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A Guide To Money Whilst On Bhutan Trekking Tours
Whilst there is no restriction on visitor numbers for Bhutan trekking tours, there is a minimum daily tariff that has been fixed by the government. Tourists visiting in groups of 3 people or more must pay a daily tariff of US$250 (or US$200 in the low season, which runs from July to August). This tariff includes all of your accommodation, food, land transport within the country, guides and porters, supply of pack animals, and cultural programs. What else do you need to know?
Whilst tipping is officially discouraged in Bhutan, it is becoming a common practice and you can tip if you wish to. The same guide and driver will usually accompany you for the duration of your tour; these people will expect a tip at the end of the trip (the guide will often take up a collection at the end). If trekking, it’s also appropriate to tip your guide, cook and waiter. Horsemen generally also expect tips.
The major banks in Bhutan now offer ATMs for tourist use, allowing you to withdraw local currency. It should be noted, however, that they don’t always work and you will usually only be able to withdraw small amounts per transaction, so it’s best to carry currency in with you. Not all ATMs offer the ability for tourists to withdraw cash either, so you should familiarise yourself with the policies of your destination.
The local currency is called Ngultrum (or Nu for short). It is pegged to the Indian Rupee, which is also accepted throughout the country (except for 500 and 1000 Rupee notes). It is also recommended that you bring in some US cash – most stores will actually accept this currency for larger purchases (such as textiles or art), whilst lower denominations can be exchanged at the bank with little issue.
Many embarking on Bhutan trekking tours will prefer to carry a credit card to cash – whilst they are now being more widely accepted, you will be unable to use them in central or eastern regions. Keep in mind that credit card companies charge high fees and that the verification office is only open from 9am to 5pm. There are, however, plans for some of the larger banks to roll our point of sale credit facilities.
Some people prefer to carry traveler’s cheques instead of cash and credit cards. They can be cashed at any bank, most hotels and the foreign-exchange counter at the airport. Note that you will have to pay a 1% surcharge if cashing a cheque at the bank. It’s recommend that you carry well-known brands, such as: American Express, Visa, Thomas Cook, Citibank or Barclays. Also note that there is no replacement facility.
We hope that the information provided above has given you a better understanding of money (what you need to pay, why you need to pay it and how much you should expect to bring) whilst on Bhutan trekking tours. Keep in mind that the cost of your tour is in addition to the daily tariff we discussed at the beginning of this article. You are also expected to pay separately for all drinks, laundry, horse riding and cultural splurges.
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