Bhutan Travel – An Experience Of A Traveler


Bhutan Travel is like experiencing a few small precious jewels scattered in a Himalayan valley folded between layers and layers of mountains. It is a country that still tries to keep itself wrapped like a mystery. It is a simple place with simple people, most of whom you would find always smiling. They have a curiosity about the world outside, but at the same time, they are very happy with wherever they are.

Bhutan Travel is like viewing layers and layers of mountains
Bhutan Travel is like viewing layers and layers of mountains

Bhutan Travel – An Experience

For Bhutan Travel, you can either fly to Paro or enter the country via road from Phuntshillong, which is the border town on their side. For entering via road, from Kolkata, you can take a train to NJP or fly to Bagdogra. Jaigaon is the border town on the Indian side and a small colorfully decorated arch separates the two countries. People move across this border without any formalities. The first check post where you have to show valid papers for your entry into the country is good 60-70 km away from this border. Thimphu is a good 6-7 hours drive from Phuntshillong.

Mountains view from a town in Bhutan
Mountains view from a town


As you travel on this route you would feel you are crossing the folds till you reach a beautiful valley with a river, which sustains the small city of Thimphu. At first glance, everything in Thimphu would look the same. All buildings have the same color, and the same patterns of artwork adorn the windows and doors. Owing to the similarities and size, it almost gives the feeling of being in a model place rather than a real place. But as you spend time there you would start noticing the finer nuances in the buildings, and the artwork.

I am told the population of Thimphu is not more than 30,000. While the whole of the country has a population of about 650,000. Paro the second largest city in the country has the only airport in the country, but probably the most beautiful one.


As a physical place, you may not find it very different from India, especially the adjoining areas like Sikkim, but Bhutan as a soul is very different. Because of being a very closed and contained country, it still retains its culture very strongly. And you can smell it everywhere. On your way to Thimphu or any other place, you would see new houses right next to the ruins from the olden days. Everything in the country has its base in religion, and you see religion everywhere. You see it on mountains and bridges as prayer flags, as Chortens, as prayer wheels that are at times rotated manually and at times using water.


Dzongs which literally translated would mean Fort, are the places where senior government officials including the King sit. The Dzongs would invariably have a temple and a monastery. You would see the colors Red, Yellow, and Golden wherever you look at anything that is not natural. The vehicle number plates are red with numbers written in Yellow. The signboards follow the same color scheme. You would then see the same colors on most prayer wheels in public places, the same color on Lamas, the same colors on the monastery walls, and in paintings.

The best place to see Bhutan is the National Museum in Paro, which has been tastefully done and tries to introduce all the facets of the Bhutanese lifestyle. This would be one must-see that I can recommend to people visiting the country.

National Museum in Paro
National Museum in Paro – Bhutan Travel Things to do

Visit Monastery

One of the unusual things that I did on my Bhutan Travel was to get invited to a Monastery for a cup of tea and sit and chat with the Lama and his students. It gave me a glimpse of how they live and lead their lives. To me, it was also the closest I got to seeing the Guru Shishya Parampara. Where the students live under the guidance of the Guru and learn all aspects of life and not just a few like in the modern education system. The tea was not very inviting, but I could see the best food items in the monastery.

The place was just like any other home you see. The popular soft drinks seemed to be the favorites, as, besides their usual consumption, they were also used for Prayers as offerings.

Other things that were offered to me with tea included tinned cookies, obviously imported from India or some other country. All in all, I could not find any Satvik element in the food being consumed in monasteries. One thing that you may not appreciate is the Smell that most monasteries have, the kind of smell that makes you feel not so clean. In fact, a peculiar smell is all over the country, but it becomes more pronounced in monasteries, probably that is where the density of people is highest.

Skills competition

The other unusual thing was visiting a ‘Skills Competition’. Where there was a countrywide competition for skills like Tailoring, Embroidery, Wood Carving, Thangka painting, and Table setting. One of the organizers very sweetly took me around the whole competition and explained how they are trying to ensure that traditional skills like Thangka painting are not lost. And are also trying to make the youth of the country learn skills like tailoring and table setting so that they need not import these skills from India. It is an effort to ensure some level of employability also for the country which does not have many options for youth.

The Bhutan Kingdom

Bhutan is one of the few remaining kingdoms in the world where there is a complete monarchy. And the King’s word is the last word in the land. You would find the King’s photograph in every shop, every office, and every other place. People seem to be very happy with the king. Incidentally, the country is going to be a democracy next year onwards and is preparing for its first elections. Everywhere you see posters explaining to people what is a democracy. How does the electoral process take place? And what are their rights and responsibilities as citizens of the nation?

I was having a conversation with one of the Bhutanese hotel owners who had lived in various parts of the world. On monarchy vs democracy, he said ‘You know Anu, we have a lot of freedom, and I am not sure if this would continue’. I also found it to be a very liberal society. I was told that both polygamy and polyandry are legal there, as long as the first spouse agrees to them.

Monastery - Places to visit in Bhutan
Monastery – Places to visit


There are only three newspapers and two of them publish once a week and one twice a week. One of the ex-pats living in the country told me that they do not have enough news to publish newspapers every day. Even the weekly newspapers are filled with tender notices for the current infrastructure projects going on across the country, for the king’s coronation next year. The country does seem to be on a construction spree. All the roads are being rebuilt, new hotels popping up in both Thimphu and new government offices are being constructed.

Mobile & Internet

When I was doing my research before Bhutan Travel, I was told that there may not be any telephones. And this place is really cut off from the rest of the world. This is right to some extent, but you would not miss cell phones anywhere. The calling charges were high like the initial mobile days in India. But literally, everyone carries a cell phone. There were also quite a few internet cafes in both Thimphu and Paro, but the speed is pathetically slow. The telecom scene in the country today is what it used to be in India in the mid-nineties.

From one of the KBC episodes, I gathered that it is the only country in the world that has a total ban on smoking. The fact is correct but you would find people smoking everywhere. There is a fine on selling cigarettes, but not much fine if you are found smoking. One of the taxi drivers told me that you have to buy cigarettes in black.

Plastic money

One thing you are going to miss is the absence of plastic money. There are no ATMs and only at rare places can you use your credit cards. Which means you have to carry all the cash that you may need there. If you go from India, you would find everything costs at least twice what it costs in India. And this is because of the fact that most of the things are imported from India.


The country has traditional textiles and you see a lot of books describing textiles. I was told that most of the people weave their own clothes, and then I did notice that there were no shops selling clothes anywhere. Only clothes being sold were in the state emporiums which were selling the woven silk garments typically targeted at tourists. As they were so highly-priced that most of the local population would not be able to afford them.

Bhutanese Food

I tried only one meal of Bhutanese food. They do not have many options for vegetarians. The meal had potatoes in Cheese sauce with local rice. Local rice is not very inviting to the eye, but it tastes very good. And it’s fun when the person can show you the field from which the rice came. Cheese, I am told is the key ingredient in most Bhutanese cooking. Perhaps it goes well with the climate there. But let me warn you that it can be very heavy for those of us who are not used to cheese-based cooking.

Apart from this, I must mention Season’s Pizzeria in Thimphu, where I probably had the best Pizza I have ever had in my life. I actually went back the last day to have some more. And I would recommend it to anyone touching Thimphu. It is a small place run by a lady called Sandhya, who caters primarily to the ex-pat population. And is like that corner lady who knows all of them along with their juicy tales.

You will cherish your trip to this mountainous nation.

Recommend you read the following posts.

Bhutan for the Tourists

Getting Stuck at India-Bhutan Border

Durbar Squares of Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

Top view of Mount Everest

Sikkim – Small but Beautiful


  1. Anuradha,

    Your write-up is most informative (esp. about there being no ATMs) and very interesting.Enjoyed reading it. But the best part are the photographs. Wonderful indeed.I loved the mountain ones best, all of them.


  2. Thanks Suvrata.

    Shivaji, it is not costly if you hold an Indian passport, but for everyone else they have to spend at least $ 200 per day of stay in Bhutan. You can get a decent room around 1000Rs per night and in the city you hardly need any transport and there are hardly any enterance charges, and wherever they are, they are again pretty low for Indians.

  3. Hi Anuradha,
    Came here from the travel lovers network on ryze…we were thinking of going to Bhutan year end last year and then change of plans happened. I definitely want to go there before it gets any more commercialised than it is…

    Your write up was extremely vivid, I could almost feel the going to the other tourist post to get a better idea about what to do there etc…

    I see many Bangalore posts too, will be moving there soon hence the interest!

    my id is firstautumn on ryze…hope to be in touch

  4. Hi Anuradha,

    I happen to come across your blog thru a friend of mine based in Bangalore. Professionally I promote Bhutan as one of my key tourist destinations and found your write up quite interesting but feel that some of the details given by you are not totally correct.

    For starters, there are two ATM in Bhutan, one at Phuentsholing and another at Thimphu through Bhutan National Bank.

    Secondly, reading about the food bit, my friend who happens to be a vegetarian got the shock that there is nothing much for people like him to eat but then I did clarify to him that you meant in Bhutanese cuisine there are not many dishes for vegetarians, which again is not correct for there are many dishes made not only with cheese but also with green vegetables in Bhutnese style. The food generally tends to be spicy but worth a try..especially the dish which they make with cheese and green chillies.

    Furthermore, most of the restaurants throughout serve basic Indian, Chinese cuisine which is nice if not perfect.

    Must try places beside the pizzeria are the Swiss Bakery and Art Cafe in Thimphu.

    Lastly, your view on the fact that everything seems to be expensive in Bhutan or rather double the price of what you get in India.. may I inform you that Bhutan has a flourishing flee market for most of the shops in Paro and Thimpu get stuff either from Bankok or from Bangaldesh.. you will not believe it but I happen to buy Banana Republic Tee shirts for just 350 bucks a piece and winter Jackets for just 450 bucks….plus there are good collection of home appliances/cutlery/bone china…which are damn cheap as compared to India.

    Having been there couple of times now….for a person like me its a shopping paradise..beside the spicy food I like.

    My intentions are not to find flaw in your write up but just to update it further so that people like my friend in Bangalore can still make a trip to Bhutan…and offcourse it means some more money for my company….just kidding…


    Vikas Sharma

  5. nice posting anuradha,
    vikas, you’d get bannana republic/armani/etc. at 400-550rs. at the commercial street, ‘Hum India’ shop.

  6. Nandita,Please feel free to get in touch when you move to Bangalore.

    Vikas, I could not find an ATM in Thimpu, I did ask the local people about it and they also did not know of it. Infact I went to Bhutan National Bank with a local to see how the bank is and there was no ATM there for sure. But then I was just there for 6 days, I could have missed it.
    Food, yes I tried only one meal so have limited experience. I did forgot to mention about wide availability of Indian and Indian Chinese food. Thanks for adding. I did try the other two cafes that you mention but I found Pizzeria the best and worth mentioning.
    About shopping I did see the flee markets but I thought they were all fake, stuff there did not seem original to me, and anyway even if it is available, I was looking for stuff that is purely Bhutanese and not global stuff in Bhutan.
    I wish I had discovered you before going to Bhutan, it would have helped…:-)

  7. all said and done.. i feel personally if one is planning to go to bhutan then these things should not matter a lot. ATM and shops and stuff…

    for that there is almost the rest of the world to travel and do all the shopping in the world. Bhutan is a small place but it is one where u can connect with urself… so before u plan to go to bhutan think for once why am i going there…

    people who like photography will be always clicking as its beautiful.
    It is not really that expensive for an Indian unless you want to leave in a nice and known hotel, for a non indian u may spend $180 per day.

    i will be in bhutan again very for a week so if there are such questions like an ATM machine troubling this blog (lol) i will get some photographic evidence on this and post on treklens and trekearth


  8. Hi,

    I am planning to visist bhutan sometime in october. Could you please let me know how much it would cost for a 10 day trip. I am based in bangalore.


  9. Thanks for sharing best travel information on Trip to Bhutan. I have also found one website which offier similar services “Holiday in Bhutan,Trip to Bhutan,Group Tour to Bhutan,Private Tour Bhutan,Festival Tour in Bhutan.”

  10. Thanks for sharing such a nice information about Bhutan with us.Bhutan is truly one of the most fascinating places in the world. It’s Buddhist culture and serene environment make it one of the most attractive place in world.

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  13. The write up is very informative and was very cheerful. I came to know many things while going through with your page thanks for the post ….

  14. Hi Anuradha,

    I really liked the post and it made me want to visit Bhutan.

    I’m currently checking into flights from Bangalore or even New Delhi to Bhutan, and am not able to find any.

    Please do let me know as soon as possible how you got there- whether it was through a travel agency or something.


    • Aw, Bhutan is becoming a hot destination from India now. If you want, you can drive from Bagdogra airport…its is a lovely scenic drive from Siliguri to Thimpu – long, tiring but worth it.

  15. I am visiting Bhutan this September with my mother and I couldn’t be any more excited about it!! There is one question though, do Indians need to show hotel bookings at the border to get entry into Bhutan? Also, are there budget-friendly options there which we can get on the spot?

    Thanks in advance!

  16. superb writeup I just love the way you explained things in detail .. thank you for this wonderful article Cheers


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