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21 Things To Know Before You Go To Bhutan


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Mina Gaona


Are you planning a trip to the Land of the Thunder Dragon? Bhutan, nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, is a country known for its pristine landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and commitment to Gross National Happiness. However, before you embark on your journey to this unique and enchanting destination, there are a few things you should know to make the most of your experience. From visa requirements and weather conditions to local customs and must-visit attractions, this article will provide you with essential information to ensure a smooth and unforgettable trip to Bhutan. So, pack your bags, get ready to be mesmerized by the breathtaking scenery, and immerse yourself in Bhutan’s rich traditions and warm hospitality. Here are 21 things to know before you go to Bhutan.

Bhutan is known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon.”

Bhutan is a picturesque country nestled in the eastern Himalayas, known for its breathtaking landscapes and unique cultural heritage. Its nickname, the “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” comes from the powerful storms that frequently roll across the mountainous terrain.

Bhutan measures its progress in Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of GDP.

Bhutan prioritizes the well-being and happiness of its citizens above all else, which is why the country uses Gross National Happiness as a measure of progress. This holistic approach takes into account factors such as economic development, cultural preservation, environmental conservation, and good governance.

A visa is required to enter Bhutan.

If you plan to visit Bhutan, you will need to obtain a visa before traveling. Visas are issued by the Bhutanese government through authorized travel agents, who will handle the necessary paperwork on your behalf.

Bhutan has a daily tariff for tourists.

To preserve its unique culture and environment, Bhutan enforces a mandatory minimum daily tariff for tourists. This fee includes accommodation, meals, a licensed guide, transportation, and sustainable development fees. The tariff varies depending on the time of year and the type of accommodation chosen.

Bhutan is home to the world’s highest unclimbed peak, Gangkhar Puensum.

Gangkhar Puensum, standing at 7,570 meters (24,840 feet), remains unclimbed. In respect for the spiritual beliefs of the Bhutanese people, climbing peaks higher than 6,000 meters has been prohibited since 2003.

Bhutanese people wear traditional clothing called “Gho” and “Kira.”

The traditional attire for men in Bhutan is called a Gho, which is a knee-length robe tied at the waist with a traditional belt. Women wear a Kira, which is a floor-length dress accompanied by a silk blouse. Wearing traditional clothing is mandatory in many government offices and during formal occasions.

Bhutan is the world’s first carbon-negative country.

Bhutan takes immense pride in its commitment to environmental conservation. The country is not only carbon-neutral but actually carbon-negative. Bhutan’s vast forests absorb more carbon dioxide than its population and industries produce, making it a pioneer in the fight against climate change.

Bhutan is a paradise for trekkers and nature lovers.

The diverse landscapes of Bhutan offer a plethora of trekking opportunities, from challenging high-altitude treks to scenic routes through lush valleys. Nature enthusiasts can explore the country’s numerous national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, home to rare and exotic species like the red panda and snow leopard.

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is one of Bhutan’s most iconic landmarks.

Perched on a cliffside at an elevation of 3,120 meters (10,240 feet), the Taktsang Palphug Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, is a sacred site and a major pilgrimage destination in Bhutan. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, the Buddhist master who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan, flew to this spot on the back of a tigress.

Bhutan has preserved its traditional arts and crafts.

Bhutanese artisans excel in traditional arts and crafts, including intricate woodwork, weaving, painting, and sculpture. The country places great importance on preserving these traditional skills, and you can admire and purchase their exquisite creations in local markets and handicraft shops.

English is widely spoken in Bhutan.

While the official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, English is widely spoken throughout the country, especially among educated locals and those in the tourism industry. This makes communication with locals and navigating your way around much easier for English-speaking visitors.

Bhutan has a rich cultural heritage.

Bhutan’s unique cultural heritage is deeply rooted in its Buddhist traditions and has been carefully preserved over the centuries. From ancient monasteries and vibrant festivals called “tshechus” to intricate traditional dances and archery competitions, Bhutan offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences for visitors.

Cell phone reception is limited in Bhutan.

While Bhutan has made significant progress in improving its telecommunications infrastructure, there are still areas with limited or no cell phone reception. It’s advisable to check with your service provider and make necessary arrangements before traveling to Bhutan.

Smoking is banned in Bhutan.

Bhutan implemented a nationwide smoking ban in 2005, making it the first country in the world to do so. Smoking is illegal in all public spaces, including restaurants, bars, and hotels. Non-compliance can result in hefty fines or imprisonment.

Bhutan celebrates the national holiday known as “Kinga Choden Day.”

Every August 8th, Bhutan celebrates Kinga Choden Day, a national holiday commemorating the birth anniversary of Queen Mother Ashi Kinga Choden Wangchuck. Festivities include cultural performances, religious ceremonies, and community gatherings.

Bhutanese cuisine features spicy and flavorful dishes.

Bhutanese cuisine is characterized by its spiciness and unique flavors. Traditional dishes like Ema Datshi (chili and cheese stew) and Phaksha Paa (pork with red chili) are popular choices, along with a variety of momos (dumplings) and traditional butter tea.

There is a dress code for visiting monasteries and dzongs in Bhutan.

When visiting monasteries and dzongs (fortresses), it is important to dress modestly and respectfully. This means wearing clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. It is also customary to remove your shoes before entering these sacred sites.

Bhutan is home to numerous hot springs.

Bhutan is blessed with an abundance of hot springs, known for their healing properties. Taking a dip in these natural hot springs is not only relaxing but also believed to have therapeutic benefits for various ailments.

Bhutan follows a strict “high-value, low-impact” tourism policy.

To preserve its unique culture and environment, Bhutan limits the number of tourists it welcomes each year. This “high-value, low-impact” approach ensures that visitors have a meaningful and sustainable experience while minimizing negative impacts on Bhutan’s delicate ecosystem and cultural heritage.

Bhutan has a rich tradition of archery.

Archery holds great significance in Bhutanese culture as the national sport. Traditional archery competitions, accompanied by music, dance, and vibrant celebrations, are held throughout the country, providing a glimpse into Bhutan’s proud sporting tradition.

The national animal of Bhutan is the takin.

The takin, a rare and unique animal with a goat-like body and a cow-like head, is the national animal of Bhutan. These gentle creatures can be found in some of Bhutan’s national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.


Visiting Bhutan is an incredible experience that offers a unique blend of rich cultural heritage, stunning natural beauty, and a commitment to sustainable tourism. Before you embark on your journey, it is important to be aware of certain aspects that will enhance your trip and ensure a smooth and memorable adventure.

From obtaining a visa to understanding the local customs and traditions, these 21 things to know before you go to Bhutan will help you better prepare for your trip and make the most of your time in this enchanting kingdom. Remember to pack appropriately for the weather, try the delicious Bhutanese cuisine, and immerse yourself in the warmth and hospitality of the Bhutanese people. Don’t forget to disconnect from the distractions of the modern world and fully embrace the serenity and tranquility that Bhutan has to offer.


1. Do I need a visa to visit Bhutan?

Yes, all visitors to Bhutan require a visa. You must apply for a visa through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator or their international partners.

2. Is Bhutan a safe country to visit?

Yes, Bhutan is considered one of the safest countries to visit. The Bhutanese people are known for their hospitality, and crime rates are low.

3. What is the best time to visit Bhutan?

The best time to visit Bhutan is during the spring and autumn seasons, from March to May and September to November respectively. These months offer pleasant weather and clear skies, ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the country.

4. What is the currency used in Bhutan?

The currency used in Bhutan is the Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN), but Indian Rupees are also widely accepted throughout the country. It is advisable to carry a mix of local currency and Indian Rupees.

5. Are there any dress code requirements in Bhutan?

Yes, Bhutan has a strict dress code, particularly when visiting religious sites. It is important to dress modestly, with shoulders and knees covered, to show respect to the culture and traditions of the country.

6. Can I travel independently in Bhutan?

No, independent travel is not allowed in Bhutan. All visitors must travel with a licensed tour operator and have a prearranged itinerary.

7. Are there any cultural etiquettes I should be aware of?

Yes, it is important to respect the local customs and traditions in Bhutan. This includes removing your shoes when entering religious buildings, asking for permission before taking photographs of individuals, and refraining from pointing with your index finger.