Electricity

Electrical current is 230 volts (50Hz). European round pin attachment plugs and three-pin rectangular plugs are in use.

Language

Dzongkha is the official language, and various Tibetan dialects are spoken. English has recently become the language of instruction in schools but is only spoken fluently by guides and tourist industry professionals.

Money

The local currency is the ngultrumbut, subdivided into 100 chhertum. The currency is pegged to the Indian rupee on scale of 1:1. The ngultrumbut was only introduced in 1974 before which the country had no currency, relying on a system of bartering to acquire goods. US Dollars and Travellers Cheques can be exchanged at banks and large hotels. Visa and Mastercard are not widely accepted.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected in restaurants as your meal would have been prepaid by your tour agency. On treks, it is usual to tip the cook, his assistant and any porters. Ask your guide for advice. If you hire a driver tip him at the end of your trip. Bhutanese tradition is that one typically refuses a tip the first time it is offered but accepts it the second time. Tips for guides may range around USD 15 a day and around USD 10 a day for drivers.

Health

Ensure you have adequate travel insurance that includes the facility for emergency repatriation. The most significant health risks for travellers are water-borne parasites from unclean drinking water and altitude sickness resulting from exposure to high altitudes. Healthcare standards are relatively high. For locals all health services are free, and both western and traditional medicine is practiced side by side. Hospitals and clinics are located throughout the country, with excellent facilities available in the capital, Thimphu.

Safety

Bhutan is one of the safest destinations on the planet, with theft and violent crime at extremely low levels.

Local customs

Bhutan is a traditional Buddhist society. Dress conservatively when visiting religious sites, avoid public displays of affection and never climb or sit on a statue. Do not take photographs within temples unless permission has been granted to do so.

Avoid pointing at people or religious icons with your finger as it's considered very rude. Betel nut is chewed throughout the day by young and old alike, becoming an integral part of Bhutanese society.

The royal family is revered and deeply respected so avoid any disparaging remarks or gestures about them. Mountains are considered to be the abode of the gods and hence any recreational activities therein are disallowed.


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Duty free

Travellers to Bhutan may bring with them up to 200 cigarettes, one litre of liquor, and goods for personal use. It's illegal to sell tobacco in Bhutan, but import of tobacco is subject to 100% tax. Guns and ammunition, narcotics, antiques, and wildlife products are prohibited.

Communications

The international dialling code for Bhutan is +975. There is extensive mobile phone coverage, which is more reliable and widespread than the landline network. WiFi is usually available in all main towns and hotels.

Passport & Visa

Bhutan has an unusual but fairly simple process for admitting visitors: Bhutanese embassies abroad cannot issue visas, instead you must apply for your visa in advance through a registered tour operator. The visa should be applied for at least 12 weeks before intended travel at which time your tour operator will confirm with you directly with a faxed or emailed copy of the successful application. The actual visa is then stamped into your passport on arrival. This must be accompanied by at least two passport photographs. A visa allows for a stay for a maximum of 15 days.

Note that the Government of Bhutan refuses entry to people wishing to visit the country for mountaineering, publicity, and other research activities. All visitors are required to book with a registered tour operator in Bhutan, which can be done directly through a travel agent abroad. All visitors must hold confirmed return or onward tickets, all documents required for next destination, and USD 200 per day of stay.

Entry requirements

United States citizens must have a passport valid for six months beyond arrival. A visa is required and must be applied for in advance through a tour operator.

British nationals must have a passport valid six months beyond arrival date. A visa is required and must be applied for in advance through a tour operator.

Canadians must hold a passport valid six months beyond arrival date. A visa is required and must be applied for in advance through a tour operator.

Australians must have a passport valid six months beyond arrival date. A visa is required and must be applied for in advance through a tour operator.

South Africans must have a passport valid six months beyond arrival date. A visa is required and must be applied for in advance through a tour operator.

Irish nationals must have a passport valid six months beyond arrival date. A visa is required and must be applied for in advance through a tour operator.

New Zealand nationals must have a passport valid six months beyond arrival date. A visa is required and must be applied for in advance through a tour operator.

Useful contacts

Tourism Council of Bhutan, PO Box 126, Thimphu,Tel: (2) 323 251 or info@tourism.gov.bt

Fire: 110, Police: 113, Ambulance: 112

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Bhutan Embassy, New York City, United States: +1 (202) 682 2268/2312.

Bhutanese Honorary Consulate, London: (+44) 1483 538 189

Bhutan Honoray Consulate, Toronto: (416) 960 3552

Bhutan Consulate, Sydney: (61) 2 9394 3113

Embassies / consulates in Bhutan

US Embassy, New Delhi, India (also responsible for Bhutan): 91 11 2419 8000

British High Commission, New Delhi, India (also responsible for Bhutan): +91 11 2419 2100

High Commission of Canada, New Delhi, India (also responsible for Bhutan): +91 11 4178 2000

Australian High Commission, New Delhi, India (also responsible for Bhutan): +91 111 4139 9900

South African High Commission, New Delhi, India (also responsible for Bhutan): +91 112 614 9411

Embassy of Ireland, New Delhi, India (also responsible for Bhutan): +91 114940 3200

New Zealand High Commission, New Delhi, India (also responsible for Bhutan): +91 11 468 83170