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informations about Bhutan

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hi Pierre and Mahesh. Very nice to hear from you. Great to hear that Pierre now you are in Kathmandu. We had a wonderful visit to Nepal, the weather was great during the Kali Gandaki trek. We did what wanted to do in Kathmandu and Pokhara and we even managed to do the mountain flight. What more could we ask for. Mahesh and Lhakpa looked after us very well and we came back with wonderful memories of Nepal, with a strong desire to return. Thanks for Frens Himalayan Treks and Expedition. Anu Mitra
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informations about Bhutan

Bhutan, ‘the land of thunder Dragon’ and ‘the last Shangri La’ on earth, is situated in the lap of Eastern Himalayas between India and the People’s Republic of China. Covering an area of 18000 sq miles, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the most isolated nations in the world. Spectacular mountain terrain, varied flora and fauna and unique ancient Buddhist monasteries have made Bhutan an exemplar tourist destination, it is bestowed with rich bio-diversity harboring around 300 medicinal herbs and 165 endangered species. Each part of Bhutan has its own, historical, geographical, cultural, traditional and religious significance.

History :The ancient period of Bhutan that dates from the beginning till the 8th century AD, was marked by rural settlement, domestication of animals, agriculture, the first advent of Buddhism and subsequent buildings of Buddhist temples.

The visit of Guru Padmasambhava and other Buddhists saints and scholars from India and Tibet marked the medieval Bhutan. Emergence of ruling clans and development of arts and architecture were also seen during this period.

Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a leader of the Drukpa sect, came to Bhutan in 17th century. He introduced the dual system of Government and for the first time some degree of stability was maintained, which was unseen before. This did not last long. After Ngawang Namgyal’s death, successors became victims of intrigues and rivalries. The instability continued till the early 20th century.

The country’s modern period began with the establishment of monarchy in Bhutan. The powerful Bhutanese Chief, Ugyen Wangchuk crowned as the first hereditary ruler of Bhutan in 1907. The country’s self-imposed policy of isolation continued till the reign of the third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He decided to shed this age-old policy and introduced the country to the outside world, bringing the country into the international mainstream.

Though the country is known as Bhutan to the outside world, to Bhutanese it has been known as Druk Yul ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’. The people call themselves Drukpas.

Geography : Bhutan is a landlocked country wedged between the autonomous region of Tibet, China, in the north and India in the south along the lofty mountains of the eastern Himalayas. It is located between 88°45'and 92°10' longitude east and between 26°40' and 28°15' latitude north. It covers 46,500 square kilometers and has population of 650,000 with seventy five percent of the population living on cultivation and livestock rearing.

The country can be divided into three major geographic zones: the southern foothills and plains with hot and humid climate, the hills and valleys in the center with moderate rainfall and the highland of the north with high mountains covered with snow almost throughout the year.

Bhutan is the land of complex gorges and valleys, soaring snow-peaked mountains and steep slopes, humid jungles and foothills, magnificent lakes and waterfalls, fast flowing rivers and streams and the richest biodiversity of flora and fauna.

Climate : Bhutan's climate ranges from tropical temperatures in the south and centre of the country, to cold in the north and like much of your adventure in the Himalayas it will be quite unpredictable from day to day or within the same day. In the Thimphu and Paro valleys, the winter daytime temperature averages 60 degrees Fahrenheit during clear winter days but drops well below freezing during the night. Mid December to early January can be a beautifully clear and dry in West Bhutan. Late December through mid February is the period of heaviest snow fall in the higher elevations.

The fluctuations are not quite so great during the summer and daytime temperature often rises to the mid-eighties. Punakha and central valley’s are lower than their Western neighbors and tend to always be a few degrees warmer. The higher peaks will be snow-covered all year. The higher passes, particularly Thrumshing La, between Bumthang and Mongar, can be treacherous during winter as snow falls frequently and ices up the road. Light snow will often dust Thimphu and Paro in winter, occasionally there will be heavy snowstorms despite their location in the Central Himalayas.

The summer monsoon from the Bay of Bengal affects Bhutan from late May to late September. Views over the Himalayas from the higher passes are usually obscured from June to August. There are notable advantages to visiting Bhutan during the wet season including the spectacular rhododendron blossom from March through May and the deep green valleys. Many species of wild orchids are in full bloom during late summer season (August).

The spring season in Bhutan can only be compared to an artist's palette, truly a spectacular time. The autumn season, late September through November, is usually very mild and clear. The sky is usually at its clearest, displaying magnificent views of the Himalayan range. The spring and fall seasons are traditionally the most popular times to visit the Kingdom.

People : The people of Bhutan are classified into three main ethnic groups: Sharchops, who live in east of the country believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan. They are Indo-Mongoloid origin and appear closely related to the people of north east India and northern Burma. The Ngalongs are of Tibetan descendant migrated to Bhutan in the 9th century and settled west of the country. The third group Lhotsampas are the Nepali origin and settled in the foothills of southern Bhutan in mid 19th century. There are other minority groups in Bhutan such as Layap, Brokpa, Doya, Lhopu, Dhakpa and Lepcha.

The men wear a knee-length garment called ‘Gho’ which resembles the Scottish Kilt. The women wear a long robe ‘Kira’, which is wrapped around the body covering from neck to ankle. Women usually wear heavy silver and gold necklaces with coral, turquoise and other precious stones. Rings and earrings decorated with pearls and turquoise are also popular.

Language : The national language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, which is widely spoken in western region. The eastern region of the country speak Sharchop, where as the people in the south speak Nepali.

English has been used as the medium of instructions in schools and institutes. The country’s national newspaper Kuensel is written in English, Dzongkha and Nepali.

Visa infos : All visitors traveling to Bhutan are required to obtain a visa and it is processed and arranged by us. No foreign mission grants Bhutan tourist visas.

We will handle the visa procedures for you. The Govt. will sanction the VISA only after the receipt of full payment in advance. The cost of the visa itself is US $20, which can be further extended with an additional fee of US $15. The visa fee is included with our tour price.  Atual Bhutan VISA will be stamped in your passport on arrival on Paro airport. Without visa clearance number, tourists cannot board the flight or enter the country. A copy of this visa clearance is forwarded to the concerned Druk Air stations and other entry points by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we also fax a copy to our clients for their reference. While the actual visa is stamped on arrival, the initial visa clearance is also required at the time of issuing Druk Air Tickets.

Tourists will need to carry 2 copies of original passport-sized photographs, which are required on arrival in the country.

The Tourists wishing to visit Bhutan should furnish us with the following details along with a copy of passport to process the visa should be arrived to us at least 6 weeks prior to the date of your arrival. You can FAX us with the details.

Full Name: ……………………………………………………….. …
Permanent Address: ………………………………………………….
Place of Birth: ………………………………………………………..
Date of Birth: …………………………………………………………
Nationality:…………………………………………………………….
Nature of Passport: Diplomatic/Official/Ordinary/UN Laisser-Passer.
Passport Number:
……………………………………………………...
Date of Issue: …………………………………………………………..
Place of Issue: ………………………………………………………….
Date of Expiry:………………………………………………………….
Occupation/Profession: …………………………………………………
Period for which visa is required: ………………………………………
Point of Entry/Exit into Bhutan: Entry:  ……………… Exit: ………….
Purpose of visiting Bhutan: …………………………………………….
Is this first visit to Bhutan? YES /NO. If not, give details of your earlier visit.

How to enter Bhutan ? : There is only one way in which you can enter Bhutan:

By Air: Druk Air is the only airline operating in Bhutan. As Druk Air flights may be delayed because of weather in the monsoon (July & August), it is advisable to keep a 24-hour gap before any onward international connections.

We can assist you in arranging your Druk Air flights. For the Druk Air reservation, we would require your full names as in your passports. Drukair does not issue paper tickets, we will issue your Druk Air E-tickets and e-mail or fax them to you in advance. 

When to Visit Bhutan? Spring (March, April, May) and autumn (September, October, November) are best seasons to visit Bhutan. The major cultural festivals are held during these seasons and the fine weather makes it an ideal time for trekking and traveling throughout the country and viewing the high mountain peaks. The rainy season falls in June-August, with rainfall averaging about 0.5m (1.5ft).

Clothing : Due to wide range of temperature and climatic conditions, it is advisable to bring appropriate clothing.  In the months of October, November, December, January and February, mornings and evenings will be cold.  You will have to being in warm clothes (thick overcoats not necessary).  While the months of February, March, April, May, June, July, August and September the days are warmer.  June, July and August will be little wet and some rain gear would be necessary.

Clothes as per season, sunglasses/spare glasses or contact lenses, pair of casual shoes, washing kit, shaving kit, towel, hat, umbrella, camera, film and accessories, maps, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit & safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, sun screen cream, lip salve or soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, preparation for the relief of sunburn. You may not be tuned to the Asian drugs so it is always better to bring own brand.

Accommodation :Bhutan offers generally modest but clean hotels. There are none of the chain hotels in Bhutan although a couple of high end resorts have been opened in some districts. Ace the Himalayas agents puts you up in the best available hotels that are classified and approved by the Royal Government. Visitors are advised not to expect luxury or five star hotel services. Bhutan’s local hospitality is, however, an insight into a society where tourism may be a new venture, but where visitors are greeted with true warmth and friendship.

Generally, tourist facilities and services are good in western Bhutan, but the quality of service and facilities decreases the further east we go. This is because tourism is less developed in more remote east.

Transportation : We arrange comfortable passenger coaster buses for groups of seven visitors or more. You will also be traveling comfortably throughout the country in six seater Japanese hi-ace buses. Smaller groups of one to two passengers will discover the country in luxury SUVS.

Meals : A variety of meals are available in most hotels – the most popular being Indian, Chinese, and the more common continental food.  Non vegetarian dishes are generally available in most parts of Bhutan - pork, beef, chicken, and fish. The best advice is to ask the hotel and restaurant to recommend what is fresh and in season.

Guide : Licensed Bhutanese travel guides will introduce you to the many facets of this interesting country. The English-speaking guides undergo regular training and, where required, specialized guides will lead you on bird watching, botany or other special tours.

Tipping : Although the system of ‘give and take’ is always there in Bhutanese tradition, tipping is not compulsory. But if you would like to appreciate the services of our guides, drivers and service staff you may tip them according to your will.

Money : 1US$= 40NU(Ngultrum). Ngultrum is the currency of Bhutan. It is equivalent to the Indian rupee which is widely accepted throughout Bhutan.  Its possible to get ngultrum at the Paro airport, Bhutan National Bank and the Bank of Bhutan.  It is also available at all hotels but the exchange rate is slightly higher than banks.  You are advised to bring in traveler's checks or cash dollars which are widely accepted.

There are no credit or debit card ATMs in Bhutan except for the locals. For convenience, it is preferable to have travelers cheques and/or cash dollars.

Bhutan Tourism Policy :  The tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable. For this reason the number for tourists visiting Bhutan are kept to an environmentally manageable level through Government regulated tourist tariff.

It is mandatory to have your trips organized through any one of the registered tour operators in Bhutan as no other missions or embassies will arrange your travel to Bhutan. Bhutanese missions or embassies will not arrange your travel or tourist visa  to Bhutan.

Photography : Bhutan is perhaps one of the most photogenic places in the world. The landscape, nature, architecture and the people make it a photographer’s paradise. People are generally happy to pose for pictures, but do ask before you do so if you are focusing on one person. Photography is not permitted inside Dzongs, monasteries and temples as they are considered living institutions.

You could use your video camera for recording your events during the tours (except in those restricted places mentioned) but there is a set of rules for the commercial filming.

It is advisable to bring your own photographic equipment and needs.  Films and camera batteries are available generally only in major towns. Slide film is generally not available so bring plenty of slide rolls if you’re shooting slides.

Travelling Insurance : It is imperative that you have full comprehensive insurance cover to protect against unforeseen accidents and mishaps. Such policies are not available in Bhutan. It should adequately cover baggage and travel delays, helicopter evacuation, transportation and medical assistance in case of treks.

Airport Tax : Airport tax of USD 19.00 per person is payable at the time of departure. It is subject to change.

Customs & Regulations :The Bhutanese authorities strictly prohibit the export of any religious Antiquity or antiques of any type. All personal electronics, Cameras, Video Cameras, Computers and personal electronic equipment may be brought into the country but they must be listed on the customs form provided on arrival at Paro and will be checked on departure. Two liters of Alcohol may be brought in to the country without duty. Cigarettes may be brought into the country after paying 100% duty tax as Bhutan is the first country in the world to ban the import and sales of tobacco.