Common Questions and Answers about Bhutan
Where is Bhutan?
Bhutan is a small, landlocked nation located in the eastern Himalayas between India and the Tibetan portion of China. Its landscape ranges from subtropical plains and forests in the South to subalpine forests and snowy mountains of the Himalaya.
What are the benefits of a private tour?
There are so many that it’s hard to quantify, but here’s a few major benefits: 1) the tour is customized for your interests, which means you get to see and do the things you’re most interested in. 2) you’re not running on a fixed daily schedule, which means you have flexibility to stay as long as you want or move on early from something or even skip it altogether if that’s what you decide on the spot. 3) We’re able to design the activities at popular sights to avoid the crowds!
Do I need to use a tour operator to book my travel?
Yes, it is a government regulation that you must use a licensed tour operator to book your travel to Bhutan or one of their international partners–such as Red Lantern Journeys.
Do I need a visa to enter Bhutan?
Yes, all international tourists wishing to enter Bhutan require a visa which must be pre-arranged through a license tour operator or one of their international partners. Visa clearance must be obtained through your tour operator prior to travel. Red Lantern Journeys provides this service.
How much does the visa cost?
International tourist visas cost USD $40. This can only be paid in advance to your tour operator. Red Lantern Journeys includes this cost in the tour cost.
How do I get to Bhutan?
Flights to Bhutan are only via Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodh Gaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati, Singapore and Mumbai. At present only two carriers operate flights to Bhutan, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. It’s best to book your flight through your tour operator as they will be able to efficiently make changes if necessary.
Also, there are three land border crossings for overland travel into the kingdom from India. These include: Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar.
What does the daily tour package include?
The basic package includes 3 star accommodations/lodges, 3 daily meals, an experienced guide and transportation within the country. Also included in the price is a $65 per day Sustainable Development Fee that goes towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation. It does not include the cost of upgraded hotels and meals in those hotels. Red Lantern Journeys packages also include unique activities, meetings with local experts, monks, and local festivals.
What currency is used in Bhutan?
Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum. Its value is tied to the Indian Rupee on a one-to-one basis, which is also widely accepted in the country.
Is there a limit on the number of tourists that can enter Bhutan each year?
There is no limit on the number of tourists allowed to visit in a year. In order to protect our culture, traditions and natural environment, the government has adopted a unique policy of “High Value, Low Impact ”. This policy is aimed at attracting discerning tourists that will respect the unique culture and values of the Bhutanese people while also providing the visitors with an unforgettable one of a kind experience.
What’s the food like in Bhutan?
The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillies are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that is not spicy.
Rice forms a staple of the Bhutanese diet. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are consumed most often. A wide selection of western and Indian food is also available in many of the restaurants and hotels around the country.
What are the typical costs of your Bhutan private tours?
If booking a private tour with us, costs can range from $300/day/person for staying in our preferred 3-star quality hotels to over $500/day/person in high-end luxury hotels. Staying in updgraded hotels can cost an average of $400 to $700/day/person. These cost estimates include not just accommodation, but also internal flights, airport transfers, tours and activities, entrance fees, private guides, and private vehicles with driver.
Is the water safe to drink?
No. It’s generally best to avoid tap water and use bottled or purified water in hotels to drink…and brush your teeth.
Is it possible to use my mobile phone in Bhutan?
It’s best to check your mobile plan to see if it has a roaming agreement with one of the two operators in Bhutan. If not, it’s possible to buy a local SIM card to install in your unlocked phone. There are two GSM network providers in Bhutan. First is the government owned B-mobile (Bhutan Telecom) and second is the private Tashi Cell. Network coverage is better with B-mobile. We recommend getting B-mobile, especially if you’re traveling to less developed areas. You can purchase special short validity tourist SIM cards from the mobile operator office or from any authorized dealer in larger towns like Paro or Thimphu. You will need your passport photo page scan (sometimes they can make copy in the shop) and 200 Ngultrum (Nu). Getting a SIM card purchased and activated will not take more than 15 minutes. Your guide will assist you.
What electrical adapters are needed?
The entire country is well connected with electricity and electrical outlets in Bhutan supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts with a frequency of 50 hz. Take an international adapter that will fit 3 round prongs or 2 round prongs (Types C and D). Luxury hotels will have outlets that accept international plugs.