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Bhutan Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time is GMT +6 hours.

Electricity

Electrical current is 230 volts (50Hz). European round pin attachment plugs and three-pin rectangular plugs are in use.

Language

Dzongkha is the official language, and various Tibetan dialects are spoken. English has recently become the language of instruction in schools but is only spoken fluently by guides and tourist industry professionals.

Travel Health

Ensure you have adequate health insurance that includes the facility for emergency repatriation. The most significant health risks for travellers are water-borne parasites from unclean drinking water and altitude sickness resulting from exposure to high altitudes. Health care standards are relatively high. For locals all health services are free, and both western and traditional medicine is practiced side by side. In 2004 Bhutan became the first country in the world to entirely ban the sale of cigarettes. Hospitals and clinics are located throughout the country, with excellent facilities available in the capital Thimpu.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected in restaurants as your meal would have been prepaid by your tour agency. On treks it is usual to tip the cook, his assistant and any porters. Ask your guide for advice. If you hire a driver tip him at the end of your trip. Bhutanese tradition is that one typically refuses a tip the first time it is offered but accepts it the second time.

Safety Information

Bhutan is one of the safest destinations on the planet. There is virtually no crime or violence.

Local Customs

Bhutan is a traditional Buddhist society. Dress conservatively when visiting religious sites, avoid public displays of affection, and never climb or sit on a statue. Do not take photographs within temples unless permission has been granted to do so. Avoid pointing at people or religious icons with your finger; this is considered very rude. Smoking is banned in all public places including restaurants and bars. Betel nut is chewed throughout the day by young and old alike and has become an integral part of Bhutanese society. The royal family is revered and deeply respected; avoid any disparaging remarks or gestures. Mountains are considered to be the abode of the gods and hence any recreational activities therein are disallowed.

Communications

The international dialling code for Bhutan is +975. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). There is extensive mobile phone coverage, which is more reliable and widespread than the landline network. Internet access is available in all main towns and hotels.

Duty Free

Travellers to Bhutan may bring with them up to 400 cigarettes/150g pipe tobacco/50 cigars, two litres of liquor, and goods for personal use. Guns and ammunition, narcotics, antiques and wildlife products are prohibited.

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