- About Bhutan – Bhutan at a glance 1. About Bhutan – Bhutan at a glance
Bhutan is the first country in the world to measure its development by gauging the happiness of the people and not through the conventional measure of GDP. It pioneered its development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH).
It is a small country about the size of Switzerland located in the eastern Himalayas. It borders Tibet to the north and India to the south. It is the only Mahayana Buddhist country in the world. It has often been referred to as the Last Shangri-La.
- Area (sq. km) = 38,394 sq. km
- Capital = Thimphu
- National Language = Dzongkha
- Demonym = Bhutanese
- Government = Constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy
- Head of state = His Majesty JigmeKhesarNamgyelWangchuck
- Head of government = Prime Minister TsheringTobgay
- Religions = Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity
- Currency = Ngultrum (US$ 1 = about Nu 65), Indian rupee
- Population = 768,502 (projected as of 2015)
- National Sport = Archery
- National Animal = Takin
- National Bird = Raven
- National flower = Blue poppy
- National butterfly = Ludlow’s Bhutan Swallowtail
- Unemployment rate = 2.6% (as of 2014)
- GDP per capita = US$ 2,611.74 (2014) 2.
- GDP real growth rate = 5.46% (2014)
- Main revenue source = Hydropower and tourism
- Population poverty rate = 12% (2012)
- Literacy rate = 63% (2012)
- Youth Literacy rate = 86.1%(2012)
- Household with TV connection = 55.3% (2012)
- Secondary School completion rate = 74.2% (2012)
- Population Access to Improved sanitation = 81% (2012)
- No of districts = 2027.
- Calling code = +975-
- Location = Bhutan lies between latitudes 26°N and 29°N, and longitudes 88°E and 93°E
Travel tips to Bhutan
- MONEY and BANKS in Bhutan
The currency of Bhutan is the Ngultrum (Nu.) It is pegged at par to the Indian Rupee, which is also accepted as legal tender in Bhutan.
International ATM cards like the MasterCard, Visa, Maestro Card and the POS (point of sale) and the US dollar and the Euro is also accepted in high-end hotels and select tourist catering shops like restaurants and souvenir and handicraft shops.
You can also use the international cards in local ATMs to withdraw money in local currency. ATM machines exist in main towns around the country. Nonetheless, you are advised to bring in hard cash in US dollars or Euros and not depend on ATM services.
Bhutan has five commercial banks all of which provide Internet banking services. The commercial banks are Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Bhutan Development Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank.
- TRAVEL/MEDICAL INSURANCE
You are recommended to take travel insurance when you travel internationally. If you come to Bhutan, you are also recommended to take travel insurance on you own, as we do not provide you the service.
If you wish to take the service from Bhutan, you visit the insurance provider in Bhutan at their website www.ricb.com.bt for more information.
- HEALTH SERVICES IN BHUTAN
There are hospitals in all major towns in Bhutan. In case of emergencies, tourists can avail free medical services. In fact, medical services are also free for all Bhutanese citizens.
In remote places, there are small health outlets called the Basic Health Units (BHU).
- CUSTOM RESTRICTIONS
Articles exempted of duty include:
(a) Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the tourist
(b) 1 liter of alcohol (spirits or wine)
(c) 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%
(d) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
(e) Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.
If you are bringing any items into Bhutan as sale of gift, it may be liable for customs duty.
When you are in Bhutan, please be cautious to buy old and used items particularly if they have religious or cultural value because you would have to produce a clearance certificate to take it out of the country. When you exit the country, you would have to fill out a departure form for the Customs department.
Import/export of the following goods is strictly prohibited:
(a) Arms, ammunitions and explosives
(b) All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs
(c) Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
(d) Antiques Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival.
- SMOKING RESTRICTION
Bhutan was the first country in the world to ban the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in the country and has a stringent Tobacco Act in place. You can bring in a maximum of 200 cigarette sticks subject to a custom duty of 200 percent.
There are smoking places in most hotels and restaurants and you are advised to be mindful of smoking in public places.
- BEST VIEW FROM FLIGHTS
The scenery of the mighty Himalayas from the flights to Bhutan is a treat. To get the best scenery of the Himalayas you are recommended to ask for seats on the left side of the plane while getting your boarding tickets while flying into Bhutan. You can ask for seats on the right side of the place while flying out of Bhutan.
Bhutan is a mountainous country and altitudes change within short distances and the weather changes accordingly. As such, be prepared to experience drastic weather variations. If you are visiting Bhutan in winter (November to January), bring in warm cloths, as it may be very cold with the temperature hitting below zero at night.
All tourists are expected to dress decently when you visit formal institutions in Bhutan like monasteries, Dzongs (fortresses) and government offices. In such places, you can dress up in long trousers and full-sleeved tops. You would also be expected to remove your caps or hats as a mark of respect.
All literate native Bhutanese speaks good English. If you wish to get specialized guides in Bhutan who speak other languages like Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, or any other language, Raven Tours provides the service upon request and it may be subject to a fee.
Bhutan also has good telecommunication facilities. Most of the hotels and restaurants provide Wi-Fi Internet services. Bhutan also has good cellular phone network with global roaming services.
The Standard time in Bhutan is 6 hours ahead of GMT.
In capital Thimphu and other towns, tourists often complain about stray dogs because of which they have problems to sleep at night. As such, you are recommended to bring in earplugs, which would be handy.
- MONEY and BANKS in Bhutan
How to go to Bhutan
Travellers can enter Bhutan by Air or by road. All travellers need a visa to enter Bhutan. Visa on entry is provided for citizens of India, the Maldives and Bangladesh. Citizens of all other countries need a visa to enter Bhutan and we at Raven Tours provide all our clients with a prior visa.
Entering Bhutan by Air
All inbound and outboard flights to and from Bhutan are through the international airport in Paro, in western Bhutan, a small adjacent town about one-hour drive from capital Thimphu.
There are daily flights between Bangkok and Paro. Other connected destinations are Delhi, Guwahati, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodh Gaya in India; Dhaka in Bangladesh; Kathmandu in Nepal, and Singapore.
Entering Bhutan by Land
Tourists can enter Bhutan by land through the three main border towns (all bordering India) of Phuentsholing, Gelephu, and SamdrupJongkhar.
The town in Phuentsholing borders the Indian state of West Bengal and is generally known as the gateway to Bhutan. It lies about 170 km from the Indian airport in Bagdogra and it is about four-hour drive through the Indian plains. It takes about six hours to drive to capital Thimphu from Phuentsholing. This town can also be an exit town for outbound tourists.
Like Phuentsholing, Gelephu town acts like the gateway to the country for central Bhutan. It borders the Indian state of Assam. It takes about 10 hours to drive to capital Thimphu from this town.
The small town of SamdrupJongkhar is the gateway to eastern Bhutan. It lies about 100 km from the Indian airport in Guwahati. This town also acts as an exit town for tourists.
About WeAsia Bhutan
The country representative of WeAsia, Bhutan Deepak Tamang, is the force behind the company. He always inspires. It is his personal zeal and determination to make WeAsia Bhutan the best service provider in the entire country.The country representative of WeAsia, Bhutan Deepak Tamang, is the force behind the company. He always inspires. It is his personal zeal and determination to make WeAsia Bhutan the best service provider in the entire country.
Travellers all over the world are looking for the next best location. From the best beeches in the world to the most exotic island resorts and from the Eiffel Tower to the Niagara Falls and you name it. But you could add more meaning to travelling if you venture out to explore the world of happiness. And while Shangri-La may be just a distant dream, you can experience the next best thing in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.
At WeAsia Bhutan, we have a team working on a daily basis to make every tour to Bhutan special. We leave no stone unturned to give in our best. We love challenges and we pride ourselves in organizing handcrafted and experimental tours in the kingdom of happiness, Bhutan.
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is located in the far East of the Himalayan mountains. To its North, it’s neighbored by The Republic of China, to the East, West and South by India. It’s an absolutely landlocked country.
Bhutan, though is a tiny country hidden in the mountains of the Himalayas, it’s rich in its possession of varieties of local dialects besides the National language Dzongkha and the widely used and state recognized two other languages; English and Lhotsamkha(Nepali). English is also the medium of instruction in the educational sectors; schools, colleges and institutions. And Nepali is predominantly spoken by the people of the Southern belts; Dagana, Tsirang, Sarpang, samtse, and Samdrupjongkhar.Of the Southern Bhutanese the Tamangs, Lepchas and the Sherpas again boasts of their own unique local dialect and accordingly a unique culture and custom.Bhutan, though is a tiny country hidden in the mountains of the Himalayas, it’s rich in its possession of varieties of local dialects besides the National language Dzongkha and the widely used and state recognized two other languages; English and Lhotsamkha(Nepali). English is also the medium of instruction in the educational sectors; schools, colleges and institutions. And Nepali is predominantly spoken by the people of the Southern belts; Dagana, Tsirang, Sarpang, samtse, and Samdrupjongkhar.Of the Southern Bhutanese the Tamangs, Lepchas and the Sherpas again boasts of their own unique local dialect and accordingly a unique culture and custom.
In the East, Sharchopkha is dominant. Among the local dialects Sharchopkha has pervaded the air of almost all walks of life.The East also has two other dominant dialects; Dakpa and Chali. Besides Sharchopkha, other local dialects that the country boasts of are Khengkha (Central Bhutan), Bumthangkha(Central Bhutan), Olekha (Central Bhutan), Kurtoepkha (of the Kurtoeps),Mangdepkha (predominant in Trongsa), and the Layakha (of the people of Laya in the North).
As are the various dialects, so are the cultures and customs that the country possess accordingly.
People, society and religion:
People, society and religion:Bhutan’s population is correspondent to its size. Considering the number, the society is diverse and so is their origination and genealogy. The Sharchops of the East claim to be the descendants of Lord Brahma and bear the pride of their forebears. Besides them there’s the Kurtoeps , the Brokpas and Bramis(a semi-nomads) who occupy the Eastern region. The extreme of the North is also occupied by a semi-nomadic people known as the Layaps. We also have the Doyas and the Monpas who are considered to be the aborigines of the Western and Central Bhutan.The Ngalops of the Western region are known to have come all the way from Tibet and thus bear the pride of sharing a close affinity of their language to the Tibetans. The Lhotsampas in the South are the last ones to have arrived and settled. They are distinct that a majority of them follow Hinduism, a state recognized religion. The Central region belongs to The Bumthaps, Mangdeps and Khengpas.
Though their origination may be varied, one thing they all share in common is that they all depend on agriculture for their livelihood with the exception of the semi-nomads who make their living by rearing yaks and sheep.
In, and out of villages the Bhutanese are basically free and fun-loving people. And Bhutanese society is free from any distinction of caste, creed or color. The law binds and obliges every citizen equally. And slavery is totally out of question with our late His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck having had abolished it way back in the 50s. And with our fourth king His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck having propounded the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, the society has moved forth with much freedom of choice and of thought. Alongside materialism, more and more Bhutanese have given in the thought to a simple and mindfulliving.
Living in the Bhutanese society, the foremost words one would learn is the word of greeting, kuzuzangpo, to one’s equal and kuzuzangpola, to one’s elders and seniors. The word means good health.It’s the word one would hear on a daily basis and is in usage by people in every rung of the society.
Besides the state religion Buddhism and the state recognized religion Hinduism, there are other religions being practiced in minority. Yet, the law protects the practitioner of every religion. And every social norm is religion based, starting from Driglam namzha, etiquettes, such as offering of food to the deities every meal is a practice that is very rampant and prevalent especially in the rural Bhutan. Religion therefore has a strong foothold in the social life. Even annual festivals like Tshechuaround the country(held at different times of the year) is purely of the monastic community and the various dances performed during the festival are all of the holy nature.
Part and parcel of the religion system is the shamanistic rituals being practiced almost throughout the country. At times a shaman plays even a greater role in diagnosing a disease or determining the source of a problem-which is indicative of the fact that people are still very superstitious and that they have not completely given up the worship of nature and animal sacrifice.
All in all, whether it’s a shaman dancing or a monk blowing the trumpet, religion has shaped people’s lives for the better.
Gross National Happiness:
The ideology of Gross National Happiness is a fast spreading and captivating one. Propounded by our fourth king, His Majesty JigmeSingyeWangchuck, it has many dimensions through which the country aspires to achieve HAPPINESS: Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, conservation of environment, good governance and promotion and preservation of culture.The ideology of Gross National Happiness is a fast spreading and captivating one. Propounded by our fourth king, His Majesty JigmeSingyeWangchuck, it has many dimensions through which the country aspires to achieve HAPPINESS: Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, conservation of environment, good governance and promotion and preservation of culture.
Bhutan today is guided by the GNH ideology in its various spheres of development. GNH is also inculcated in the school curriculum, as teachers are believed to be the medium and the source. Children are not taught the idea of it, but its application in our daily lives through various life skills; Self-awareness, critical thinking, empathy, creative thinking, decision making, problem solving, inter-personal relationship, effective communication, coping with stress, and coping with emotion. The principal effort here is to nurture the younger generation with GNH values and principles and prepare them for a mindful living by embedding the values in their consciousness. keeping in view the concept, the country has also moved forward with an attempt to achieve 100% literacy rate.Non-formal education is provided to those who missed schooling. There’s also compulsory admission in school of children who are of age. Primary schools are in place in every nook and corner of the country so that children don’t have to walk over long distances to school.
The government is more and more trying to retain youths back in the villages by providing certain benefits such as 100 units of free electricity. And if these all provides relief and joy to people,and carve a way for a healthy living, then there certainly is happiness.
All in all, GNH ideology strives to free people’s mind from the lures of materialism and to make them learn to care for others by instilling positive thinking.
Flora and fauna:
By virtue of being located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Bhutan is not only gifted with a serene and pure environment, but a variety in its collection of flora and fauna. The Bhutanese Himalayan vegetation ranges from the Alpine Zone to Temperate Zone and the Subtropical Zone.These three zones are rampant with a wide varieties of wildlife; Golden langurs, Royal Bengal Tigers, clouded leopards, red pandas, snow leopards, Royal Asian elephants, huge dolphins, pangolins, Himalayan black bear, one horned rhinos, rufous-necked hornbill, great white heron, Pallas fishing eagle, spotted wren-babbler, emerald cuckoo, black bears,takin, tiger, snow leopards, barking deer, red fox, the Himalayan squirrel, the Assamese macaw, grey backed shrike, common hoopoe, grey headed woodpecker, dark breasted rose finch, and etc.By virtue of being located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Bhutan is not only gifted with a serene and pure environment, but a variety in its collection of flora and fauna. The Bhutanese Himalayan vegetation ranges from the Alpine Zone to Temperate Zone and the Subtropical Zone.These three zones are rampant with a wide varieties of wildlife; Golden langurs, Royal Bengal Tigers, clouded leopards, red pandas, snow leopards, Royal Asian elephants, huge dolphins, pangolins, Himalayan black bear, one horned rhinos, rufous-necked hornbill, great white heron, Pallas fishing eagle, spotted wren-babbler, emerald cuckoo, black bears,takin, tiger, snow leopards, barking deer, red fox, the Himalayan squirrel, the Assamese macaw, grey backed shrike, common hoopoe, grey headed woodpecker, dark breasted rose finch, and etc.
And to shelter them are a wide diversities of plant life; Blue poppy, edelweiss, orchids, rhododendrons, primulas, cordyceps, and etc.Supporting these wild life is the monsoon rain and at other times occasional showers.
Culture and tradition:
Bhutanese society is a liberal one with doors of opportunities being open to both men and women, and women held at par with men. There are also matriarchal communities, where females hold absolute power in the household.Cultures and traditions in Bhutan are influenced by religion and are diverse. Even the national dress GHO and KIRA has a deep set religiosity about it with the great Zhabdrung having had introduced it way back in the 15th century.Bhutanese society is a liberal one with doors of opportunities being open to both men and women, and women held at par with men. There are also matriarchal communities, where females hold absolute power in the household.Cultures and traditions in Bhutan are influenced by religion and are diverse. Even the national dress GHO and KIRA has a deep set religiosity about it with the great Zhabdrung having had introduced it way back in the 15th century.
The very apparent ones are the culture and tradition of birth, marriage and death. Birth of a new member in a family is always a moment of joy. But, till a purification ritual is performed both the mother and the newborn are considered impure and so is the household. And the ritual at times is as grand as a marriage ceremony with guests feasting after the monks have done their part and gone. And marriage is of even a greater joy. Besides, the communities aren’t very rigid about inter-community and inter-caste marriage. Customary ritual isn’t mandatory. The law is the supreme witness and the supporter.The best part of the community is that they make it a point to come together at a time of grievance and support the bereaved family with backing of at least a minimum rupee during the funeral rites. This is basically owing to the fact that thepeople have religious inclination.However diverse the cultures and traditions may be, the Bhutanese are bound together in peace and harmony by the supreme law that protects the diversity.
To discover good food in Bhutan, you have to be a little adventurous. Tourists are generally kept in 3-Star and above rated hotels and the food is generally continental in nature in an attempt to universalize the palate as much as possible. To discover good food in Bhutan, you have to be a little adventurous. Tourists are generally kept in 3-Star and above rated hotels and the food is generally continental in nature in an attempt to universalize the palate as much as possible.
In Bhutan, the casual menu for locals includes a lot of chilies. Mind you, chilli is not a spice in this Himalayan kingdom. It is a vegetable. Locals cannot fathom a dish without chillies. And equally popular is local cheese. Locals use cheese in almost all curries.
But chilli and cheese does not define the Bhutanese food.
The most common Bhutanese meal comprises rice and curry(ies). There are several varieties of rice and innumerable curries. But there are also several other types of food in Bhutan and if you are a foodie, you can very well have a different experience in Bhutan. But you have to get outside the closet and pester your guide to layout the real food on the table.