken shortly before and during the ascent. Do not take this medication if you are allergic to sulfa drugs. This medication is a mild diuretic and may work by changing the body’s acid-base balance and stimulating breathing. Dexamethasone 8 mg once a day has also been shown to be effective. However, this steroid medication may have more adverse effects. Once symptoms occur, they usually improve over several days without treatment. However, if they become severe, they can be relieved with the administration of oxygen or descent to a lower altitude
Preventing Acute Altitude Sickness
- Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills or narcotics. They may decrease ventilation, intensify hypoxemia and make symptoms worse.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid heavy exercise; mild exercise is okay.
- Diamox® (acetazolamide) 125 mg. tablets taken twice a day is F.D.A. approved for prevention and treatment of A.M.S. Although it originally was released as a diuretic (water pill), it also helps you breath deeper and faster. This allows you to get more oxygen. Diamox is especially helpful with the sleeping problems and other symptoms of A.M.S.
- Home oxygen will relieve symptoms. Home oxygen is safe, cheap and easy to use. It can be used at night when symptoms are worse and off and on during the day as symptoms dictate.
- If nothing else works, you can return to lower altitude. Going down to lower altitude will always relieve the symptoms of A.M.S.
Embassy Information: There are only two foreign embassies in Bhutan:
Bangladesh Embassy–Thori Lam, Thimphu
Indian Embassy–India House, Thimphu (telephone 975-2-322162, fax 975-2-323195)
Kuwait Embassy – Thimphu
· There is no US Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan. Informal contact between the US and Bhutan is maintained through the US Embassy in New Delhi, India. Travelers may also obtain assistance from the US Consulates in India (in Chennai, Mumbai, and Calcutta) and, to a limited degree, from the US Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal.
· The US Embassy in New Delhi is located at Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021
(telephone 91-11-419-8000, fax 91-11-419-0017) http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/
· The US Consulate in Mumbai is located at Lincoln House, 78 Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai 400026
(telephone 91-22-363-3611) http://mumbai.usconsulate.gov/
· The US Consulate in Calcutta is located at 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Calcutta 700071
(telephone 91-33-282-3611) http://calcutta.usconsulate.gov/
· The US Consulate in Chennai is located at Gemini Circle, 220 Anna Salai, Chennai 600006
(telephone 91-44-811-2000) http://chennai.usconsulate.gov/
· The US Embassy in Nepal is located at Panipokhari, Kathmandu
(telephone 977-1-411179 or 410531, fax 977-1-419963) http://www.south-asia.com/USA/