This Bhutan Travel Guide is all you need, to know top places to see, how to travel, how much to spend during your festival and more.
Bhutan is the land of surprises. This is where chillies can be the main dish, and the economic index GDP is measured in “Happiness”.
From beautiful landscapes to amazing hospitality – there are many reasons to plan a holiday in Bhutan. And speaking of top places to see in Bhutan be rest assured there are many!
During my first trip there, I travelled for almost a month, and since then, I always wanted to travel to Bhutan again.
Bhutan Travel Guide
The entire country – from the popular towns of Thimpu and Paro to unfamiliar small towns – is comfortable to travel to, hospitable and culturally diverse.
But due to its imposed USD250 daily fee, many travellers find themselves hopelessly bound to a well-planned and unavoidable itinerary. Since that USD250-a-day fee does not apply to Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldivians, they are free to do backpacking in Bhutan without having to worry about a VISA.
NOTE: The country has passed legislation to charge Indians, Bangladeshi and Maldivians to charge a ₹1,200 fee for entering the country. According to the news, the fee will implement in April 2020. Please check the updated news on it before you travel to Bhutan! Check Royal Bhutanese Embassy for recent news.
Now let’s go ahead and discuss in this Bhutan travel guide, some
Top Places To See In Bhutan
Drayangs are the Nightclubs in Bhutan. They’re somewhere between a pub and a discotheque, where people sit back, drink beers and enjoy the traditional dance and song performances.
In Drayangs entry is free, beer is cheap, and the environment is quite lively. I visited a few nightclubs in Bhumtang and felt amazed to find out how they’re a source of entertainment for young individuals and families alike.
So yea, among all the top places to see in Bhutan like Thimpu and other highlights, visit a Drayang too.
You plan a holiday in Bhutan and come back without paying a visit to Paro Taktsang? Not acceptable!
Nestled between the Cliffside of the upper Paro valley, Paro Taktsang is, by far, the most compelling and popular tourist site in the country. But make sure you wear full pants (no shorts) during your visit because having denied entry after a 2-hour strenuous walk to get to the top and enter the legendary Taktsang is not an enjoyable experience.
Thimpu is the most intriguing travel destination in Bhutan, and is my personal favourite, among all the capital cities I’ve seen in my life. I loved walking through its streets while sharing smiles with locals, and watching everyday life improvised with local traditions.
Being the capital city, Thimpu is certainly one of the top places to see in Bhutan, with mentions in every Bhutan travel guide.
Nature And Wildlife
The rich flora, fauna and wildlife in Bhutan is another thing worth exploring. About 43% of the country or 16,396 sq km area is national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. In many cases, you won’t even be aware that you are entering or leaving a national park.
So if you are a nature lover, there are more reasons for you to visit Bhutan. I recommend you visit one of the 8 wildlife sanctuaries in Bhutan, particularly the Royal Manas National park (that you can visit after exploring a bit of the Indian side of the Manas National Park).
Kuensel Phodrang in Thimpu
Take a taxi or walk up to Kuensel Phodrang hill (which is about 6 km from the main bus station in Thimpu) for an up-close look at the popular Dordenma Buddha statue gilded in its bronze layout.
The Dordenma Buddha statue was imported from China for a whopping USD 46 million and is definitely worth a watch. You can moreover catch a panoramic view of the city and its connecting Himalayan range from up there.
Have a classic meal of brown rice with Ema Datshi – a local form of cheese. Watch Archery at Thimpu’s Changlimithang Archery Ground. Get a few pictures clicked with white-gloved traffic policemen, and local men and women wearing the traditional Gho and Kira. Eat at a local’s house. Visit the many Dzongs and Monasteries around the country.
So yea, among the top places to see in Bhutan, getting local remains the top experience. Learn, whichever way you can, the unique and rich culture of the only Himalayan Buddhist country existing in the world today.
Nightlife in Bhumtang
Bhumtang is a small town with a population of just a few thousand. But when it comes to nightlife in Bhumtang, there is a total of 7 nightclubs to enjoy a perfect nightlife. Bhumtang has a chilled-out vibe and the young local crowd around the place totally rocks the city — hence an obvious mention in this Bhutan travel guide.
If you are not travelling much deeper into Bhutan and are just travelling Phuentsholing, as most Indian travellers do, nightlight in Phuentsholing is also worth experiencing.
Transhigang is a small town about 250 km east of Bhumtang. Given its low popularity among foreign tourists and a perfect location on the popular Ura Highway – Trashigang is an ideal hideout to enjoy local company, or perhaps live like a local. It is very likely that you will be the only tourist in Trashigang and that’s why a few days of excursion to Trashigang is strongly recommended.
Unlike Bhumtang and Thimpu, Trashigang feels more local and has a high influence of local Bhutanese culture, no nightclubs and wifi enabled restaurants can further disappoint you to the next level. So be prepared for it.
Getting an invitation to dine/to stay at a local’s house is easier while travelling in Bhutan than you can ever think. During my 21-day solo backpacking across the country, I was invited thrice. If you are an Indian and can talk a little about Bollywood, the chances of being invited by a local for a cup of tea are even higher.
Drink, Drink And Drink
From whines to whiskeys to locally brewed beers, alcohol here is super cheap. I remember buying a bottle of whiskey (500ml) for a price of 120 Ngultrums.
Moreover, the country has a serious drinking problem, and every next shop here is a ‘Bar cum Restaurant’ – as they often name it.
So, if you’re backpacking there and have quite a few days in your hand, brace yourself to consume some serious amount of alcohol. And no, you don’t need to be shy about it. Getting drunk there is certainly a recommended experience in this Bhutan travel guide.
What Is The Best Time To Travel Bhutan
Though any time of the year is the best time to travel to Bhutan, particularly the popular Thimpu and Paro since it’s a Himalayan country and the weather is generally cold due to high altitudes.
Having said that, you can avoid a holiday in Bhutan between the months of November and March if you hate cold.
What Is The Cost of Travelling In Bhutan
For non-Indians, non-Bangladeshi and non-Maldivian, visiting Bhutan is pretty much limited to a prepaid USD250-a-day itinerary (USD200 a day from December to February and June to August) with a USD40/30 surcharge per person for those in a group of one/two. This, however, covers the accommodation, transport, guide, food, entry, and almost anything other travel expense.
For Indians, Bangladeshis and Maldivians, however, who can travel independently across the country, here are the typical costs:
Food: Eating in Bhutan is not cheap, particularly when you compare it to its many neighbours. Since it imports most of the eatables from India, the cost of food is fairly high. Expect a regular meal between 150 to 200 Ngultrums.
Accommodation: Accommodation is not too cheap either. In Paro and Thimpu you will get the cheapest hotel over 500 Ngultrums. In Bhumtang and other less touristic places, the price for a basic room is no less than 700 Ngultrums a day. You can, however, choose from the basic ‘Lodge’ service in those areas, which means you get a dorm bed for as low as 200 Ngultrums (or 200 Rupees) a night. The only catch is, they are available during the night time only and operate between 5 pm in the evening to 8 am in the morning.
Now that we have discussed the top places to see in Bhutan and other things, next in this Bhutan travel guide is ‘THE USEFUL’.
Useful Bhutan Travel Tips
- It is fairly easy to use Indian currency in most places to see Bhutan. Local people moreover prefer it since it has a little more value than Ngultrum (the local currency).
- Public smoking is strictly prohibited. Don’t do it.
- The most popular entry point is Phuntsholing, however, you can also enter from the town of Samdrup Jongkhar, in the east. If you’re backpacking, the validity of the permit will most likely be limited to 7 days with only two entry points: Paro and Thimpu. To get it extended, you’d have to visit the capital town Thimpu.
Here are other travel guides I have written for Asia:
That’s all in this Bhutan travel guide. If you have any questions or more destinations to add to the list of top places to see in Bhutan, please leave a comment below.