This tiny Himalayan kingdom does things differently. Having only been open to visitors for 45 years, Bhutan puts its environment, culture and wellbeing ahead of economics. This place absorbs more carbon than it creates and a Bhutan tour is perfect for trekkers, nature-lovers and Buddhist pilgrims. From the jaw-dropping Tiger’s Nest to the prayer halls of Gangte Goemba, you’ll experience moments – and people – that make happiness seem like the norm, not a pursuit.
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in Bhutan, you may find yourself travelling by:
Trips on or before 31 December 2022
If your Intrepid trip starts on or before 31 December 2022, you must provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.
If you are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, you may apply for an exemption. Exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. To apply, you must provide a medical certificate from a medical professional.
Children under 18 are exempt. Children aged between 5 and 17 years old must provide proof of either vaccination, recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.
Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards
From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises). However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.
Bhutan experiences monsoonal weather between June and August and consequently is not a particularly pleasant time to visit the country.
The best times to visit are the shoulder seasons of March to May and September to November, with the later months being particularly pleasant as rainfall is lower and the views tend to be clearer.
December to February sees snowfall in many areas but it can be a beautiful time to visit thanks to the snow covering the mountainous landscape.
Yes, it is safe to visit Bhutan. The crime rate in Bhutan is low although petty crime does happen. Travellers should be alert and keep an eye on their belongings, particularly in crowded or well-touristed areas.
If you are visiting high-altitude areas be sure to discuss altitude sickness with a doctor and plan accordingly. Flooding and landslides occur during the monsoon period (June–September) so follow local advice and check with your tour operator for disruptions.
All nationalities require a visa for Bhutan and, at this stage, travellers can only enter as part of a group visa on a tour. Independent visas are not issued and the cost of the visa is included in your tour. If you are travelling with Intrepid, please provide your booking agent with the following information for us to apply for your group visa:
Due to the controlled nature of travel in Bhutan the group visa can only be submitted once we have the above details from ALL travellers in the group. Failure to advise any of the information as above can slow the visa issuing process and delay the visa for the whole group.
Visas are generally issued within 5 days of departure and as close as 48 hours prior to travel into the country. We will send your group visa to your travelling email address. Please print this visa and carry with you as you will need it at the time of boarding your Bhutan flight.
You must show the copy of your Bhutan group visa at the check-in for your flight to Bhutan and on arrival at immigration in Bhutan where you will have a Bhutan entry stamp placed into your passport.
Tipping isn’t compulsory in Bhutan, but many people who work in tourism are accustomed to receiving tips so it's wise to set aside a small amount to show your appreciation for drivers, cooks and other service workers. Most hotels and restaurants will include a service fee in the final bill.
Your local leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty on the first day of your trip. In a group tipping kitty, everybody contributes an equal amount at the start of the tour that your leader uses to tip drivers, local guides and hotel staff on your behalf. The leader will keep a running record of all monies spent, which can be checked at any time. Any money remaining at the end of the tour is returned to group members.
This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassle of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip. Participation in this kitty is optional, and you are welcome to manage your own tipping separately if you prefer. Please note the tipping kitty excludes tips for your tour leader.
Most tourist hotels will have free wifi, as will many restaurants or cafes in Bhutan’s larger cities. It’s possible to buy a local SIM though internet access will be limited in the remote and mountainous regions.
If you plan on using your mobile/cell phone in Bhutan be sure to activate global roaming and check charges with your provider before you leave home. If your phone is unlocked, you can purchase a local SIM on arrival. The best coverage is with B-Mobile, while Tashi Cell has similar costs but more limited coverage. Please note that coverage will be limited in more remote areas.
You will have to adjust to different standards of hygiene and sanitation while in Bhutan. Squat toilets are the norm across the country, which may take some getting used to, though Western-style, flushable toilets can be found in large hotels and some tourist areas.
Because of Bhutan’s unique tourism regulations, all meals are included in tour group itineraries. Local currency will generally be used to purchase snacks, while US dollars are best for larger souvenirs. Bhutan’s unit of currency is the Bhutanese ngultrum (Nu.), though prices here are approximate and shown in US dollars for ease of comparison.
Prayer flags = USD 1
Hand made coin purse = USD 5-10
Gofur (wooden bowl) = USD 10-15
Ceremonial mask = USD 20-40
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Bhutan. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water and fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead. Ask your leader where filtered water can be found. It's also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
Credit cards are accepted are large hotels and the bigger stores but a heavy surcharge often applies. Keep in mind that tours in Bhutan are fully prepaid and include all meals and transport, so your only spending money should be for souvenirs, snacks and drinks. It’s best to bring and use US dollars for large purchases.
There are ATMs available in Bhutan’s larger cities though they won’t accept some foreign cards. If you are travelling outside of the main cities be sure to carry cash to cover small purchases.
Bhutan’s weather varies depending on your location and the time of year.
In the capital, Thimphu, the temperature averages from 5°C (41°F) in January to 20°C (68°F) in the summertime. This summer period, from June–August, also sees the monsoonal rains arrive. The nearby city of Paro experiences a similar climate.
The city of Punakha, which is located at 1300 metres (4250 feet), has a warmer climate than Thimphu. The average temperature ranges from 11°C (75°F) in winter to 24°C (75°F) in the summertime. Because of the mountainous terrain, the rains here generally affect the southern side while the valleys experience less intense rainfall.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their tour. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
For a current list of public holidays in Bhutan, including the movable dates noted above, go to:
Bhutan, like most Asian countries, is not particularly appreciative of public displays of affection regardless of sexual orientation.
Homosexuality has been illegal in Bhutan since 2004, but in 2019 a bill was passed to decriminalise what was known as ‘unnatural sex’.
LGBTQIA+ people are generally accepted in Bhutan but work still needs to be done to change social attitudes towards those that identify differently.
If you are travelling solo on an Intrepid group tour, you will share accommodation with a passenger of the same gender as per your passport information. If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at time of booking and we’ll arrange the rooming configuration accordingly. A single supplement is available on some tours for travellers who do not wish to share a room.
Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. We’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and, where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.
Travelling through Bhutan is difficult for those with physical disabilities. There are only a few hotels that have accessible rooms and bathrooms, and it’s rare that buildings will have been adapted for accessibility issues. That said, all travel through Bhutan must be done through a tour group so if you’re interested in travelling there then Intrepid will do all it can to make that dream a reality
As a general rule, knowing some common words in the local language, carrying a written itinerary with you and taking to the streets in a group, rather than solo, can help make your travel experience the best it can be.
During winter, if travelling to high altitude areas, you’ll need cold-weather gear, thermals, good waterproof boots and a warm/windproof jacket. If you’re not taking on an alpine trek, however, warm clothes are necessary for the evening but a fleece and windbreaker should suffice during the day.
In the summertime, lightweight clothing is best along with a raincoat, as well as a jumper for the evening. You may add warmer clothes if heading into the higher reaches of the Himalaya, including a beanie, gloves, scarf and down jacket.
For ideas on what to pack for your Bhutan tour, take a look at Intrepid’s ultimate packing list.
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
In Bhutan, we stay in locally run accommodation including guesthouses, smaller-scale hotels and homestays in an effort to support the local economies. We also visit locally run restaurants and markets where travellers will have opportunities to support local businesses and purchase handicrafts created by local artisans.