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General Information... things you should know!

Best Time to Visit Bhutan The best seasons to visit Bhutan are during Spring (March, April & May) and Autumn (September, October & November). The major Bhutanese religious festivals are held during these seasons and fine Spring and Autumn weather makes it an ideal time for trekking in Bhutan and for traveling throughout the country enjoying great views of Himalayan mountains peaks. Nevertheless, it is possible to visit Bhutan throughout the year as Bhutan has 4 seasons in a year and each season has its own charm as given below: Spring Season-March, April and May In Spring the trekking season commences in moderate altitudes. Above 3000 meters spectacular rhododendron forests bloom. It is also the perfect time for a rafting tour. In Paro, one of the largest monastic festivals - Paro Tshechu takes place.The temperature is pleasantly mild even up to the Alp regions. Rain comes only in May as the harbinger of the approaching monsoon. Summer Season- June, July and August The Summer brings with it the monsoon, but this weather should not deter Bhutan travelers. In the settled areas of the medium ranges of Central and Western Bhutan, pleasant summer temperatures without heat or humidity can be found. Rain falls for short periods daily but is manageable with adequate planning and equipment provided by Bhutan tour Operators /Bhutan travel agents like Access Bhutan Tours & Treks. Treks in high mountain areas, e.g. the Snowman Trek, are characterized by mild temperatures, verdant green meadows, and pastures of Blue Poppies and Edelweiss. Nomads tending their yaks in the high Alps are a common sight. Autumn Season- September, October and November Autumn is the traditional high season in Bhutan. September and October have the highest number of Tshechus (monastic festivals). Trekkers particularly enjoy the clear view of the mountains in October and the low rainfall. Rice harvest means a picturesque landscape remarkable terraces and changing color. Winter Season-December, January and February In Winter the South beckons. Dry and pleasant conditions make this the best time of year for bird watching in the jungles, village to village trekking in the lower altitudes or a bicycle trip along quiet mountain roads. The trekking routes in the high mountains are covered in deep snow and are impassable at this time of year. The impressive and endangered Black Necked Crane spends the winter in the high valley of Bumdeling (in eastern Bhutan) and Phobjika (in central Bhutan).

Bangkok Stopovers - we recommend a two night stopover in Bangkok on your outbound journey. Most flights from Australia arrives into Bangkok very late at night and the Drukair flights to Paro depart very early in the morning around 07.00am.Should delays occur you will have at best an uncomfortable and inconvenient transit between flights.We recommend, from personal experience, the new Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel at approx USD$170.00 plus 17% tax per room per night.The hotel shuttle bus runs every 5 minutes and can be accessed by Arrival Gate 4. A taxi from the Novotel to Bangkok city takes 45 minutes and costs approx 240 Thai baht (USD$7.00) including the two toll booth charges of 20 baht each, which your driver will ask you for in advance at each toll booth.

Cheap hotels are available closely to the airport.

Bartering - the Bhutanese generally do not barter for products and a fixed price system prevails. Many Bhutanese find bartering offensive. The only place to consider bartering is at the weekend markets in Thimphu where it is acceptable.

Bhutanese Cuisine - the Bhutanese diet is rich in meat and poultry, dairy, grain (particularly rice - red and white) and vegetables. Emadatse (chili pepper and cheese stew) is considered the favorite dish with many interpretations to this recipe throughout the country. Poultry and meat dishes, pork, beef and yak, are lavishly spiced with chilies, and it is common to see bright red peppers drying on rooftops in the sun. Salted butter tea, or Suja, is served on all social occasions. Chang, a local beer, black mountain whiskey and Arra, a spirit distilled from various grains, are also common and widely favored. Doma or betel nut is offered as a customary gesture of greeting.

Currency & Credit Cards - the Bhutanese currency is the Ngultrum and is the same value as the Indian Rupee. Both can be used in Bhutan. Most foreign visitors take in USD and this is widely accepted. Some useful tips are

* Consider a budget of US$45-60 per person per day. It covers tips, drinks & most handicraft purchases along the way.
* If taking USD please ensure you have plenty of US$1 and US$5 notes for convenience.
* If taking in Indian Rupees do NOT carry 500 or 1000 rupee notes as they are rarely accepted.
* Stick with 10 and 100 rupee notes where possible.

Credit cards are rarely accepted. When they are a surcharge of up to 7% applies so beware! The Government Handicraft Centre in Thimphu accepts Visa, MasterCard and Amex as do the Jumolhari Hotel Thimphu, Zhiwaling Resort Paro and the four Amankora Lodges.

Duty Free Allowance - the following allowances are per person:
* 1 litre bottle of spirits
* 250mls of perfume
* 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250grams tobacco
* Currency – no restriction
* Gifts/Souvenirs – no restriction

Please note the exportation of genuine antiquities, religious objects, and manuscripts are strictly forbidden.

Dogs - there are plenty of them. Whilst a sterilization program has been commenced by the Government,it is not expected to have a major impact for some years to come. They are generally well behaved however can be noisy at night…especially in Thimphu. You might consider carrying ear plugs if you are especially sensitive to noise at night.

Dress for Bhutan - Dress should not be too formal - plain, simple and inoffensive clothing is expected when visiting Dzongs and Monasteries. Hats or Caps should NOT be worn on such visits. Remember to pack warmer clothing for the evenings. Take just 2 pairs of footwear. A pair of stout walking shoes or boots will see you right for day use and a more comfortable pair of shoes for about the hotels in the evenings. Please ensure your walking shoes/boots are well worn in! What to take with you.

* Light rain jacket any time of year.
* Warm clothes and thermals for winter and higher altitude trekking.
* Essential medications and a small emergency medical kit.
* A good flashlight.
* Day pack, binoculars and camera.
* Sleeping bag and underlay if trekking.

Electricity - Bhutan operates on 230 volts, 50 cycles AC system, which is generally reliable. The standard socket is the Indian style round pin socket, however these comes in a variety of sizes and there's no assurance the plug you have on your appliance, or converter, will fit the socket in your hotel. Most European round -pin plugs work, albeit loosely in the socket. Take an adapter with you and if you are still having problems,there are plenty of electrical shops in Thimphu who can assist with a local version.

Gifts - the Bhutanese are beginning to frown on gifts for local people and children, as they are believed to encourage begging which the Bhutanese Government is determined to avoid at all cost. Colored pencils and pens are always welcomed, however best to give them to teachers or adults to distribute rather than to the children themselves. Stick pins/fluffy koalas are a novelty but of little practical value so best left at home. Duty Free alcohol/cigarettes are always welcomed by your tour operators and long Argyle socks are an excellent gift for guides/drivers etc. This is part of their national dress!

Opening Times for Major Institutions

- subject to change at short notice! Note: most are closed on Mondays and National Holidays.

Opening Times for Major Institutions

- subject to change at short notice! Note : most are closed on Mondays and National Holidays.

* National Museum - Paro: Tue-Sat 9.00am to 4.00pm; Sundays 11.00am to 4.00pm. Closed - Mon & National Holidays.
* School of Arts & Crafts – Thimphu: Mon-Fri 2.00pm to 4.00pm; Saturdays 9.00am to 12noon.
Closed - Sun, National & Winter Holidays.
* The National Library – Thimphu: Mon-Fri 9.00am to 4.00pm summer. Closes 4pm in winter.
Closed - Sat, Sun & National Holidays.
* National Textile Museum – Thimphu: Tue-Fri 9.00am to 4.00pm; Sat 1.00pm to 4.00pm; Sun 10.00am to 3.00pm. Closed - Mon & National Holidays.
* Institute of Traditional Medicine – Thimphu: Mon-Fri 9.00am to 5.00pm summer. Closes 4.00pm winter. Closed - Sat & Sun and all Public Holidays. Note: Visitors only permitted to the museum and library.
* Punakha Dzong: Closed for visits in winter when the Monk Body is in residence.
* Tashichodzong – Thimphu: Open to tourists only in winter after 4pm, when the Monk Body is in Punakha.

Special Notes on Cultural Adherence - most of the Dzongs and Lhakangs are not open for tourists. This is to ensure monastic life can continue unhindered and also for environmental reasons. The Bhutanese appreciates your understanding. Be very careful when purchasing antiquities as souvenirs. Many are not permitted to be removed from Bhutan and will be confiscated without a letter of certification.

You Must Book Well In Advance - entry to Bhutan is largely controlled by the relatively small number of guides, drivers, cars and hotel rooms and of course airline seats on Drukair. To ensure you can obtain space on Drukair flights, and also obtain pre-approval for your entry visa in time for your departure, it is strongly recommended you make your travel arrangements for Bhutan at least 3 months in advance. For busy periods, such as September to November and March to May, at least 6-9 months advance booking is required.

Mandatory Travel Package Structure - all tourists MUST travel on pre-planned, pre-paid, guided package arrangements. You do NOT have to travel as part of a group and can enjoy flexibility to wander about Bhutan’s towns and countryside with a reasonable degree of freedom. However it is not possible to be fully independent and you must always travel with your guide and driver between towns and villages and stay in your pre-booked hotel accommodation. The Bhutanese are extremely hospitable and your guide will be a valuable asset and add to the enjoyment of your stay immensely.

Roads Redevelopment (2007) - please be aware the roads between Paro and Thimphu and Paro and Phuentsholing are under reconstruction which is expected to take all of 2007 to complete. Your initial introduction to Bhutan could therefore be dustier or muddier than usual and you could also be subjected to some traffic delays. The current major constructions of roads and buildings are designed to show Bhutan at it’s best for the coming coronation of the new King and the official handover to democracy both in the year 2008. (Exact dates yet to be confirmed).

Seasons - low season is July and August and high season applies the rest of the year.

Smoking - it is forbidden to sell or purchase cigarettes or tobacco products in Bhutan. It is however NOT forbidden to smoke in appropriate areas and you may carry a small supply for personal use.

Speaking Dzongkha - here are a few basic phrases to help you along the way. Your guide,

Kuzuzangpo La

Respected Greetings (use this when meeting new people)

Tashi Delek

May all good things come to you (use this as a farewell)

Kardenche La 

Thank you










Bhutanese wine

Bang Chhang





along with younger Bhutanese will speak very good English.

Tipping - from personal experience and the feedback of other clients we suggest you consider tipping as follows. Your guide US$5-10 per person per day and your driver US$3-5 per person per day. When trekking, you will also need to tip your cook and horsemen. Your guide will assist you in the amounts required. It is also customary to tip your guide extra when trekking. It is generally accepted that children do not need to be included in the tipping formula!

Travel Packages and Costs - the Royal Government of Bhutan has a fixed tariff system for visitors. This is based on a minimum set nightly fee per person. Additionally all tourists pay a Tourism Development Fee and a Visa Fee and surcharges apply if travelling as a party of less than 3 persons and for those requiring single rooms. Travel Packages Include:

* Your personal guide & driver with car/4WD or minibus depending on party size.
* All touring & sightseeing throughout your stay in Bhutan.
* Hotel accommodation with private bathrooms & all meals.
* When trekking tented campsites replace hotels.
* When trekking the services of additional support crew and ponies are included.
* Visa fees, Paro Airport taxes, Government Levies and taxes.

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