As we may all know, Bhutan is a small country located between India and China in the Himalayan Mountains – specifically in the Eastern Himalayas. Since most people there are Buddhists, they are hospitable, nice and welcoming. Yet before you visit, there are a few things that you should be aware of. Here are six things that you should definitely keep in your visor while there!
This might be a blow to some tourists, but Bhutan bans the production and commercialisation of tobacco. For this particular reason, it is absolutely normal that you cannot smoke in public places. This means that you need to bring your own smokes but there is one problem: Bhutan only lets you carry a maximum of 200 cigarettes through the border. Though the black market is full of tobacco dealers, they are unlikely to sell you some and since you are going to look different anyway, chances are that they are not going to trust you. Oh, and there’s the other thing: you might butt heads with law enforcement if you push it. Just bring your own smokes and be completely out of sight when you light up – you should have no problems then.
You might have heard of the Delhi Belly or the Bangkok Belly, but know that the Bhutanese cuisine is not milder in any way. What this means is that they put chilli pepper in just about anything. If you are a fan of the burning tongue, you are going to feel as though you were in Heaven but for the other half of the visitors, this might not be good news. Even if you are asking for the most traditional dish there, the “ema datse”, you are going to be fed a tongue-incinerating curry of chillies with red rice and cheese. If you are uncertain, make sure that you ask the people that serve you about what the food that you are about to be handed consists of.
While there are a few stray ATMs scattered throughout the urban areas, they are utterly unreliable and you can only withdraw puny amounts from them. What we expressly recommend is that you take cash with you for it can get you a long way in Bhutan. What’s great is that you can use the USD almost everywhere. If that is not an option for you, then remain with the Rupee. Guides can often serve you as personal exchange services, so do not hesitate to ask for their help if you run into difficulties.
4. Phallic symbolism:
We may have termed that symbolism but, to be quite frank, phallic worship in Bhutan is as widespread and direct as it can get. While this may strike you as strange at first, you will soon realise that people only follow the teachings of the renowned Drukpa Kunley (also known as the Madman of the Dragon Lineage), who has maintained a healthy sexual life in spite of being a saint. His teachings have shown that sex is an essential part of life and that it should not be abandoned when walking the winding road of spirituality. Just pay attention to whom you are buying phallic souvenirs (wink).
5. Tattoo parlours:
Bhutan has some great tattoo artists but there is one problem with them: the government has banned their services. What this means is that they are still operating (obviously) but they are no longer safe. They can not only get you in trouble with the local authorities, they also pose a health risk (unclean needles, unsanitary environments, etc). Do not risk a tattoo in Bhutan and you should be well.
This is a controversial one because Cannabis is so widespread in Bhutan that it is literally everywhere. In spite of this, possession can land you in prison before you blink for at least 5 years. It is better not to tempt the hospitality of the Bhutanese authorities and stay clear of weed there.
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Bhutan and how did they affect your trip? Tell us all about it in the comment section below and do not forget to check back from time to time! Safe travels!