Coming to Bhutan? What You Need to Know.
Updated: Dec 28, 2019
Bhutan is an isolated, incredibly beautiful, exhilarating, extremely fragile place. An ecological hotspot, it's only 200 miles from east to west, and 100 miles north to south. But it can take upwards of four days to drive across the country as the road winds around the mountains and doubles back on itself. When you come, you'll truly be submerged in nature. About 70 percent of the country is forest covered. There are a lot of trees. Your Bhutanese hosts will make you comfortable and happy,
Because of its isolation, small size, and spotty infrastructure, the country simply can't have a large number of visitors. The Royal Government of Bhutan has adopted a "high dollar, low impact" policy for tourism. To visit Bhutan you must pay USD$250 per person per day in high season (Spring and Fall) and USD$200 per person per day in low season (Summer and Winter). This fee includes the services of an expert Bhutanese driver and guide, all ground transportation, all meals, water, and hotels (government approved 3 star). Hotel rooms are double occupancy. If you want to stay in a single room you must pay a bit more per day. Between $60 and $70 of the daily tourist tariff you pay goes directly to the government to fund infrastructure like schools, hospitals and roads. So visiting Bhutan is also helping fund a lot of very good things.
There are two Bhutanese airlines, Bhutan Airlines and Druk Air that fly into the country from several Asian cities. No other airlines fly in to Bhutan. Don't worry, your tour operator can book your flights for you. Depending on how long you're visiting and how far into the country you want to go, consider upgrading your hotel and food experience to a 4 or 5 star hotel for at least part of your trip. I'm thinking of Americans who will need to travel for a couple of days to get to Bhutan, and then a couple of days of travel to get home. And being American you will certainly jump right back into work and life as soon as you get home. Air travel is tiring and can be arduous. I recommend giving a gift to yourself of the easiest, most expedient air ticket to Bhutan. Make it as comfortable as possible. If you can break up the trip and overnight in another city of you're coming from the U.S.--London, Bangkok. Remember, Bhutan is in the Himalayas, the highest mountains on earth. Thimphu is a mile high, like Denver. So you'll want to drink lots of water and take it slow the first day or two, if you're not already acclimated to high altitudes.
You can book a trip with a travel agent you know in your own country or book directly with a Bhutanese tour agency. There are some very good ones. Included in the fees you pay the tour company will be a $40 visa fee that the local tour operator or someone in Bhutan, will process for you and it will be waiting for you at the airport, along with your guide and driver.
Winter and summer are my favorite times because there aren't many people here. Fall and Spring is when most visitors come as there are large festivals in Thimphu in the fall and Paro in the spring. Any time is good to come.
You can discuss with your tour agent what you want to do in Bhutan and he or she will tailor your visit to suit your desires. I recommend at least one hot stone bath.