Bhutan, known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” is a beautiful and unique country located in the eastern Himalayas. Bhutan has a rich culture and a set of social norms that are important to respect as a visitor.
1. Check out some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when visiting Bhutan
1.1 Do’s in Bhutan:
Respect the local culture and customs: Bhutanese people are known for their deep-rooted cultural and religious beliefs. It’s important to respect their customs and traditions, including dress codes, when visiting religious sites, festivals, and other public places.
Obtain a visa before arrival: Bhutan has a policy of high-value, low-impact tourism, and all tourists are required to obtain a visa before arriving in Bhutan. Visas are only issued to tourists through licensed Bhutanese tour operators, and a daily tariff applies, which covers accommodations, meals, transportation, and a guide.
Learn about Buddhism: Buddhism is the main religion in Bhutan, and it’s important to understand and appreciate its significance in Bhutanese culture. Take the time to learn about Buddhism, its rituals, and practices, and be respectful when visiting monasteries, temples, and other religious sites.
Respect the environment: Bhutan is known for its pristine natural beauty, and it’s crucial to maintain its environmental integrity. Respect the environment by not littering, using reusable water bottles, and following eco-friendly practices.
Interact with locals: Bhutanese people are known for their warmth and hospitality. Interact with the locals, learn about their way of life, and engage in meaningful cultural exchanges. Bhutanese people appreciate visitors who take an interest in their culture and customs.
1.2 Don’ts in Bhutan:
Disrespect local customs and traditions: Bhutanese people hold their customs and traditions in high regard. Avoid disrespecting local customs, including dress codes, and avoid actions that may be considered offensive, such as pointing at religious statues or stepping on religious items.
Smoke in public places: Bhutan is the world’s first and only country to be 100% smoke-free. Smoking is banned in all public places, including streets, parks, and public buildings. Avoid smoking in public areas and always use designated smoking zones if available.
Pluck or disturb plants and wildlife: Bhutan has a rich biodiversity with many unique plant and animal species. It’s important to respect the environment and not disturb or harm the plants and wildlife. Plucking flowers or disturbing animals is considered disrespectful and is against Bhutanese culture and environmental conservation efforts.
Take photographs without permission: Bhutanese people are generally friendly and welcoming, but it’s important to ask for permission before taking someone’s photograph. It’s considered impolite to take pictures of people without their consent, especially during religious ceremonies or private events.
Engage in disrespectful behavior: Bhutanese culture emphasizes politeness, respect, and humility. Avoid engaging in disrespectful behavior such as raising your voice, using offensive language, or displaying aggressive behavior. Bhutanese people appreciate visitors who are courteous and considerate.
2. Bhutan travel tips
2.1 How to stay healthy while traveling to Bhutan?
Traveling in Bhutan is unlike anywhere else! Its high altitude (average over 4,000m), harsh alpine climate and vast wilderness make it a scenic yet physically challenging place to visit. However, you do not need to worry too much about safety when traveling to Bhutan. As long as you are of average fitness and fully prepared for your trip to Bhutan, you are sure to enjoy a safe and enjoyable adventure in Bhutan.
2.2 Are you worried about altitude sickness in Bhutan?
Due to the thin air and high altitude, altitude sickness is a major problem for tourism in Bhutan. There’s no need to worry, though, as anyone traveling to places above 4000 meters will physically react to increasing altitude. The change varies from person to person. Experiencing things like dizziness, shortness of breath, insomnia, rapid pulse and headache, etc. is quite common.
2.3 Self-sufficient travel to Bhutan is impossible
The first thing to know is that you cannot travel to Bhutan on your own like going to other countries. From applying for a visa to organizing and arranging a trip, it will have to go through a travel agency of this country. The tourist visa costs about $40 and you are issued after you have paid for your trip in full. Only citizens of India, Maldives and Bangladesh are exceptions to this rule.
2.4 How much budget is enough?
Depending on when you’re traveling, you’ll have to pay a daily fee of about $200-$250 to enter the country. This cost includes basic meals, accommodation, tour activities, entrance fees to attractions, the cost of hiring guides and drivers for your entire stay.
2.5 Plane to Bhutan
The tour company will usually book flight tickets of DrukAir or Bhutan Air and the flight will land at Paro airport in Bhutan. A good tip for you to be able to see the beautiful scenery when flying is, if you fly to Bhutan, choose a seat near the window on the left side of the plane and when flying from Bhutan, choose the right seat to have a good view. Great view of the majestic Himalayas.
2.6 Cash is best
You should change money to Ngultrum – Bhutan’s currency before leaving Paro airport to visit places. Cash is the best means of transaction in Bhutan. You can also withdraw money from the banks’ ATMs here for a fee; however, the cash machines are not many and operate unstable. Credit cards are also slowly being accepted in this country but usually for large transactions and most places will charge a fee for card transactions.
2.7 Bhutanese cuisine
The food in Bhutan is very spicy and typically Ema datshi is made from a mixture of dried red or green peppers, cheese and is considered the “national spirit” of this country. Of course, there are also non-spicy dishes, and some restaurants serve dishes adapted to the taste of foreigners. White rice, red rice as well as noodles are usually served with every meal.
2.8 Prepare to adapt to the weather
Bhutan’s weather is notoriously unpredictable. For example, the weather forecast says that the sky is clear, it will rain and vice versa. Therefore, you should be prepared to adapt to this type of weather as well as prepare clothes to suit many types of weather during the day. Especially, if you’re going on a hike, prepare better as the weather can change rapidly at higher altitudes.
2.9 Please dress politely
Bhutan is a Buddhist country, people wear traditional costumes called Gho and Kira which consist of many layers of cloth covering the body. Only men are allowed to show their knees and shins. Therefore, you should wear polite and discreet clothes when traveling to this country.
2.10 Please be careful when taking pictures
One thing to keep in mind is that you can take pictures outside the temples and monasteries, but do not take any pictures after you have been inside as this is considered extremely disrespectful. It is also possible to take pictures of the daily clothes of the people of Bhutan when you meet them on the road, but ask first to get their permission to take pictures.
It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local customs and traditions of any country you visit, including Bhutan. Respecting the local culture and customs will not only help you have a meaningful and enjoyable trip but also show your appreciation for Bhutan’s unique way of life.