What languages are spoken in Bhutan?
There are 19 languages spoken in Bhutan, but the national language is Dzongkha. English is used throughout Bhutan’s education system, so it is widely used and understood.
What is the weather like in Bhutan and when is the best time to visit?
Bhutan is a year-round destination. There are four seasons: summer (June to August), autumn (September to November), winter (December to February) and spring (March to May). But because of the range of altitudes in the country, and the influence of the north Indian monsoons, the climate is incredibly varied.
In the south, the humid, subtropical climate is fairly consistent year-round, with temperatures between 15oC and 30oC. Central Bhutan, with its temperate forests, has a more seasonal climate, with warm summers and cool, dry winters. The northern regions are much colder during winter. Because of the high altitude, mountain peaks are snowy year-round and the lower reaches remain cool in summer.
In summer, the Indian monsoon season runs from late June or July to late September, mostly affecting the southern regions. Most farming activities take place in the summer, when crops thrive in verdant landscapes.
Autumn, from late September or early October to late November, follows the rainy season. It is characterised by bright, sunny days and some early snowfall at higher elevations. It’s the season of feasts and festivals as farmers reap the fruits of their work.
From late November until March, the crisp, clear and sunny winter sets in, with frost throughout much of the country and snowfall common above elevations of 3,000 metres. The winter northeast monsoon brings gale-force winds at the highest altitudes through high mountain passes, giving Bhutan the name Drukyul, which means Land of the Thunder Dragon in Dzongkha (Bhutan’s national language).
Bhutan’s generally dry spring starts in early March and lasts until mid-April. It is a botanist’s delight, with nature in full bloom. Summer weather commences in mid-April with occasional showers and continues to late June.
What currency is used in Bhutan?
Bhutan’s currency is called ngultrum. It’s 1:1 with Indian rupees.
Which power plug is standard in Bhutan?
Three different electrical plugs are used throughout Bhutan: the British plug (three square pins, compatible with type G sockets), the European plug (two round pins, compatible with type C socket) and the Indian plug (three thick round pins, compatible with type D sockets). It’s a good idea to bring adaptors for all three.
What is the international country code?
For telephone calls, Bhutan’s country code is +975. Make sure you add this to the beginning of any number if calling Bhutan from abroad.
Planning your trip
Do I need a visa to enter Bhutan?
Visitors of all nationalities, except those from India, require a visa before entering Bhutan. For all visitors, except those from Bangladesh and the Maldives, this visa must be applied for and approved in advance of travel. Visitors from Bangladesh and the Maldives also require a visa, but this can be applied for and approved either in advance of travel or upon arrival in Bhutan.
Visitors from India are able to apply for a permit but are required to hold an Indian passport or an Indian voter ID card. For Indian nationals under the age of 18, a passport or a birth certificate can be used to enter and they must be accompanied by a legal guardian.
Nationals from Switzerland and Thailand holding diplomatic or government-official passports are eligible for a visa at their port of entry.
How do I apply for a visa?
Visitors from Bangladesh and the Maldives requiring a visa can apply either online before travelling or in person upon arrival in Bhutan.
I’m an Indian national, or from Bangladesh or the Maldives. How can I obtain a travel permit or visa?
Before travelling, visitors from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives can apply for a permit (Indian nationals) or visa (Bangladeshi or Maldivian nationals) here. You may also apply at the point of entry, but please be aware that there may be a long wait depending on the number of applicants at the time. We recommend arranging your permit/visa beforehand.
How long does it take to issue my visa?
A correctly input visa application can take up to five days to process.
How much does the visa cost?
There is a one-off fee of US$40 for the processing of your application. This is payable at the same time as your Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), as part of the process of submitting your visa application.
How long does my visa allow me to stay in Bhutan?
The visa allows you to remain in Bhutan for a maximum of 90 days from the date of entry.
Can I extend my visa while I’m in Bhutan?
Yes, provided the extension is applied for before the original visa or permit expires.
Visitors can extend their stay via the online visa application portal, using the same log-in details that were used to process their original visa.
The fees for processing your extension application, and daily SDF for the duration of your extended stay, will be payable via the same portal.
What is the SDF and how is it used?
The SDF is the Sustainable Development Fee, a daily levy paid by visitors to support Bhutan’s development. Since the kingdom first opened its doors in 1974, guests have played a critical role in the country’s growth. As we reopen on September 23rd 2022, this partnership is once again evolving to enable us to protect and preserve our kingdom and its priceless assets. It also helps us to ensure that tourists visit in sustainable numbers and that we can continue to offer guests tranquillity and an intimate experience.
The SDF is collected by the national exchequer and funds are allocated to various projects that enhance facilities, services and infrastructure for Bhutanese nationals and visitors, as well as funding free healthcare and education.
How much is the SDF?
For all visitors except those from India, the SDF is US$200 per person, per night. For guests from India the SDF is 1,200 ngultrum, or the equivalent amount in Indian rupees, per person, per night.
Children aged 6 to 12 at the time of travel receive a 50% concessionary discount on their SDF. Those aged 5 or younger are exempt.
Day visitors to the Bhutanese towns bordering India are also exempt from paying the SDF until they reach a point designated by the Bhutanese government.
If I cancel my trip will my SDF be refunded?
Yes, the SDF will be refunded by the Department of Immigration for any cancelled or shortened trips; any bank charges will be deducted from the total refunded. Requests for SDF refunds should be submitted online using the visa portal. The refund will be processed after visitors leave Bhutan.
Is travel insurance mandatory?
Yes. All visitors must have full, valid travel insurance for the duration of their visit. For all visitors except those from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives, it is required to be in place when you make your visa application.
Visitors from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives have the option to purchase domestic travel insurance at their port of entry.
Do I need to use a tour operator to book my travel?
No. In the past, all visitors needed to book their travel to and within Bhutan through an accredited tour operator. Any visitor travelling to Bhutan after our reopening on September 23rd 2022 can now book all aspects of the journey independently. Still, we warmly recommend our many accredited tour operators for their expert knowledge and excellent service.
How can I plan my trip to Bhutan?
If you would like to book completely independently, there are plenty of online resources for inspiration, research and booking – including this website. There are lots of experienced, accredited tour operators that can help you too.
Our host team is also on hand to help provide you with information as you plan your journey.
How do I get to Bhutan?
The country has one international airport located in Paro. Flights operated by Drukair and Bhutan Airlines arrive and depart from destinations including Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodhgaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati and Singapore. Private jets or charters can fly into Bhutan after obtaining the relevant approvals.
There are also domestic airports in Yonphula in eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in central Bhutan, and Gelephu in south-central Bhutan.
What are the current covid-19 regulations in Bhutan?
Although we recommend all visitors stay up to date with vaccinations against covid-19 to help stop the spread of the disease, there are now no covid-19 vaccination requirements for adults or children to enter Bhutan from September 23rd 2022. There is no quarantine period.
All individuals (12 years and above) entering Bhutan may be subjected to random RT-PCR testing at the points of entry or at the worksite to maintain covid-19 surveillance for new variants. No fee shall be charged for the RT-PCR testing for surveillance.
If a guest tests positive for covid-19 during their stay in Bhutan, they will be required to quarantine in their hotel until they test negative. The cost for the additional quarantine nights and PCR tests will be borne by the guest. The Sustainable Development Fee will be waived during the quarantine period.
There will be no covid-19 protocols to leave Bhutan, unless the country the guest is travelling to requires them.
Are face masks required to be worn in any places or at any times in Bhutan?
Face masks are no longer required to be worn at any venue or at any time in Bhutan, except in hospitals and health centres. However, guests can choose to wear face masks at their convenience should they wish. Also, it may be mandated by the government that face masks need to be worn in the future if the number of COVID-19 cases go up, therefore it is recommended that guests always travel with a face mask in their luggage as a precaution.
How can I get to my hotel from the airport?
You can take a taxi from the taxi rank outside the airport or organise an airport transfer with your hotel or tour operator. There is no other public transport available at the airport.
What are my transport options for travelling around Bhutan?
The most convenient way to travel in Bhutan is to hire a vehicle and driver from a car rental company or a tourism service provider. It is not possible to hire a self-drive vehicle in Bhutan.
You can also book a local driver or transport service provider (as well as airline tickets and tour operators) using the Druk Ride app. Your hotel may also be able to provide or arrange transport for you.
If you are travelling with a tour operator, your transport will be arranged for you.
Domestic flights are often the fastest way to travel longer distances within Bhutan. Domestic airports operate flights to and from Yonphula in eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in central Bhutan, and Gelephu in south-central Bhutan.
For special itineraries, helicopter services can be arranged.
Can I go hiking or trekking independently, without a tour operator?
All treks must be undertaken with an accredited tour operator or guide. Your tour operator will assist you with all the necessary logistics and safety precautions.
Please contact our hosts for the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s list of approved tourism services.
Do I need a guide or a route permit to travel around Bhutan?
A local guide will help you see the best that the country has to offer and will ensure your safety when exploring unfamiliar terrain and altitude. It is mandatory to be accompanied by a guide for treks and journeys beyond Thimphu and Paro. Guides are thus also mandatory for visitors who enter Bhutan via our land borders and plan to travel beyond the border towns.
Guests no longer require a Route permit to travel around the country, so long as they are accompanied by a guide certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. Please contact our hosts for the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s list of approved tourism services.
While guides aren’t necessary for all experiences, such as dining out and shopping, we strongly recommend that guides accompany visitors for experiences such as visiting temples and local places of interest.
If you are following an itinerary or taking part in a trip organised by your hotel, you will not need to book a guide as one will be arranged by the hotel.
What kind of accommodation is available in Bhutan?
Bhutan offers a wide range of accommodation, from luxurious five-star hotels to cosy homestays in traditional village settings.
Please contact our hosts for the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s list of approved accommodation.
Can I stay in a private home, or campsite, in Bhutan?
You may only stay in accommodation or campsites approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
Please contact our hosts for the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s list of approved accommodation.
Is it safe to travel in Bhutan?
Bhutan is a very safe place to visit, even if you’re travelling alone. There is very little crime experienced by locals or visitors, although we advise you to take care of yourself and your belongings. In some areas you may encounter stray dogs – please be cautious around them as they are not domesticated. They normally keep their distance, but please stay away from them as much as possible, especially if travelling with children. Please don’t feed or pat these or any other wild animals.
Bhutan’s physical environment presents occasional safety hazards, including flooding and landslides. From June to September the monsoons can affect transport and services. Check with your hotel or tour operator for possible disruptions.
During your trip
Are there visitor information centres?
Yes – the Tourism Council of Bhutan has a dedicated visitor centre at Paro International Airport. Others may be found at the four border entry points.
Where can I exchange currency?
You can change your local currency for ngultrum upon arrival at Paro International Airport or at banks, larger hotels and authorised currency exchange businesses in Thimphu.
How much cash can I bring into Bhutan?
You may bring cash equivalent to US$10,000 into the country.
Can I use my credit card and ATM card in Bhutan?
ATM and banks accept Visa and Mastercard. International credit cards are widely used in urban areas of Bhutan. However this service may not be available in other parts of the country. Visitors can download the digital wallet app goBoB launched by the Bank of Bhutan, which can be used with a local SIM card and is widely accepted throughout the country.
Cash in US dollars and Indian rupees is also widely accepted. We advise bringing some cash in either of these currencies, or in ngultrum.
Is there good internet connection and Wi-Fi in Bhutan?
Most hotels have Wi-Fi in Bhutan, but we recommend obtaining a guest SIM card for more convenient access to data and a more reliable internet connection. Mobile data in Bhutan can also be expensive. You can find the B Mobile SIM in mobile stores in larger cities, which you can easily top up using the Bank of Bhutan app goBoB. This app also facilitates other payments within the country.
Where can I get a visitor SIM card?
SIM cards can be purchased from the Paro International Airport’s visitor information centre on arrival, or from branch offices of Bhutan Telecom and TashiCell, or from authorised agents in towns.
Are there any restrictions on dress?
There are no rules about what visitors should wear. However if you are planning to visit places of religious significance, respectful smart-casual clothing that covers your body from shoulders to knees is appropriate and appreciated.
Where are good places to buy handicrafts and gifts?
There are plenty of places to shop for special objects, from high-end pieces to small mementos. Many visitors enjoy shopping at the Cottage and Small Industries (CSI) Market and the Centenary Farmers’ Market. The Textile Museum shop has a wonderful selection of artisan-made textiles and homewares, as do the nearby Tarayana and Craft galleries. Our OGOP shops are also excellent places to find food, drink and handcrafted products sourced directly from the country’s artisans and farmers.
Are there certain things I can’t take out of Bhutan when I leave?
Keeping important antiques and artefacts in Bhutan is a key part of how we preserve our heritage for future generations. We have a law that sets out which artistic, historic, cultural, religious, social, archaeological and technical objects you may not take with you when you leave. To ensure any items you acquire comply with the law, you will need an Export Permit for Non-Antique Artefacts. Find out more about the permit and how to apply for one here.
Where can I find customs information?
You can find a full, detailed list of prohibited, restricted or declarable items here.
Who should I contact if I have a complaint or a problem?
We hope your visit to Bhutan will bring you nothing but happiness, but if you encounter any issues or problems, please let us know via Facebook, Instagram or by phoning +975 1712 2257 (or 2300 within Bhutan). You may also contact our hosts for assistance if you encounter a problem during your visit.
Who should I contact in an emergency?
If it is related to your tourism experience, you can phone the Tourism Council of Bhutan directly on +975 1712 2257 (or 2300 within Bhutan). If you require one of the emergency services, please telephone 110 for fire, 112 for an ambulance or 113 for police.
Can I use a drone for photography while in Bhutan?
A permit, which must be applied for in advance, is required to fly a drone either recreationally or commercially in Bhutan. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain one.