Destination Information Bhutan

Your stay abroad in Bhutan

Country information

Bhutan

The Thunder Dragon Kingdom impresses with its natural beauty and an amazing biodiversity. While the country’s north is characterized by the awe-inspiring Himalayan mountain range, you can find huge pristine forests in the south that are home to numerous, mostly endemic animal and plant species – with a little bit of luck Bhutan’s nature allows you to observe tigers, snow leopards, clouded leopards, several deer species, monitors, different bird species and a variety of other fascinating animals.



Geography

Geography

Similar to Switzerland, Bhutan covers an area of more than 38.000 km². It is located at the border of Central and South Asia. In the south it shares a border with India, in the north with Tibet and China. One fifth of Bhutan’s 780.000 inhabitants live in the country’s capital Thimphu. Bhutan is particularly characterized by the Himalayan mountain range; about 80% of the country lie at an altitude of more than 2000 metres. Most people live in the central highlands, only accessible through rough roads or narrow trekking paths. The country’s highest mountain and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world is the Gangkhar Puensum – with an elevation of 7570 metres.


Flora & fauna

Flora and fauna

Thanks to its large forest area and its different climate zones Bhutan fascinates with a diverse animal and plant life. While tropical rainforest is dominant in the country’s south, you can find abundant forests, mainly composed of nut trees, oaks, maple trees, magnolias, spruces and East Himalayan firs. Dwarf-shrubs and herbs often grow in higher elevations respectively in the mountains, while Bhutan’s most Northern part is covered in ice and snow.

Bhutan’s mostly untouched forests are home to a multitude of rare and protected animal species. In the country’s tropical south the Asian Elephant, gaurs (the largest extant bovine) and Gee’s golden langurs are present. Various deer species, wolves, small pandas, Asian black bears, tigers and capped langurs live in Bhutan’s more central parts. Particularly snow leopards, blue sheep, takins and ailuridae can be found in the North. Moreover, approximately 770 bird species live in Bhutan.


Climate

Climate

Due to its special location Bhutan is divided into three different climate zones. Whereas the climate is subtropical in the south, it is temperate in the country’s central parts and cold and polar-type in the north. Temperatures in Bhutan’s south range from 15°C to 30°C year-round. In the central parts of the country summers are warm and winters cool and dry, whereas it is very cold and snowy in the north anytime of the year. Western Bhutan has heavier monsoon rains from the end of June until the end of September which make up between 60% and 90% of this region’s rainfall. The rest of the country is much drier.


Social geography

Population

Bhutan has approx. 780.000 inhabitants and therefore is a comparatively thinly populated country. There a three large population groups: the Ngalpos, descendants of the Tibetans, the Sharchops in Bhutan’s east, native to the country, and the Lhotshampas in the south of Nepalese descent. Bhutan does not have a caste or class system and promotes gender equality. The Bhutanese people consider themselves as open and warm-hearted.

Language

The official language is Dzongkha; moreover, there are 18 more regional languages and dialects. Since English is the language of instruction almost everyone can understand it.

Economy

Bhutan’s economy is mainly subordinate to nature and environmental conservation to protect the country’s large woodland areas and the animals that live in it. This means that the agricultural sector is less productive. Western Bhutan's economy is mainly based on the sale of hydroelectric power. The major minerals mined in Bhutan are beryl, dolomite, Iron ore and lead. In addition to agriculture and hydroelectric power the tourism sector is another important source of income for the country.

Political situation and safety

Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy. The country is following the example of Great Britain and is similar to a western democracy. It is divided into 20 administrative districts. The bigger ones are then again subdivided into other districts or other administrative subdistricts.

Religion

The constitution of Bhutan guarantees all people the freedom of religion and everyone can practice his religion as long as they do not hurt the rights of another person. However, the Mahayan Buddhism – one of the main branches of Buddhism – is the state religion, which is followed by around 72 % of the population. In the southern part of Bhutan Hinduism is also practiced and a small minority of Muslims and Catholics can be found in the country as well.


Tipps

Travel Tipps and Trivia

Time zone

  • Bhutan Time: UTC+6 hours
  • No daylight saving time

Currency

The currency in Bhutan is called Ngultrum, but Indian rupees are also accepted which have the same value as the Ngultrum. Before you travel to smaller villages and rural areas you should withdraw cash in a bigger city. For the current exchange rate see www.währungsrechner.com.

Units

The metric system is valid in Bhutan.

Electricity

The standard voltage in Bhutan is 230 V with a frequency of 50 Hz. You need an adapter.

Transportation

Due to the mountainous landscape Bhutan does not have many roads and most of these are built only for light traffic. You cannot find any highways in Bhutan, either, which is why it can take a couple of days to get from one village or town to the next. For a couple of years now the construction of steel cable bridges is proceeding to improve the infrastructure of the country. The only international airport is in Paro, but more transportation systems are planned for the future.

National holidays

  • 23 September: Day of the Holy Rain
  • 11 November: Day of the Constitution
  • 17 December: National Holiday

Dos and Don’ts

Do

  • Take your sunglasses and hats or caps off when you enter a temple or a religious site.

  • Put your phone on silent mode when you are in a temple or at a religious site.

  • Let monks or elderly people start with their meal first when you are in public.

  • Taste some of the local specialties.

  • Wear a traditional scarf (kabeny) when you enter a monastery or an office.

Don’t

  • Do not take pictures or wear shorts when you are at a religious site.

  • Do not touch ritual objects.

  • Do not smoke in public places.

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