Bhutan is a country like no other, the Himalayas form the fitting background for a beautiful land dotted with verdant valleys and awe inspiring peaks. The old and the new exist here in peaceful harmony. On the one hand there are the revered ancient monasteries nestled atop cliff tops and on the other hand there is the law that mandates that all children, even those living in the remotest Himalayan corner be taught English. Bhutan has done much to protect its natural pristine beauty, from ensuring 72% forest cover for the country to banning use of plastic bags within the country. There is much to see and learn from the quiet and unassuming Buddhist country that aims to promote Gross National Happiness among its residents. Visiting a country as remote and fiercely proud of its rich cultural and natural heritage does require some amount of preparation if only to ensure you are not caught unawares in a foreign land. From ensuring access to money and internet to ensuring you are carrying the required medicines, here are some tips to ensure your journey into this panoramic country is an experience of a lifetime.
Pack for all weather conditions
One of the first considerations when traveling to Bhutan is what to pack.
- Evenings can get cold even on warm summer days in Bhutan so carry a light jacket and woolens.
- If you intend to travel to Bhutan in winter months you will need to carry heavy snow jackets, windbreakers as well as warm woolens. Dressing in layers is important in Bhutan; it will ensure you remain warm even during the coldest of weather.
- Always carry a hut or cap with you as well as sunglasses and sunscreen to protect against the harsh summer sun.
- It can rain anytime in Bhutan so a raincoat and umbrella are essential items to carry with you.
- Hiking boots and comfortable walking shoes are a must even if you don’t intend to do a lot of hiking.
- Insect repellants are a must to carry especially if you are traveling during the summer months to protect yourself from becoming insect fodder.
- Carry spare batteries and chargers to ensure you do not miss out on any of the beautiful photographic moments offered by this beauteous land.
- Carry flat to round pin converters since most of the electricity in Bhutan runs on 220-240 volts. Although quite a few hotels now offer multi plug sockets it is best to carry your own supply just to be on the safe side.
- A flashlight will be a good addition to your packing list especially when visiting the dark interiors of a monastery or during times of no electricity in Bhutan
Carry sufficient supply of medicines and a first aid kit to treat minor cuts
Always carry a first aid kit with you when traveling in the mountains. Must carry medicines include tablets to help ease motion sickness, antiseptic creams to deal with minor cuts as well as medicine to treat diarrhea since Bhutanese food is very chilly and foreigners not used to the intense spices are apt to experience stomach upsets.
Towns and cities have good mobile and internet connectivity
Unlike some years back when internet and mobile connectivity was a cause for concern while traveling to Bhutan, most decent tourist hotels now offer free Wifi to their guests. Even if Wifi is not available in all the rooms, most hotels now offer a business centre with Wifi facilities for use by guests. The connection might be slow and in some of the remote areas you might get only intermittent electricity and Wifi access, but the accessibility is much better than before and improving with time. It is best to purchase a local SIM Card from either of the two local operators although T-cell is generally considered better than B-mobile to ensure good mobile access throughout your journey. Mobile networks work well in all major towns and cities, you might lose signal while traveling by road from one town to another but otherwise signal is mostly good.
ATM’s are present in almost all major towns
Most major towns are equipped with ATM’s and you can easily withdraw money using VISA or Mastercard. However do keep in mind that INR 1000 and 500 are not accepted in Bhutan so be sure to carry smaller notes when traveling to Bhutan. Both Indian and US currency is widely accepted in Bhutan and most major hotels and restaurants also accept credit cards these days which making it unnecessary to carry large bundles of cash.
The above tips should act as a useful guide to ensure your trip to this small Himalayan land is stress free and full of beautiful memories. Even if you do forget to include something in your packing list, there is no need to fret. The local population is extremely friendly and helpful and with modern conveniences making their way into Bhutan, you should be able to purchase almost anything of need in Bhutan.