Bhutan

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.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Bhutan is during the dry season, which lasts from October through to May. Although the winter months of December and January can be very cold at night, touring is still possible during this time.

Highlights

PUNAKHA 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. .

PARO 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.

TAKSHANG GOEMBA 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.

TSECHU Tsechus arecolourful religious festivals held in honour of the saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. The Tsechu draws hundreds of people in a spirit of reverence, blessing, festivity and celebration, and is one of the best ways to discover the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.

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.

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Useful Information

Getting around

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.

Language

Dzongkha

Customs

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 behavior, 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 sexes among other groups in South Asia.

Health

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. 

Electricity

Electrical Plug type: Europe|Great Britain Voltage: 220-240 volts Modem: France|USA Source: Korjo Travel Products. Please view the Korjo adapter guide at www.korjo.com.au for further information on this matter.

Communications

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.

Shopping

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.

Tipping

With the exception of your guide and driver, and very occasionally hotel porters where you feel the need, please avoid tipping.

Visa's

Official travel advice regarding visas is available by calling 04 439 8000 or visiting their website www.safetravel.govt.nz

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