Dubbed as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”, hidden in the majestic of Himalayas mountains, Bhutan is one of the oldest countries in the world, full of mysteries and interesting things. The country is also known as the only traditional Himalayan Buddhist culture still exists in the world. With its unique culture, spectacular natural scenery, hospitable people, Bhutanese tourism today attracts many visitors who want to visit, explore and experience. However, you can not travel self-sufficient to this country. You have to book the tour in advance through the travel agencies. Now, let’s joining with Living Nomads to discover this beautiful, mysterious country through our Bhutan blog (Bhutan travel blog) with the complete Bhutan travel guide for a wonderful trip to Bhutan for the first-time from how to get to Bhutan, best time to visit, best places to visit, top things to do… and some useful tips you should know before going to Bhutan. We hope to help you discover the beauty of “The happiest country in the world”.
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Bhutan travel blog: When is the best time to visit Bhutan?
Bhutan’s climate varies from region to region, from the subtropical climate in the south to the temperate climate of the highlands and the polar climate on the snow-capped peaks in the north.
Bhutan has four distinct seasons: Spring is from late March to May, summer is from June to July, autumn is from September to November, and winter is from December to mid March.
The southern region of Bhutan has a humid summer with an average temperature of 3 degrees Celsius, very cold in winter, the temperatures can drop to minus 15 degrees Celsius, typically in Paro, with temperatures ranging from minus 5 degrees Celsius in January and up to 30 degrees Celsius in July, the average rainfall is about 800 mm. The north consists of the high mountains, the average temperature is 0 degrees Celsius in winter and can reach 10 degrees Celsius, the average rainfall is about 350 mm. In central and eastern Bhutan, the climate is milder and drier than the west with warm summer and cold winter. The rainy season in Bhutan lasts from June to September, and the rain is very heavy almost every night, however during the day may be a long time without rain.
The best time to travel to Bhutan is in the fall (from the end of September to the end of November), with the clear blue sky is suitable for outdoor excursions, spring is more rain but on this time you can be admire magnolias flower, rhododendron flower, and other wildflowers in the valleys, and if you want to visit the big cities like Paro or capital of Thimpu and some other areas in the west, you should go in summer.
Bhutan travel blog: How to get visa to visit Bhutan?
To joining a tour to visit Bhutan, you need a visa. Especially, the application for a visa to going to Bhutan is very difficult because tourists are required to have a visa before departure, so you can not apply for a visa at the airport as in other countries.
Therefore, most visitors traveling to Bhutan must go through the travel agencies to apply for visa guaranty. It is best to buy a Bhutan package tour of travel agencies in Vietnam or Bhutan to avoid problems arising because of the regulations of the Bhutanese government.
Visitors traveling to this country are required to spend at least $200 (in low season: January, February, June, July, August, December), or $250 (in peak season: March, April, March, September, October, November) for a day stay here. And this is the total amount of money that is included in the cost of tour payment when you buy tour at travel companies in Vietnam or Bhutan.
This amount of payment to the travel company will be directly transfer to the account of Tourism Council of Bhutan, after full payment, almost 100%, you will have a visa to visit Bhutan.
To apply for a visa, within 3 to 4 weeks before the date of departure you will need to provide some information such as: name, passport number, date of issue, place of issue, expiry date, occupation, nationality, date of birth, place of birth, permanent address, a scanned of passport (it’s best your passport must be valid longer than 6 months) to travel companies.
The visa costs $40 and you will pay that amount at Paro (Bhutan) airport when you enter Bhutan.
Important note: Once the visa has been issued, the travel agent will send you a copy of the visa via e-mail. You print the copy and bring to the airport to fly to Bhutan. You will be not allow flying if without the copy of this visa.
Bhutan travel blog: How to get to Bhutan?
To fly to Bhutan you have to transit in Bangkok or Nepal. From Vietnam fly to Bangkok, spend a night in Bangkok, then fly to Bhutan on the next morning, the flight time about 6 hours. The most convenient and easy way to fly still is transit in Bangkok. You can also fly from Kathmandu for more cheaper. One of the cheapest airlines from Vietnam to Kathmandu is Malindo Air.
Druk Air (Royal Bhutan Airlines) is one of two airlines that can fly to Bhutan. The reason is that the airport is located in a valley with short runway and can only takeoffs and lands in daytime, so only Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines are equipped the small planes (Airbus A319) with its own engine and experienced aircrew that is licensed to land at Paro airport are able to fly to this place. You should plan to travel to Bhutan before at least 1 month because the airfares to Bhutan will usually be sold out soon.
Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan, 65 km from the capital of Thimphu and takes about 1 hour to travel between two places.
Druk Air operates two flights to Paro daily from Bangkok, Thailand and twice weekly (Thursday and Sunday) from Singapore. In addition, Druk Air also operates daily flights from Nepal and other cities in India. Druk Air airfare is a full ticket, with no discounts or offers. There are two types: Economy Y and Business J (equivalent to Eco Flex and Business Flex of Vietnam Airlines). As a result, Druk Air’s airfare is very expensive, with a roundtrip ticket for a 3-hour trip from Bangkok to Paro and back of $868 (tax included). Round trip J class ticket is $1,027 for Bangkok-Paro and back.
Bhutan Airlines also has flights from Bangkok, Kathmandu and other Indian cities to Paro.
You can basically book Druk Air online tickets at www.drukair.com.bt and Bhutan Airlines at www.bhutanairlines.bt. However, the booking on the website is often faulty and if you fail, please email the airline, indicating the credit card number you have booked and the number of flight you have booked to request them ticketing for you.
In summary, if you want to have a Bhutan trip and stay here for 5 days, the minimum cost is: $1.000 (or $ 1,250 in peak season) + $868 (air ticket) + airfare from Vietnam to Bangkok + Other expenses if you want to stay in Bangkok for one day. However, if you purchase the full package from the tour agents in Vietnam, the price can will be better.
Bhutan travel blog: Bhutan Currency
Bhutan’s currency is called Ngultrum (NU, or BTN), 1 USD = 72.3097 BTN. One NU is divided into 100 chetrum. Coins are worth 25 and 50 chetrum. NU has denominations of 1,5,10,20,50,100,500 and 1.000. NU 1 coin depicts eight auspicious signs so it is also called Tashi Tagye.
Indian rupees are widely used in Bhutan, but 500 and 1000 rupees are not accepted because of the large amount of counterfeit money. Indian rupees are used in Bhutan but Ngultrum is not use in India. USD is accepted in many areas in Bhutan.
When traveling to Bhutan, it is best to bring in US dollars because almost of the shops here accept payment in dollars. In addition, there are few banks in Bhutan, so visitors should exchange some money of Bhutan when arriving at the airport, note that when exchanging a $50 or $100 traveler can get better rates than exchanging a $20 or less.
In Bhutan, there are only some handicraft shops and hotels in Thimpu accept payment in credit cards, so the using of payment in credit card in Bhutan is very difficult. Since there are not many ATMs here and most only serves to locals, so credit card are not widely used, card transactions take a lot of time and are highly charged (about 4% of service charge), moreover the payment confirmation takes place only from 9am to 5pm, which makes it difficult for visitors to pay by credit card at night or early morning.
ATMs only accept cards issued by Bhutanese banks. Traveler’s cheque are accepted at many bank branches of Bhutan, travelers are recommended to use traveler’s cheque in dollars.
Banks in Bhutan are open from 9am to 3pm from Monday to Friday, Saturday opens only from 9am – 12am.
Tourists can exchange currency at major hotels in Paro, Thimphu or Phuentsholing. However, if you use travelers’ checks, they will be preferred and the rates will be better.
Bhutan blog: Where to stay in Bhutan?
When traveling to Bhutan, tourists will go through a tour organized by a travel agency licensed by the Bhutanese government, who are responsible for the tourist’s accommodation. Normally, visitors will stay in three major cities, such as Thimphu, Punakha or Paro. Here you can choose the hotels from high-end, modern, luxurious to cheap and budget. Below, there are some good, quality & beautiful hotels in Bhutan you can refer to.
Popular types of accommodation such as traditional hotels, motels, guesthouses, villas have been approved by the authorities here. Accommodation facilities meet the basic needs of visitors such as hot water, television, telephone, internet .. with luxury hotels, the price is not cheap.
Some hotels in Thimphu with price range from cheap, budget to luxury
Ariya Hotel – Olakha, Thimphu, Bhutan. Room rates ranging from $107 and up. Fitness room, sauna room, spa, massage … are the highlights amenities of this hotel. The hotel was rated as excellent at 8.8, beautifully furnished, luxurious and cozy, friendly staff. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Hotel Migmar Thimphu – Olakha, Thimphu, Bhutan. Room rates ranging from $73 and up. The hotel consists of 27 well–appointed rooms and spacious rooms. Delicious food, rich food is the first rating of visitors when choosing this hotel. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Khamsum Inn – Phendey Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan. Room rates range from $37 and up. Conveniently located, from the hotel, guests easy access to popular tourist attractions, restaurants, fine restaurants and shopping. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Some hotels in Punakha have rates from cheap, budget to high–end
Some hotels in Paro have rates from cheap, budget to high
Nak Sel Boutique Hotel & Spa – Para Bhutan, Paro, Bhutan. Room rates ranging from $150 and up. The hotel offers beautiful views from the hotel’s rooms, allowing you to enjoy all the beautiful surroundings. Rooms are made of wood, traditional design creates cozy space. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Kichu Resorts – Lango, Paro, Bhutan. Room rates ranging from $70 and up. Staff friendly, enthusiastic with visitors. Good food, large & clean room … are plus points for this hotel. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Bhutan travel blog: Best places to visit, top things to do in Bhutan
As a tourist country, there are many well-known tourist attractions in Bhutan. The cities we recommend you should visiting are capital of Thimphu, other cities like Paro, Punakha and Bumthang. Normally, you should spend 2 days to visit a city to have time to relax, sightseeing, take photos and experience life here. Here are some places to visit in Bhutan for 6 days and 5 nights that we have visited and you should also visit while traveling in this country.
Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan, located in the west at an altitude of about 2.300 meters. From Paro International Airport, it takes about an hour to go through the winding hill roads to reach the capital. Trashi Chhoe Dzong is an administrative and religious center built in the 18th century. At night, when the lights are on, the capital is like a ship in Thimphu valley that surroundings by forests.
Tudorica Thimphu. Photo: bhutan travel guide blog.
Thimphu Lodge, Amankora
Tashichho Dzong was built in 1641. It is the most impressive monastery on the banks of the Wangchu (Thimphu River). Currently, this place is the administrative headquarters of the state, where the king’s residence and many other organs of the state government. This is also the places to visit in the summer of Buddhist leaders.
National Memorial Chorten
Bhutan’s third monument, the father of modern Bhutan.
Dordenma Buddha Statue
With a height of 51m, inside there are more than 100,000 small Buddha statues. From here you can see the whole of Thimphu.
Cheri Goemba Monastery
A small monastery on the mountainside with magnificent views of Thimphu.
Jigme Dorji National Park
Places to nurture and conserve Bhutan’s wildlife such as snow leopard, blue sheep, red panda, black bear …