Dragon Kingdom Trip Notes

Travel to Bhutan and explore the wonders of this majestic nation. Gain insight into the history and importance of Buddhism in Thimphu, then journey through Gangte and the Bunthang Valley towards Paro.

    • 9
    • HNKB
    • Total price tool tip
      USD $3,750
      CAD $3,795
      AUD $3,950
      EUR €2,750
      GBP £2,365
      NZD $4,685
      ZAR R35,955
      CHF FR3,390
      *
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    • Explorer
    • Comfort
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There is a later version of this trip also available for travel from Jan 1, 2015 to Dec 31, 2015. View later Dragon Kingdom.
Print Version
Last Modified: 13 Aug 2014
Dragon Kingdom
Trip code: HNKB
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Distinctive and remote, Bhutan offers beauty, history and adventure by the bucketload. Make your way to delightful Thimphu - the world´s only capital city without traffic lights. Head out into the countryside and marvel at the spectacular Himalayan scenery, visit imposing dzongs and learn the Buddhist traditions of the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Meet the relaxed local people, see the extraordinary 'Tiger's Nest' monastery and soak up this privileged travel experience.
IMPORTANT VISA & ADDITIONAL ACCOMMODATION INFORMATION:
Travel in Bhutan is strictly controlled and to do any independent travel outside of a group tour is extremely difficult and expensive to arrange. We provide a group visa for travellers on our tours in Bhutan, which stipulates that all travellers must arrive and depart on the same days that our tour program starts and finishes. For this reason we are generally not able to provide additional accommodation outside of our tour dates and advise all travellers to book flights in and out of Bhutan that correspond with the start and finish day of the tour. In the rare case that no flights are available and you need to arrive earlier or depart later we are only able to book additional accommodation for you in conjunction with a special individual visa which can add around AUD1000 to the cost of your tour, to be paid at the time of booking.
This trip is run by our experienced sister company Peregrine Adventures. Your group is therefore likely to be a mixture of Intrepid passengers and other like-minded international travellers.
Table of Contents
StyleTippingEmergency contact
ThemesDeparture taxEmergency funds
MapImportant notesVisas
ItineraryGroup sizeIssues on your trip
Also available to purchaseYour fellow travellersWhat to take
We also recommendSingle travellersHealth
Itinerary disclaimerAccommodationSafety
Culture shock rating Meals introductionTravel insurance
Physical ratingMealsResponsible Travel
Included activitiesTransportA couple of rules
Optional activitiesJoining point The Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsCarbon offset
Spending moneyFinish point Feedback
Style
Comfort
  • Comfort is your style of travel if you want the whole grassroots experience with more inclusions, meals and creature comforts. While accommodation is predominantly tourist class (3-4 star), on some itineraries there is the opportunity to stay with a local family, spend the night on a train or camp out in exotic places (without putting up your own tent of course). Along the way, you'll really experience the destination up close. You'll mingle with locals, enjoy a taste of their way of life and gain special insights from your leader. This is not luxury travel, but real world experiences - just with a softer landing!
Themes
Explorer
Map
Dragon Kingdom
Itinerary
Days 1-2 Thimphu
Depending on your flight into Paro and also if the weather is clear, you may get a great view of the massive eastern Himalayan peaks on your way in, including Kanchenjunga (the world's third highest peak) and Chomolhari (Bhutan's holy mountain).
On arrival you are met at the airport and transferred to Thimphu - the capital of Bhutan. The winding road follows the Pa Chu as it winds downstream to its confluence with the Wang Chu, then up the valley to Thimphu.
After settling in, there is a briefing given by the tour leader in the late afternoon and any last-minute arrangements co-ordinated. Thimphu is a sprawling town that occupies both sides of the Thimphu Valley, bisected in the middle by the Thimphu Chu River.
Time permitting we visit the King Jigme Dorji Memorial Chorten (built in 1974 in memory of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk) and take an orientation walk along the main street. If there is not enough time today we will do this on Day 2.
The evening is free and dinner is included at our hotel.
After breakfast on day 2 you will venture out to explore Thimphu, first driving to Buddha Point and enjoying an excellent panoramic view of the city.
On your way back you will take a short ten-minute hike around the small enclosure in the pine trees to spot some takins - the national animal of Bhutan.
The next stop is the Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba. It is home to between 40-65 nuns and also provides shelter for aging women and orphaned girls. The temple here is dedicated to the famous saint, Drubthob Thangthong Gyalpo, the man who first introduced and built the chain of iron bridges in Bhutan.
You will then pass Tashicho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), the administrative and religious centre of Bhutan located on the right bank of Thimphu Chhu. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (Bhutan's supreme leader in the first half of the 17th century) built the current structure in 1641, however the original building dates back to 1216. To this day the dzong serves as the seat of the government and home to about 300 monks during summer. The monks move towards Punakha for three months during winter. Please note we are not permitted to visit the Dzong before 5pm Monday - Friday; during holidays and weekends visits are permitted between 9am to 5pm. You can then enjoy some free time in town to do your own exploration.
Other sites in the capital include the National Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum, and the Voluntary Artists Studio Thimphu - an institution where children receive formal education in the art of traditional painting, sculpture, and woodcarving. Thimphu has an excellent range of handicrafts, most notably woven cloth, wooden masks, thangkas, silverware, jewellery, and bamboo craft that come from all over Bhutan. The Changangkha Lhakhang is a temple that sits majestically on a ridge above the city.
In the evening you will return to the hotel for dinner.
Included Activities
  • Thimpu - National Library
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Punakha
We retrace part of our journey (approx 5kms) to the Simtokha Dzong (the oldest Dzong Built by Zhabdrung in 1629AD) which is now the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies. We then steadily climb up to the Dochula pass (3100M) through beautiful tropical forest and several villages. The pass is marked by 108 chortens or stupas and you can see gardens of colorful prayer flags. On a clear day we can enjoy the magnificent view of the eastern Himalayas. The descent from Dochula to Punakha is approximately a further two hours drive.
The scenic Punakha Valley is drained by the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu (meaning 'Father' and 'Mother' Rivers) which enjoys a temperate climate which is ideal for farming.
Following lunch in Punakha town, we visit Punakha Dzong, the administrative and religious centre and also the winter retreat of His Holiness, the Je Khenpo - the chief abbot of Bhutan. This six-storey high monastery is one of the largest dzongs in Bhutan. Construction began in 1637, although sections of it have been restored after a 1994 flood. The dzong boasts intricately carved woodwork, prayer halls and beautiful religious paintings on walls and doorways. This huge fortress-monastery complex was also the capital of Bhutan until 1966. The reason the Je Khenpo and most of the monks from Thimphu occupy this dzong in winter is because the lower elevation of Punakha Valley provides for milder temperatures. In 1651 the former supreme leader, Zhabdrung, went into retreat and passed away soon after. For fear of civil unrest his death was kept a secret for over 50 years, whereby the court ruled on his behalf. To this day, Punakha Dzong remains the final resting place of Zhabdrung.
Included Activities
  • Punakha - Punakha Dzong
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 4 Gangtey
Today we drive to Gangtey and the hidden valley of Phobjikha (2850m). En route we climb steadily, passing through semi-tropical vegetation with banana plantations, pointsettias, bottle brush and cactus and then on to pine forests before arriving at an alpine environment, which is home to rhododendron and dwarf bamboo.
As we near the Pele La Pass (3300m), we take a road which leads to Phobjikha Valley over Lawala Pass (3200m). Considered one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, it is encircled by pine-covered forests. In the centre of the valley and rising on a small ridge stands one of the oldest private monasteries in Bhutan - Gangtey Goemba.
The head lama of Gangtey Goemba is the ninth body reincarnation of the body of Pema Lingpa – the famous 14th century blacksmith from Bumthang who became one of Bhutan's most famous Buddhist saints and teachers. The monastery was founded in 1613 by Pema Thinley, the grandson of Pema Lingpa. After visiting the monastery, we begin a leisurely hike in the valley (approx 90 minutes) and then meet our driver who returns us to the hotel.
The area is also the winter home (late October to early March) of the rare and endangered black-necked cranes that come here from the highlands of Tibet. Experts estimate that fewer than 800 of these cranes still exist in the wild. A walk in the area also give us an insight into the rural lifestyle of Bhutan and we see the farmhouses, which are a typical traditional wooden houses surrounded by fields growing potato, buckwheat and rye.
Included Activities
  • Gangte - Gangtey Goemba Monastery
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Bumthang Valley
We depart early this morning for our longest drive of the trip, crossing three Himalayan passes before reaching the sacred Bumthang Valley (2650m).
We begin our journey by climbing to Lawala Pass (3200m) and then to Pele La (Pass) at 3300 metres, where we stop to stretch our legs - and if you're lucky, do some yak spotting! We also stop at Chendebji Chorten, a shrine of ancient lineage built on the old walking path across the country, for a tea break.
After travelling for around five hours we stop for lunch at Trongsa (2120m) - an ancient trading centre for merchants coming from India in the south as well as other traders from the east and west of the country. Tongsa Dzong dominates the centre like a 'giant dragon' resting on the ridge.
After lunch we will make a brief stop to visit the Tadzong (watch tower) museum, dedicated to the monarchs of Bhutan in 2008.
Following the museum, our journey continues for a further two-and-a-half hours to Bumthang, over Yontong La (Pass) (3400m) and Kiki La (Pass) (2900m). The route traverses highland pastures, full of yaks, near the passes with rolling hills and forests of pine and oak trees. The scenic drive takes us through the fertile Chumney Valley (the first of the four valleys which comprise the Bumthang Valley), which is famous for its yak wool fabric known as 'yathra', and we also stop to see some of the intricate handicrafts that are available in places where vendors lay out their colourful fabrics for sale. Produced by the local women, no two pieces of 'yathra' are the same.
We visit the village of Zugney - one of several centres of 'yathra' weaving. Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colours enliven the fabric, which is used for a wide variety of purposes and widely sought after throughout Bhutan.
The next morning we start with a walking tour in the Bumthang Valley, noted as one of the most beautiful and sacred in Bhutan. This valley has a special history because of the frequent visits by Padmasambhawa when he was bringing the Buddha's message to Bhutan. The valley is wide and resplendent with fields of crops. Village folks can often be seen busy with at their day's work.
Jambay Lhakhang (Jambay Temple), along with Kyichu Lhakhang in the Paro Valley, is one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built around 750 AD by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet as a part of his pledge to build 108 temples dedicated to the Buddha during his lifetime. This is one of the most holy of Bhutan's religious sites and we will apply for the special permission necessary to visit this sacred place.
We then continue to Kurje, a 17th century temple next to a spectacular new monastery that is being built in traditional style. From Kurje we begin our walk through the countryside, crossing a bridge over the rushing Chamkhar Chu (Chamkhar River) and through fields to the Tamshing temple complex.
Tamshing was founded in 1501 by one of Bhutan’s most famous saints, Pema Lingpa - the treasure discoverer. It is a monastery with many young monks in training.
In the afternoon you will have free time in Bumthang town.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 7-9 Paro
An early morning flight to Paro allows some time for sightseeing.
Once in Paro we visit the impressive Ta Dzong, a 17th century watchtower above the Paro Dzong that now houses the National Museum - an excellent collection of Bhutanese antiquities.
Located 18 kilometres from the city, this is also a spot where Bhutanese forces once overcame Tibetan invaders. The museum has an interesting assortment of costumes from the different regions of Bhutan along with a wonderful collection of painted and embroidered thangkas (religious pictures).
We also have the opportunity to take stroll in downtown Paro this afternoon before returning to our hotel.
After an early breakfast on day 8 we drive up to Satsam Chorten and prepare for our hike to the legendary Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) - a small monastery, clinging on a rock cliff 900 metres above the valley floor.
The legend dating back to 747 AD has it that the Great Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhawa) flew here from Tibet on the back of a tigress to subdue the demons of Paro Valley. The guru then meditated in the holy cave that is the site of the Pelphug Lhakhang today.
According to Tantric Buddhist mythology, the vanquished local deities became the protectors of the dharma and one of them, Singey Samdrup, is recognised today as the guardian deity of Taktsang. Guru Rinpoche is also believed to have concealed among the rocks of Taktsang various forms of Dharma treasures known as Ters, which were destined to be discovered later by Tertons (treasure discoverers) for the propagation of Dharma.
Taktsang was severely damaged by fire on Sunday 19th April 1998. The king commanded its immediate restoration soon after the fire. The royal command dictated that the original aura, authenticity and architectural splendour must be preserved at all costs. This project has been widely seen as an act of devotion involving all sections of Bhutanese society and as homage to the nation's cultural heritage.
It also proved to be an opportunity for Bhutan's traditional artists and craftsmen to hone the skills inherited from their forefathers down the ages. In order to facilitate the restoration work, a road was built to the base of the mountain facing the temple.
We drive to the end of this road and begin our hike up the mountain for a closer view of the temple. After approximately an hour of walking, we reach a small teahouse that has a wonderful panoramic view of the temple, which you can enjoy with a hot beverage.
For those interested, it is possible to get a closer view by hiking another 45 minutes to an hour (each direction) to reach the small chorten directly across from the temple. Anyone not interested in hiking any further can relax at the teahouse and enjoy the view. In all, the day's activity is around six hours in total. Lunch will be at the teahouse.
After breakfast we are transferred by our driver and tour leader to the airport for our onward flight. (Please note that your departure flight is not included as part of the trip and must be booked separately.)
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Included Activities
  • Bumthang Valley - Kyichu Lhakhang
  • Paro - Tadzong Museum & Trongsa Dzong
  • Paro - Tiger's Nest Monastery
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
  • HNKB Bhutan - Single Supplement (HNKB)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Colours of Nepal (HNKA)
  • North India Highlights (HHKH)
Itinerary disclaimer
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Culture shock rating

Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Physical rating

This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
Included activities
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
Optional activities
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Money Exchange
Don´t rely on credit and ATM card usage in Bhutan. There are no ATMs in Bhutan, so it is best to take either USD cash or Indian Rupees (INR) to Bhutan. Traveller's cheques are difficult to exchange.
The Bhutan Ngultrum (BTN) is valueless outside of Bhutan so make sure that you change back all excess Bhutanese currency before you leave.
For personal expenses, please take USD / Euro / GBP / Indian Rupees in cash, which in turn can be changed into the local currency, Nu, on arrival at the airport and in hotels. Don't forget to take the receipt if you´re exchanging the money at the airport. Without the receipt, it can be difficult to change remaining Bhutanese Nu back to foreign currency. Also note that there are variable rates for bigger foreign currency notes and currency notes of smaller denominations. Higher denominations get you better exchange rate.
Please note that most establishments in Asia will not accept foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded and they can be very difficult to exchange or extra fees added when exchanging at banks. Please ensure that you have new, clean notes.
Spending money
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
Tipping
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Hotels / Restaurants: USD 0.50 - 1 for porters and restaurant staff
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of US$ 1-2 per person, per day is generally appropriate.
Local transport: For a city tour we suggest US$ 1 per person, per day.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$ 2-3 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
Departure tax
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Important notes
BHUTAN GROUP VISA
At the time of booking you MUST provide Intrepid with your full name, sex, date of birth, nationality, passport number & date of issue / expiry, plus a scanned copy of your passport, your email address and your contact number while in Bhutan.
If you have not booked flights to Bhutan with Intrepid, we will also require your flight details to finalise the visa process. Intrepid will then forward you the scanned copy of your Bhutan Group visa approx. 2 weeks prior to your trip start date.
You must show the copy of your Bhutan Group visa at the check-in for your flight to Bhutan and on arrival at the immigration in Bhutan where you will have your Bhutan visa stamped into your passport.
ADDITIONAL ACCOMMODATION:
Travel in Bhutan is strictly controlled and to do any independent travel outside of a group tour is extremely difficult and expensive to arrange. We provide a group visa for travellers on our tours in Bhutan, which stipulates that all travellers must arrive and depart on the same days that our tour program starts and finishes. For this reason we are generally not able to provide additional accommodation outside of our tour dates and advise all travellers to book flights in and out of Bhutan that correspond with the start and finish day of the tour. In the rare case that no flights are available and you need to arrive earlier or depart later we are only able to book additional accommodation for you in conjunction with a special individual visa which can add around AUD1000 to the cost of your tour, to be paid at the time of booking.
DRUK AIR:
Please be aware that Bhutan's national carrier Druk Air is renowned for last minute changes to the timetable for flights in and out of Bhutan. Druk Air is the only airline allowed to fly into Bhutan (Paro) so it is important to book your flights in / out of Bhutan as soon as possible as we cannot refund this trip if you are unable to obtain flights. Timetables are available on the Druk Airlines website: drukair.com.bt
As mentioned Druk Air flight schedules are subject to change and Intrepid hold no responsibility for delay, cancellation or unavailability of flight or missed connections.
Flights into and out of Paro Airport are restricted to daylight hours and are dependent on weather conditions. Passengers are advised to allow at least 24 hours' transit time for connecting flights to and from Paro Airport and to travel on non-restricted air tickets so that they can be rebooked on the first available airline if a connecting flight is missed. Passengers transiting through India will need a transit visa if they intend to leave the airport or spend a night in India.
Drukair has rigid restrictions on the amount and size of luggage passengers may carry into the country.
VIDEO CAMERAS:
Please note there may be times during your visit to Bhutan when the use of video and / or still cameras may be inappropriate. Local people may consider that filming is too intrusive and in these circumstances we will request that you do not film.
At all times be aware and sensitive to the impact of photography and seek permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse.
Medical facilities in the populated areas in Bhutan such as Thimphu and Paro are available but may be limited or unavailable in rural areas.
General road conditions outside urban areas are poor, and emergency services generally are not available. Because of the mountainous terrain, roads tend to have steep drop-offs and blind curves. During heavy rains there is a risk of falling rocks and landslides which can block roads.
Group size
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
Single travellers
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Accommodation
Hotel (8 nts)
Please note that accommodation in Bhutan can be very simple and infrastructure is not what it is in other parts of Asia, such as electricity and water being very sporadic.
Meals introduction
All group meals are included in Bhutan.
Generally meals will be buffet style and taken in your hotel or guesthouse. Lunches and dinners will generally be a mix of Continental, Chinese and Indian dishes. Rice and vegetarian options are always included.
Bottled water and alcoholic drinks are paid for locally.
The amount of spending money recommended will adequately cover these extra expenses.
Meals
7 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 7 Dinners
Budget for meals not included:
USD 100.00
Transport
Minibus, Plane
Joining point
Hotel Riverview
Dechen Lam
Thimphu
BHUTAN
Phone: +975 2 325029
Fax: +975 2 323498
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point
Dewachen Resort (Dhey Kyed)
Chelupang, Nemjo
Paro
BHUTAN
Phone: 975 8271699
Emergency contact
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency
The India office (for Bhutan) can be reached on +91 (124) 4203022 during business hours (9.30am to 6pm) or after hours on either +91 991 003 5322 or +91 991 006 5198
For further contact details please use the following page:
Emergency funds
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
You must provide Intrepid at the time of booking with your full name, sex, date of birth, nationality, passport number & date of issue / expiry, plus a scanned copy of your passport, and your travelling email address .
If you have not booked flights to Bhutan with Intrepid, we will also require your flight details to finalise the visa process, including flight numbers, arrival and departure times, and points of origin and arrival.
We will forward the scanned copy of your Bhutan Group visa shortly prior to your trip start date. In some cases this may be issued closer (7 days) to your date of arrival into Bhutan.
You must show the copy of your Bhutan Group visa at the check-in for your flight and on arrival at immigration in Bhutan where you will have your visa stamped into your passport.
All nationalities require a visa for entry to Bhutan, except Indian nationals holding a valid Indian passport. Visas must be obtained in advance.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change. It is important that you check for yourself.
You must provide Intrepid at the time of booking with your full name, sex, date of birth, nationality, passport number & date of issue / expiry, plus a scanned copy of your passport, your email address and a contact number for you when you are in Bhutan.
If you have not booked flights to Bhutan with Intrepid, we will also require your flight details to finalise the visa process.
Intrepid will then forward you the scanned copy of your Bhutan Group visa shortly prior to your trip start date.
You must show the copy of your Bhutan Group visa at the check-in for your flight to Bhutan and on arrival at the immigration in Bhutan where you will have your Bhutan visa stamped into your passport.
ADDITIONAL ACCOMMODATION
Travel in Bhutan is strictly controlled and to do any independent travel outside of a group tour is extremely difficult and expensive to arrange. We provide a group visa for travellers on our tours in Bhutan, which stipulates that all travellers must arrive and depart on the same days that our tour program starts and finishes. For this reason we are generally not able to provide additional accommodation outside of our tour dates and advise all travellers to book flights in and out of Bhutan that correspond with the start and finish day of the tour. In the rare case that no flights are available and you need to arrive earlier or depart later we are only able to book additional accommodation for you in conjunction with a special individual visa which can add around AUD1000 to the cost of your tour, to be paid at the time of booking.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are flying in and out of Paro via India, please check what visa you need for India. If you plan to spend time travelling in India on your way to Bhutan (or vice versa), please be aware you will generally need a tourist visa (rather than a transit visa); and tourist visas currently need to have a gap of 2 months between visits. Please check the limitations on Indian visas if you plan to spend time in India on the way to Paro. Please also be aware that currently the maximum amount of time allowed for passenger transiting via an India airport for a connecting flight is 18 hours. Note that this information can change at any time and you will need to check this information for yourself.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
WARM CLOTHING:
Temperatures can be low in the winter months, especially at altitude, so bring a set of warmer clothes including thermal underclothes and a fleece jacket.
WATER BOTTLE:
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
Health
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Safety
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
SEAT BELTS:
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
Travel insurance
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
Responsible Travel
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
LOCAL DRESS:
Dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 260.00 kgs per pax.
Feedback
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.