Year-end travel 2023: Have ₹1 lakh? Go to Bhutan | Travel

Year-end travel 2023: Have ₹1 lakh? Go to Bhutan | Travel

  26 Dec 2023

Bhutan is so close you can fly from Bagdogra into Paro in 40 minutes or even do a road trip. Indian nationals do not require a visa and Indian currency is widely accepted. The monasteries are beautiful, the road signs are funny and no one leaves Bhutan without trekking to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, without eating Ema Datshi and without buying Yak cheese. The country that measures its GDP in happiness is also very affordable.

Bhutan, known for its stunning Himalayan landscapes is a small kingdom where tradition meets tranquility.(Unsplash/Raimond Klavins)

Must see/do:

Trek 10,240 ft to Tiger’s Nest: Carved out of granite ledges , the monastery – Bhutan’s most sacred Buddhist site and its most famous trekking trail – is a three-hour trek to the top.

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Get a phallic blessing: Chhimi Lhakhang is a ‘phallic’ village and in the Temple of the Divine Mad Monk (Temple of Fertility), get blessed with a consecrated wooden phallus.Phallus is everywhere: painted on every wall and on every door there hangs a wooden phallus.

Golfing on the Roof of the World: Royal Thimpu Golf Club is a 9-hole golf course that was founded in 1970s when a Brigadier of the Indian Army laid his eyes on fallow paddy fields at 2,500 metres above sea level, sought permission from King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and cobbled together a 9-hole golf course.

Must visit: Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong (The Palace of the Great Happiness), National Museum of Bhutan in Paro, Buddha Dordenma in Thimpu, Dechen Phrodrang, Changlimithang Stadium and Archery Ground, National Memorial Chorten, Tashicho Dzong, Dochula Pass, Punakha Dzong.

Pay heed to Bro’s advice: This is not the Bro you are thinking of. It is Borders Road Organisation that lays roads and packs a huge funny bone. Here are a few:

After whisky, driving risky.

Life is short, don’t make it shorter.

Be Mr Late, not Late Mr.

Life is short, don;t make it shorter.

Be gentle on my curves.

If you are married, divorce speed.

After rum, driving no more fun.

If you sleep, family will weep.

I am curvaceous, be slow.

For safe arriving, no liquor in driving.

What to eat:

Ema Datshi: A traditional Bhutanese stew made with Yak cheese and lots of chilies

Shakam Paa: Made with ground beef, dried chilies, and radish.

Jasha Maru: Very spicy dish made with chicken, garlic, onion, ginger, tomato, and onions.

Phaksha Paa: A gravy or a stew made using pork.

Zow Shungo: Made with leftover vegetables

Shakam Datshi: Made with dry ground beef and served with red rice

Puta: Buckwheat noodles

Goen Hogey: Salad

Suja: Tea made from fermented Yak butter and Yak milk.

What to buy: Lemongrass spray, Bhutan honey, handwoven textile, handicraft, prayers flags, wooden masks, Thangka (Buddhist paintings), Bhutanese red rice, Himalayan beads, Yak cheese, Dappa (handmade wooden bowls).

Where to buy: Thimpu, Paro and Phuntsheoling are the major shopping centres. National Textile Museum, Norzim Lam Street, Bhutan Art Gallery, National Institute of Zorig Chusum, Centenary Farmers Market, Tea Market. Haggling is common in local markets.

Packages (excluding flight):

• 5-day Incredible Bhutan: Cost: 26,000+. Book on: sotc.in

• 8-day Bhutan Escape: Cost: 40,000+. Book on: sotc.in

• 6-day Bhutan Family Adventure and Short Walks: Cost: 41,000+. Book on: sotc.in

• 6-day Breathtaking Bhutan: Cost: 60,000+. Book on: sotc.in

• 5-day Incredible Bhutan: Cost: 32,000+. Book on: thomascook.in

• 7-day Mesmerising Bhutan: Cost: 47,000+. Book on: thomascook.in

Return Flight (economy): Druk Air has direct flights to Bhutan from Bagdogra, return flight starts at 20,000+. Note that Druk Air has twice weekly flights in and out of Bagdogra.

Visa: Indian citizens do not require a visa but you must get an Entry Permit online (apply online at www.bhutan.travel) or at the port of entry. You must carry original Indian Passport (with minimum six months validity) or Original Voter ID card. Children below 18 years must have Original birth certificate (in English language) or passport, and must be accompanied by a legal guardian; passport size photographs are required. Tourists should have travel insurance for the duration of the trip.

Land borders: Phuntsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar in eastern Bhutan are the only land border areas normally open for international tourists.

Accommodation: It is mandatory to stay in Department of Tourism certified accommodation for the whole duration of trip.

SDF: India tourists are required to pay Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of INR 1,200/- per person per night. Children aged 5 years and below are exempted of SDF and children between the age of 6-12 years are given 50 % concession on SDF.

Indian registered vehicles: Indian-registered vehicles will be allowed within the designated zone without any charges. However, if any vehicle goes beyond Rinchending Check Post in Phuentsholing, pay Nu 4,500 per day as Green Tax.

Currency: 1 Bhutanese Ngultrum = INR 1. INR up to the denomination of 500 is accepted all over Bhutan.

Safety & Security:

  • Smoking is strictly prohibited all over Bhutan and it is illegal to sell or buy tobacco products in Bhutan.
  • Crime rate is low but petty thefts do happen.
  • Roads can be dangerous specially during monsoon. Observe the speed limit and make sure you have adequate insurance.
  • Monsoon rains cause landslides that can cut off some roads for days. Check access routes before setting off and take extra care.
  • Several parts of Bhutan lie on highly active fault zones. Pay heed to warnings & advisory.
  • There are strict penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
  • The export of all antiques is strictly prohibited and monitored.

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