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Greg Rodgers

How Much Do You Know About Bhutan?

By September 26, 2013

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Bhutan Facts

Photo by RajKumar1220

Most people know very little -- and there's a reason: Bhutan is one of Asia's most closed-off countries.

Sure, you can arrange a visit through a government-controlled travel agency, however, the cost can average as much as US $250 per day that you spend on the ground! Your trip expenses must be paid in full before you arrive to receive a visa. The agency sets your itinerary and even chooses your hotels.

You're basically only allowed to see what tourists are supposed to see. And needless to say, that prospect is not very attractive for budget travelers or people who like to properly explore a culture.

Regardless, Bhutan is opening a little more each year, and a trickle of travelers go to enjoy the Himalayan scenery. The cap on the number of tourists allowed inside per year has been lifted, and the king -- the youngest ruling monarch in the world -- is making some effort to modernize.

Only in 1999 did the Bhutanese government allow television and internet inside the country, for fear that it would corrupt old traditions.

In 2010, Bhutan became the first country in the world to ban the sales and production of tobacco products. Bhutan is also the only country in the world to measure Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product.

  • See some more really interesting Bhutan facts that rarely make the evening news.

In a move to democracy, Bhutan became a constitutional monarchy only in 2008. And fortunately they are a member of the United Nations -- a good thing when you're literally sandwiched between two world superpowers who sometimes like to rattle swords: India and China.

September 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm
(1) Keshav Gurung says:

Hi, Greg.

Saw the catchy title “How Much Do You Know About Bhutan?” and as a local Bhutanese travel agent based in Bhutan I felt that, with your kind permission, I had to make sure that your readers did learn some more facts (and a few small corrections) about Bhutan than your article provides.

Like you say, the agency does set your itinerary and choose your hotels but I thought that would be a service to save the tourist from having to decide an itinerary in a place one has never been in before;) . Actually, most of the package holiday itineraries have to be modified depending on the client’s wishes depending on say, how much physical activities they wish to partake in, places they wish to visit as per advice from friends who have been here before, different ages of the group members and so many other reasons actually.
With Bhutan now online clients often decide upon hotels themselves usually based on location such as distance from the main town, the environment and so on. There are even extremely luxiorious hotels available such as Aman Kora, Uma and Zhiwaling which often charge around a thousand dollars per night per person available at an added fee. So the agent chooses the hotels for you only if you do not mind the agent doing so.

Bhutan did ban tobacco sales but has relaxed on possesing tobacco for personal consumption and smoking in private places. So smokers coming to Bhutan do not need to worry about going cold turkey when coming here ;)

Hope your readers do visit Bhutan one day and have a great time.

Best Regards,
<a href=”mailto:bhutanrebirth@gmail.com”>Keshav Gurung</a>
<a href=”www.bhutanrebirth.com”>Bhutan Rebirth Tours and Treks</a>
Thimphu, Bhutan.

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