Bhutan

Bhutan

Use Normal Level of Caution

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a remote country in the Himalayan Mountains between China and India. The population is about 734,000 people. In 1907 Bhutan became a unified kingdom with its first hereditary king and civil law based on Buddhist religious law. The government is a constitutional monarchy with the king as chief of state and a prime minister as head of state. Since the early 2000’s, there has been a gradual transition from autocratic rule to a more modern democratic government that includes a constitution, parliament and two-party system. The Bhutanese name for Bhutan, Druk Yul, means “Land of the Thunder Dragon.”

In its early history, Bhutan was influenced and guided by Britain, which was also responsible for defense and foreign relations. Bhutan was almost completely isolated for centuries. Since the 1970s, the country has opened up somewhat to the outside world, but it still values and goes to great lengths to protect its ancient culture and traditions. For example, there is a traditional national dress that is compulsory in the workplace and at official or religious functions. The national dress is a knee-length wrap-around “gho” for men and an ankle-length dress known as the “kira” for women.

Bhutan strictly controls tourism. Travellers must visit the country with a guided tour or pre-arranged travel package. It is well-known that the monarchy promotes the concept of “Gross National Happiness” (GNH), which is a philosophy that strives to achieve a balance between the spiritual and the material worlds.

Currency BTN: Bhutanese ngultrum
Language Dzongkha
Capital Thimphu
Recent Alerts None
Latest Alert Not Available

Diseases To Be Aware Of

The diseases listed below are those which occur most often in Bhutan. Other, less frequently encountered diseases might be displayed within the Travel Alerts section if they have occurred recently.

Hepatitis A

There is a significant risk for hepatitis A virus exposure in Bhutan through contaminated food or water. Infection can still occur at tourist destinations and resorts.

Hepatitis B

There is a significant risk for acquiring hepatitis B in Bhutan.

Typhoid Fever

Unvaccinated people can become infected through contaminated food and water in Bhutan, especially when visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where food and water sources may be contaminated.

Rabies

Rabies occurs in Bhutan. Travellers involved in outdoor activities (e.g., campers, hikers, bikers, adventure travellers, and cavers) may have direct contact with rabid dogs, bats, and other mammals. Those with occupational risks (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, researchers) and long-term travellers and expatriates are at higher risk.

Yellow Fever

There is no risk of yellow fever in this country. However, this country requires proof of the yellow fever vaccination if arriving from a country where yellow fever occurs, or if transiting through an airport in a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission.

Japanese encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis occurs in this country. There is no data regarding affected areas, but southern border regions with India may be a risk. The transmission season is thought to be July to December. Short-term travellers and those who restrict their visits to urban areas are at very low risk. Those at higher risk are travellers who visit or work in rural agricultural areas, such as rice fields and marshland. Long-term travellers and expatriates are also at higher risk.

Cholera

Cholera outbreaks can occur in Bhutan.

Dengue Fever

Outbreaks of dengue fever may occur.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis occurs in Bhutan. Travellers to Bhutan are at risk for tuberculosis if visiting sick friends or family, working in the health care field, or having close prolonged contact with the general population.

Malaria

There is a risk of malaria in the southern districts of Chukha, Dagana, Permagatshel, Samdrup, Jonkhar, Samtse Sarpang, and Zhemgang. There is low to no risk in the rest of Bhutan.

Vaccinations to Consider

The following is a list of recommended vaccinations for travelling to Bhutan.

Hepatitis A Vaccine

There is a significant risk of exposure to hepatitis A for this country, therefore, the vaccination is recommended.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

There is a significant risk of infection with hepatitis B for this country, therefore, the vaccination is recommended.

Typhoid Fever Vaccine

There is a risk of exposure to typhoid fever in this country through consumption of unsafe food and water. Since exposure to unsafe sources is variable within this country, the vaccination against typhoid fever is generally recommended, especially when visiting smaller cities or rural areas, where food and water sources may be contaminated.

Rabies Vaccine

Vaccination against rabies is recommended for travellers involved in outdoor activities (e.g., campers, hikers, bikers, adventure travellers, and cavers) and who may have direct contact with rabid dogs, bats, and other mammals. Those with occupational risks (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, researchers) and long-term travellers and expatriates are at higher risk and should be vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccine

There is no risk of yellow fever in this country. However, this country requires proof of the yellow fever vaccination if arriving from a country where yellow fever occurs, or if transiting through an airport in a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission.

Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine

Vaccination against Japanese encephalitis is recommended for long-term travellers and expatriates and for or travellers who visit or work in rural agricultural areas such as rice fields and marshland, especially during the transmission season from July to December. Short-term travellers and those who restrict their visits to urban areas are at very low risk.

Medications to Consider

The following is a list of recommended medications for travelling to Bhutan.

Anti-malarial Drugs

The recommended anti-malarial medication for the at-risk districts is atovaquone-proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine. Resistance to chloroquine occurs.

Safety and Security in Bhutan

Emergency Numbers

113
112
110

Outside of towns and cities, emergency response may be very limited.

Personal Safety

There is very little crime in this country, and most travellers have no trouble. However, petty crime, such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, or other theft can occur in any crowded area or tourist destination. Always be alert to your personal safety and security. Keep valuables secured and out of sight. Safeguard your important documents, such as your passport. Avoid walking alone at night.

Bhutan banned tobacco sales in 2004. It is illegal to buy or sell tobacco products in this country. At the time of writing, a traveller can bring up to 200 cigarettes and pay tax and import duty of up to 200 percent. While in Bhutan, you must be able to show this customs receipt if asked by police. If you cannot produce your customs papers, you will be charged with smuggling and a possible prison sentence of up to 3 years. Foreigners caught selling tobacco products to Bhutan citizens can be charged with smuggling. Smoking is forbidden inside public areas, such as bars, restaurants or hotels.

There are severe penalties for possession, use or sale of illegal drugs.

You will need prior approval to visit some parts of the country. This is usually arranged by your travel company or sponsoring agency.

Political Unrest

In any country, minimize safety risk by avoiding public and political gatherings and demonstrations since even peaceful gatherings can become confrontational and violent.

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