visitors to Bhutan are required to be accompanied
by a government-licensed guide, and the visit must
be prearranged and prepaid. This process does take
some time, thus spontaneous travel to Bhutan is
not the norm. Numbers of tourists are restricted,
so as to protect both culture and environment, so
with this in mind potential visitors need to plan
Bhutan is reached via air on Druk Air, Royal Bhutan
Airlines. Druk Air is the only carrier to serve
Bhutan and does so with daily flights from Bangkok
(via Kolkata or Gaya, India or Dhaka, Bangladesh)
and five weekly flights from Delhi, via Kathmandu,
Nepal. Druk Air operates a small but modern fleet
of Airbus 319 planes. Their pilots are well trained
for Himalayan flying, their safety record perfect,
and the in-flight service excellent. Tourists may
also enter or depart via one of the two Indian border
towns, Phuentsholing or Samdrup Jongkhar. Some of
our itineraries do arrive or depart by these gateways,
though most arrive and depart by air.
CHAMPACA JOURNEYS schedules tours during the spring
and fall months. These are when the weather is at
its finest, temperatures range from 30° to 70°F,
the skies are sunny and the chance of rain almost
nil. Spring visitors will also enjoy the spectacle
of rhododendron forests in full bloom. Custom tours
are possible during any month, and while summer
rains and infrequent winter snow need to be accounted
for, neither need negate a visit.
All visitors require a visa. Visas are only granted
to those who are part of a licensed tour. In the
months prior to your trip you will be asked to submit
bio-data (name, address, date of birth, occupation,
nationality, passport number and date of expiry),
and upon arrival the visa will be stamped in your
passport. Visas are valid only for the intended
length of stay in Bhutan.
Hotels in Bhutan range from the humble to the luxurious.
CHAMPACA JOURNEYS has chosen to use several very
atmospheric and comfortable hotels. These hotels
have been chosen for their superb locations, level
of comfort, attentiveness of the staff and lovely
ambience. In areas where the new luxury hotels have
been built, arrangements can be made to use these
Almost all Bhutanese speak English, which is taught
in schools. Newspapers publish and television broadcast
in English. People are extraordinarily friendly
and enjoy talking with foreigners. The country is
very safe, with little crime. The roads while narrow
and winding are in good condition, the drivers cautious
and safe, and the countrywide speed limit 35 miles
For travel to Bhutan there are no required or recommended
inoculations. Malaria is absent. Level of health
care is very good for a developing country, and
free health care extends to foreigners. Nonetheless
it is recommended that visitors bring all necessary
medications, and purchase trip insurance, which
in the very unlikely event of a serious mishap,
would provide for evacuation and medical care elsewhere.
The altitude can be initially challenging for some
visitors. The airport, located in Paro is at 7,500
feet. Many of the towns are at similar altitudes,
and there are passes at over 10,000 feet that are
traversed by vehicle. Lower altitude areas, with
subtropical climate are visited, where the altitude
varies from 4,000 to 5,000 feet. For those prone
to altitude discomfort, the prescription drug, DIAMOX
is very effective at relieving symptoms.
While traditional Bhutanese food is spicy with an
emphasis on red rice, chilies in cheese sauce, stewed
pork or beef with vegetables, food for tourists
is usually eaten in hotel restaurants or restaurants
that have familiarity with foreign palates. Most
meals are presented buffet style, with numerous
vegetarian and meat options, always with rice and
often noodles or lentils. The food is abundant,
tasty, fresh, minimally processed, and locally grown.
Local rice wine, beer and hard spirits are produced,
while other imported spirits are available. Locally,
much black tea is drunk, and coffee is widely available,
but always instant. Familiar and unfamiliar brands
of soft drinks are readily found. Tap water should
not be consumed, however bottled water is prevalent.
Cigarettes and smoking are banned in Bhutan, making
it the world’s only non-smoking country. Visitors
are permitted to import one carton of cigarettes.
The duty levied on this carton is $US50. It is recommended
that foreigners smoke discreetly.
The national currency is the NGULTRUM, pronounced
NULTRUM. The ngultrum is on par with the Indian
rupee, and presently, one US dollar equals 49 ngultrum.
When shopping, merchants prefer ngulturn, but some
will accept dollars. There are no ATM’s in
Bhutan, and the only accepted credit cards are VISA.
Visitors are encouraged to bring cash, but if carrying
Traveler’s Checks, only American Express checks
are easily accepted.
Tipping is expected for the guides and drivers and
need be factored into the budget. The standard rate
for the guide is $US10 per day, and for the driver
$US5 per day. Hotel housekeeping staff receive about
$US2 per day.
Restaurant staff are not tipped. When visiting monasteries
a monk will show visitors the altar, where Bhutanese
traditionally leave offerings. Visitors may also
leave offerings in the form of money. The equivalent
of a dollar is acceptable. The Bhutanese are very
humble and gracious when accepting gratuities.
CHAMPACA JOURNEYS is happy to address all your Bhutan
travel questions. A journey to this most extraordinary
country will provide you with a lifetime of favorable
memories. Do join us so that you can form your own
TASHI DELEK (may good things come to you), common