The Bhutanese government does not allow independent travel, so all travel in Bhutan is organised through registered tour operators to ensure a ‘low volume, high quality’ tourist experience. So your choice of tour operator is very important. Himalayan Dragon Tours & Treks has a ten year track record in Bhutan. We are the only tour company based both in Australia and Bhutan. We can provide you with the best of both worlds Bhutanese on the ground know-how and first world standards of safety, financial security, planning and communication. We also offer a pre-trip Skype video conference meeting for large groups so we can all get to know each other a little before arrival.
Here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions about travel in Bhutan:
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We ensure you have the best accommodation available within your budget wherever we travel in Bhutan. Accommodation options range from world class 5 star hotels to very basic lodgings in more remote regions where standards vary greatly. In remote regions we select hotel operators whose commitment to service and hospitality more than compensates for the sometimes rustic environment!
We recommend that you do not drink tap water even in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. We will ensure that you have constant access to boiled safe water during your travels. All hotel rooms will provide flasks of boiled water which may be used for drinking and cleaning teeth.
As a premium tour operator we ensure all your dietary needs are met to the best of our ability, we are one of the few tour operators to ask you to complete a dietary requirements questionnaire and will advise you to what extent we can meet your needs on the tour you have chosen. We are able to cater for gluten and dairy-free requirements on most of our premium packages depending on the itinerary. All tours include 3 meals per day – breakfast lunch and dinner. Breakfast is usually a combination of eastern and western cuisine served in buffet style. Packed lunches or dinners may be served when travelling. If you are adventurous, try the local delicacies like the tasty and fiery national dish of Bhutan – Emma Datsi which is made with chilies and local Bhutanese cheese (sometimes made with Yak cheese). Most hotels provide buffet style meals which are usually Continental, Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese dishes. The food in hotels is generally the best in town, however there are a few restaurants becoming popular in the main towns. Larger hotels have a good selection of international and Bhutanese beverages.
We will apply for a visa on your behalf, we will need a mailed photocopy or scan or high quality photograph of the photo page emailed to us to process the visa in Thimphu.
Most of our trips range between 2100 metres (7000 feet) and 3600 metres (12,000 feet) in elevation. High passes on some of our treks reach 4500 metres (15,000 feet). We plan all treks and tours to allow the maximum chance to acclimatise before we take you to altitude. Our company doctor has prepared an advice sheet on altitude sickness prevention and the use of medications such as acetazolamide (Diamox) to limit the effects of altitude. Considering the impact of altitude on your trip to Bhutan is important for anyone with underlying heart or lung disease or otherwise in poor health to ask your doctor to discuss your situation with a doctor including the level of fitness required for trekking.
Bhutan is a spectacular destination year round, although the weather varies dramatically depending on the elevation and season. A trip to Bhutan can be planned throughout the year but the most popular months are March, April, May, September, October and November. Also there are several festivals taking place during these months, offering an added attraction. Dharma practitioners and those enjoying mostly indoor activities may wish to book in the ‘off-season’ months to take advantage of discounted prices. The best time to visit Bhutan really depends on what you’re looking for. Bhutan is about the same latitude as Orlando Florida, Brisbane Australia, or southern Morocco. Monthly weather can be accessed here.
Here’s a guide to Bhutan’s seasons:
Spring: From March to May
- Rhododendron forests in full bloom
- Moderate temperatures
- Occasional mountain views
Summer: From June to August
- Very few tourists
- Bhutan at its greenest
- Monsoon rain particularly in July and August but mostly in the afternoon and overnight
- Clouds lay low and obscure the mountain tops but enshroud the country in a mystical vapour
- Excellent time for enjoying luxury hotel spas and dharma retreats
Autumn/Fall: From September to November
- Peak festival and tourist time
- Clear skies with best views of the mountains from October onward
- Moderate temperatures
Winter: From December to February
- Very few tourists
- Clearest views of the mountains
- Can be very cold at altitude but moderate in the temperate valleys
- Snow on high country.
It is a condition of travel that you take out travel insurance, to cover you against any situations that may arise. Please enquire with one of our staff for further details.
Most items have been included in the initial cost of your fully inclusive package; All accommodation, 3 meals per day, entrance fees to scenic attractions, all internal transportation in Bhutan and daily tours, services of your guides, visa fees for passport holders. Air fares are not included in the package. The only items not included in your fully inclusive package are tipping, beverages and personal expenditure. What this means for you is that after paying the initial cost you can sit back, relax and we will take care of the rest!
The government of Bhutan requires that each tourist to Bhutan regardless of age spends the minimum of the “daily tariff”. The tariff goes to the government, the tour operator and hotels. Bhutan currently requires that foreign tourists package tours have a minimum fee structure of US$200 during the low season and US$250 during the high season for single travelers. The daily tariff is about US$40 more per day for people traveling alone or in small groups, depending on the size of the group and length of stay. The tariff covers only a basic hotel, a vehicle, standard meals, and entrance fees to the sights you visit. Himalayan Dragon Tours & Treks is a premium tour operator so our services and fee structure exceeds those of the basic daily tariff for most trips.
US travelers’ checks are the easiest checks to cash. Although Lonely Planet advises that Australian and other currency travelers’ checks are accepted they are routinely rejected at the bank counter and sometimes only the intervention of a bank manager can get them cashed which wastes a lot of time. There is an ever growing network of automatic teller machines, particularly in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. We can advise you of the appropriate mix of currency, travelers’ checks and cards to use depending on your spending plans but as a guide, we suggest for a 10 day trip you bring about US$500 in cash and US$500 in travelers’ checks and rely on ATM withdrawals if more is required.
The full payment has to be made upon confirmation and booking of the particular tour or trek.
Yes, a deposit is required in order to process all the bookings.
We understand that travel plans can change due to unforeseen circumstances. It is a Himalayan Dragon Tours & Treks requirement that you purchase travel insurance as soon as you book your tour and flights to ensure you are covered for any cancellations and other health emergencies. For cancellations 35 days before the commencement of your Bhutan segment we will endeavour to return any land based tour funds we are able to at the time of cancellation minus a service charge of US$250 per person – this is normally a 100% refund minus the service charge.
For cancellations closer to departure:
- less than 35 days before start of tour: US$500 cancellation fee
- less than 25 days:10% of tour cost plus US$500 cancellation fee
- less than 20 days:15% of rate plus US$500 cancellation fee
- less than 10 days:50% of tour cost plus US$500 cancellation fee
- after arrival in Bhutan:100% of tour fee.
Please note that these cancellation policies are aligned with the Bhutanese government’s policies on cancellation and, where possible, we will negotiate to return as much as possible of your payments. These cancellation fees are based on a standard tour. Premium tours with luxury accommodation may attract proportionately higher service fees and loss of deposits. Refund of air fares will be dependent on the ticketed basis of the airfare.
After your itinerary has been confirmed there is a $50 booking variation fee and potential fees for rebooking accomodation and air fares. Please email us as soon as possible to advise of the need to cancel or vary your tour.
We will provide guidance specific to your itinerary and season of travel, however, in general a layered approach to dressing will provide the most comfort. Altitude differences account for a wide range of temperatures from day to night, year round. For treks to altitude, down jackets, Gore-Tex, fleece jackets, woollen hats, microfiber or woollen underwear is advisable. A raincoat and fleece jacket will be useful in summer. Your tolerance of heat and cold will determine your personal needs so please check the average daily temperatures in the towns we will be visiting here and feel free to ask us for advice. It is not necessary to “dress up” for dinner in Bhutanese hotels. While visiting temples and other religious institutions, dress modestly and respectfully. Many temple guards require long sleeves past the elbow to be worn by men and women for entry – sometimes even children are required to observe the dress code. Shorts for men or women or skirts above the knee are not usually permitted. Please keep in mind that shoes must be removed when entering temples. You can purchase a wide range of fleece jackets in Bhutan. In Thimphu there are trekking stores where you can purchase wet weather gear, down jackets, microfiber shirts and pants and hats. Gloves are not as easy to come by. Shoe and boot sizes are usually limited to a small mens size. Men requiring shoes or boots from size 10 Australia/UK and US 10.5 and above may not be able to purchase any footwear in Bhutan.
As a baseline you should be age-appropriately immunized for your country so check with your local doctor for routine vaccinations. The only other vaccination strongly recommended by our public health physician is hepatitis A vaccine (not immune globulin). Travelers on extended stays may want to consider typhoid vaccine, however, cholera vaccine is not recommended. We do not take our guests to areas where malaria is endemic so no anti-malarial prophylaxis is required. An insect repellent with DEET is recommended for travel during the warmer months. In the end, we recommend you still consult your own physician because travelers need to weight the risks and benefits of different treatments based on their own perspective of risk.
We will always try to accommodate exciting last minute plans for travel! However, the major obstacle is availability on Druk-Air flights into and out of Bhutan and processing of visa applications. If you are planning to travel in the peak periods of March-April or October-November, we recommend you book and pay for your trip at least 4 to 6 months in advance if you have set dates or at least 3 months in advance if you are flexible with dates. Bigger groups require earlier bookings to ensure seats are available on the same Druk-Air flight.
Most of our tours are small groups of 4 to 5. The usual maximum would normally be 18 people per group. However, on request we have taken organisational groups up to 25 people.
Special offers shall be offered to those travelers who have traveled with Himalayan Dragon Tours & Treks earlier. However, based on the number of travelers, the rates can be negotiated.