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Bhutan

  • General Info
All tourists must travel on a pre-planned, pre-paid, guided package tour through a registered tour operator in Bhutan or their counterparts abroad. The rate is fixed and controlled by the government. There are still plenty of takers wanting to explore the breathtaking terrain of this astonishing country. The tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable. The number of tourists visiting Bhutan is also regulated to a manageable level because of the lack of infrastructure.

Practical Information

Area: 38 364 km² (14 812 miles²)

Capital: Thimphu. Population: 35 000

Population: 2.3 million

Currency: 1 Ngultrum (BTN symbol Nu) = 100 chetrum (Ch)

Government: Constitutional Monarchy.

Tipping: Not widely practised.

Time zone: GMT + 6

Languages: Dzongkha

Additional descriptions

Bhutan: Social customs

The lifestyle, manners and customs of the Bhutanese are in many respects unique to the area. The strongest influence on social conventions is the country’s state religion, and everywhere one can see theRead more reminders of Buddhism and the original religion of Tibet, Bonism. There are no rigid clan systems and equal rights exist between men and women. The majority of the Bhutanese live an agrarian lifestyle. In 1989, it was made compulsory for citizens to wear national dress in public; the men wear a gho, a robe resembling a dressing gown with upturned white silk cuffs and knee-high socks, whilst the women wear a kira, a sari-like garment that is furnished with ornate brooches and worn over a wrap-around skirt. Bhutan has outlawed the sale of tobacco products, and also banned smoking in public places. The political leaders of the country have also been religious leaders historically. For years the country has deliberately isolated itself from visitors, and has only recently opened up to the outside world, a policy which is now to some extent being reversed. But Bhutan continues to bear the hallmarks of seemingly peculiar customs borne from legacy and legend. Giant phalluses can often be seen painted onto walls, etc, in order to ward off evil spirits. Dogs are regarded as being the highest animal lifeform, with the best chance of being reborn as humans. They are treated with reverence and often run freely and noisily through villages. Climbing some of the Himalayan peaks is banned due to the belief that the mountains are the repository of the gods. Similarly, swimming, or even throwing stones into rivers, is forbidden: it is thought to disturb the souls of deities.

Bhutan: Food and local specialties

Restaurants are relatively scarce and most tourists eat in their hotels where the chefs temper the spicy Bhutanese dishes to suit Western tastes. Things to know: Meals are often buffet-style and mostlyRead more vegetarian. Recent restrictions on meat-eating have lapsed ever so slightly and meat is surprisingly easy to come by. Meat and fish are now imported from nearby India, and Nepali Hindus living in Bhutan are licensed to slaughter animals. The national specialties are: Cheese is a very popular ingredient in dishes and the most popular cheeses are datse (cow’s milk cheese), sometimes served in a dish with red chillies (emadatse), and yak cheese. Rice is ubiquitous, sometimes flavoured with saffron, apart from in central Bhutan where the altitude makes rice cultivation difficult. Buckwheat is the staple here. The country is replete with apple orchards, rice paddies and asparagus, which grows freely in the countryside. There are over 400 varieties of mushroom including orchid mushrooms. The most popular drink is souza (Bhutanese tea). Ara (a spirit distilled from rice, wheat or corn).

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