Tiger's Nest in Bhutan

Festivals of Bhutan Trip Notes

Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
Destinations:
Bhutan, Nepal
Programmes:
Culture
Trip Code:
AIB
Activity Rating - Leisurely/Moderate
Leisurely / Moderate

You are reasonably fit, enjoy the outdoors and are looking for some exercise. Some previous experience is preferable for activity based trips.

12 Days Flight Inclusive
11 Days Land only
Ages: 18+

Trip Overview

Hidden away in a corner of the Himalaya, the secretive kingdom of Bhutan is an unforgettable destination with ancient traditions, spectacular mountain scenery and vibrant festivals. At these hundreds of people gather to see the monks, dressed in brightly coloured robes, perform ritual dances. For several days there are masked dances and prayer meetings, and a general carnival atmosphere prevails. The spring departures visit Paro Festival, whilst the autumn departures take in Thimpu, Dechenphu or Genekha Festivals. The December departure visits the lesser-known Trongsa festival, which is smaller and offers a more intimate experience.

Please note: This itinerary is valid for departures starting in Kathmandu on 13th April 2022 (Paro Festival).

Please refer to alternative trip notes found HERE for departures starting in Kathmandu on 6th April 2022 ( Paro Festival), 28th September 2022 (Thimphu Festival) and 4th October 2022 (Thimphu Festival).

At a Glance

10 nights in hotels, all en suite

Trip Highlights

  • Experience Bhutan's colourful, vibrant masked dance festivals
  • Visit the Paro Dzong and the incredible 'Tiger's Nest' monastery at Taktsang
  • Drive across the Dochu La and visit Punakha Dzong
  • Walk in the quiet Gangtey Valley
  • Visit the impressive Tashichho Dzong in Thimphu
  • Travel in a country where very few foreigners visit and tourism is still in its infancy

Is This Trip for You?

The trip is rated as Grade 2: Leisurely/Moderate.

Please ensure that you are viewing the correct itinerary for your departure date as itineraries vary due to the festival schedules.

This is a packed itinerary but Bhutan is a generally relaxed place so the tour does not feel hectic. Road conditions are generally quite good but some sections can be bumpy, and as with all mountain roads the occasional delay can occur due to landslides or adverse weather conditions. The roads are also quite twisty on the mountain sections; if you suffer from travel sickness you should bring your normal remedy.  Please be aware that due to road-widening works across many of the main roads in the country there could potentially be the occasional delay. If we are notified of any delays the leader will ensure an early start and arrange a short walk whilst the vehicle is stuck in traffic. 

This trip visits Tiger's Nest Monastery in Paro which is set at an altitude of 3120m. The trek to reach the Monastery is relatively steep but we will take it very easy, and have lots of stops to relax and enjoy the stunning surroundings. If you would prefer not to trek the whole way there is a cafe you can wait in which has spectacular views of the Monastery.

There is plenty of time to enjoy the different features of each centre whilst travelling through the magnificent countryside. There is time to study the monasteries, browse in the bazaars or just relax with a cup of local tea in incredible surroundings. This trip is varied, although not demanding, and should appeal to those who like to see something a little different.

Please note that smoking is technically banned in Bhutan. Tourists are permitted to smoke in certain designated areas but must bring their own cigarettes (up to 200 cigarettes). They must, however, pay duty on any tobacco product they import (up to 200% tax). Smoking in a public place can result in a fine as long as you have proof of having paid the duty. If no proof of having paid the duty can be produced then there is the risk of a minimum 3 years imprisonment.

Each itinerary visits the same places but due to the festivals, each itinerary is a little different. Please note that sometimes the sightseeing is not exactly as written in the trip notes due to opening times, days of the week, national holidays.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Adult min age:
18
Min group size:
4
Max group size:
16

Itinerary

Map AIB

Land Only

Start City:
Kathmandu
End City:
Kathmandu

Land Only Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Arrive Kathmandu

    Start in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel. The evening is free to relax.

    Royal Singi Hotel or similar

  • Day 2

    Fly to Paro

    Today we fly to Paro. The flight is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world and takes us over the eastern Himalayas. If the weather is clear, we should get a fantastic view of much of the eastern half of the Himalaya, including Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. The Paro Valley is considered to be one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, with blue pine-covered hills and attractive solidly built houses among the paddy fields. If there is time in the afternoon there will be a visit to the museum, dzong or the Kyichu Lakang; one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built by the 7th century Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.

    Rema Resorts / Dewachen Hotel, or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 3

    Full day at Paro or Thimpu Festival

    The 25th September 2020 and 15th September 2021 departures will drive to Thimpu (approx. 1-hour drive) early in the morning and spend all day at Thimpu Festival. The 25th March 2021 departure will spend all day at Paro Festival.

    We spend the whole day experiencing the vibrant Paro or Thimpu Festival. Hundreds gather to see the monks and lay dancers dressed in colourful brocade and silk costumes and wearing painted masks re-enacting the religious and lay history of Bhutan through music and dance. For several days there are masked dances and prayer meetings, and a general carnival atmosphere prevails as many villagers arrive to meet old friends. The Bhutanese all dress in their finest national dress for the festival and one of the highlights is the riot of colours of the magnificent silks on display. 

    Rema Resorts / Dewachen Hotel, or similar for 25th March 2021
    Hotel Pedling / Galingkha / Gakhil, or similar for 25th September 2020 and 15th September 2021

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 4

    Sightseeing in Thimphu

    We spend today exploring Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. For those on the 25th March 2021 departure, we drive to Thimpu after breakfast (approx. 1 hours’ drive). For those on the 25th September 2020 and 15th September 2021 departures, we will be in Thimpu already. Until 1961 Punakha was the capital of Bhutan when the 3rd King changed it to Thimpu. There is plenty to see and do in this small city. The main sights include the Memorial chorten, built in 1974 in honour of the 3rd King, Kuensel Phodrang, known locally as Buddha Point, where there is a huge statue of Buddha overlooking the whole of the valley. Tashi Chho Dzong is the main dzong and seat of government and usually only open after 5 pm. Other places of interest are Semthoka dzong, the Takin reserve, the Folk Heritage Museum, an Arts and Crafts School, the Textile Museum, the Post Office where you can get your own stamps made plus the market is interesting to explore. If we do not see everything today, we have more time in Thimpu on our return.

    Hotel Pedling / Galingkha / Gakhil, or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 5

    Drive to Punakha; visit Chimmi Lhakhang and Punakha Dzong

    We leave Thimphu in the morning and drive east to Punakha. The route climbs its way steadily on a good road to the Dochula Pass, where there are 108 chortens. At 3050m (10,000ft) the views over the eastern Himalaya are magnificent although this is most definitely weather dependent! We then descend to the valley floor and continue to sub-tropical Punakha. En-route we visit the Chimmi Lhakhang, built in 1499 to honour one of the more folkloric saints of Bhutan, Drukpa Kuenley. Nicknamed the Divine Madman or Mad Saint, he was a maverick lama, who subdued a demon who controlled the Dochu La. He built a chorten where the monastery stands, and he was reputed to have unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism by suggesting outrageous behaviour and he was a great womaniser! He advocated the use of the phallus as a symbol to be painted on walls and houses, which were intended to drive away the evil eye. Most of the houses in this area are decorated with highly ornate phallic paintings. We walk through the village to the monastery with a chance to see the traditional Bhutanese style of farmhouses.

    We continue on to Punakha, which, at an altitude of 1200m is warmer than Paro or Thimpu. Punakha was once the capital of Bhutan and it is still the winter residence of the monastic body. We visit the dzong, one of the most beautiful in Bhutan and the second one to be built in 1637. This remarkable fortress is situated between the Mo and Po Chhu Rivers and it has survived many fires, an earthquake and several floods. Over the years it has been repaired and added to and has several interesting features to protect it against invasion. Overnight in Punakha or Wangdi Phodrang. Today's drive is 72km and takes about 3 hours.

    Meri Phunsum Resorts / Punatsangchu Cottages / Zangtopelri Hotel / Sonamgang Hotel, or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 6

    Drive to Gangtey (Phobjikha); afternoon hike

    Today we leave the main road and drive up to the Lawala Pass and into the beautiful Gangtey Valley. If it is possible, we can visit the ruins of Wangdue Dzong, en-route. After lunch, there is plenty of time to explore one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. Often called the Phobjikha Valley, this U-shaped glacial valley is wide with hardly any trees and gives the impression of a vast space. There is some of the best marshland in Bhutan and the valley is rich in flora and fauna. Look out for barking deer, sambar deer and wild boar. Himalayan Black bears have been spotted in the valley an there is a wealth of birdlife. It is also where the graceful Black-necked cranes come from Tibet during the winter season to roost. The cranes usually arrive towards the end of October and on arrival the fly around the monastery three times. They spend the winter in the valley and in spring the again fly three times around the monastery and fly back to Tibet for the summer. We can also visit the black crane information centre and the Gangteng monastery.

    Today's drive is approximately 84km and will take 2.5 to 3 hours, although variable road conditions may mean we spend longer on the road.

    Dewachen Hotel / Home Resort / Padmasambhava Guesthouse / Ue Loki Guesthouse, or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 7

    Morning hike in Gangtey; drive to Wangdue Phodrang (or Punakha)

    This morning we will set off on foot from our hotel and go on a hike through the Gangtey Valley (approx. 5kms/2-3 hours) - the climb up to the monastery involves around 500m ascent. This glacial valley is made up of farmlands, pastures and blue-pine forests. We will encounter herders caring for their herds, which graze on the dwarf bamboo of the area. After lunch, we drive for about 2.5/3 hours back to Wangdue Phodrang.

    Meri Phunsum Resorts / Punatsangchu Cottages / Zangtopelri Hotel / Sonamgang Hotel, or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 8

    Drive to Paro

    After breakfast, we drive for about 2.5-3 hours back to Thimpu. We have time in the afternoon to see any of the sights we did not see on day 4. In the late afternoon we drive back to Paro.  

    Rema Resorts / Dewachen Hotel, or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 9

    Day walk to Taktsang, Tiger's Nest Monastery

    Today we hike (approx. 9km in total for the round trip) to Takstang Monastery, also known as the 'Tiger’s Nest'. This spectacular building is perched on the ledge of a cliff high above the Paro Valley. Partly destroyed by fire in 1998, it has now been completely restored to its former magnificence. From the car park to the cafeteria viewpoint is about 2 hours uphill walk through the forest. From here we have incredible views of the monastic buildings which cling impossibly to the cliff wall. For the energetic there is the chance to walk even higher to the actual monastery. This will take another 2 hours and involves walking up and down stone steps. We highly recommend a trekking pole or you can buy a wooden stick at the car park. There are horses available up to the cafeteria for those who do not want to do the hike but please note that this is an unregulated activity and helmets are not available. We spend about an hour at the monastery looking round the temples (photography is not allowed inside) before descending to the cafeteria for lunch. After lunch we return to the car park and drive back to our hotel. There should be some time to have a look round Paro before dinner.

    Rema Resorts / Dewachen Hotel, or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
  • Day 10

    Fly to Kathmandu

    We transfer to the airport to check in for our flight back to Kathmandu. The rest of the day is free for individual sightseeing or shopping. You may want to visit the famous Durbar Square in the heart of the old city, the monkey temple at Swayambhunath, the largest Buddhist stupa on earth at Boudhanath or the Hindu temple at Pashupathinath. Another option is to take a taxi to Bhaktapur, the mediaeval city 17km east of the capital. Bhaktapur has its own Durbar Square with many temples and statues and a maze of narrow streets, which are generally quieter than the capital. Please be aware that due to the 2015 earthquake some of these places have still not been fully rebuilt. The Exodus representative in Kathmandu will be able to give you more information on what there is to see.

    Royal Singi Hotel or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • Day 11

    End Kathmandu

    End Kathmandu after breakfast. For those on group flights, these depart in the morning and will arrive in the UK the same day.

    Meals included:
    Breakfast

Accommodation

Hotels & Guesthouses

During your trip to Bhutan you will spend 10 nights in tourist class hotels with en-suite facilities. The hotels are simple, local style hotels. All rooms have attached bathrooms and the rooms have heaters. All food is included at the hotels and local restaurants and is usually buffet style – it is simple and a mixture of Bhutanese, continental and Chinese.

Where a single supplement is available, paying for a single will only guarantee a room for single use. It does not necessarily mean a twin or double room will be provided for sole occupancy.

Please note that a member of the group may be allocated a single room by default if the make-up of the group means there isn’t anyone for them to share with. Paying the supplement in advance is the only way to guarantee a single room.

Single supplements cannot be refunded retrospectively.

Food & Transport

Eating & Drinking

Breakfast is included throughout the trip plus 8 lunches and 8 dinners whilst in Bhutan.

The meals in Bhutan are usually buffet style and include Bhutanese and Western food. Bhutanese food can sometimes be considered a little bland - this is generally because chillies are frequently used in traditional dishes, and these are often omitted to adapt to foreigners' tastes. We will find an assortment of meat, vegetable, rice and potato dishes and many examples of the infamous 'Ema Datshi' (chillies and cheese). If you are finding the food either too bland and want to try more local food, or too spicy please talk to your leader and they will do what they can to accommodate your requests.

Breakfasts are an assortment of cereals, eggs, toast, fruit and often some Bhutanese dishes. Lunches will be taken in a restaurant and dinners are either taken in the hotel or at a local restaurant.

Please allow approximately £20-30 ($30-40) per day for other main meals in Kathmandu.

Transportation

For all transfers and road journeys we use a private bus.

For the flights between Paro and Kathmandu we use either Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines. All bookings on regional flights are made in economy class.

Paro-Kathmandu flights: Please note the Druk Air schedules, for flights between Nepal and Bhutan are notoriously unpredictable and the final timetable is often published very late. The itinerary is based on the latest schedules but these are subject to change. Should there be a change of schedule we will amend the itinerary and update the Trip Notes, and advise any clients booked as soon as possible.

Please be aware that due to a country-wide initiative to improve the roads connecting major towns, road conditions can be incredibly varied in Bhutan. Wet weather can have a detrimental effect and there may be occasions in which the van is held in a traffic jam/road block. In particular we would like to inform clients that the drive to the Gangtey Valley can be affected by wet weather and this can have an impact on the road conditions. If your leaders is made aware of bad conditions then they will make every effort to inform you of any potential delays, and will arrange alternative activities if necessary (i.e. a short walk) whilst we are waiting.

Weather & Seasonality

When to go

Himalayan views tend to be best between October to December, as the weather is generally clear with sunny skies. From March to May the valleys are awash with colour when the famous rhododendrons bloom; the country has over 45 wild species.

 

Weather Information

We will experience a range of temperatures during the trip depending on the altitude. On spring and autumn departures, during the day temperatures will be approx 10ºC-20ºC. At night temperatures will drop in autumn to about 3ºC-4ºC. Although these departures do not fall inside the normal monsoon season there is always a chance of rain in Bhutan and you should be prepared for this.

For the December departure the night-time temperatures can be significantly colder (sometimes below zero) and it is important to be prepared for this; please bring suitable clothing.

Weather Charts

Joining Instructions

Travelling flight inclusive from London: 12 Days

The group flight from London is an overnight flight departing the day before Day 1 of the itinerary.

Flights from London

We normally use the scheduled services of Jet Airways (depending on availability). As flight timings and schedules change regularly we recommend you call one of our specialist sales staff or your agent to confirm up‐to‐date timings. Please note timings may change at a later date and cannot be confirmed until approximately two weeks before departure.

Internal flights during the trip are normally with Druk Air.

Travelling land only: 11 days starting and ending in Kathmandu

Your trip normally starts at our accommodation in Kathmandu in the evening of Day 1 of the itinerary. Details of how to reach the start point are provided in the Final Joining Instructions ‐ sent approximately two weeks before departure.

Accommodation check‐in times are normally from around 12pm.

Regional Flights

The Flight Inclusive price is based on a London departure, but we are happy to tailor this to your local or regional airport. Please ask about flights from local or regional airports.

If booking regional flights other than with Exodus, you must allow a minimum connecting time (in addition to the international check-in time) of 1 hour at Gatwick, and 1.5 hours at Heathrow; this is longer than the official minimum, but baggage handling is known to be subject to delays.

Free Transfers

Exodus offers FREE airport arrival and departure transfers on any flight for this trip, for both Land Only and Flight Inclusive clients. Unless specified otherwise, the transfer will be to the Exodus start (or pre-tour) hotel and from the end (or post-tour) hotel, and will be on the date on which the tour starts/ends; transfers to other hotels in the same city and/or on different dates may attract an extra charge. Transfers may be shared with other Exodus customers on the same flight, or on a flight with similar arrival times. All those taking advantage of the free airport transfers must provide full flight details for both arrival and departure in advance. 

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Transfers Details

Exodus is a well-known established tour operator in Nepal and there have been some cases in the past where locals have pretended to be Exodus employees and have offered to carry our clients luggage and take them to the Exodus vehicle. Please do not allow anyone to do this, unless they are carrying an Exodus sign, t-shirt or badge. If you suspect that someone does not work for Exodus and are offering to help you and you cannot locate our Exodus representative outside the arrivals hall, please call our local emergency number +977 98511 34139 or +977 97510 60705.

Location start:
Kathmandu
Location end:
Kathmandu

What to Take

Essential Equipment

Comfortable walking trainers

Sunhat, suncream and sunglasses

Water bottle

Travel sickness tablets (if applicable)

Lightweight shirts / long-sleeved tops

Long trousers or skirts

Casual clothing is recommended and a sweater and warm jacket will be needed for the cooler evenings. Please note the December and January departures will be colder and you need warmer clothes.

You should dress conservatively so as not to offend local sensibilities; short shorts, vests, leggings and tight-fitting clothing is not appropriate. For visiting dzongs you will need to have your legs and arms covered and men must have a long-sleeved shirt or t-shirt with collar. You can carry a set of dzong clothes on the bus and change before you enter a dzong.

Bhutanese people do dress in their best clothes for the festivals and visitors are expected to be well dressed whilst attending. For both men and women a long-sleeved top with a collar is suggested, and smart trousers or a long skirt plus smart shoes. We appreciate that not every tourist who attends a Bhutanese festival follows these guidelines but we would like to impress upon our passengers the importance of respecting local traditions and avoiding any embarrassment for both themselves and the local leaders/guides. You might like to take a sit mat with you for the festivals as often you have to sit on stone steps.

At the time of writing the standard weight limit for hold baggage on the recommended international carrier for this trip is 30kg. We recommend packing only one piece of checked baggage.

Internal flights in the destination country are subject to a weight limit of 20kg.

As advice about luggage allowances for both hand and hold luggage is subject to change, we suggest you check the airline's website for the latest information prior to your departure.

Water Included

Plastic bottles are a big issue in many countries where recycling isn’t yet widely available; they often end up in landfill sites or get burnt, both processes are harmful to the environment and we would like to reduce our impact here. For your trip we provide an alternative to single-use plastic bottles in order to reduce the amount of plastic used. This means that safe drinking water will be available throughout so all you need to do is bring a bottle to re-fill along the way. Please add this to your packing list!

Optional Equipment

Ear plugs - In Buddhism it’s believed that neutering or spaying cats and dogs will stop the reincarnation cycle for the animals, therefore you will notice a higher than average street dog population - we recommend packing ear plugs in case of dogs barking at night. 

Reading List

Bhutan Country Guide ‐ Lonely Planet Guidebook
Bhutan Handbook ‐ Footprint Handbook
Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A portrait of Bhutan by Queen of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk
Buttertea at Sunrise: A year in the Bhutan Himalaya by Britta Das
Married to Bhutan by Linda Learning
Dreams of the Peaceful Dragon: Journey into Bhutan by Katie Hickman
Beneath Blossom Rain by Kevin Grange
Buddhism Humphreys (Pelican) Detailed and authoritative account of all the branches of Buddhism.
Flowers of the Himalaya. O. Polunin & A. Stainton (O.U.P., Bombay) Excellent, comprehensive botanical guide, well‐illustrated but expensive.
Bhutan, a Kingdom of the Eastern Himalayas. Serindia Publications (London, 1984) Well illustrated book with good coverage of the whole country, especially the people.
Two and Two Halves to Bhutan. Peter Steele (Hodder and Stoughton, 1970) Interesting account of a doctor and his family in remote eastern Bhutan in 1968/9.
So Close to Heaven ‐ The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas. Barbara Crosette (Vintage, 1996)

Practical Information

Passport

Bhutan

All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information below is primarily for UK passport holders, and other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.

Nepal

All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information below is primarily for UK passport holders, and other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.

Visa

Bhutan

You will need a visa for Bhutan, which we will organise for you. The cost of the visa is included in the price of the trip (USD40). You will need to send us a clear copy of your passport on booking. We need this in order to organise your Bhutan visa in advance of your arrival. Please make sure that we have a copy no later than 8 weeks before departure. The passport copy can either be sent by post or scanned, in which case it has to be very clear and in colour. If you need to get a new passport for the journey, please apply for this immediately, and send us the copy/scan as soon as you receive your new passport. It is VERY important that the information you give us is 100% correct, and that the copy of the passport you send us is the one on which you will be travelling to Bhutan. Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

Nepal

Most nationalities require a visa for Nepal, which can be obtained in advance or on entry (at present, the Immigration Department of Nepal have suspended  'visas on arrival' for certain nationalities - please check if this applies to you). All Nepal tourist visas are multiple entry. We recommend that you apply in advance as queues on arrival can be very long – applications can be made directly through the Nepal Embassy (by post or in person) or through our recommended visa agency, Travcour. The current cost for a visa in advance is GB£20 for a 15-day visa and GB£35 for a 30-day visa for UK passport holders (plus processing and postage fees if applying through Travcour).

The current cost for a visa on arrival is US$30 for 15 days, US$50 for 30 days, or US$125 for 90 days for UK passport holders. The fee can be paid for in any major currency at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. On arrival in the immigration hall there are 3 queues (if you have obtained a visa in advance go straight to (3) - immigration):

(Step 1) Fill in a 'Tourist Visa' form: either online before travel (recommended) via the Department of Immigration website - print the submission receipt with barcode (valid for 15 days) and bring it with you, or use the electronic kiosk machines on arrival at the airport. If using the kiosks, after inserting your passport the machine will automatically fill out an application form, take an electronic photograph of you and print a paper slip. If the machine won’t read your passport you can complete the details manually using the touch screen. We recommend taking 1 passport photo with you just in case. (Step 2) Proceed to the visa fees collection counter and pay the visa fee (we advise to take some cash) – make sure to keep the receipt. (Step 3) Lastly, go to the relevant immigration desk and present your tourist visa form, payment receipt and passport to obtain your 15, 30 or 90-day visa stamp. Please check you have been given the correct visa duration.

Non-UK nationals should check requirements with their nearest embassy (a few nationalities are not permitted visas on arrival).

Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

Vaccination

Bhutan

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Nepal

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A.

There is low to no risk of malaria throughout Nepal and antimalarial tablets are not usually advised although may be considered for certain higher risk groups; you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. The risk is highest in the low lying southern ‘terai’ districts bordering India.

A yellow fever certificate is only required if travelling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission or for travellers having transited for more than 12 hours through a country with risk of transmission.

Dengue fever is a known risk in Nepal. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. As of August 2019, there has been a recent outbreak of Dengue fever in southeast Nepal and we therefore recommend you take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites (such as wearing full length trousers, long sleeves and applying insect repellent during the day as well as at dawn and dusk).

Most of our trips to Nepal go to high altitudes where there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness. Our itineraries are designed to enable everyone to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Please refer to the Altitude Warning within the Trip Notes for further advice on AMS.

Travel health can often be something people forget about before going away, but a little preparation and knowledge can go a long way to help you stay fit and healthy while abroad.

As we are not qualified to answer all your questions about travel health we strongly recommend you contact your Medical Professional or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information. Please note: vaccinations that are routinely recommended to residents of the UK, North America or Australasia are not considered to form part of the travel health advice, and you should ensure these are kept up to date where necessary.

For additional information please visit: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries

Insurance - are you adequately covered?

It is a condition of joining any of our holidays that you must be fully insured against medical and personal accident risks (to include repatriation costs and air ambulance or helicopter rescue services where appropriate). On arrival in destination for your trip, you will be asked to present details to your leader or local representative of your policy.

If you are resident in the UK we strongly recommend the Exodus travel insurance policy, this is specifically designed to cover all activities on your trip. If arranging your own policy please ensure that you are covered for all activities that are part of the trip, optional activities that you intend to take part in and/or on high altitude itineraries, that you are covered up to the maximum altitude of the trip.

Local Time

Bhutan's Timezone:
Asia/Thimphu +06 (GMT +06:00)
Nepal's Timezone:
Asia/Kathmandu +0545 (GMT +05:45)

Electricity

Bhutan's Electricity:

Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Kingdom of Bhutan usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

Nepal's Electricity:

230V, 50Hz. Three different plug socket types are used in Nepal (types C, D and M) so it is advisable to bring a universal plug adaptor with you. On teahouse treks, almost all lodges now have electricity and charging facilities (usually for a fee) but power cuts are not uncommon. Battery life can be affected by cold - lithium batteries are best. 

Money

Bhutan's Currency

The national currency of Bhutan is the Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN), with an exchange rate at the time of publication of approximately 88 to the UK£ and 70 to the US$. Indian rupees can also be used in Bhutan (but only Rs100 notes or less, not the new Rs500 or Rs2000 notes). The exchange rate is the same as the BTN.

Nepal's Currency

The national currency of Nepal is the Nepalese Rupee (NPR), with an exchange rate at the time of publication of approximately 141 to the UK£ and 113 to the US$.

It is a closed currency, meaning it is illegal to import or export Nepalese Rupees so you won’t be able to get local currency outside of Nepal but foreign currency is not limited, provided it is declared on arrival.

Keep your change receipts, as you will need them if you want to change any leftover Rupees back into hard currency at Kathmandu airport before you depart. They may not always have all international currencies in stock but will generally have either GBP or EUR or USD.

ATM Availability

There are ATM machines in Kathmandu but we recommend you do not wholly rely on using them as they can frequently break down. It is recommended you take cash (US$ or £) to change in Bhutan. Credit cards (American Express, Visa or Mastercard) can be used for more expensive purchases in the better souvenir shops. There are ATM machines in Bhutan mainly of Bank of Bhutan in Thimphu and Paro. The maximum withdrawal in a day is Nu 30,000 ($500 or so) in local currency. The Bank of Bhutan accepts both Visa card and Mastercard. For purchases, you can use Visa and Mastercard in larger shops but it may be tedious and time-consuming as confirmation is required. There is, normally, a 5% charge for this which may vary from shop to shop.

We recommend you take your personal spending money mostly in cash (dollars, sterling or euros can all be changed easily). You will need approximately £50 in Nepal for lunches and dinners and drinks, plus extra for any optional sightseeing tours or shopping. Please note that you can change Nepalese rupees back into US dollars at Kathmandu airport on departure from Nepal. If you wish to do this you should keep the original currency exchange receipts. Please note travellers' cheques, £50 notes or any Scottish or Irish Currency cannot be changed in Nepal or Bhutan. The Bhutanese Ngultrum is tied to the Indian Rupee, which can be used throughout Bhutan (please note only Indian notes up to Rs100 denomination can be taken or used in Nepal and Bhutan - do not carry Indian Rupee notes of 500 or 2000 denominations. Cash in Pounds Sterling, US Dollars or Euros can all be easily changed at Paro airport on arrival. If you are bringing cash to change, make sure the notes are unmarked and in good condition as notes with writing on or that are torn will not be accepted in Bhutan. Ngultrums are impossible to change back, so if you are left with any at the end of the trek make sure you exchange them for Indian notes which can be used in Nepal. It is illegal to import or export Rupees or Ngultrums, but foreign currency is not limited, provided it is declared on arrival.

 

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

Apart from the meals not included in Kathmandu (allow about £20‐25), you will need money for drinks in the hotels in Bhutan. In Kathmandu, Paro and Thimpu there are souvenirs to purchase. Entrance fees are included for sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary. If you want to leave a small donation in the temples, we recommend Nu/IC20 per temple.

Tipping

Tipping is of course entirely at your discretion but is customary in Bhutan. We suggest you allow about £100 ($130) per person for this. From this allow £15 ($20) per person as a kitty for hotel porters and waiters (you can give this to your Bhutanese guide at the start of the trip to divide between the hotels/restaurants).

We suggest that you then collect the remaining amount (£85/$110 per person) amongst yourselves towards the end of the trip. This should then be divided between the Bhutanese guide, assistant guide and drivers at the end of the trip.  For a group of over 12 clients you will have 1 guide, 1 assistant guide and 2 drivers. Divide the tipping money in the ratio of 35% for guide, 25% for assistant guide and 20% for each driver. For a smaller group of 11 clients or less, you may have only 1 guide and 1 driver. If so, divide the money in the ration 60%:40%.

Bhutan Festival

Responsible Tourism

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Exodus Community

Join the Exodus online community

Don't forget to visit the Community area on our website. You can view the range of Exodus videos and podcasts, read trip write-ups which have featured in the national media and take advantage of some special deals on travel gear and equipment.

In the Community Travel Forum you'll find the Departure Lounge where you can discuss your trip with fellow travellers before you depart. When you get back from your holiday remember to upload your images to the relevant trip page on our website. This helps other people see what our holidays are really like and you'll be entered automatically into our monthly photo competition.

To make full use of the Community you'll need to join My Exodus. It's free, registration is simple and easy, so what are you waiting for?

Important Information

On all guided trips

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely partake in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity.

Although rarely enforced, by booking this trip you agree to section 14 of our Booking Conditions which clearly states that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these circumstances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred.

On all trips

In booking this trip you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability you should call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary.

 

Every time that you travel abroad you should take the time to read the warnings in the essential information in the brochure.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers, and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately 2 to 3 weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; in order to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, as stated in our brochure, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

As fuel prices, airport taxes and exchange rates fluctuate, and airlines manage their rates to match demand, it is proving harder than ever to guarantee our Flight Inclusive prices. Although we endeavour to keep our website as accurate as possible, daily fluctuations mean that our Flight Inclusive price may be out of date. For accurate prices we recommend that you contact one of our Travel Experts, or your Travel Agent.

TRAVEL AWARE – STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD

 

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the NHS have up-to-date advice on staying safe and healthy abroad. For more on security, local laws, plus passport and visa information, see https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/

Keep informed of current travel health news by visiting https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/

Advice can change so check regularly for updates.

For all latest travel information about your holiday, please visit our Travel Safety Advice page.

Important Notes

In line with our ‘book and travel with confidence’ promise which allows you to cancel free of charge up to 42 days prior to departure, or transfer to another trip free of charge up to 21 days prior to your trip starting in country, please be aware that this excludes ‘irrecoverable costs’. Details can be found here: https://www.exodus.co.uk/about-exodus/exodus-booking-conditions.

For this trip, the irrecoverable costs related to in-country operations are outlined below, if booking flight inclusive your sales agent will confirm the terms related to your international flights at the time of booking.

Return Flight (Kathmandu-Paro-Kathmandu) GBP373 / USD460 / EUR400 / AUD644 / CAD603) per person.

Costs are accurate at the time of writing in September 2020.

If you need to cancel your trip because you or a member of your party is diagnosed with COVID-19 or has received a request from the Government to self-isolate, you will receive a full refund less these irrecoverable costs.

How to Book

1. Check availability

Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.

2. Secure your place

You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.

3. Complete your booking and payment

When you're ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque. Book with confidence: Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582 issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA ‐ The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all monies paid to us for your trip are fully protected.

TRIP NOTE VALIDITY

These Trip Notes are valid from the "Current as" date on page one. They will occasionally be updated post booking and pre-departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary bookers will be written to separately. All customers will also receive a link to the most up-to-date version of the Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions pre-travel.