Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a visa to visit Bhutan?
Yes, all visitors to Bhutan must apply for a visa with the Bhutan government. Beyond The Clouds arranges this for you and you will receive your visa prior to departure. The visa cost is incorporated in the total trip price. The Bhutan government retains US$60 per person per day from tourists which is used on improving health, education and infrastructure for its people.
How cold will it be?
This depends on the departure date of your trip. Bhutan is cooler than Nepal due to the higher altitude of places that you are likely to visit. Expect day time temperatures in Paro of 14 -20 degrees in March/ April and October/ November and night time temperatures of zero to ten degrees. Thimpu and Punakha are warmer than Paro but can still be cold at night. It can reach 28 degrees in September in Punakha. On the trek, it will get much colder with increased altitude.
Who will be guiding my trek?
All our treks have experienced English speaking guides who will look after you during the trek. We also provide approximately six staff for every four trekkers. Your trekking team also includes an experienced cook and horseman with a team of ponies to carry your bags.
How hard will the trek be?
Trekking in Bhutan is for experienced trekkers who can cope with long days of walking and substantial climbs and descents. Therefore you need to be fit and a regular walker. Trekking can be hard but we encourage you to walk at your own pace.
How far will we walk each day?
In general we walk five to eight hours per day. It’s not a matter of distance but the number of hours we walk. As we get higher we are restricted in the distance we can walk so that we don’t exceed an altitude gain of approximately 500 metres per day.
Where do we sleep on the trek?
You will sleep in tents provided by our team. You will be provided with a sleeping bag, ground mattress and pillow. You are welcome to bring your own sleeping bag and/or sleeping bag liner. All of our treks are fully supported with tents and toilet tents. Boiled water and tea is provided daily.
What kind of bags should I bring?
We suggest bringing a rucksack/backpack is best (50-60 litres) - horses carry the luggage so this style of travel bag is easier to load. Alternatively, a soft bag with handles is fine. Suitcases can not be taken on our treks.
Do I carry my own bag?
No, you only carry a small day pack with personal items such as camera, water bottle, toilet paper etc. Your main bag will be carried for you and will be atyour daily destination.
Do I need trekking boots?
Yes, ideally you should wear walking boots or good trekking shoes with ankle support. These should be worn in (ie: not brand new).
Do I need a water filter?
Mineral water is provided for drinking. However if you have a water filter, feel free to bring it.
Will there be hot water for showering?
Hot water is provided in buckets, not running through the shower head.
What sort of toilets are there?
Western-style toilets are provided (ie not squat) on the trek. The standard of hygiene is generally high and you will have clean ensuite bathrooms in most of your hotel rooms. Do be aware that toilets between towns may be squat type and more primitive. We recommend carrying some toilet paper and hand sanitizer in your bag.
Will I get lost?
If you follow the advice of your guide and stay with your group you won’t get lost! It is vital to stay closely with the group as it causes great inconvenience to the whole party if this happens.
Will I suffer from altitude problems on the trek?
Although our Bhutan treks do climb to altitude, we endeavour to plan the itinerary so that you can acclimatise gradually as you ascend. However, in some cases the altitude gain will be greater due to the geographic terrain. We receommend doing the Tiger’s Nest Monastery hike prior to the start of your trek and if there’s time, climbing to a high pass such as the Chelila Pass (3,810) on the way to Haa. This assists enourmounsly with acclimatisation. It is also important to walk at your own pace and drink plenty of water. You should tell your guide if you have a headache, dizziness or any other health complaint. Our guides are all trained in first aid and understand what to do if someone is suffering from altitude sickness. You may wish to bring suitable medication/alternative remedies including Diamox, ginkgo and homeopathic medicines.
What clothes should I bring?
As Bhutan is generally cooler than other Asian destinations, long trousers, long sleeved tops, fleece tops and sensible footwear are recommended. You should pack according to the season and have at least a warm jacket for evenings and mornings. Information on what to pack will be in your Travel and Cultural Information pack that you receive after booking.
How far will we drive each day?
You will be driving to destinations before and after your trek. Roads in Bhutan are twisty and narrow. Therefore, the number of hours that you drive is more useful to know than the distance. The number of hours between destinations is outlined in the itinerary.
What standard of accommodation can I expect?
You will stay in hotels before and after your trek. We use rustic hotels with very comfortable rooms throughout our tours. The standard of accommodation in Bhutan is generally high, but do be aware that hotels in more remote areas such as Central and Eastern Bhutan may be less fancy than those in Western Bhutan, which receives a higher number of tourists. Keep in mind that Bhutan is still a developing country, so while the standard of accommodation is higher than in neighbouring Himalayan countries, you may still have to adapt to some simpler conditions.
Will there be heaters in our accommodation?
Most of our hotels have heated rooms (many with heated towel rails). There is also ample bedding.
Will there be somewhere safe to store my valuables?
We use very good hotels and most of them have safes and safe storage. Make sure that you ask each hotel to protect your valuables.
Will I be able to recharge my phone/batteries?
Yes, make sure that you have an adaptor. Bhutan has a standard 230V. They use 2 & 3 pin round sockets.
Will there be internet access / Wi-Fi?
Internet access is limited and not always reliable. Many of the hotels do have Wi-Fi, but please note that often the server can be down resulting in no connectivity.
Can I do laundry on the trip?
Laundry services are available in hotels, but this can be expensive. We recommend taking plenty of clothes with you so that you will have enough clean clothing for the duration of the trip. You can however wash out underwear and socks in your room. Washing clothes may be tricky on the trek.
What will the food be like?
Bhutan is NOT renowned for its cuisine – traditional Bhutanese food is very spicy and the national dish ‘ema datse’ is a fiery curry made from chillies and farmers cheese, which the locals will eat three times a day. The flavours are intense, and too much for many visitors, so you may prefer to eat the milder Indian or Nepali dishes on offer. Hotels will usually have a buffet with a range of Bhutanese, Indian, and Nepali dishes, sometimes western dishes, and vegetarian options available.
On the trek, the food is surprisingly good, but do bear in mind the cook will be working out of a limited camping space and supplies.
Do you cater for vegetarian and other special diets?
Yes, most of the meals are buffet style in the hotels so you can choose the dishes that best suit you. On the trek, there is a camp cook. Please advise us of your dietary requirements so that we can arrange this in advance.
What vaccinations do you recommend?
Beyond The Clouds recommend consulting a travel doctor (worth shopping around and check the prices) for vaccinations. Usually they will recommend shot for hepatitis, typhoid, diphtheria/tetanus, polio booster and meningitis. As you will not be travelling in southern Bhutan, malaria tablets are not essential if you wear repellent, cover bare arms and legs and take sensible precaution. You may also be offered a series of rabies injections as there is rabies present in the Himalayan region. Please discuss this with your travel doctor. We strongly recommend staying away from all animals during the trip. Please note: It is your personal decision as to which vaccinations to take, and we cannot take responsibility for this.
What do I do if I need medical care?
Bhutan has good medical facilities in the main centres. There are also pharmacies in every village. Please inform your guide if you need any assistance.
Can I take photographs anywhere?
Most Bhutanese (especially children) are very friendly and open to having their picture taken, but please do respect them by asking permission. You will be able to take photographs outside all the dzongs and historical sites, but note that there is no photography permitted inside. You can also take photographs at the festivals.
Is there anything I should avoid doing in Bhutan?
Do not wear shorts or sleeveless tops inside a dzong or monastery, and avoid touching animals.
Can I bring gifts for the local children?
As a rule, Beyond The Clouds discourages hand outs. Handing out things such as sweets, pens and money only creates a culture of begging and bad teeth. As an alternative, you may wish to donate to our charity First Steps Himalaya.
What is the local currency?
The Bhutanese Ngultrum, which is tied to the Indian Rupee, is the local currency but is only available inside Bhutan. Please note that the exchange rate for US$100 note is much greater than that for US$50 or smaller. Therefore, bring mostly US$100 notes with some lesser value note for smaller items. You can change money at the Bank of Bhutan or at the airport on arrival.
Can I use my credit cards? Are there any ATMs?
Yes – credit cards are accepted at most hotels and tourist shops in larger centres. Be aware though that credit card machines require internet connectivity, and this isn’t always reliable in Bhutan. The Bank of Bhutan now has ATMs in major centres such as Paro and Thimpu but these can also encounter some issues, therefore we would advise bringing some US$ cash.
How much spending money should I bring?
As all your accommodation and food is included on these tours you only need to bring spending money for tipping, souvenirs, alcoholic drinks and any extras such as massage or hot stone baths. We would recommend bringing a minimum of US$500.
How much is recommended for tipping?
Tipping is appreciated by the Bhutanese. It is handy to keep some small change for hotel staff carrying your bag in and out of rooms. At the end of the trip, if you are happy with the Guide and Driver, tips are welcomed. For solo travellers and couples, we suggest tipping the guide around US$150-200. With 3-5 people, around US$250 will be appreciated. For groups of 6-10 people, you may wish to tip around US$300-US$500 between the entire group, or for groups of 10-20 people, US$500 – US$800 between the group. Either the same or a little less for the driver. These are not compulsory but most appreciated.
The trekking staff will also appreciate tips. Depending on your group size and trip length, these are the suggested tips:
Short treks: 1-5 people
Cook – US$100
Trekking staff – US$50
Horsemen – US$25
Long treks: 1-5 people
Cook – US$200
Trekking staff – US$100
Horsemen – US$50
Short treks: 5-10 people
Cook – US$150
Trekking staff – US$75
Horsemen – US$37.5
Long treks: 5-10 people
Cook – US$300
Trekking staff – US$150
Horsemen – US$75
Short treks: Over 10 people
Cook – US$350
Trekking staff – US$175
Horsemen – US$87.50
Long treks: Over 10 people
Cook – US$350
Trekking staff – US$175
Horsemen – US$87.50