Foreign Office Travel Warnings
We constantly monitor the advice posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At present there are no warnings against travel to Bhutan. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns or would like to know in detail what measures are being taken to ensure visits remain trouble free and without incident.
It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government
Accommodation and Meals
Hotel Check-in Times
As a general rule most hotels will allow guests to check-in from 2pm. Please note that the price of your tour does not include guaranteed early check-in. Therefore please advise us if you would like to ensure that your room is available for an earlier arrival. This is particularly relevant on the first day of the tour and for early morning arrivals. One option is to pre-book and pay for an extra night at the beginning of your tour which will guarantee your accommodation is available irrespective of what time you arrive. Please contact us for information and costs.
On our Bhutan tours we use comfortable mid-range small hotels with private bathrooms. In general you will find your hotel has a restaurant and/or bar. Please see the individual hotel descriptions.
Food & Drinks
The daily meal basis is shown in the tour itinerary: breakfast (B), lunch (L) and dinner (D). Please note that lunch may be a picnic. Mineral water is provided in the vehicle. Otherwise, drinks are not included and will be payable locally in cash.
If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible.
Budgeting for your Tour
You will need some extra money to cover snacks and drinks not included in the tour price, any optional sightseeing, souvenirs and items of a personal nature such as laundry.
The prices for drinks can vary greatly depending upon location and the prices detailed below are an average guide. In general you would expect that drinks purchased in a supermarket or local bar to be less expensive, whilst drinks in an upmarket bar or restaurant may be more expensive.
Tipping – Guide and Drivers
Tipping of your guide and driver is common practice in Bhutan and the amount is at your discretion. As a rough guide, around US$ 5 per person per day for your guide and US$ 3 per person per day for your driver might be appropriate, depending on the service you have received. Tipping in hotels and restaurants is entirely optional and a small amount in local currency will suffice.
ATM Availability: Major towns now have ATMs but they are not totally reliable. and they only allow you to withdraw local currency, not foreign exchange. It is best to bring all the cash that you may wish to use for spending money to make sure you are not short on cash if the ATMs are not working. US dollars are accepted in many places as an alternative to local currency. Other currencies are easily exchanged at the bank – note that you get better rates for higher value notes. Indian Rupees are also valid currency in Bhutan (at par with local currency).
Credit and Debit Card Acceptance: Cards are not widely accepted in the region although can be used to draw cash at ATMs.
Local Currency: Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN)
Recommended Currency for Exchange: US Dollars
Where to Exchange: Your tour guide will advise you
Joining Your Tour
You are able to book these tours on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
Any flights included in your tour are made with either Druk Air, the Bhutanese national carrier or Bhutan Airlines (colloquially known as Tashi Air). For the best views it is worth sitting on the left of the plane as you fly into Paro from Kathmandu (and on the right when you fly out). It is amazing how close you get to Everest and the surrounding peaks! Unfortunately we are unable to influence seating in advance, so make sure you get to the airport in plenty of time to request this at check-in. Generally you should check in at least 2 hours before the flight. In the event of flight delays or cancellations we will attempt to make alternative arrangements so as to keep the tour operating as close to the original itinerary as possible.
Joining Your Tour Abroad
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive an airport transfer, both on arrival and departure include in the tour price. In order that the transfer can be arranged please ensure that you advise us of your flight information once available. Please advise the date, time and flight number for your arrival/departure. We need this information in order to arrange your visa, so please make sure you provide it in good time and preferably at the time of booking.
It is a condition of booking with Go TailorMade that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country.
Most nationals including UK, EU and US visitors require a visa for entry to Bhutan – the only exception is nationals of India, Bangladesh and Maldives. Your Bhutan visa will be included when booking your tour. We will require a scanned copy of your passport.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, valid for at least six months after the date of return to the UK.
We strongly advise that your passport contains a minimum of two blank pages for each country visited, as this may be a requirement of the local immigration authorities. In addition certain countries will stipulate that the two blank pages are opposite each other. If you are unable to meet these requirements you may be refused boarding by your airline or denied entry by the immigration authorities.
For specific information about the requirements for your destination please check with the country’s embassy or consulate. Alternatively UK citizens can visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Vaccinations & Protection
As with travel to most parts of Asia, we strongly recommend that you contact your doctor’s surgery or a specialist travel clinic for up-to-date information, advice and the necessary vaccinations. For a visit of less than one month, almost certainly you will be advised to have immunisations against the following: Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis. The use of a DEET-containing insect repellent is highly recommended.
Yellow Fever vaccination is required for travellers who are arriving from, or have transited through, countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.
The best seasons to visit Bhutan are between the months of March and May, and from September to November when the conditions are usually clearest for mountain views. Outside of these times, Bhutan experiences its monsoon season (June to August) and its winter (December to February when snow is possible but not common at the higher altitudes). In June and December the weather is still reasonably good – not too much rain in June and still surprisingly sunny in December, if slightly cold. Essentially, only the main monsoon months of July and August are times best avoided.
A layered approach is best in Bhutan as it is possible to experience frequent temperature changes throughout the day depending on the altitude you are at. When it comes to clothing it is usually recommended that lighter clothes are worn through the day, and warmer ones at night. Bhutan’s evenings can be quite chilly and so you should prepare for this. You may be thankful for some thick socks, hat and gloves as it can get quite cold at night with the altitude and hotels are not well heated. It is appreciated if you dress reasonably smart if you will be visiting one of the many festivals that occur in Bhutan (e.g. no jeans or trainers if possible).
Formal dress is required to visit inside Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) and Paro Dzong. Men should wear long trousers. Short skirts (above the knee) are prohibited. Shirts may be short-sleeved but must have a collar. No vest tops. Any shoes with socks are acceptable (including trainers) but not flip flops or sandals.
You should be prepared for some rain at any time of year, so bring a light rainproof jacket and if you are planning to try a hot stone bath don’t forget your swimming costume.
You should bear in mind that Bhutan tends to have a conservative attitude towards dress. Women, and also to a certain extent men, will find that the way they dress will often determine the degree of respect they receive from both genders.
The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared: adequately immunized, with sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, along with a medical kit. Suncream/sunblock is a must in the thinner atmosphere experienced at altitude, in particular. Insect repellent, including a bite spray will also be useful to have. A torch or head torch is useful for any unexpected electricity outages or to assist in dimly lit areas.
Barking dogs are a problem in the towns of Bhutan so it is a good idea to take ear plugs in order that you do not have a disturbed night’s sleep.
Footwear is a main priority on this tour. Comfortable walking shoes/boots are recommended as well as a comfortable pair of shoes/trainers.
Luggage on tour
Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (66lbs). This weight limit is imposed by Druk Air, who may refuse to take your bag if it weighs over this limit. There is no limit on the number of bags, only the weight. However, as you are travelling from place to place, it is advisable to limit yourself to one large suitcase/rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable.
Binoculars are a good idea as the birdwatching is particularly good in Bhutan. A torch, water bottle, insect repellent, high factor sun cream (at least factor 15), good quality sunglasses and a lip salve with sun protection are all a good idea. You may wish to take walking poles with you for the Tiger’s Nest walk.
Many hotels in Bhutan don’t have a television, so bring plenty of reading material if you like to read in the evenings.
This tour does not require any special degree of fitness but you will find it more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit. There are a number of walks and hikes on this tour which involve steep climbs in particular the hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
Cultural and environmental guidelines
- The Bhutanese are generally tolerant of Westerners and don’t expect that they will necessarily follow, or understand, local customs, so they are not quick to take offence, but it is worth bearing in mind the following:
- It is polite to take any items offered to you (or to hold something out to another person) with two hands. This is also often done when shaking hands. If you only use one hand to take something from someone make sure it is the right hand.
- Follow your guide’s lead - it is customary to remove your shoes on entering the important rooms of temples and private houses.
- It is customary to leave a small amount of money on the altar and you will see people touching the note to their forehead first. If a monk is present he will then pour some holy water from a small jug into your hand – if you wish you could make the gesture of taking a sip and then spreading the rest over your head
- Don’t touch people on the head or feet (although this rule does not apply to small children), and don’t point your feet at anyone. If you are sitting on the floor try to sit cross-legged or kneel with your feet behind you.
- Don’t point at people or religious objects or pictures. If you are indicating something in a painting, use your whole hand, palm upwards, pointing the tips of your fingers in the relevant direction. If you are waving someone towards you use your hand palm downwards.
- Remember that you should always turn prayer wheels or navigate round a chorten, religious monument or temple in a clockwise direction.
- Don’t give money or candy to local children. It will encourage them to beg whenever they see foreigners. Instead you could leave small donations to schools or the village development fund so that the money can be used to benefit the whole community.
- Please make sure that you take any rubbish back to the hotels with you where it can be properly disposed of – this includes cigarette butts as well. Please do not buy any products made from endangered species – this is not sustainable and hastens the species’ decline.
- Except in a few districts in the east of the country where there is a total ban on tobacco, smoking is still allowed in Bhutan but the sale of tobacco is prohibited. So if you need to smoke, bring your own and be prepared to be taxed on your supplies on entry to the country. There is also a recent law prohibiting smoking in offices and some public places.
It is not advisable to drink untreated water in Bhutan. Mineral water is freely available. We always carry bottles during the day for you to use on the journey. Water in the hotels and restaurants needs to be purchased separately.
Mobile Phones and Internet
Overseas mobiles often don’t work in Bhutan. If you want to you can purchase a SIM card for the B-mobile or Tashi-cell network and use this in your phone - you need to ensure you have unlocked your phone from your home network first. The mobile networks in Bhutan are available across the country, although there are still some black spots. Internet and Wi-Fi is also available in most of western Bhutan and in some other towns (including Bumthang), but it is patchy and intermittent with slow speeds, so be prepared for frustrations and delay with connecting this way.
Photography and filming inside temples is not allowed. You should always ask permission before taking anyone's photograph and respect their decision if they say no. In more remote areas women and older people often do not want to be photographed. Some people may also ask for some money – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - in return for a photo. Taking photos of state buildings and airports can lead to problems with local authorities. If you are unsure about whether it is acceptable to take a photo, please ask your tour leader or guide.
Electric Supply & Plugs
The voltage in Bhutan is also the same as India - 230V, 50 cycles AC.