1. When is the best time to go?
Go anytime – you won’t be disappointed. However If you are prepared to travel outside of the peak season periods (APR-MAY and mid SEP-NOV) there are fewer tourist visitors & you will enjoy a more rewarding experience. We especially recommend June – July (Summer) and December-March (Winter/Spring). If you are trekking you will need to generally travel in the peak season months for suitable conditions.
2. Why is it so expensive to visit Bhutan?
Lets put this myth to sleep straight away! Because the Bhutanese Government has imposed an ‘all inclusive’ nightly tariff structure a Bhutan tour can ‘appear’ to be expensive. In our 10 years+ experience with Bhutan we regularly receive comments from returning visitors on how great the ‘value for money’ genuinely is. Considering every visitor has access to a private guide, driver, private vehicle and a land package including all meals, accommodation, sightseeing, entry fees, transfers, taxes, Govt Royalties & visa fees it is indeed excellent value for money.
3. Can I travel totally independently in Bhutan?
YES….and no! It is not possible to gain an entry visa for Bhutan unless you pre-pay for a pre-arranged land package itinerary with a licensed and approved inbound operator and pay the appropriate nightly tariff. Bhutan prohibits independent backpacker style visitors to maintain its strict cultural and ecological values. However please be aware you can enjoy a degree of flexibility during each day to hike, visit markets & villages and interact with locals as you wish. You can take your own private tour and you do NOT have to join a group tour….however it must be pre-arranged and pre-paid.
4. What currency do I take?
With the introduction of ATM’s in Thimphu & Paro in 2011 it is now possible to withdraw local currency via Visa & MasterCard credit & debit cards & Cirrus endorsed bank debit cards. The local currency called Ngultrum (nu for short) is pegged to the Indian Rupee which is also accepted throughout the Kingdom (except for 500 & 1000 rupee notes which are not accepted). As a more convenient alternativeI to taking in Indian Rupees we strongly encourage visitors to take in USD cash and/or travellers cheques which we recommend as a back-up in case ATM’s are not working. Take low denomination USD to cover any small daily purchases and use higher denomination USD for exchanging into Nu at local banks and also for guide/driver tips at the end of the journey.
As at DEC 2012 , and due to the strength of the Australian dollar, major banks in Paro & Thimphu will also now exchange Australian cash (no coins) for Bhutanese Nu.
Credit Cards are becoming more widely accepted too. Most hotels and many handicraft shops will now accept Visa & MasterCard and in some cases Amex. Please do note merchant fee surcharges on credit card purchases can be as high as 7% so it is wise to check this first before you use your card.
5. What do we tip?
Our tipping guideline for your guide and driver is detailed on our website under General Information and also in our pre-departure kit which we send to each traveller after they have paid their initial deposit. The website tipping guide will always be up to date. Guides & drivers expect their tip on the afternoon before you depart the Kingdom or the morning of your departure. Otherwise personal tipping is generally discouraged except for hotel porters and US$1.00 per bag would suffice.
6. Is their internet available?
Most of the standard tourist class hotels now have WiFi….plus have a business centre where you can use the hotel . Generally speaking WiFi is free. All of the luxury resorts & lodges offer a wireless internet facility however not necessarily in guest rooms.
7. Will my mobile phone work?
Currently only a Telstra sim card mobile phone will work in Bhutan. We recommend you contact your Telco for up to date advice. Beware of prepaid phone cards which have been recommended from Australia as in our personal experience they rarely work. A local Bhutan sim card with prepaid call credits can easily be purchased on arrival.
8. What do I pack to wear?
Please refer to our General Information section on our website, which is kept up to date, and again this information will be sent to those travellers who have paid their initial deposit by way of our Pre-Departure Kit.
9. What will the weather be like?
Bhutan, like many countries in the world, is experiencing some climate change. Broadly speaking Summers (June-mid-September) are warm, humid and wetter and Winters (Dec-early March) cooler and dry. Winter nights are cold however the days are clear, sunny and surprisingly mild in the valleys and only averaging 2 snow falls per annum. The wettest month is August. You will find a climate chart on our website and also one is sent in our Pre-Departure Kits.
10. What gifts can we take for the local children?
The Bhutanese wish to discourage gifts of any kind be given to individual children to avoid promoting a culture of begging. A gift of coloured pens/pencils etc given to a local schoolteacher is appropriate. Even better is a gift such as an oral hygiene kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and mouthwash) or donate some warm clothing/shoes when you leave. By purchasing a Bhutan travel package from Bhutan & Beyond a contribution of 1% of our revenue is made to the charity motorcycle club ‘The Dragon Riders’ who schedule 3-4 charity rides per year to support remote villagers with donations of food, fuel, blankets and clothes. You can find more information on The Dragon Riders charity group here.