This Indian Tourist's Guide to Bhutan encapsulates details for a great trip to Bhutan, the magical land of the dragon. Bhutan is more accessible to Indians as they are exempt from paying a fee of $250 per head per day. Bhutan is right next door and we should take this opportunity to travel to this Land of Clouds. I was there a few days ago with my girl gang; 19 ladies who are an average age of 50+ and let me tell you it was a very safe and awesome experience.
If you are looking for an unforgettable vacation then let me help you plan an unforgettable trip for you.
We booked through a local travel agent who collaborated with one in Bhutan and we had a hassle-free trip.
When is the best time?
There are two peak season- Spring; March to May and Autumn; September to November. Book your tour package and flight tickets 3 months ahead to ensure your reservation. Plan your trip for 7 days. We missed out on Gangtey, a scenic valley.
If you are looking for some great pictures then check out the Bhutanese calendar for the festivals as they display vibrant dances in their elaborate masks and costumes.
By Air: Bhutan and Drukair Airlines operate flights from Delhi, Gaya, Bagdogra, Kolkata, Mumbai and Guwahati to Paro, Bhutan's only international airport. Choose the one closest to you.
By Rail: Train is cheapest I was told but would be tiring if you want to conserve your energy for exploring the country. Hasimara is 17kms away from Jaigaon on Indo-Bhutan Border. Connecting trains to Hasimara are from Kolkata, Delhi, Ranchi and Kanpur.
By Road: People from the hills and around enter Bhutan from India by road from Jaigaon town in West Bengal. It is less than 5 km from the border town of Bhutan.
If you are a solo traveller or 4 to 5 members group then you can hire a cab for your stay. We were 19 and wanted to travel together so our tour operator got us a 20 seater van.
List of Documents needed
An official filled form Passport Size Photo Copy of Voter's ID or Passport An Itinerary of your trip Hotel Booking Voucher where you would be putting up.
(A 3-4 star hotel would do as you would be just crashing for the night. Book in advance to get the best deals)
Language is not a problem as most Bhutanese speak fluent Hindi and some do speak English. The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha. You can learn a few words before the trip if you want to like Kuzu zangpo la means hi or Hello All denominations of the Indian Rupee are accepted in Bhutan. The local currency is the Ngultrum(Nu). Your hotel stay is prepaid hence you will need money for food, tickets to sightseeing places, shopping and maybe tips. Do not expect ATM's everywhere. There are few in the main cities. Only Hotels and few large stores accept credit cards. Hotels have WiFi, but the network could be slow. You can get a local SIM card. No Smoking in public places. You have to carry your own stock of cigarettes as tobacco is banned in Bhutan. Bhutan has its local wine and Vodka if you are interested in tasting the local flavour. As Bhutan is elevated the weather is cool and you should pack a few warm clothes. One jacket, sweater, shawl and a cap would be ideal. Taking photos and videos are limited to the exterior of the temples and it would be a good idea to ask you guide wherever possible. Wearing hats, caps or glares are not allowed inside the temples. There is a little bit of bargaining but do not haggle too much if you are buying souvenirs. Be prepared for a lot of travelling by road. The roads are fine but most of them are snaking up and down the hillside. If you are carrying a lot of gadgets then it is good to carry a spike as the Hotels have very few plug points. Avoid travelling in the monsoon as you have to climb everywhere and it could get slippery. If you are travelling in the monsoon then do carry a Raincoat and Umbrella. If you want to go swimming or experience the traditional hot stone bath or hot springs then pack your swimwear. Comfortable shoes for walking are a must and better if you have Hiking Shoes for the trek up to the Tiger's Nest Monastery. You can visit only three tourist destinations, i.e. Thimphu, Paro and Punakha on a regular Bhutan Tourist Permit.Thimphu is the capital and the most happening city.
Chorten Memorial Buddha Point or Kuensel Phodrang Tashichho Dzong or Fort Open The Folk Heritage Museum Bhutanese Lunch at the Museum restaurant Institute for Zorig Chusum Handicrafts Shops-Clock Tower Changangkha Lhakhang Takin Reserve Early night or take a swig at the few clubs
Dochula Pass The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang Punakha Dzong Chimi Lhakhang Rafting on the Mo Chu River( Calm river and very safe.Do not miss it) Riverside picnic The Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang nunnery Suspension Bridge
The Tiger's Nest or Takshang Lhakhang - Attempt the trek only if you are fit. Carry a walking stick or ride a mule till the cafeteria. Best shopping at the base of Tiger's nest National Museum Rinpung Dzong Kyichu Lhakhang View of Himalayas Wear a Kira or a Gho
Plan your holiday to this last Shangri-La with its pristine countryside, towering mountains, poppy-coloured valleys, crystal clear rivers, mighty Dzongs, red-robed monks, gilded temples and golden idols; all adding to its mystic and allure. I have not yet come out of this magical trip to this other world called Bhutan and the memories are going to linger forever.
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