Travelling to Bhutan from Singapore

Posted on 05/June/2020

Table of Content

Overview about Bhutan

1. Exploring and transiting in Singapore

1.1 Transit in Singapore

1.2 Top things to do in Singapore Changi Airport

2. How to travel to Bhutan

2.1 Travelling to Bhutan from Singapore

2.2 Drukair baggage allowance

3. How to apply for Bhutan visa from Singapore

4. How much does it cost to travel to Bhutan from Singapore

5. What are some popular attractions in Bhutan

6. What is the temperature and climate in Bhutan

7. When is the best time to travel to Bhutan

8. What are some tour packages that I can select

9. About Tsechus (Festivals) in Bhutan

10. Bhutanese food and cuisine

11. What are some tips for travelling to Bhutan

11.1 Bhutan currency exchange, ATM withdrawal and credit card usage

11.2 Where can I get a SIM card in Bhutan

11.3 Is the wifi and internet in Bhutan reliable

11.4 What should I wear in Bhutan

11.5 Where can I go shopping in Bhutan

11.5.1 The Craft Gallery

11.5.2 Bhutan Natural

11.6 Photography in Bhutan

12. Basic conversational phrases in Bhutanese language (Dzongkha)

 

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 Singapore

Singapore is one of the most visited destinations in the Asian region. This small city state is a melting pot of different cultures and famed for its cleanliness and convenience. Some of the popular tourist attractions in this Lion City includes Gardens By the Bay, Singapore Zoo, Orchard Road, Sentosa and Universal Studios Singapore. The merlion statue located near One Fullerton at the Central Business District area is a landmark of Singapore that is often frequented by tourists. Some travellers also like to visit the hawker centre for some delicious cheap local delicacy. Amongst the popular hawker centres are Chinatown Food Complex, Old Airport Road Food Centre, Chomp Chomp Food Centre and Newton Food Centre. There are also many nice rooftop bars in Singapore with beautiful views and great ambience. It is really easy to get around in Singapore through public transportation such as the public buses or the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT).

Fun fact: Singapore is 53 times smaller than Bhutan in land size but the population in Singapore is about 5.7 million people while the population in Bhutan is around 770,000 people.

1.1 Transit in Singapore

If you only have a few hours to spare while transiting in Singapore, fret not! Afterall, you are transiting in the world’s best airport! Singapore’s Changi Airport is undoubtedly one of the world’s most awarded airports and has bagged the World’s Best Airport title for eight years consecutively under the Skytrax World Airport Awards. Changi Airport has four passenger terminals (T1, T2, T3, T4) and the latest retail complex (Changi Jewel). All the terminals are interconnected and can be easily accessible through skytrain, shuttle bus services or by foot. There is plenty of food and activities to keep you occupied at Changi Airport - just make sure not to miss your flight!

1.2 Top things to do in Singapore Changi Airport

  • Visiting the Rain Vortex in Changi Jewel. The 40-metre tall rain vortex is the world’s largest indoor waterfall that has been the centre of attraction since its opening in April 2019. Be sure to check it out for some insta-worthy shots. (Changi Jewel)

  • For nature lovers, you can check out the different gardens located at the different terminals. You can find five different gardens in the airport:- Cactus Garden (T1), Sunflower Garden (T2), Enchanted Garden (T2), Orchid Garden (T2), and the popular Butterfly Garden (T3).

  • If your legs are screaming for some rest, you can also check out the free movie screenings in either T2 or T3 theatres.The cinemas are open 24 hours daily. (T2 and T3)

  • Revel in Singapore’s Peranakan Culture at the Heritage Zone. You will find a carpeted lounge area with an interesting LED screen where a Peranakan Love Story is digitally projected on the wall. (T4)

  • Shop ‘til you drop! Changi Airport has over 300 shops ranging from daily necessities, souvenirs, duty free wine and spirits to luxury goods. It’s truly a shopping haven for all the shoppaholics.

  • Eat to your heart’s content - there are more than 100 dining options of international cuisines to be found at the airport.

  • Indulge in the free massage chairs along the corridors of the departure gates. Your feet will thank you for that.

Bhutan has one of the most stunning descents through the gorgeous Himalayan mountain ranges prior to landing at Paro International Airport. 

2. How to travel to Bhutan

Getting to Bhutan is relatively easy. Drukair (Royal Bhutan Airlines) has direct flights to Paro International Airport in Bhutan from 5 countries in the Southeast Asian and South Asian region - Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, India.

2.1 Travelling to Bhutan from Singapore

Drukair flies to Bhutan from Singapore twice a week. Flights from Singapore to Bhutan are on Thursdays and Sundays. Drukair (KB 541) departs Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) at 12:55 and arrives at Paro International Airport (PBH) at 17:55.

Return flights from Bhutan to Singapore are on Wednesdays & Saturdays. Drukair (KB 540) departs Paro International Airport (PBH) at 8:05 and arrives at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) at 16:10.

Check the latest Drukair Schedule here - www.Drukair.com.sg.

Total flight duration from Singapore to Bhutan is 5 ½ hours. There will be a layover at Guwahati, India for 45 minutes. Passengers are not required to disembark from the aircraft.

A round trip from Singapore to Bhutan is approximately *SGD 1370 (USD 985) 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 Changi Airport Terminal 1, Row 12. Check-in counters are open 2 ½ hours before departure and will be closed 45 minutes 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 Singapore

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 Singapore

Bhutan adheres to a strict “High Value, Low Impact” tourism policy to avoid the effects of mass tourism. As such, the government has implemented a daily tariff for all tourists visiting the country except for citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives*.  The charges of the daily tariff depends on the season that you are planning to visit.

High Season: March, April, May, September, October, and November

  • $250 per person per night, for a group of three or more people.

  • $280 per person per night, for a group of two people.

  • $290 per night for single individuals.

Low Season: January, February, June, July, August, and December

  • $200 per person per day, for a group of three or more people.

  • $230 per person per day, for a group of two people.

  • $240 per day for single individuals.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Season Low Low High High High Low Low Low High High High Low

The tariff covers the following cost and services:

  • All internal taxes and charges
  • USD65 sustainable development fee used by government to provide free education, healthcare and building infrastructure
  • 3 meals a day
  • A licensed English speaking Bhutanese tour guide throughout your trip
  • All transport on the ground including driver (excluding internal flights)
  • A minimum 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star will require additional premium)
  • Entrance fees to tourists attractions
  • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours (if applicable)
  • *A set of traditional costume for loan (to be returned at the end of the trip) 

*Druk Asia guests only

*Sustainable Development Fee for regional tourists/p>

In light of the increasing regional tourists and its effects on Bhutan’s ecology, the government has implemented a daily levy on regional tourists from India, Bangladesh from July 2020. Regional tourists are now required to pay a Sustainable Development Fee of ₹1,200 (approx. USD17) per day. Children between the ages of 6 to 12 years old will pay a daily fee of ₹600. You will be provided the same services mentioned above and are required to book your trip through a licensed tour operator.

If you are an Indian, Maldivian, Bangladeshi expat working outside your country, the regional tourist SDF will apply to you. Do remember to mention to Druk Asia’s travel consultant that you are holding an India, Maldives, or Bangladesh passport before you book your trip. You will be eligible for SAARC fare on Drukair flights.

Drukair Flights cost from Singapore to Bhutan

A round trip from Singapore to Bhutan is approximately *SGD 1370 (USD 985) per pax as of June 2020. However, airfare and taxes are subjected to change.

There are special discounts during off seasons. Make sure to sign up for Druk Asia’s Discovery newsletter to get the latest promotions on Drukair flights from Singapore to Bhutan.

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. 

  Celcius Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Paro(West) Max 9.4 13.4 14.5 17.6 23.5 25.4 26.8 25.3 23.4 18.7 13.9 11.2
Min -5.8 1.5 0.6 4.6 10.6 13.1 14.9 14.7 11.7 7.4 1.4 -1.7
Thimphu(West) Max 12.3 14.4 16.4 20.0 22.5 24.4 18.9 25.0 23.1 29.1 17.9 14.5
Min 2.6 0.6 3.9 7.1 13.1 15.2 13.4 15.8 15.0 10.4 0.5 -1.1
Punakha(West) Max 16.1 19.6 21.2 24.4 27.2 31.2 32.0 31.4 29.9 27.8 22.3 15.0
Min 4.2 5.3 9.2 11.9 14.8 19.5 21.6 19.8 20.0 18.9 13.0 7.9
Wangdue(West) Max 17.0 19.0 22.8 26.2 29.9 29.2 18.4 29.1 27.5 26.1 22.6 19.1
Min 4.3 7.8 10.4 12.9 17.7 20.1 16.2 20.0 19.1 14.7 9.6 6.3
Trongsa(Central) Max 13.0 13.9 16.7 20.1 21.0 22.2 25.3 23.8 22.6 21.8 19.8 18.2
Min -0.2 0.4 4.4 6.6 11.6 13.6 15.3 15.0 14.2 11.7 6.4 2.5
Bumthang(Central) Max 10.8 10.0 16.2 18.7 21.3 22.5 14.1 23.0 21.6 19.5 16.1 12.3
Min -5.1 -1.4 3.5 3.9 9.5 13.5 10.9 13.7 12.1 5.9 -0.5 -2.3
Mongar(East) Max 15.5 15.9 20.0 22.8 25.1 26.1 27.1 25.4 24.7 22.7 19.9 17.7
Min 8.2 8.3 11.6 14.0 17.4 19.5 19.8 19.6 19.4 15.8 11.2 9.5
Trashigang(east) Max 20.4 21.7 24.8 28.3 30 30.7 31.5 30.2 30.0 29.1 26.1 23.0
Min 10.5 11.5 4.4 17.0 22.6 22.6 23.1 22.7 21.9 17.7 13.6 11.6

 

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:-  

Trekking tour

9 Day Druk Path trek

9 Day Dagala Thousand trek

11 Day Jomolhari Trek

Cultural tour

7 Day tour in Thimphu, Punakha and Paro

10 Day tour in Thimphu, Punakha, Bumthang, Gangtey and Paro

Meditation tour

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”

https://www.drukasia.com/bhutan-travel/adventure/phototreks/

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།

Planning to travel to Bhutan during a festival?

On popular dates of travel such as during festival time, flight tickets tend to get fully reserved 5 months prior. Due to limited flight and seats available, we recommend you to reserve your ticket as early as possible. You can reserve your ticket for free with us and plan your trip to Bhutan with a peace of mind knowing that you will have a spot on your flight to Bhutan.


 

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