Tourism Policy in Bhutan
Foreign tourists from around the world except for India, Maldives and Bangladesh are required to pay a minimum Tariff of 250 USD per day to visit Bhutan. Visitors from these three countries have other procedures to avail a permit. Otherwise, Bhutan is considered to be one of the cheapest countries to travel to in the World. Bhutanese Ngultrum is the national currency of Bhutan and the exchange rate is the same as Indian Rupee. Indian currency is widely accepted all over the nation. Hence Indians find it hassle-free to travel.
Why Visit Bhutan?
Bhutan is shrouded in mysteries and a rich history which sometimes could be surprising. It is a land of chillies and red rice, where chillies aren't used for seasoning but as the main ingredient.
Traditional attire is an indispensable part of Bhutanese people as you will find women and men wearing Kira and Gho respectively to work, educational institutions and on festivals.
Bhutan has a number of highly detailed Dzongs and temples. Some of the dzongs have been UNESCO heritage since 2012.
It's hard to not notice giant penis paintings over the walls of many houses, which are a part of their tradition. The Drametse Mask Dance with colourful costumes depicting demons, heroes, gods and animals should not be missed as it is UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Modern Rigsar played with traditional instruments like boedra and zhungdra as well as modern electronic keyboards is an auditory treat. Although a land that's slowly modernising, Bhutan still clings on to their Buddhist traditions which makes the country profound.
Best time to visit Bhutan
March to May, September to November is the best time to visit Bhutan
March to May (Spring) and September to November (Autumn) is the best time to visit Bhutan. In spring, which falls from March-May, the weather is beautiful and pleasant. The flowers are in full bloom, and the scenery of the land is brilliant. The country also hosts various festivals during the spring such as the Paro and Punakha Tshechu. Autumn, on the other hand, is from September - November which also boasts of affable and genial weather. Due to its location, Bhutan is prone to varying climatic and altitude differences. It has distinct seasons namely, spring, summer, rainfall, autumn and winter. In Summers from June to August, the temperatures reach 24-25 degree Celsius. From July onwards the southwest monsoons set in offsetting the heat but one has to carry a raincoat if out on a sightseeing. Similarly the winter months of December -February witness the spell of the northeast monsoons. Snowfall is expected in late January and early February when the temperatures drop to the lowest.
The culture in Bhutan is a blend of Buddhism and Bonism traditions.
Traditions: Giant Phalluses can often be seen painted onto walls to keep the evil spirits away and ensure a positive environment.
Language: Dzongkha is the official language. Other languages spoken include Sharcop Kha, Nepali and English. Even though English is taught as the primary language in schools, more emphasis is put on learning Dzongkha. A lot of people also understand Hindi.
Clothes: People commonly wear traditional Bhutanese dress. Men wear Gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist, and women a Kira, an ankle-length wrap-around accompanied by a jacket known as a Tego. They still wear long scarves while visiting Dzongs and other administrative centres. The colour of scarves signifies the status or rank of the wearer
Customs of Bhutan
The customary greeting is joining palms and bowing down.
Money is taken and given with both hands.
Display of affection between people of different sexes publicly is not well received, so if you are travelling with your partner, avoid getting intimate in public.
At monasteries or temples, it is customary to make a small donation to the monks as a sign of respect.
Do not smoke at monasteries and in public places, since all tobacco items are strictly banned in Bhutan.
In temples or religious places, remove shoes and headgear and wear clothing that expresses respect for the sacred nature of the site and the culture of the country.
Nightlife in Bhutan
Owing to the strong cultural influence that prevails in Bhutan, there is not much of a nightlife here. 8 PM is considered as the end of a typical working day. However, there are a few underground clubs where the part starts after 10 p.m. on Friday and a few other days of the week. There are a lot of Karaoke clubs where you can sing your heart out.
Shopping in Bhutan
Many hotels even have souvenir shops that sell local handicraft items, clothing, fridge magnets, jewellery, and herbs. Tourists very popularly demand Bhutanese stamps. Normally, these markets and bazaars are open from 8 AM to 8 PM. You can buy souvenirs from the base of the Tiger's Nest Monastery trek at an affordable price. Don't forget to haggle though!
Festivals of Bhutan
The most widely celebrated festival is Tshechu or the tenth day and is a major tourist attraction. This festival is celebrated on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Buddhist Guru Rinpoche. All visitors must attend a Tshechu fair and witness the mask dances to receive the blessings and wash away the sins. These mask dances are portrayals of historic incidents that took place in Bhutan during Guru Rinpoche's time. In monasteries, the mask dances are performed by monks, and in remote villages, they are performed jointly by monks and the village locals.
Tips for visiting Bhutan
Mineral water is widely available
Milk should be boiled before consumption
Powdered or tinned milk is available
Only eat well-cooked meat and fish
Medical facilities are good but not always close at hand
Officials in Bhutan have reported repeated outbreaks of bird flu
Products containing tobacco (cigarettes, chewing tobacco, etc.) are effectively banned throughout Bhutan (which remains the only country in the world to do so), and penalties for possession or use may be severe
Give and take money with both hands
One needs to be dressed up in fully covered clothes (legs and arms should be covered) while visiting monasteries and other attractions
Carry a raincoat and a jacket at all times