Mode of Travel:
Until recently, the only way to travel within Bhutan is by road. There are single lane paved highways that connect Bhutan from east to west and north to south. A majority of the roads that connect small towns and villages are feeder roads. Since Bhutan is a mountainous region, the roads are winding with plenty of hairpin bends and turns. However, Druk Air has commenced its domestic flights to Bumthang (in central Bhutan) and Yunphela in Trashigang (eastern Bhutan), but the operations is not regular due to weather conditions and poor infrastructures.
The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general the eastern region of the country is warmer than the central valleys. However, bear in mind that the higher the altitude, the cooler the weather, and that with a brisk wind blowing down off the mountains, even a low-lying valley can become quite chilly. The valleys of Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuentse enjoy a semi-tropical climate with cool winters, while Paro, Thimphu, Trongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate, with summer monsoon rains and winter snowfalls which may block passes leading into the central places for days at a time.
Winter in Bhutan (mid-November till mid-March) is dry and sunny for the most part with daytime temperatures of 16-18C (60-65F). The spring season (mid March to mid June) offers warmer temperatures gradually warming to 27-29C (80-84F). The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with light rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. At the end of September, after the last of the big rains, autumn suddenly arrives and is a magnificent season for trekking until November.
Dzongkha, “the language of the Dzong (fortress)”, belongs to the Tibetan linguistic family, originally spoken only in western Bhutan. Dzongkha is now Bhutan’s national language. English is commonly spoken in the main towns and is the principal medium of instruction in schools throughout the kingdom.
Bhutan time is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country.
All visitors are advised to get their own medical/travel or any other relevant insurance before visiting Bhutan as we do not have this facility here.
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.), with 100 Chetrum = 1 Ngultrum. The Ngultrum pegged with Indian rupee. Tourists are advised to carry their money in the form of travellers checks (preferably American Express) and cash (US dollars would be best) which might be used for incidental purchases/expenses. Credit cards are accepted in some places. Visa and American Express credit cards are more widely accepted than Mastercards. There are bank branches in all major towns with ATM facilities.
In Bhutan, electricity runs on 220/240 volts, with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets. In Thimphu, electrical appliance shops stock adapter plugs, but they are unlikely to be available elsewhere.
Internet cafes are more widespread in western part of Bhutan and IDD calling booths can be found even in the remote far east of the country. IDD calls may be made and received at most accommodations used by Red Rice Red Chilies Adventures, and at least in Thimphu, hotel internet access is assured.
Red Rice Red Chilies Adventures guides carry satellite phones on the Laya and Lunana treks, where groups are away from regular means of communication for extended periods of time.
Most hotels in Bhutan are Standard Hotels in the 2-3 star categories. Although the best Standard Hotels cannot be compared with international hotels, all hotels offer the necessary facilities and are properly maintained. There are a few Deluxe Hotels available in Thimphu and Paro and a few Luxury 5 star resorts available in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey (Wangdiphodrang), and Bumthang. Generally speaking, hotels in western Bhutan (Thimphu, Paro, Punakha) are better appointed, while accommodation establishments in the central and eastern part of the country are more modest, with fewer amenities.
While on treks, we will choose the best available spot for the campsite. Our camping equipments are of high quality and well maintained. You will be accompanied by a guide and a dedicated support team to help setup camp, transport baggage & camping equipment and prepare fresh meals.
When you travel with Red Rice Red Chilies Adventures, you can be sure that your accommodation in lodges, guest houses, smaller hotels and tented camps will be up to the best available. All accommodations used by Red Rice Red Chilies Adventures are certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
Bhutanese delicacies are rich with spicy chilies and cheese. All hotels and lodges on Red Rice Red Chilies Adventures’ selected list of accommodations offer delicious Chinese, Continental, Bhutanese and Indian cuisine.
For trekking groups, Red Rice Red Chilies Adventures’ own trained cooks will prepare dishes suitable to western taste in the above range, and every effort will be made to accommodate the individual dietary preferences of your clients. Please give some advance notice of any special dietary requirements so that we can make appropriate arrangements when the catering team assembles provisions.
What to pack:
Clothing: Due to the wide range of temperature and climatic conditions it is advisable to dress in layers. For protection against cold, layered clothing is better than one or two thick garments. Clothing should preferably be made from natural materials, which allow the body to breathe.
You will be offending people if you walk around in skimpy or tight fitting clothes. Shorts are not welcomed and women are advised to wear below the knee skirts or fairly loose trousers. Do not wear sleeveless T shirts (singlets, vests) as outer garments. Dress modestly and respectfully for visits to monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. Hats, caps etc. should be removed before entering the premises.
Shoes: Bring comfortable sport shoes for light hikes & sightseeing; hiking boots for treks; semi formal shoes for dinners/appointments/functions.
Others: Sunglasses/spare glasses, knife, hat, umbrella, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries), insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, flash light (w/spare batteries), mirror, scissors, sun cream, sun burn relief cream, lip salve, soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhea pills, altitude & car sickness medicine and any medication you take regularly, or might need to take for a periodically recurring condition, such as asthma.
Trekkers: We provide clean but used sleeping bags and foam mats, you can bring your own sleeping bag and thermal mats if you prefer; comfortable trekking boots which have already been broken in and plenty of pairs of socks, noting that woolen socks dry quicker than cotton ones. Also bring a water bottle and plastic bags for packing clothing while on trek, as plastic bags are banned in Bhutan.
The photographic opportunities on all trips are immense. Outdoor photography is usually permitted, but photography is generally not permitted when visiting shrine rooms of Dzongs, monasteries and religious institutions. Please check with your guide before taking any photographs. You will also wish to record the local people, their houses and shops etc., always ask by a gesture if it is alright to do so. Don’t take your destination as a living museum!
Hand-woven textiles, carved masks, woven baskets, wooden bowls, handmade paper products, finely crafted metal objects, Thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps are the items mostly purchased by travellers in Bhutan. The buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden.
Tipping is a purely personal matter. The bottom line in determining whether or how much to tip is to ask yourself how much Red Rice Red Chilies Adventures team members did to make your Bhutan travel experience more enjoyable.
Visitors are required to complete a passenger declaration form for checking by concerned officers on arrival. The following articles are exempt from duty:
- Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor
- 1 litre of alcohol (spirits or wine)
- 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%
- Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
- Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use
The articles mentioned under (IV) & (V) must be declared on the declaration form. If any such items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty. On departure, visitors are required to surrender their forms to the Customs authorities.
Import/export restrictions of the following goods is strictly prohibited:
- Arms, ammunitions and explosives
- All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs
- Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival. Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate. Red Rice Red Chilies Adventures’ advice should be sought before committing to such purchases.