25 Things to Know Before Bhutan Travel

6 May 2024 Umesh Paneru


Are you planning to travel to Bhutan? Bhutan is a magical nation that is the only carbon-negative nation in the world. This magical nation remained isolated from the world until the 1970s. Bhutan strictly adheres to the ‘High Value, Low Volume’ tourism policy. People might get surprised while traveling so, it is best to know things about Bhutan before traveling. We have listed 25 things to know before Bhutan Travel for better planning and preparation.

Visa Process

The Bhutan Visa process is simple and with the help of authorized tour operators apply for an online Visa. The Visa cost is USD 40 per person for which you require a digital photo and a digital copy of a valid passport. Obtain a visa in advance for a smooth traveling experience.

Flight Options

Paro is the only International Airport in Bhutan which is also one of the extreme airports in the world. Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines are two carriers and the only flight options in Bhutan that operate in and out. It means there are no connecting flights from worldwide in Bhutan.

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Limited flight schedules

Bhutan has limited flight schedules which are accessible only from five destinations: Nepal, India, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Singapore. The flight schedules can be subjected to weather conditions too. So, plan wisely, select the best destinations, and book well in advance. Kathmandu is the best destination considering both cost and time.

Bhutan Flight Schedule 2024/2025: Bhutan operates only two International Airlines. They are Bhutan (Tashi) Airlines and Druk Airlines. There are only limited flights to travel to Bhutan. There is no connecting flight at all.

bhutan airport

Sustainable Development Fee (SDF)

The nation is committed to sustainable tourism hence a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) is a daily charge paid by travelers to support Bhutan’s development. The SDF structure is USD 100 per person per night. It is only USD 50 for kids aged 6 to 11 and no charge for kids aged below 6. Note that this fee excludes all other travel expenses (accommodation, meals, guide tips, monument fees, etc.)

New Revised SDF effective from September 1, 2023 until September 2027

  • Adults: USD 100 per person per night
  • Children (below 6): No SDF required
  • Children aged (6 to 11): 50% discount on SDF i.e. USD 50 per night
  • Children aged (12 and above): Full SDF rate applies i.e. USD 100 per person/ night

50% Discount on Bhutan’s SDF: Good News for all tourists. USD 100 per person per night till 2027 which is effective from September 1, 2023.

Licensed Guides

During the Bhutan tour, guides are compulsory to travel to all Dzongs and religious sites. We recommend hiring a licensed guide as it is safer and more trustworthy. Also, hiring a guide helps to better understand the places, food, and culture. Moreover, they provide better support and proper guidance throughout the tour. With the company of licensed guides, have a memorable Bhutan tour.GUEST WITH GUIDE IN BHUTAN

Required Permits and Entry Fees

Bhutan no longer requires route permits if travelers are accompanied by a licensed guide to travel throughout the country. For trekking to a specific region, permits are required which are arranged by the tour operator. National Park Entry also requires permits. Entry to most of the monuments is free but some popular monument site requires entry fees.

Travel Insurance

The compulsory requirement of Travel Insurance for Bhutan tours was officially lifted on April 23, 2024. We still recommend having travel insurance from a trusted agency to prevent unforeseen situations.

Accommodation in Bhutan

Bhutan has accommodation from luxurious hotels to 4-star and 3-star hotels. The Luxurious hotels offer top-notch services. But, remember that the 3-star and 4-star hotels in Bhutan are of the Bhutanese standards. Don’t expect to match the hotel standards to European and American standards. Nonetheless, the accommodation is satisfactory.

Local Foods

Every country has its unique style of cooking and thus foods are diverse. Likewise, the local foods of Bhutan are unique offering bold flavors and tastes to travelers. Spicy chilies are the main ingredient in Bhutanese Cuisine. The national dish of Bhutan, Ema Datshi is a must-try dish that is prepared using chilies and cheese. Phaksha Paa (pork with red chilies), Momo, Kewa Datshi, Shakam Paa, and Red Rice, are some popular local foods in Bhutan. Try local foods but remember that most of the foods are super spicy.connie

Water in Bhutan

Drinking tap water is not recommended unless it is boiled or purified to drink. We suggest drinking bottled water or using water purifying kits to stay safe.

Best Season

With changing altitudes, there is a varied climate in Bhutan. Still, Spring (Mar-May) is the best season as the blooming flowers make the country beautiful. The weather is dry which offers good views and a stable temperature helps to tour comfortably. Autumn (Sep-Nov) is the second best season to travel to Bhutan as it is the festive season, and the days are bright and sunny.

Wi-Fi and Mobile Networks

Bhutan is a mountainous country and only in the late 90s Bhutan adopted technology. The Wi-Fi and mobile networks are not stable in most of the remote parts. In hotels and cities, there are Wi-Fi connectivity. Obtain a guest B Mobile SIM card which is reasonable and provides better data access for internet connection. Travelers can buy a SIM at the Paro Airport or ask for help from the guide.

Things to consider before planning for a Bhutan tour


Ngultrum is the Bhutanese national currency which is pegged to Indian rupees. It is good to exchange some local currencies or carry some cash for a comfortable tour experience. Credit card machines and ATMs might not work and at that time cash comes in handy. At cash counters in the airport, or in designated places, travelers can exchange the currency. It is best to have a mix of small denominations. Indian small-denomination rupees are also widely accepted.

Languages Spoken

The official national language is Dzongkha but in all tourist areas, English is widely spoken. While traveling to a new place, learning common phrases is a good idea as it helps connect with the locals. Learn a few words such as ‘Kuzu Zangpo La’ which means ‘Hello, How are You? Also, learn ‘Kadrin Cheyla’ meaning Thank You.

National Dress Compulsory

Travelers might be surprised to see everyone wearing the same dress while touring Bhutan. It is compulsory to wear national dress for all citizens in schools, government offices, hospitals, festivals, and all job activities. Men wear Gho and women wear Kira as a national dress. One of the best examples of the well-preserved ancient traditions and culture of Bhutan.bhutan buddha statue

Travelers’ Dress Code

There is no strict dress code for travelers but we recommend wearing appropriate clothes and full-sleeve clothes while touring religious sites. If attending the festival, wearing a national dress (Gho for men and Kira for women) is the best.


Photography in Bhutan is allowed in most of the places. Only in some religious monasteries, and restricted sites it is prohibited. It is better to ask for permission before taking photographs.WhatsApp Image 2019 03 28 at 11.16.31 AM e1714975847665

Drone Usage

Drone Usage is forbidden in Bhutan but only with permission from the Civil Aviation Authority using drone is allowed. For this, a permit must be issued in advance clarifying the purpose of drone flying i.e. either for recreation or commercial. For further detailed information about the regulations email media@tcb.gov.bt.

Motion Sickness

Bhutan tour is mostly in the car from one destination to another. The road trails are mostly curvy and it takes a longer time even to cross a shorter distance. Travelers might get motion sickness on long car drives during the Bhutan tour. Be prepared for it and during the car ride ask the driver to slow down or stop if you feel uncomfortable.

Respect the culture and environment

Bhutan is a sacred nation that values its culture and environment very deeply. Respect the culture and environment and be mindful while capturing images, using drones, entering religious and cultural sites, etc. Wear appropriate dress while visiting religious sites, remove shoes and caps before entering the site, and ask permission before taking a photograph. Avoid plastic bags, don’t throw rubbish anywhere, and try to keep the surroundings clean.

Before visiting any temple, monastery, or religious place, it is always a good idea to check with local guides or authorities for any specific dress code requirements. By doing so, you ensure that you are appropriately attired and contribute to a harmonious and respectful experience for both yourself and the local community.

with bhutan guide

Restrictions to keep a Clean Environment

Bhutan has strict rules and regulations for preserving the environment. Several initiatives have been taken to keep the environment clean by imposing restrictions or bans on different activities. In Bhutan, animal killing is illegal, plastic bag usage is banned, and tobacco use and smoking only in selected places. Handmade bags are alternatives to plastic bags. They import meats from neighboring nations but don’t kill animals. Tobacco selling is restricted to selected places only.

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Fertility and Good Luck symbol Phallus

Don’t get offended upon seeing the symbol of Phallus paintings on the houses’ facades during the Bhutan tours. Phallus is a fertility and good luck symbol in Bhutan. There is a strong ancient belief that the blessings of the deity Divine Mad Man help to keep off demon spirits. Respect the culture of the nation.

Stray Dogs Everywhere

Numerous stray dogs are everywhere in the streets of Bhutan, mostly in Thimphu. But, don’t get afraid, as all stray dogs are fully sterilized and vaccinated. Bhutan is the first nation in the world to do so which is a great initiative.

Altitude Sickness

Bhutan cultural tours are mostly below the elevation of 3,500m. But, different places during cultural tours have changing altitudes which can be challenging for travelers to get by. So, it is wise to take prevention to prevent altitude sickness, and some tips are given below:

  • Take proper rest after arriving in Bhutan.
  • Keep yourself hydrated.
  • Avoid energetic activities.
  • Know your body signals.
  • Walk slowly at high elevations.
  • If find any difficulty consult a guide
with bhutan guide

Health Safety Tips

It is essential for travelers to always keep an eye on their health during their tours. It is better to take prevention than to fall for it. Some health-safety tips for your Bhutan tour are as follows:

  • Bring prescribed and altitude sickness medicines.
  • Make sure to get travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, altitude, etc.
  • Pack appropriate seasonal clothes, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and comfy shoes.
  • Be cautious while drinking local water and eating spicy cuisine.
  • Stay hydrated and pack some chocolate bars and light snacks.
  • Consult a doctor and do the necessary check-ups before traveling to Bhutan.

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