The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillis are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy. Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. Vegetables commonly eaten include Spinach, pumpkins, turnips, radishes, tomatoes, river weed, onions and green beans. Grains such as rice, buckwheat and barley are also cultivated in various regions of the country depending on the local climate.
The national language is Dzongkha. English is widely spoken in major towns and is a medium of education in schools. Other widely spoken language are Khenpa, Sharshop, Nepali and Hindi. There are a host of local dialects spoken in small pockets within the country.
Our guides and leaders are all certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and have in-depth knowledge of the country and speak fluent English. They receive Bi-annual training and courses to updates themselves with the course of events in and around the country. They can make all the difference to your trip here.
As elsewhere in the world, it has become customary in Bhutan to reward excellent service with a cash tip for the local staff of guides and drivers who will be assisting you during your stay in Bhutan. Of course, all tipping is optional and by no means mandatory, however if you feel that your staff and drivers have performed at a good or excellent level, it is a great way to let them know you appreciate their efforts.
- PREPARATORY TIPS FOR YOUR TRIP TO BHUTAN
The following is a list of recommended items to pack and bring with you for your travel in Bhutan.
- Adaptor for outlets (we use 220 v).
- Internet cafes are available in almost all major towns. Your hotels you live in offer free internet services too.
- Telephones are available for both local and international calls. If you bring your own cell phones with GSM and orange services work fine.
- Bhutan is photogenic; so don’t forget to bring your still camera or video camera.
- Sun glasses and sun screen cream.
- Sun cap with preferably extension cover at the back to protect your nape against sun.
- Visa cards/travelers checks and cash dollars work in banks and in some of the larger shops and hotels in Thimphu. ATM facilities are limited to few towns including the capital city Thimphu and Phuntsholing. Current official currency exchange rate is US$1=Nu.65.00.
- Indian Rupee currency is accepted in Bhutan although 500 and 1000 rupee notes are discouraged.
- Have travel insured from your country in case you have to be referred/evacuated for serious medical issues outside the country. You might also find travel insurance necessary should you be travelling on excursion or other discounted tickets in the event you miss your scheduled flight to poor weather conditions.
- Government offices including privates remain open for business from 0900 hrs to 1700 hrs (UN offices remain open from 0900 to 1750 hrs.) Monday to Friday. Government offices remain close for business on Saturdays but banks and other private offices remain open till mid-day. Sunday is closed for business.
- Banks remain open from 0900 hrs. to 1600 hrs. from Monday through Friday but Saturday is open for business from 0900 to 1100 hrs. All banks remain closed on Sunday except Bank of Bhutan in Thimphu which is open for business from 1000 to 1500 hrs.
- It is customary to wear formal dress when we visit Dzongs and monasteries/temple. A long sleeve shirt with color (any colour or pattern), a long trouser and preferably a pair of leather shoes would suffice it. Wearing caps or using umbrella in Dzongs and temples is not welcomed out of our respect for the institution. Shoes may be removed when you enter a shrine room.
- Warm jackets preferably feathered (-10 degrees and above) is advisable for morning and night hours. You may also bring long sleeve fleece, warm underwears, warm socks and closed shoes or high ankle boots for wear.
- Winter is practically a dry season in Bhutan but light showers with snow does sometimes occur but rarely. Rain gear is however not imperative.
- Carry small local currency changes for visits to monasteries where it is customary to make small donations but it is not mandatory please.
- Medications: No serious medical issues but it is alright to bring aspirin, medicine for stomach upset, or antibiotics if you are susceptible to respiratory infections. Hospitals and local drug stores do have supplies as well. Remember to bring medications you require to take regularly as they might not be available when needed. Regional referral hospitals across the country have good medical facilities. Serious emergency health issues are, however, referred to hospitals in Bangkok or Delhi for treatment. You are not in malaria prone area and therefore anti-malaria precaution is not recommended.
- Most hotels in Bhutan serve local and western foods. Some restaurants cater only local foods, which are generally hot but moderated to taste buds of foreign visitors. Ema Datse is a local chilli dish mixed with cheese. It is served separately but you are welcome to experience it with caution.
- Your hotels have laundry services on payment. If deposited today evening, you will get by next evening.
- Smoking is restricted in all public places, buses and air planes except in designated places. Regulations allow you to import per month the following upto:
- 300 sticks of cigarette;
- 400 sticks of bidis;
- 50 sticks of cigar; and
- 250 g of other tobacco products for personal consumption.
All imports carry 100% sales and 100% customs’ duty taxes. Receipts must be produced as a proof on demand. Possession or use of drugs in Bhutan is a serious offence and can face legal challenges if found guilty.
- You will be surprised to see many stray dogs on streets. May be little disturbing for some of you but those dogs are generally harmless unless they are mistreated. Good news is, most of them are sterilized and treated with vaccines.
- Tipping is a purely personnel matter. If you are happy to tip, it certainly help families of individual guides and drivers who are dependent on the income of their spouses. Tipping US$5 a day for a guide or driver is a modest amount.
For mountain trekking:
- Should your programme in Bhutan have trekking activities will be spelt out clearly in your itinerary. If so, we recommend you to bring a pair of strong leather boots with high ankle and good grip. Have double lining socks to save your heel and ankle from blistering. Walking sticks if you bring along is fine but your guide can also assist you to buy a locally made wood sticks.
- Back pack (should be enough for water, snack food, change of clothing to go to temples/ monasteries. Rest of your belongings will be transported by horses during trek or, safely stored at the point of your arrival.
- Chocolate bars are known to prevent altitude sickness. If you have special bars to your taste from your country, you can bring it. Otherwise stores in Thimphu do have several types of chocolate bars.
- We provide quality tents imported from Europe alongwith sleeping mats. We, however, suggest you to bring your personal sleeping bags (-10 degree celcius and above). Night temperature up in the mountains dips below -10 degree celcius.
The main health risks are similar to other South Asian countires, namely diarrhea, respiratory infection or more unsual tropical infection. It is wise to have health insurance and although vaccinations are not required they are recommend. When trekking there are also risks associated with altitudes sickness and accident. In the event of health problem there are basic health facilities in each district headquarters.
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- Saga la Trek
- Drukpath Trek
- Jhomolhari Trek