Advertisement
Our editorial team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the products and deals we love. If you love them too and decide to purchase through the links below, we may receive a commission. Prices were correct at the time of publication.

How to plan a trip to Bhutan, best time to go and what you can expect: Tips from &Beyond COO

Can Bhutan's high gross happiness index rub off travellers? Find out first-hand from &Beyond COO Ryan Powell who travels to Bhutan regularly if this is true.

Bhutan Punakha River Lodge River Dining. PHOTO: &Beyond
Bhutan Punakha River Lodge River Dining. PHOTO: &Beyond

Bhutan is finally open for travel again. Whether you are looking to attend festivals, trek, bird watch, pick mushrooms, engage in spiritual awakening, wellness treatments, white water rafting, historical exploration, view architectural marvels, try exotic cuisines, or meet the locals, Bhutan has it all. Yahoo Life Singapore spoke with &Beyond Chief Operating Officer, Ryan Powell, who had a hand in establishing the &Beyond Punakha River Lodge, and plied him with questions on what to take note of when planning a trip to Bhutan, the best times to visit, tips on applying for visas, estimated costs and booking a local guide. Read on and discover the wonders of the Land of the Thunder Dragon and make that dream trip to Bhutan happen. We also picked out some travel essentials to ensure your trip to Bhutan goes seamlessly well.

Yahoo Life Singapore: How different is Bhutan as compared to the rest of the world? What sort of experiences can we partake in?

Ryan Powell: Bhutan is a destination for culture and natural beauty. There, you can experience genuine warmth from the people and also learn about a way of life that is very different from the rest of the world. Even Buddhism in Bhutan has been adapted to include alot of the earlier practices of Bonism which worships the environment (lakes, rivers, mountains, etc.). You will experience all of this when you come to Bhutan and visit the various monuments, temples, and a local household.

We hear visas and entry permits to Bhutan are extremely limited, and planning a trip there takes some work. How much would a trip to Bhutan cost? How can we ensure a visa?

Visas are not limited. Everyone who pays the US$100 per day daily fee to the government can come to Bhutan. It can be applied either online or through a local tour operator. It is better to make all the arrangements to travel to Bhutan through a local tour operator as booking flights, guides and vehicles is very complicated, and public transport is non-existent. For this reason, our &Beyond team in Bhutan works with our guests on their visa applications.

Bhutan Punakha River Lodge Outdoor Dining. PHOTO: &Beyond
Bhutan Punakha River Lodge Outdoor Dining. PHOTO: &Beyond

Is it true that it is mandatory to book a local guide? Why is that so?

It is mandatory to have a local guide when you visit the various monuments and temples. Although not mandatory, guides are only based out of Thimphu and hence they travel with guests from the time to arrive until they depart. Otherwise, guests will not be able to visit the monuments in the other valleys that they travel to. Also, it is highly recommended that guests have a guide on their hikes for safety reasons. And with a guide, they would get a better understanding of the country and why it is so different from other places.

What can we expect in Bhutan? What sort of traveller would love Bhutan?

Bhutan is a perfect destination for travellers who are interested in culture and love nature. There are beautiful hikes with captivating scenery and a lot of cultural nuances to understand.

Bhutan Punakha River Lodge View from Temple. PHOTO: &Beyond
Bhutan Punakha River Lodge View from Temple. PHOTO: &Beyond

Which is the best month to travel to Bhutan? How do we prepare for the weather in terms of what to wear and what to bring on our trip?

Bhutan is great for travel anytime between September and May. Bhutan in December doesn't get too cold in Punakha, which is where &Beyond Punakha River Lodge is located. Do pack according to the weather guidelines. We recommend carrying hiking boots for the hikes you will engage in in Bhutan. Other than that, a thin base layer, a fleece, and a down jacket should be more than enough for this time of the year. You can also carry a pair of gloves and a woollen beanie for Paro where it is colder and a sun hat or cap.

[CLICK ON IMAGES FOR PRODUCT LINKS]

Columbia Women's Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Leather & Suede Hiking Boot

Available in 15 colourways

Columbia Women's Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Leather & Suede Hiking Boot. PHOTO: Amazon
Columbia Women's Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Leather & Suede Hiking Boot. PHOTO: Amazon

Related:
Columbia’s gear review: Taking them up Baegundae Peak in Seoul, South Korea

Timberland Men's Hiking Boot

Available in 39 colourways

Timberland Men's Hiking Boot. PHOTO: Amazon
Timberland Men's Hiking Boot. PHOTO: Amazon

Salomon Women's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots

Available in 2 colourways

Salomon Women's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots. PHOTO: Amazon
Salomon Women's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots. PHOTO: Amazon

100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt

Meriwool Mens Base Layer

100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt. PHOTO: Amazon
100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt. PHOTO: Amazon

Meriwool Women Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt

Meriwool Women's Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt. PHOTO: Amazon
Meriwool Women's Base Layer 100% Merino Wool Midweight Long Sleeve Thermal Shirt. PHOTO: Amazon

Tommy Hilfiger Men's Classic Zip Front Polar Fleece Jacket

Tommy Hilfiger Men's Classic Zip Front Polar Fleece Jacket. PHOTO: Amazon
Tommy Hilfiger Men's Classic Zip Front Polar Fleece Jacket. PHOTO: Amazon

Carhartt Men's W.P. Waterproof Insulated Gloves

Carhartt Men's W.P. Waterproof Insulated Gloves. PHOTO: Amazon
Carhartt Men's W.P. Waterproof Insulated Gloves. PHOTO: Amazon

How many days is ideal to explore Bhutan? Is there a minimum number of days to stay?

We suggest a minimum of 6 nights in Bhutan so guests have sufficient time to explore Punakha, Gangtey, and Paro which are our favourite valleys in Bhutan. There is no minimum number of days that you need to spend while you are there.

What are the travel essentials to bring along on a trip to Bhutan?

Casual, comfortable, wash and wear clothing are most useful. Travellers are also always recommended to dress modestly and respectfully especially if they are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs, and other religious institutions. Long pants and long-sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps, etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions, and any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised. Most hotels offer quick laundry turnaround, usually within a few hours. It is certainly not necessary to bring a separate change of clothing for each day and evening, and it is recommended that you keep luggage to a minimum for your comfort and ease of transport, especially if you are using light aircraft transfers.

The exquisite cuisine available at &Beyond. PHOTO: &Beyond
The exquisite cuisine available at &Beyond. PHOTO: &Beyond

&Beyond recently opened its first property in Asia in Bhutan – &Beyond Punakha River Lodge. What unique experiences may be had here?

There are lots on offer for guests depending on their interests ranging from nature hikes, wellness retreats, and also adventurous activities such as white water rafting and exquisite cuisine at &Beyond Punakha River Lodge. More information here.

Bhutan Punakha River Lodge Yoga Studio. PHOTO: &Beyond
Bhutan Punakha River Lodge Yoga Studio. PHOTO: &Beyond

Bhutan is the only country that measures Gross National Happiness and ranks high on it. What are your thoughts as a regular traveller to Bhutan and do you think their happiness can rub off on travellers to Bhutan?

As someone who has travelled to Bhutan several times, I can say with absolute confidence that their happiness can rub off on travellers. It’s one of those things that you have to see and experience for yourself in order to truly appreciate and understand their way of life.

Any other things we should take note of and prepare in advance for a trip to Bhutan?

Come with an open heart and mind!

Check out reviews on Tripadvisor

About Ryan Powell, &Beyond Chief Operating Officer – Sales & Touring

Ryan boasts more than three decades of sales, marketing, and commerce experience, gained in a variety of industries. Beginning his tourism career in 1998, Ryan worked with leading luxury hotels and tourism brands. Ryan’s current focus is leading the touring businesses in Africa, Asia, and South America through a process and operational alignment to ensure a consistent, world-leading guest and partner experience. Ryan is married and lives in Johannesburg with his wife and two children. He is passionate about conservation and community, wishes to contribute towards leaving the world a better place, and play a part in ensuring the world’s wild places and its animals are there to enjoy for his children and their children.

Check airfare here: Skyscanner | Trip.com | Expedia
Book accommodations and activities here: Agoda | Booking.com | Klook | KKday | HotelsCombined | LuxuryEscapes
Save big, get the all-inclusive pass & explore your destination in-depth: GoCity
General info here: Tripadvisor
Affordable data plans here
And while you are at it, get your travel insurance with Alliance Assistance | Income | Prudential!

READ

Train travels: Advice from travel specialist on what to expect and how to prep

The Great Migration in Africa: How to plan a trip there

Net-A-Porter travel essentials you will not regret investing in and safe travel tips

Solo female travel: Top tips and insights from Scott Dunn travel specialist

8 New York City travel tips plus the best attractions, food and things to do

Ho Chi Minh City travel guide: Things to do in 72 hours

Top tips on eco-friendly ways to travel the world

Robinsons Chinese New Year sale is now on: Score bedsheets, jackets, luggages, travel bags and more at great deals

SG Telegram banner. (PHOTO: Yahoo Life Singapore)
SG Telegram banner.
Yahoo Shopping Southeast Asia
Yahoo Shopping Southeast Asia