Take note of peak & non-peak periods
The peak tourist seasons are Spring: March - May and Fall: September - November. In particular, March, April, October and November are especially busy. If you're considering visiting during these months, it's best to book your tour package and flight tickets at least 3 months ahead to ensure your reservation.
Back in 2010, Drukair tickets were sold out for 3 consecutive weeks, so to avoid disappointment, we'd advise you to plan ahead. More tourists tend to travel during this period as they are the ideal months for festivals and trekking, which are naturally big draws.
If you want to avoid the crowd of the peak tourist period, consider travelling during the non-peak period.
Cost difference between peak & non-peak periods
During the peak tourist seasons of March - May and September - November, the daily tariff costs US$250 per day. For the non-peak season of December - February and June - August, the daily tariff is US$200 per day. If you want to travel to Bhutan but have a tight(er) budget, plan your trip during the off-peak months.
Surcharge for groups of 2 travellers or less
Travellers intending to go alone or as a pair should take note of the daily surcharge as follows:
Single traveller - US$40 per night
Group of 2 travellers - US$30 per person/per night
Group of 3 travellers or more - No surcharge (so gather 2 of your friends along, save some money and form lasting memories!)
Know the seasons
It really depends on what you want to see and do. If you want to trek, April, May, September and October are the best months with optimum weather. Although it is colder, the skies are generally clear and blue, and most importantly, it won't be muddy. Do note that the monsoon season in Bhutan is from July - August and during this time, light rain (1-2 hours) in the morning is typical. Heavy downpours are rare, but we generally do not recommend trekking, unless they are short day hikes.
Winter is a good time to catch the endangered black necked crane in their winter home, the Phobjika valley and summer is a wonderful time for mushroom picking (there's even a Matsutake Mushroom Festival) and to catch glimpses of (sometimes double) rainbows over the valleys. If you're there to seek solace or for spirituality reasons, anytime would be a good time to go.
Read our best time to visit Bhutan »
Time your arrival during a festival
There are numerous festivals occurring throughout the year in Bhutan, though the popular ones such as the Paro and Thimphu Tshechu happen during the high tourist season. Festivals in Bhutan usually showcase colourful dances in elaborate costumes, with Bhutanese in attendance dressed to their best and unsurprisingly, tend to be huge tourist draws.
Apart from religious festivals, there are a range of other festivals catering to other interests, such as the Rhododendron Festival, Black Necked Crane Festival, Royal Highlander Festival, Ura Matsusake Mushroom Festival and Haa Summer Festival, to name a few. If you're looking for a more intimate experience, consider going for a lesser known festival. *Friendly tip* These tend to provide better photo taking opportunities.
Check our festival calendar for 2018
Consider a home stay
To be frank, this suggestion is often met with mixed response. Given the amount of money spent on the trip, many travellers want to unwind in the comfort of a hotel room. Others however, love the authenticity of staying with a local family and having the firsthand experience of what daily life is to a Bhutanese.
Some things to take note of if you're seriously considering this option: while some families have modern facilities, not all families have electricity or a hot shower - they may have to boil the water using firewood. What they lack in facilities however, they'll more than make up for with unparalleled hospitality.
See photos of homestay
End it in luxury
In Bhutan, much of your time will be spent in the car travelling from valley to valley and destination to destination. After driving through this beautiful country and possibly experiencing a homestay with a local family, consider ending your trip with a pampering, luxurious stay in a 5-star accommodation such as Uma Paro (where actors Tony Leung and Carina Lau got married) with their complimentary yoga sessions overlooking the charming Paro valley. Choose from their range of other holistic wellness programmes such as guided meditation, ayurvedic therapies or pampering massages.
Luxury hotels include:
Bonus tips for our readers
- Most hotels have WiFi, but if you need more connectivity you can get a local SIM card from Tashi Cell or B-Mobile and top up with prepaid cards.
- The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, but most Bhutanese are fluent in English as that is the medium of education so communication shouldn't be a problem.
- The local currency is the Ngultrum, which is pegged to the Indian Rupee. Note: The Indian Rupee in denominations of 500 and 1000 are no longer accepted in Bhutan.
- As the tour packages are prepaid, you'll only need money for your own personal expenses - souvenirs, tips (for driver & guide) and drinks. We normally recommend travellers bring about US$200
- There are ATMs in Bhutan, but only in the main towns. A word of caution, the ATMs do not always work and if they do, one is usually only able to withdraw small amounts.
- Visitors should be able to pay via credit card at most hotels and handicraft stores
- Bhutan is the only country in the world that has banned the consumption and sale of tobacco, resulting in smoking being largely disallowed in public places. Having said that, consumption is not completely prohibited in Bhutan so if you want to smoke, bring your own cigarettes and ask your guide where you can light up.
- Tuesdays are considered the national 'dry day,' with the sale of alcohol prohibited.
- Do pack warm clothes, especially if you're travelling between the months of November and March. 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 colder than others. It's best to be prepared!
- Prepare some of your own entertainment for the flight as well as trip. Bring some books to read and save movies to watch on your laptop or tablet. Apart from Thimphu and Paro, nightlife is non-existent and most hotels tend to be a distance away from the main town.
- Want to listen to music? The best radio stations for Western songs are 92, 965 and 99.9 FM. You can also enjoy the local music on other local stations on the radio.
- You can haggle in most shops but don't expect more than 10% discount. Generally speaking, prices between shops don't differ substantially.
- You don't have to tip in restaurants and hotels, unlike Western countries. The guide will take care of tipping on your behalf. However, do take note that you have to tip your guide.
- The roads tend to be windy so if you are prone to motion sickness, bring Dramamine or other medication to prevent nausea as you will be spending a lot of time in the car travelling around Bhutan.
- Bring along a multi-purpose electrical plug and a universal travel adapter. Most hotel rooms have limited electrical plugs, so it'll be wise to take along if you have many devices.
- When taking photos/filming inside Dzongs, monasteries, temples, or any religious institutions, check with your guide whether it is permitted as some areas do not allow it.