Overview about Bhutan
Bhutan, officially known as Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country in South Asia. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north, the Sikkim state of India and the Chumbi Valley of Tibet in the west, the Arunachal Pradesh state of India in the east, and the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal in the south.
Bhutan also known as Druk Yul - Land of Thunder Dragon is listed as Best in Travel 2020 by Lonely Planet. This small Himalayan nation has much to offer to travellers, after all, it is the birthplace of the popular Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy. Spirituality and Buddhism is an integral part of the Bhutanese life, and even all the government policies and plans have to be aligned with the key tenets of Gross National Happiness.
There are plenty of things to see in Bhutan that caters to the different types of travellers. Whether you’re a cultural buff, a foodie, shopaholic, an avid trekker, nature lover or simply a city dweller looking for an escapade - there will definitely be something in Bhutan for you to indulge yourself in.
Just talk to our Druk Asia travel specialists about your preference and they will be able to provide the best recommendations in Bhutan for you!
1. Exploring and transiting in Bangkok, Thailand
According to a survey done by Mastercard in 2019, Bangkok is the most visited city in the world for four consecutive years. With a vibrant street life, cheap shopping, beautiful beaches and wild nightlife, it is no surprise that millions of tourists would throng to this bustling city every year. Bangkok is truly the heart of Southeast Asia and this Land of Smiles is especially popular amongst business travellers and backpackers alike. Whether you are in Bangkok for a few hours of transit, a few days of business trip or a week long vacation, there are many things to keep you occupied in this busy city. Some of the most popular activities include experiencing the traditional Thai massage that can be found all over the city, getting a taste of authentic tom yum (popular hot and sour Thai soup), or go for some shopping therapy.
1.1 Top things to do in Bangkok
Visiting one of the floating markets such as Damnoen Saduak, Klong Lat Mayom, and Amphawa.
Hop onto a Tuk-tuk and go around the city.
Check out the Grand Palace located at the heart of the city.
Have a sweeping view of the city from the top in Sky Bar Bangkok
Go on a shopping spree at Chatuchak Weekend Market or Platinum Mall.
Take a stroll and take pleasure in the glorious sunset at Asiatique: The Riverfront.
Soak in the nightlife atmosphere in Khao San road.
Eat your heart out at the night markets such as Artbox Bangkok, Talad Rod Fai, Pratunam, Sukhumvit Street Market and Chatuchak night market.
Pamper yourself with some popular traditional Thai massage.
Check out some of the famous eateries featured on Netflix’s Street Food series such as the michelin-starred Jay Fai restaurant for her wok-cooked seafood dishes, Soi Sukhumvit 38’s popular egg noodle pushcart (that has now been relocated to the area near Suan Luang Rama IX Park) and Chinatown’s famous khao gaeng (curry with rice) parlor Jek Pui.
Fun Fact: The current fifth King of Bhutan, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has gained popularity in Thailand since his first visit to the country in 2006 when he was the Crown Prince. He was in Bangkok to attend the 60th anniversary celebrations of Thailand’s King Bhumibol’s accession to the throne. Since then, the charming Prince has won the hearts of the Thais.
1.2 Transit in Bangkok
There are two international airports in Bangkok - Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport. Do note that Drukair only operates from Suvarnabhumi Airport if you are planning to transit from Bangkok to Bhutan or vice versa. Suvarnabhumi is the largest in Thailand and it’s a major transfer hub for Southeast Asia.
If you have many hours to spare until your next flight and would like to get some snooze, you can also check yourself into Louis Tavern Dayrooms in Concourse G (4th floor - do not pass through immigration).
There are also plenty of shops for you to do some last minute souvenirs shopping or window shopping. Otherwise, you can also satisfy your tummy with some authentic Thai meals while waiting for your flight.
2. How to travel to Bhutan from Bangkok, Thailand
Getting to Bhutan is relatively easy. Drukair (Royal Bhutan Airlines) has direct flights to Paro International Airport in Bhutan from Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand.
2.1 Travelling to Bhutan from Bangkok, Thailand
Aside from Changi Airport, Singapore being one of the most popular international transit hubs for travellers, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Thailand is another alternative for travelling to Bhutan from Southeast Asia region.
Drukair operates daily flights from Bangkok (BKK), Thailand to Bhutan. The flight schedule from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) to Paro International Airport (PBH) may differ for the different months.
Check the latest Drukair Schedule here - www.Drukair.com.sg.
Total flight duration from Bangkok (BKK), Thailand to Bhutan is 3 hours. There might be a 30 - 45 minutes layover at Bagdogra or Kolkata, India for some flights. Passengers are not required to disembark from the aircraft.
A round trip from Bangkok, Thailand to Bhutan is approximately *SGD 1335 (USD 965) per pax.
However, airfare and taxes are subjected to change.
Please check with our friendly travel consultants at Druk Asia for the latest information.
Check-in counter for Drukair is located in row S-W (please reconfirm on the information screen once inside the terminal). Check-in counters are open 3 hours before departure and will be closed 1 hour prior to departure. It is advisable for passengers to check in early as seats are allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis.
2.2 Drukair baggage allowance
Drukair provides a standard baggage allowance of 30kg for economy class and 40kg for business class travellers. The carry-on bag allowance is 5kg.
Bhutan has one of the most stunning descents through the gorgeous Himalayan mountain ranges prior to landing at Paro International Airport. Only certified pilots are allowed to land at Paro International Airport.
3.How to apply for Bhutan visa from Bangkok, Thailand
All tourists aside from citizens from Bangladesh, Maldives and India are required to apply for a visa. You are required to book your visa and trip to Bhutan through a licensed tour operator. Speak to the friendly travel consultants at Druk Asia and we will be able to assist you with your visa application.
You are required to produce a scanned copy of your passport with minimum six month validity. Bhutan visa application costs USD40 per person.
We will email you a copy of your e-visa clearance upon approval and you are required to produce this at the check-in counter and to the immigration officer when you land in Bhutan. The actual visa will be stamped on your passport at the port of entry once you complete all the immigration formalities.
4. How much does it cost to travel to Bhutan from Bangkok, Thailand
Sustainable Development Fee
All tourists entering Bhutan are subjected to a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD 100 per night. This fee aims to maintain the country's cultural and environmental integrity, preserving its unique beauty for generations to come. By embracing this commitment to sustainability through the SDF fee, visitors actively contribute to the conservation of Bhutan's natural wonders.
Children under 5 years old are exempt from the SDF, while those aged 5 to 12 years are required to pay USD 50 per night. It's important to note that the SDF does not cover accommodation, meals, transportation, or guide services.
Regional tourists from India are required to apply for a permit and pay 1200 INR/night.
Permit (Indian Passports only)
0- 5 years old
1200 INR / night
5 – 12 years old
Adult above 12 years old
$100 USD / night
Overall Travel Cost to Bhutan
The total cost of travel to Bhutan largely depends on the following factors:
- The type of accommodation that you choose.
- The places that you visit in Bhutan.
- The no. of days you require a tour guide.
- The no. of days you require a driver.
Do provide your travel details (no. of pax and tentative travel dates) at https://www.drukasia.com/contact/ and our friendly travel consultants will assist you with the costing.
5. What are some popular attractions in Bhutan
Taktsang Monastery, popularly known as the Tiger’s Nest, the national icon of Bhutan is definitely a must-see when you are in the Kingdom! The majestic sacred Buddhist monastery perched on the cliff top, 2950m above sea level provides an unforgettable hiking experience with awe-inspiring sceneries to all travellers. Other places of attractions include Buddha Dordenma, Memorial Chorten, Tashichho Dzong, Punakha Dzong, Punakha Suspension Bridge, Chimi Lhakang, Kyichu Lhakang, Dochula Pass, Bumthang valley, Gangtey (Phobjikha valley) and many more.
Click here for more information about some of these places of attraction.
6. What is the temperature and climate in Bhutan
Due to its location, Bhutan’s weather and climate are heavily influenced by its altitudes and terrains. Western Bhutan has heavier monsoon rains while southern Bhutan has a hot and humid subtropical climate with a monsoon season that is consistent throughout the year. The southern region also receives a significant amount of rain in a year and heavy rainfall can sometimes cause landslides and render roads impassable. Central Bhutan, where the major towns and tourist attractions are located has a more seasonal climate with warm summers before the monsoon. The winters are usually cool and dry with clear blue skies. In the far northern region, the weather has a harsher climate and is much colder during winter. Mountain peaks are perpetually covered in snow and lower-lying areas are cool in summer.
7. When is the best time to travel to Bhutan
Bhutan is an all year round travel destination. Aside from the climate, another deciding factor for tourists to visit Bhutan is the festival schedule. Spring is the favourite season for tourists to visit Bhutan as the weather is ideal and it’s an excellent time for trekking. The valleys are lush green with rhododendron, wild azaleas and wildflowers blooming in March to May. Autumn is also a peak season for Bhutan due to the pleasant mild weather with clear and crisp blue skies. It is also one of the best times for trekking as the climate is cool and temperate. You will also get to bask in the beautiful landscapes with rice fields turning gold before harvest.
Although monsoon seasons start from June to August, Bhutan usually experiences only light showers in the afternoon and will not affect much of your itinerary. Occasionally there will be drizzles that last through the entire day. This is the best season if you would like to have a closer and clear view of the Himalyan mountains and indulge in the lush green paddy fields. With the days being longer in summer, you will also get to explore more places as compared to the other seasons. If you would like to have an exclusive experience in Bhutan with lesser crowds, summer and winter are the time with the least footfall. You will also get to save 20% of your daily tariff due to the lower charges in the non-peak season.
8. What are some tour packages that I can select
Below are some popular Druk Asia tour packages that you can choose from:-
9 Day Druk Path trek
9 Day Dagala Thousand trek
11 Day Jomolhari Trek
7 Day tour in Thimphu, Punakha and Paro
10 Day tour in Thimphu, Punakha, Bumthang, Gangtey and Paro
7 Day Neykor tour
Depending on your personal preference, we will be able to customise your itinerary accordingly. After all, our aim is to ensure that you have the most memorable trip in Bhutan!
Druk Asia also offers special interests tours such as photography and sketching tours. Aside from that, we also organise pre-wedding photography trips.
For other tours and itineraries, check out the different packages at www.drukasia.com.
9. About Tsechus (Festivals) in Bhutan
Tshechu or the Mask Dance Festival is the most important religious festival in Bhutan. It is held annually in the monasteries and dzongs from all the 20 districts in the different months of the year to honour Guru Rinpoche who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. A Tshechu typically lasts for four or five days. It is celebrated on the tenth day of Tibetan lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche. Hence, the exact dates of the Tshechu in the different districts varies from year to year.
Dancers usually wear wooden masks that represent animals, fearsome deities, and various manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. According to legends, Guru Rinpoche has eight manifestations, each with a different name and appearance. The most distinctive mask represents the wrathful manifestation of Guru Rinpoche which he transformed to tame harmful deities.
The most popular Tshechus for tourists are in Paro, as well as in Punakha, and Thimphu where thousands of locals will turn up in their best attire to enjoy the festival.
- Punakha Dromchoe and Tshechu (February)
- Paro Tshechu (April)
- Thimphu Tshechu (September)
10. Bhutanese food and cuisine
The Bhutanese diet is rich in meat, cereals - particularly rice - vegetables and herbs. A common ingredient that runs through all of Bhutanese food is the use of chili peppers. It is common to see these bright red peppers along with strips of meats drying on roofs in the sun. Yak meat is a staple diet for the highlander, and chicken and mutton are commonly eaten in the south. Bhutanese also enjoy eating plant based food such as wild mushrooms, tender bamboo shoots, fiddlehead ferns, nettle flowers and orchid flower buds.
Spicy lovers can rejoice as you can expect to be served with some ema datshi (chilli cheese), Bhutan’s national dish or ezay (chilli condiment) during your meals.
Butter tea is often served on all social occasions alongside some zaw (roasted rice). Arra, a spirit distilled from rice, maize, wheat or barley, are also Bhutanese’s favourite beverages. Bhutanese also often offer Doma (betel nut with a dash of slaked lime) as a customary greeting and polite social gesture.
As Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist country, you can also find vegetarian food easily.
11. What are some tips for travelling to Bhutan
11.1 Bhutan currency exchange, ATM withdrawal and credit card usage
- The Bhutanese currency, the Bhutanese ngultrum (Nu.), is at par with the Indian rupee. Thus, Indian rupees are commonly accepted in Bhutan. However, old indian rupees as well as 500 and 1000 rupees are not accepted in Bhutan.
- You may not always be able to withdraw any money from the local ATMs. It is advisable for you to bring along cash for out of pocket expenses.
- Aside from the Paro International Airport, you can also exchange for the Bhutanese currency (Ngultrum) at Bank of Bhutan in Thimphu and Paro. However, they only accept 10 major currencies: U.S. Dollar, Pound Sterling, Euro, Japanese Yen, Swiss Franc, Hong Kong Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Danish Kroner, Australian Dollar and Singapore Dollars.
- The exchange rate varies according to your currency denomination. You are encouraged to bring larger denominations for the exchange as larger bills will give you a higher exchange rate.
- USD 100 bills issued before year 2000 are not accepted for exchange.
- Credit cards are not commonly accepted in Bhutan yet. It is still advisable that you bring along cash for payment. Most places might accept payment in the 10 major foreign currencies.
- For the daily foreign exchange rate of the different banks in Bhutan, check out www.dailybhutan.com/FX.
11.2 Where can I get a SIM card in Bhutan
- There are two mobile operators in Bhutan - B-mobile and Tashi Cell.
- You can purchase a tourist SIM card from the airport, mobile operator office or from any authorised dealer in larger towns like Paro and Thimphu.
- You will need your passport copy and 200 Ngultrum (Nu) (approx. USD 2.70). You might want to get some extra few hundred Ngultrum for the beginning, especially if you want to call abroad or use the internet. You can load your balance by buying recharge vouchers, which comes in 50 Nu to 500 Nu value
- From our experience, a top up of 300 Nu (USD 4.20) should suffice for a week’s trip.
- *To help you skip the queue and cut down the hassle of getting a SIM card on your own, a SIM card will be ready for you upon your arrival if you travel with Druk Asia.
Druk Asia guests only
11.3 Is the wifi and internet in Bhutan reliable
Most of the hotels offer free wifi but some may be limited to the lobby area. Internet connection is generally good in bigger towns like Thimphu, Paro, Trongsa and Bumthang. Some remote valleys may have intermittent connectivity. It is advisable for travellers to purchase a SIM card upon arrival in Bhutan.
11.4 What should I wear in Bhutan
Generally, there are no attire restrictions in Bhutan except for official occasions like entering government offices, dzongs, temples, or monasteries.
Travellers should dress modestly such as long sleeve shirts, full length pants and shoes when visiting government offices, dzongs, temples, or monasteries.
Do note that you are also required to remove your shoes and headgear prior to entering the above places.
As a general tip, it would be wise to always have a jacket when travelling in Bhutan regardless of the seasons as you will experience huge changes in elevation, with certain valleys being colder than others.
11.5 Where can I go shopping in Bhutan
For the shopaholics, you can quench your shopping thirst by visiting the Paro Town, or Bhutan Natural and The Craft Gallery located in Thimphu town for a range of high quality products from the local artisans.
11.5.1 The Craft Gallery
Norzin Lam 3 (opposite Bhutan Development Bank)
Opening hour : Mon - Sat 9am - 5pm
*9am - 4pm (during winter)
11.5.2 Bhutan Natural
Norzin Lam (opposite Hotel Gakyil near the clock tower)
Opening hour: Mon - Sun 9am - 5pm
11.6 Photography in Bhutan
The charm of Bhutan from its unique architecture to stunning landscapes is definitely a photography haven for photographers. You are encouraged to check with your guide if photography is permitted especially when visiting dzongs, temples or monasteries.
As our photographer friend Lester Lesdema said “You can’t take a bad photo in Bhutan”
12. Basic conversational phrases in Bhutanese language (Dzongkha)
The official language of Bhutan in dzongkha - the language of the fort. However, most Bhutanese can also speak English as English has been the medium of instruction in schools since modern education began in the country in 1907.
You will probably hear a lot of ‘la’ at the end of sentences when a Bhutanese speaks. The ‘la’ in Bhutan is not the same as the ‘lah’ in the Singaporean slang. Using ‘la’ at the end of a sentence is a sign of respect in Bhutan.
Hello: Kuzuzangpo la སྐུ་གཟུགས་བཟང་པོ་ལགས།
Goodbye: Log jay gay ལོག་མཇལ་གེ་ལགས།
Thank you: Kadinchey la བཀའ་དྲིན་ཆེ་ལགས།
What is your name?: Ming ga chi mo? ཁྱོད་ཀྱི་མིང་ག་ཅི་སྨོ?
My name is ____ : Nga gi ming _____ in ངེས་ཀྱི་མིང་་་་་་་་་་ཨིན།
Where are you from?: Chhoey ga te lay mo? ཁྱོད་ག་ཏེ་ལས་སྨོ?
How old are you?: Kay lo gadem chi ya si? (formal) སྐྱེ་ལོ་ག་དེམ་ཅིག་ཡར་སོང་ཡི?
Chey gi lo gadem chi mo (informal) ཁྱོད་ལོ་ག་དེ་ཅིག་སྨོ?
Where is the toilet?: Chhabsa gathey mo? ཆབ་གསང་ག་ཏེ་སྨོ?
I’m ill: Nga nau may ང་ནཝ་མས།
Where is the hospital?: Menkhang ga tey in na? སྨན་ཁང་ག་ཏེ་ཨིན་ན?
What is this?: Ani ga chi mo? ཨ་ནི་ག་ཅི་སྨོ?
How much is it?: Teru ga they chi mo? ཏི་རུ་ག་དེ་ཅི་སྨོ?
That’s too expensive: Gong bom mayགོང་མཐོ་བས།
Greetings for congratulations/cheers/good luck: Tashi delek བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས།