Malaria in Bhutan
While much of Bhutan is above 2000m / 6500ft, the country is in the malarial zone at lower altitudes.
If you are traveling through central and eastern Bhutan, you will likely get into lower altitude zones and there is definitely a risk of malarial, so ensure you take your anti-malarial medications.Add to your Trip Planner
Altitude related issues
Bhutan is in the Himalayas, and there will certainly be times where you are "at altitude"; generally viewed as being higher than 2400m / 8000ft above sea level.
That being said, some people will experience symptoms of altitude sickness at lower altitude and most people will experience shortness of breath, especially upon exertion, even at lower altitudes. Just slow down.
There are medications that reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness (Diamox), but for some people (that includes me) the side effects; mostly tingling in the hands and feet can be worse than the altitude sickness. Drink plenty of fluids and take it easy when it comes to caffiene and alcohol, to help alleviate the symptoms. You might have some issues sleeping.
The only "cure" for altitude sickness is accilmatization. Your body needs to produce more red blood cells to help you deal with the lower partial pressure (oxygen levels). This will take weeks, but many people have reduced symptoms within a few days of being at altitude. The best way of dealiung with severe symptoms is to get to lower altitudes.
Remember, altitude sickness can kill, so if you are having severe symptoms, get to lower altitudes as quickly as possible and seek medical attention.Add to your Trip Planner
How cute they are during daytime - the worse they get at night! See this lovely dog family slleeping like dead? They just recover from a complete night barking like crazy! So dont forget your earplugs - or better those huge Micky Mouse earmuffs!Add to your Trip Planner
Smoking is very much discouraged in Bhutan.
Any tobacco materials (even the ones you bought duty free at the airport prior to your flight to Bhutan) are very heavily taxed. See what the Bhutanese customs website says (as do your landing forms).
As a non-smoker, I think this is a great idea. Smokers probably won't agree ..Add to your Trip Planner
Don't drink the tap water
Like many developing countries, the tap water cannot be used to drink or brush your teeth because of bacteria or parasites. All of our hotel rooms had bottled water and our guide ensured that we had plenty of water while traveling. Even if it is not provided, it is readily available at many shops and is quite inexpensive.
If you do intend to drink it, make sure you disinfect it before use. If you boil your water, remember that you are likely at higher altitudes and boiling times must be extended depending on the altitude you are at.Add to your Trip Planner
Why does it always rain on me?
We visited Bhutan after the monsoon period, in September. It must be a dry weather but we had rain occasionally. Also we heard that some local people were blaming the climate changing because of these late coming rains. They were supposed to do some construction but they couldn’t.
Bring your raincoats or umbrellas for September and October. And think about global warming more often.Add to your Trip Planner
A festival to avoid? Thangbi Mani
I have posted much of this material under things to do, but feel that it should be covered under the warnings too.
The Thanbi Mani Festival was the third festival we attended while in Bhutan, and of the three, it had the potential to be the nicest and most intimate, but ended up being a real major disappointment. This was 100% related to the "entitled" and rude tourists that besieged this place.
This is a religious festival and busloads of tourists trucked in. There were many more tourists than locals, and instead of being respectful of the locals whose festival this was, the plopped themselves right in front of the people that had already been there, some for hours, waiting for the festival to start. All I can say is there were some English and Dutch tourists that would not have made their countrymen and countrywomen proud. We were packed in like sardines.
We were so sick of the rudeness that was going on, we left by noon.Add to your Trip Planner
Our mobile phones were not functioning in Bhutan. This country does not have many technologic opportunities, they even resisted the technology and this makes Bhutan so special. TV broadcast started in June 1999, internet in 2000. The service of mobile phones started in 2003.
Since Bhutan is not a common visiting place, Turkey’s GSM operators do not have roaming contract with Bhutan’s GSM operators. So we were completely disconnected. The “real” world was far far away and I took this situation as an opportunity and a blessing. Yet, I’m writing this information as a warning for the people attached to their phones and cannot live without them. Now, let rest of us sing together and throw out our cell phones.
The song is coming from the Cake. “No Phone”:
“no phone, no phone
i just want to be alone today”Add to your Trip Planner
If you are planning to take pictures of temple and museum interiors, forget about it. Photography is strictly forbidden, and cameras (including tablets and cell phones) are not allowed into some of these buildings. The lockers for these could be a bit sketchy.
It is also not a good idea to take pictures of the king or other members of the Royal Family...Add to your Trip Planner
Entering a Dzong
When you enter a Dzong (literally it means a Bastion. Now it's half temple and half municipal offices), make sure you are dressed properly. Not that you cannot wear jeans (Well, Bhutanese would appreciate it a lot if don't wear jeans), but that you are not supposed to wear your jacket on your waist, or have your jacket unbottoned or unzippered.
Bhutanese themselves, they wear nice ghos (for men) or kiras (for women). Men wear long white scarf from one shoulder to one waist. Women wear colorful scarf on one shoulder (SEE THE PICTURE).Add to your Trip Planner
Watch out for entitled tourists
The one thing that really bothered us in Bhutan were some of the other travelers.
The high minimum per diem rate means that generally people that travel here tend to be reasonably well off middle aged (or older) travelers. Younger travelers were few and far between.
The issue we had with the demographic is that a lot of them seemed to have a very privileged attitude and would be downright selfish and rude to both the locals (especially at some of the religious festivals) and to other tourists. The "me first" attitude was rather prevalent amongst certain European and Asian groups.
BEWARE - some of these people can be a real PITA!!!Add to your Trip Planner
Bhutan. Beware Travel Operators
Do NOT use Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks as your tour operator in Bhutan. Their service is entirely unsatisfactory. They have hidden charges, charge above the government rate without justification, show a general lack of transparency and documentation, and communicate their services and intentions poorly. Very unprofessional.
Travel to Bhutan is a daunting task as one has to choose from over 235 "approved" agents. Payment is through the government but there is no guarantee of the quality or implementation of service. In fact, the Tourist Council of Bhutan has no legal authority to insure "approved" agents deliver services that meet any standard of quality. Be very careful when booking an agent in Bhutan. Only book with an agent that's been directly recommended by a reputable source. Do NOT rely solely on the "approved" government list. Be warned – when traveling to Bhutan you must pre-pay your entire trip and if you are not happy you will forfeit everything regardless.Related to:
- Luxury Travel
- Arts and Culture
Bhutan and the Phallus Obsession
Just a warning for the conservative prudish folks and easily offended folks out there.
Bhutanese society, at least to us Westerners, has a phallus obsession. They decorate their houses with them, there are shops to buy them in and of course, they play a prominent role at the major festivals.
We asked what the deal was and were told "they are gods". Some guy must have come up with this one.Add to your Trip Planner
Every street in Bhutan seems to have 4-5 street dogs. Not menacing, and many appear healthy and well fed. Some are kind of mangy. This group of characters were playing kind of the sand hill in Bumthang. Generally they lay around all day, then start seeing what's happening in the evening. Then they bark like crazy until 10PM, and of and off the rest of the night. Some people used earplugs.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Quality of internet
All except two of the places that we stayed at in Bhutan had "free internet".
While one cannot accuse these hotels of lying, the connectivitiy and speed were generally downright poor. So far as I could tell, this was generally because they were using consumer level technology, and in a world where virtually every visitor is connected, with all of the guests trying to connect either ended up with frequent dropped connections or abysmally slow throughput. In one case the hotel disconnected the guest wifi so that it did not crash the hotel's business connections.
So, while technically, there is connectivity; the reality is quite something else.Add to your Trip Planner
I was there for a week last month. The hotel is 5* hotel in Thimpu. It is a joint venture project by...more
I upgraded one night from the government hotels and was so glad I did. While the government hotels...more
P.O.Box 236, Thimphu, Bhutan
Good for: Couples
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