Photo Credit: Steve Evans

Tourist visas are issued on arrival in Bhutan, but must be applied for by a Bhutanese tour operator and cleared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs well before the travel date. To gain approval, the full cost of the trip must be paid, and the final check and issuing of the visa will take at least a week. The information required is straightforward and the visa details are sent to Druk Air as well as to the tour operator. Once the details are received, Druk Air issues a ticket to Paro.

Recommended vaccinations include diphtheria and tetanus boosters, hepatitis A and B, a polio booster and typhoid. If your trip is for longer than a month, inoculations against meningitis, rabies and Japanese B encephalitis should be considered. Vaccinations and boosters should be taken over a period of time as side effects can occur.

Health and Safety

The main health risk in Bhutan is travelers’ diarrhea, which is easily avoided by eating freshly-cooked food at obviously popular restaurants and washing fruit. Rabies is endemic in Bhutan, with the two main culprits being monkeys and dogs. If you’re bitten or scratched, go to the nearest hospital for treatment immediately. Malaria and dengue fever are also present in the tropical areas, with insect repellent and a supply of anti-malarial medicine the safest form of protection.

For those trekking in forested areas, ticks are a danger as they may carry potentially fatal diseases. Altitude sickness may also kick in at around 9,800 ft, and can be fatal if not dealt with, although most professional guides are trained to recognize the symptoms. Acclimatization to high altitudes can take between one to three days so arrive a few days early before you undergo strenuous mountain exercise. Bottled water is essential, as typhoid fever is common. All towns have hospitals, but there are no private clinics.

Violence is not an issue in the tourist areas, making Bhutan one of the safest world destinations for travelers. The local police in the capital are active, with regular patrols late at night to ensure a safe visit. If you’re traveling in remote areas in the mountains, be hyper alert as bears can be dangerous.

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