What to Expect – Day to Day Experiences
Bhutan is an intensely religious and spiritual Buddhist country. It is popularly known as ‘the land of the Peaceful Dragon’ to the outside world. Fluttering prayer flags, century-old temples and monasteries, Dzongs (fortress) and Chortens (stupas), monks and old people spinning prayer wheels are common sights almost every where in Bhutan.
Bhutanese people are generally shy but they are hard working, fun loving, charming and incredibly friendly.
Visa Clearance must be obtained before your departure for Bhutan, this is also required before we can book your Druk Air ticket. Your actual visa is stamped on the your passport upon arrival at the port of entry. Visa fee is US$ 20 for per person for a 14-day visa. Extension of visa, for a period not exceeding 6 months, can be obtained in Thimphu on payment of Nu.510
Time and Money
Bhutan Standard Time (BST) is 6 hours ahead of GMT
Bhutan’s unit of currency is Ngultrum (Nu.), with 100 Chetrum = 1 Ngultrum. The Nu. Is fixed to the value of Indian rupee. We advise you to carry your money in form of traveler checks (preferably American Express) with a little cash (US Dollars), which might be needed for incidental expenses.
Bhutanese food is simple but flavoursome. Meats and vegetable sare often cooked in oil and water, and most dishes include chilies (which provide much of the flavour). Rice usually accompanies most meals. Cheese is also another firm favourite of the Bhutanese people. Most popular drink among the locals is Bhutanese tea, known as souza.
Tipping is usually not practised in Bhutanese restaurants or hotels.
On treks it is customary to tip the cook and his helper. You should also tip your driver and guide who are with you for the whole trip. If your guide etc refuses the tip the first time, re-offer it (as it is a Bhutanese tradition to not accept a tip on the first occassion).
Adequate travel insurance is mandatory for everyone who participates in a Pioneer expedition. Please bring a copy of your insurance policy and contact numbers to give to your expedition leader in case of illness or accident.
Environmental & Responsible Travel
We are committed to running our business and tours in a way that is environmentally, culturally and socially responsible.
We encourage our guests and suppliers to work with us to travel and operate in a way that conserves and protects the areas we visit and bring positive benefits to local communities. We are therefore committed to continual improvement in our environmental performance, preventing pollution and minimising our effects through a complete programme of annual reviews of our expeditions and try to make our activities environmentally and socially positive.
Our local agent does this in a number of ways including:
Community Local staff: All our employees, permanent or hired, are local Bhutanese people and their selection based on experience, training and academic qualifications.
Local purchasing policy: While it is our sincere endeavour to try and promote the use of as much local materials as possible, we cannot avoid the use of foreign goods as Bhutan is largely an import dependent country. But wherever we have the option, we always encourage the use of locally produced, energy efficient and renewable goods.
Charity donations: Through its travel business we always try to facilitate contributions to charity. We have facilitated contributions from our clients in the field of child care at the national referral hospital as well as educations materials to some schools in Bhutan. As we grow, it would be one of our long term objectives to make meaningful contributions to the society, both from ourselves, and through interested clients.
Community projects: We have been promoting the concept of textile tourism all these years. We have customized tour packages for clients interested in traditional Bhutanese weaving/textiles. This has really helped promote the products of rural Bhutanese engaged with traditional designing, vegetable dyeing and weaving. For example, we have been able to promote raw silk products from a rural Bhutanese village called Radhi in Eastern Bhutan.
Environment Waste: As an environmental friendly country, we have exemplary regulations for waste disposal and management. We ensure that all the waste that we generate is disposed off as per environmental regulations and in keeping with best practices. In the first place, we encourage the use of as much bio-degradable or renewable materials as possible for packaging, cooking, toiletries etc.
Energy saving: Energy saving is not only important from environmental protection purposes but it is equally important to reduce overheads. We promote the use of energy efficient devices in all its trips- be it for travel, lighting, cooking or accommodation, wherever possible.
Water saving: While Bhutan is a country rich in clean mountain springs, practical experiences in urban centres show that water is fast becoming a scarce resource. As such we ensure that our guests are advised to be very judicial in the use of water be it in the camps while trekking or in the towns in hotels and restaurants. Also many hotels have policies designed to promote the judicial use of water.
Advising travellers to reduce impact:
Conservation & education: We promote visits to less exposed rural villages and ensure that our guests enjoy the experience of a farm house dinner and a traditional stone bath. Visits to nature conservation parks and hikes along ancient trials form a part of this travel itinerary.
Bhutan has rich and unique tradition and culture, which we value so dearly as a crucial pillar of Gross National Happiness. It is the government’s desire that while we promote tourism, we do not suffer the consequences of the impact of mass tourism on the culture and environment. There are strict government directives in this regard, and we ensure that our guests are given an orientation on this on the day of their arrival in the country.
Bhutan Weather – when to travel
Bhutan’s climate varies hugely depending on the elevation. For example in the Himalayan regions there is perpetual snow, whereas in the southern regions the climate can be tropical. The eastern region tends to be warmer than the central valleys. Rain periods are always common in Bhutan, most notably in the southwest monsoon season from June to September. This entails rainfall most nights and low cloud around the hills which can obscure views and force flight cancellations at the Paro airport. Generally- depending upon the activity the best time to visit Bhutan is during spring (March, April and May) and during Autumn (September, October and November); this is when the weather is at its warmest, and the skies their clearest. October (after the last of the big rains) is a great season for trekking.