While I had just one hour before leaving office and later catching the flight to Bangkok, I got an email. It was an invitation to visit Bhutan with Makemytrip. I hardly had anytime to think how would I manage things at work. But it was one of those occasions when I decided to say yes first and think later! I am glad I followed my instincts. I simply loved Bhutan and I have such a bad hangover from the trip. When we landed in Paro, it felt as if I stepped back 50 years in time.
The most memorable part of my trip was the trek to the Tiger’s Nest in Paro but that is going to be a full post in itself. Bhutan is right there on the list of the most beautiful countries I ever visited. Since I came back, I have been plotting on how to go back! Here are some tips for you when (notice I did not say if) you go to Bhutan. The sooner you go the better! Monsoon is also a great time to visit.
Visa Requirements: Indians do not need a visa to enter Bhutan. You can travel on your passport or voter Id card. I used my passport and they simply stamped it. There is no visa fee for Indians. We are really lucky that we have such close ties with Bhutan. Most of the other nationalities have to pay US $250 per person per night to visit Bhutan.
Flights: Only Druk Air, the national carrier, flies into Bhutan. There is only one international airport at Paro. Flights are available from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Another way is to fly up to Bagdogra in Sikkim and then do a road transfer via Phuentsholing, but this would need much more time. You might get a cheaper price if you book the Druk Air tickets via an agent or Makemytrip.
Currency: The local currency is Ngultrum (simply called Nu) but Indian rupees are accepted everywhere. I did not change money ever during my trip. As of now the exchange rate is at par.
Hotels: There are hotels to suit every budget. I stayed at Naksel Resort at Paro and Terma Linca at Thimphu. Both are stunning properties, part of the premium package of Makemytrip.
People: People at Bhutan are amazingly mild. Even at our best behavior we may come across as brash when we interact with them. They are deeply religious. Buddhism is the dominant religion. They love their king. After the coronation of the fifth king there is even a whisky in his honor called K5.
Shopping: As a lot of tourists pay $250 per day, shopping is quite expensive. The people of Bhutan don’t like to bargain, in fact they don’t bargain much. Only alcohol is super cheap at the duty free. I bought a bottle of K5. Officially they say they don’t accept 500 and 1000 rupee notes but the lady at the airport happily took a 1000 rupee note from me.
Weather: I was in Bhutan during the monsoon. I was told that monsoons are not a good time to visit but it was lovely. You also get everything cheaper. It did rain a bit but never so much as to spoil our plans!
Language: Almost everyone speaks Hindi in Bhutan thanks to the cable TV. Apart from the local language Dzongkha they are taught English in school. Between Hindi and English you will do fine!
Overall: Bhutan is an excellent destination for Indians, I would recommend it to everyone. We are lucky that India and Bhutan share very close ties and we don’t have to pay USD 250 per person per night to visit. But NRIs have to fork out that money!
If you are looking for packages Makemytrip has some excellent ones. They know Bhutan well and thanks to them I had a great a time.