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Visiting Bhutan is a rare and unique experience: a beautiful mountain kingdom that has remained unchanged over centuries. Its Buddhist culture is still richly intact and permeates every aspect of Bhutanese life. Bhutan still retains the charm of the old world, and travellers experience the full glory of this ancient land as embodied in the monastic fortresses, ancient temples and monasteries dotting the countryside.
The best time to visit Bhutan is during the dry season, which lasts from October through to May. The winter months of December and January can be below freezing at night the months of June to September see more rain and reduced mountain views, but are fantastic for landscapes as the country is lush and green; low season prices also make this a more affordable time.
Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan, is where much of the
history of the nation unfolded. Commanding the river junction is the gorgeous
Punakha Dzong, the most photogenic of all Bhutan’s ancient fortresses.
The charming, historic town of Paro lies on the
banks of the Paro Chhu, just a short distance from the imposing Paro Dzong. The
main street of Paro, only built on 1985, is lined with colourfully painted
wooden shop fronts.
Just outside of Paro, the famous Takshang
Goemba, better known as “Tiger’s Nest”, clings to the face of a sheer cliff.
This place is sacred to the Bhutanese as they believe Guru Rinpoche, the father
of Bhutanese Buddhism, landed here on the back of a tigress.
Tsechus are colourful religious festivals held in honour of the saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. Thousands of people in a spirit of reverence, blessing, festivity and celebration, and are one of the best ways to discover the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan. Tsechus are held in all of Bhutan’s towns - ask us for dates if you would like to plan your visit around one of these spectacular affairs.
KHAMSUM YULEY NAMHAY CHORTEN
Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten is a shrine recently built by the Queen Mother who dedicated
it to the King and the Bhutanese people. This ornate and elaborate structure
has a rainbow of Guru Rinpoche images and superb views.
DOCHU LA PASS
Dochu La Pass, with its fluttering prayer flags and views
over the Himalayas, takes your breath away. Visit the Drukwangyal Lhakhang and
the 108 chortens, built to honour the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed when
fighting the Indian rebels in 2003.
Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. Bhutan does not have any railways, though it has entered into an agreement with India to link southern Bhutan to India's vast network. The Lateral Road is Bhutan's primary east–west corridor, connecting Phuentsholing in the southwest to Trashigang in the east. In between, the Lateral Road runs directly through Wangdue Phodrang, Trongsa and other population centres. The Lateral Road also has spurs connecting to the capital Thimphu and other major population centres such as Paro and Punakha. As with other roads in Bhutan, the Lateral Road presents serious safety concerns due to pavement conditions, sheer drops, hairpin turns, weather and landslides. Due to frequency of these landslides and resulting roadworks, delays on road trips are common across the country and to be expected on any trip outside Paro and Thimpu.
Dzongkha. English is widely spoken in hotels and tourism related service businesses, to some extent in Paro and Thimpu, but little known outside these areas.
As a traditional society, the Bhutanese follow a highly refined system of etiquette, which is called "driglam namzha." This traditional code of conduct supports respect for authority, devotion to the institution of marriage and family, and dedication to civic duty. It governs many different sorts of behaviour, including how to send and receive gifts, how to speak to those in authority, how to serve and eat food at public occasions, and how to dress. A royal decree issued in 1989 promoted the driglam namzha as a means of preserving a distinct national identity and instituted a national dress code. Men and women mix and converse freely, without the restrictions that separate the genders among other groups in South Asia. Please note the sale of tobacco is illegal in Bhutan - smoking should be done discreetly and not in public places or general view.
The following information is intended as a guide only and in no way should it be used as a substitute for professional medical advice relative to a travellers individual needs and vaccination history. No guarantee is made as to its accuracy or thoroughness. For further information, please contact The Travel Doctor on (+64) 9 373 3531. Vaccination against Hepatitis A is recommended for travellers to Bhutan. Vaccination against Typhoid should also be considered, particularly if travelling to areas with poor sanitation. Persons staying in Bhutan for extended periods or frequent travellers should consider immunisation against Hepatitis B and Rabies (especially if working with animals). Those spending at least 4 weeks in rural areas of the transmission zones may require vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis. There is a medium risk of Malaria in Bhutan and Dengue Fever also occurs, depending on their itinerary travellers may require antimalarial drugs and insect avoidance measures. Cholera is reported in Bhutan, but immunisation is usually not recommended. Meningitis vaccination may also be required subject to itinerary. Food and water precautions are advised. Please consult a medical practitioner or contact The Travel Doctor for your specific risk to these preventable diseases and the appropriate avoidance measures. New Zealanders travelling to Bhutan should ensure that they have adequate travel insurance to cover the length of their stay. Medications that are legal in New Zealand may be illegal in other countries.
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Voltage: 220-240 volts
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Country Code for Bhutan: 975 Offical Travel Advice: Visit www.safetravel.govt.nz Emergency Services: Fire: 110 Ambulance: 112 Police: 113 The emergency services number may not be available in all areas. These services may not have English speaking staff. To avoid delay it is best to seek the assistance of a local to call the emergency services or contact the New Zealand Embassy.
Some handicrafts sold in Bhutan come from Nepal so check first. The best weavings and textiles will generally be Bhutanese and be quite expensive as they are top quality. For general trinkets and handicrafts the best place to buy price-wise is from the traders at the beginning of the Taktsang Monastery hike trail and also at the first view point.Both Paro and Thimphu main streets offer excellent shopping and inexpensive local jewellery. The weaving centre in Chhume Valley, central Bumthang region, offers some of the best weavings, handicrafts and textiles shopping in the Kingdom and there is also the new Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre in Thimphu city whose products are all made on site and quite exquisite. Next door is also the artists’ S. Bishwa shop which is worth a visit.
With the exception of your guide and driver, and very occasionally hotel porters where you feel the need, please avoid tipping.
Official travel advice regarding visas is available by calling 04 439 8000 or visiting their website www.safetravel.govt.nz
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