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Bhutan Country Guide

  1. CountryFacts
  2. Health
  3. Media
  1. Intro
  2. Geography
  3. People
  4. Travel
  5. Embassies & Visas
  6. Finance
  7. Cities/Regions

Quick Facts

Region: Asia & Oceania
Full Name: Kingdom of Bhutan
Capital City: Thimphu
Language Spoken: Dzongkha (official), Bhotes speak various Tibetan dialects, Nepalese speak various Nepalese dialects

Bhutan Travel Insurance

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Geographic data

27 30 N, 90 30 E

Elevation Extremes

lowest point: Drangme Chhu 97 m highest point: Kula Kangri 7,553 m

Land boundaries

total: 1,075 km border countries: China 470 km, India 605 km

Natural hazards

violent storms from the Himalayas are the source of the country's name, which translates as Land of the Thunder Dragon; frequent landslides during the rainy season

Natural resources

timber, hydropower, gypsum, calcium carbonate

Land use

arable land: 2.3% permanent crops: 0.43% other: 97.27% (2005)

Environmental current issues

soil erosion; limited access to potable water

Climate

There are four distinct seasons similar in their divisions to those of Western Europe. The Monsoon occurs between June and August when the temperature is normally between 8? and 21?C (46?-70?F). Temperatures drop dramatically with increases in altitude. Days are usually very pleasant (average about 10?C/50?F) with clear skies and sunshine. Nights are cold and require heavy woolen clothing, particularly in winter. Generally, October, November and April to mid-June are the best times to visit ? rainfall is at a minimum and temperatures are conducive to active days of sightseeing. The foothills are also very pleasant during the winter.\nRequired clothing\nLightweight cottons in the foothills, also linens and waterproof gear, light sweaters and jackets for the evenings. Upland areas: woolens for evenings, particularly during the winter months.

Time difference

time difference: UTC+6

Population

2,279,723 note: other estimates range as low as 810,000 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 38.9% (male 458,801/female 426,947) 15-64 years: 57.1% (male 671,057/female 631,078) 65 years and over: 4% (male 46,217/female 45,623) (2006 est.)

Median age

total: 20.4 years male: 20.2 years female: 20.6 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate

2.1% (2006 est.)

Birth rate

33.65 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate

12.7 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 1.01 male(s)/female total population: 1.07 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 54.78 years male: 55.02 years female: 54.53 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate

4.74 children born/woman (2006 est.)

Business Practices

The manners and customs of the Bhutanese are in many respects unique. The strongest influence on business and social conventions is the country's state religion, and everywhere one can see the reminders of Buddhism and the original religion of Tibet, Bonism. The majority of the Bhutanese live an agrarian lifestyle. The political leaders of the country have historically also been religious leaders. For years the country has deliberately isolated itself from visitors, and has only recently opened up to the outside world, a policy that is now to some extent being reversed. Recent economic policy has concentrated on export industries, particularly electric power generation and transmission to India.

Crime

While some incidents of pickpocketing and purse snatching are reported, there is relatively little crime in Bhutan and violent crimes are exceedingly rare. However, as in any traveling situation, visitors should be alert in crowded markets and avoid public transport, due to safety issues. Occasional robberies have been reported against travelers to rural areas of the country, but these have been rare.

Hotels

There are comfortable hotels, cottages and guesthouses. Hotels have hot and cold running water, electricity and room telephones. Restaurants are scarce and most tourists dine in their hotels.

Communications

International direct dial. Telephone services are restricted to the main centers. Country code: 975. All other calls must go through the international operator. Outgoing international code: 00. Telex services are available in main centers, but are liable to disruption. Airmail letters from Bhutan is subject to disruption, due to the highly prized nature of Bhutanese stamps, which often results in their being steamed off the envelopes en route.

Electricity

is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Electricity 220 volts AC, 50Hz.

Plug Types

D,F,G

Food And Dining

Restaurants are relatively scarce and most tourists eat in their hotels.

National specialties:
? Meals are often buffet-style and mostly vegetarian.
? Cheese is a very popular ingredient in dishes and the most popular cheeses are datse (cow?s milk cheese), sometimes served in a dish with red chillies (emadatse), and yak cheese.
? Rice is ubiquitous, sometimes flavored with saffron.
? The country is replete with apple orchards, rice paddies and asparagus, which grows freely in the countryside. There are also over 400 varieties of mushroom.
? Fat brown and rainbow trout swim amid the glacial waters of the Pa Chu River, but these will not be caught by Bhutanese Buddhists. However, recent restrictions on meat-eating have lapsed ever so slightly. Meat and fish are now imported from nearby India, and Nepali Hindus living in Bhutan are licensed to slaughter animals. National drinks:
? The most popular drink is souza (Bhutanese tea).

Tipping:
Not widely practiced.

Entry departure requirements

Restricted entry Tourists to Bhutan are obliged to use Druk Air (the only airline serving Bhutan) either on entering or leaving the country. The Government may refuse entry to those wishing to visit for mountaineering, publicity and other research activities.

Visa immigration information

Passports

Valid passport required by all.

Visas

Required by all except nationals of India.

Note

(a) There are two ways of entering Bhutan: by air to Paro Airport or by road to the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. All travelers entering the country by road must ensure that they have the necessary documentation for transiting through that part of India to Phuentsholing. Consult the Passport/Visa section for India. Visitors are also advised to contact the Government of India Tourist Office (see India section) to check exactly what special permits or other documents may be necessary as these regulations are subject to change at short notice. (b) Visitors are required to book with a registered tour operator in Bhutan, which can be done directly through an affiliated travel agent abroad. (c) A yellow fever certificate is required by all if arriving within six days from an infected area.

Types of visa and cost

Tourist: US$20 (payable in hard currency).

Validity

Visas are initially granted for stays of up to 14 days. The Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited (BTCL) can apply for an extension of tourist visas for an additional fee per person.

Application to

Visa applications for all tourists processed by the travel/tour agent through the Tourism Authority of Bhutan (TAB). Only once the visa has been cleared can visitors travel to Bhutan. Visas are issued (stamped in passport) on arrival at Paro Airport or at Phuentsholing check post.

Application requirements

(a) Application forms, which may be obtained from the BTCL, who should be contacted directly (see Passport/Visa Information). (b) Faxed details of passport to the BTCL prior to arrival. (c) All necessary documents for transiting India (see Note above). (d) Confirmed onward or return ticket. (e) Sufficient funds for length of stay (Mar-May, Sep-Nov: US$200 per day; Jun-Aug, Dec-Feb: US$165 per day). (f) Fee. (g) Two passport-size photos.

Working days required

Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process and should be applied for at least 60 days prior to arrival in Bhutan.

HIV entry requirements

No Test Required

Departure tax

BTN 300

Embassies

Royal Bhutanese Embassy in India

Chandragupta Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110 021, India
Tel: (11) 2688 9230 or 9806/7.

Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited (BTCL)

PO Box 159, Thimphu, Bhutan
Tel: (2) 324 045 or 322 647.
Website: www.kingdomofbhutan.com

Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited (BTCL) in the USA

c/o Far Fung Places, 1914 Fell Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Tel: (415) 386 8306.
Website: www.farfungplaces.com or www.kingdomofbhutan.com

Travelers must arrange any visit to Bhutan through an authorized travel agent. Those traveling independently are not permitted to enter Bhutan. Most visits are trouble-free.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organizations for the latest travel advice:

British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Tel: (0845) 850 2829.
Website: www.fco.gov.uk

US Department of State

Website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html

Currency

1 Ngultrum (BTN) = 100 chetrum (Ch). The Ngultrum is pegged to the Indian Rupee (which is also acccepted as legal tender). Notes are in denominations of BTN500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of BTN1, and 100, 50, 25, 10 and 5 chetrum. US Dollars are also widely accepted throughout the kingdom.

Currency restrictions

None, but foreign currency must be declared on arrival.

Banking hours

Mon-Fri 1000-1300. Some smaller branches may be open Saturday or Sunday for currency exchange.

Currency exchange

Leading foreign currencies are accepted but traveller's cheques are preferred and receive a better exchange rate. Major hotels in Thimphu and Phuentsholing, and the Olathang Hotel in Paro, will also exchange foreign currency.

Credit cards

American Express and Diners Club have very limited acceptability. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

Travellers cheques

These can be exchanged in any branch of the Bank of Bhutan or at all BTCL hotels. Travelers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.

City/RegionCity/Area codeFollowed by
Gelephu6+ 6 digit subscriber nr
Paro8+ 6 digit subscriber nr
Phuntsholing5+ 6 digit subscriber nr
S/Jongkhar7+ 6 digit subscriber nr
Thimphu2+ 6 digit subscriber nr
Trashigang4+ 6 digit subscriber nr
Trongsa3+ 6 digit subscriber nr
  1. Health Information
  2. Recent Disease Outbreak
  3. Hospital Database

Dental care

Avoid dental treatment in Bhutan as the standards of care and hygiene cannot be guaranteed.

Medication Availability

The quality of medication cannot be guaranteed in Bhutan, heat damaged and out of date supplies may be stocked

Blood supplies

Blood supplies should be considered as unsafe in Bhutan

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Bhutan are limited. Some medicine is in short supply.

General caution

Recent medical and dental exams should ensure that the traveler is in good health. Carry appropriate health and accident insurance documents and copies of any important medical records. Bring an adequate supply of all prescription and other medications as well as any necessary personal hygiene items, including a spare pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses if necessary. Drink only bottled beverages (including water) or beverages made with boiled water. Do not use ice cubes or eat raw seafood, rare meat or dairy products. Eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors. Swim only in well-maintained, chlorinated pools or water known to be free from pollution. Wear clothing which reduces exposed skin and apply repellents containing DEET to remaining areas. Sleep in well-screened accommodations. Carry anti-diarrheal medication. Reduce problems related to sun exposure by using sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen lotions and lip protection.

Specific concerns

Immunization

Cholera: Although limited in effectiveness, vaccination may be appropriate for persons living and/or working in less than sanitary conditions for more than 3 months where medical facilities are unavailable. Vaccination may also be appropriate for travelers with impaired gastric defenses who are planning an extended visit or being exposed to unsanitary conditions. Vaccination is not advised for pregnant women, infants younger than 6 months old, or persons with a history of severe reaction to the vaccine. Hepatitis A: Consider active immunization with hepatitis A vaccine or passive immunization with immune globulin (IG) for all susceptible travelers. Especially consider choosing active immunization for persons planning to reside for a long period or for persons who take frequent short-term trips to risk areas. The importance of protection against hepatitis A increases as length of stay increases. It is particularly important for persons who will be living in or visiting rural areas, eating or drinking in settings of poor or uncertain sanitation, or who will have close contact with local persons (especially young children) in settings with poor sanitary conditions. Hepatitis B: Vaccination is advised for health care workers, persons anticipating direct contact with blood from or sexual contact with inhabitants, and persons planning extended stays of 6 months or greater (especially those who anticipate using local health care facilities, staying in rural areas, or having intimate contact with the local population). Japanese Encephalitis: Data regarding transmission are unavailable, but location and geography suggest risk is similar to southern Nepal and northern India. Consider vaccination if staying a month or more in southern lowland areas from July to December, especially if travel includes rural areas. Also consider if staying less than 30 days during that period and at high risk (in case of epidemic outbreak or extensive outdoor exposure in rural areas). Polio: A one-time booster dose is recommended for travelers who have previously completed a standard course of polio immunization. Refer to CDC guidelines for vaccinating unimmunized or incompletely immunized persons. Pregnancy is a relative contraindication to vaccination; however, if protection is needed, either IPV or OPV may be used, depending on preference and time available. Rabies: Preexposure vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 30 days who are expected to be at risk to bites from domestic and/or wild animals (particularly dogs), or for persons engaged in high risk activities such as spelunking or animal handling. Need for vaccination is more important if potential exposure is in rural areas and if adequate postexposure care is not readily available. Typhoid: Vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 3 weeks, adventurous eaters, and those who will venture off the usual tourist routes into small cities, villages and rural areas. Importance of vaccination increases as access to reasonable medical care becomes limited. Contraindications depend on vaccine type. Note: All routine vaccines (such as DTP or Td, Hib, MMR, polio, varicella, influenza and pneumococcal) should be kept up-to-date as a matter of good health practice unrelated to travel.

Disease risk summary

Insect-borne illness: Encephalitis (Japanese type) - common (likely hyperendemic in southern lowlands, as in Nepal) Leishmaniasis (visceral) - prevalent Malaria - common Sandfly fever - prevalent Food-borne and water-borne illness: is a problem in the area, in particular cholera and other watery diarrheas, the dysenteries, typhoid fever, viral hepatitis, and helminthic (parasitic worm) infections. Brucellosis - common Echinococcosis (hydatid disease) - common Other hazards: Diseases such as measles and diphtheria are commonly reported. Polio is still considered a possible risk, although no cases have been reported in recent years. Influenza risk extends from November to April. Rabies in animals is a hazard in most areas.

Entry requirements

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers coming from infected areas.

Recent disease outbreaks

No recent disease outbreaks

NameAddress
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral HospitalThimphu

Media

Television was only introduced in 1999 because for years Bhutan had a deliberate policy of isolation, fearing that outside influences would undermine its absolute Monarchy, freedom and culture. The state-run Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) launched the first TV service as part of celebrations surrounding King Jigme Singye Wangchuk's silver jubilee. The launch marked the end of a general ban on television. Radio broadcasting began in 1973 and the first Internet service was introduced in 1999. Media freedom is restricted by the Government. There are no private broadcasters, but cable television is said to be thriving with rival operators offering around 25 channels.
Press: Kuensel is the autonomous weekly and only regular newspaper. Television: Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) is state-owned; Cable Sat Club and Tshela Cable are commercial channels.
Radio: Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) is a state-owned radio station.

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