Intrepid Travel Guide - Bhutan
Bhutan is a tiny Himlayan kingdom whose identity is firmly founded in its refusal to be assimilated into India, Tibet, or Nepal. It is also the first country to adopt happiness as an official goal of public policy. That is a good enough reason to be intrigued.
Flight time from Singapore to Bhutan is a mere 41/2 hours, enough time to relax with your favourite book or movie before touch down. Here is our handy guide to making your journey worthwhile.
A Country Less Travelled
Bhutan only opened its doors to travellers and tourists a few decades ago and has taken steps to avoid the problems associated with mass tourism. It costs an official US$250 per day per person to gain entry to this isolated Himalayan kingdom. This pays for your land transport, accommodation, food and guide service.
“Firstly there is the amazing Himalayan landscape, where snowcapped peaks rise above shadowy gorges cloaked in primeval forests. Taking up prime positions in this picture-book landscape are the majestic fortress-like dzongs and monasteries. This unique architecture embodies Buddhist culture and sets the scene for spectacular tsechus (dance festivals). Then there are the textiles and handicrafts, outrageous archery competitions, high-altitude trekking trails, and stunning flora and fauna.” lonelyplanet.com/bhutan
Things To Do and See
Taktsang Palphug Monastery (Paro) Buddhist temple complex which clings to a cliff, 3120 meters above the sea level on the side of the upper Paro valley, Bhutan.
Punakha Suspension Bridge 160m long with a nice wobble! The bridge is a short drive from Punakha Dzong.
Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan (RTAB) Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan is dedicated to preserving and promoting Bhutanese textiles in particular and the thirteen arts in general.
Weekend Market (Thimphu)
“Depending on the season, look out for banana pods, jackfruit and the curly fern fronds known as nakey . The cereals section has red rice and tsampa, the ground roasted barley beloved by highland Bhutanese and Tibetans. Across the cantilever footbridge, known as the Kundeyling Baazam, on the west bank, is a collection of clothing stalls as well as a handicraft market.” lonelyplanet.com Motithang Takin Preserve A wildlife reserve area for takin, the national animal of Bhutan, located in the Motithang district of Thimphu.
All tourists (excluding Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders) who wish to travel to Bhutan require a visa and must book their holiday through a Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners. The tour operator will take care of Visa arrangements for visitors.
Tip There are many tour operators, it's best to look for recommendations on tripadvisor or lonelyplanet as your experience will highly depend on the company you choose to travel with.
In keeping with the Tourism Council of Bhutan's policy of "High Value. Low Impact" tourism a Minimum Daily Package is required for tourists.
Currency Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) It is at par with the Indian rupee which is accepted as legal tender in the country. ATMs are located within all main towns throughout Bhutan, where money can be withdrawn using a Visa or MasterCard. A list of ATM locations throughout Bhutan is found here. In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores.
Important note INR (Indian Rupees) denominations of 500 and 1000 are not accepted in Bhutan.