Bhutan has the unfortunate reputation of being unaffordable. We strongly believe it is a great value if you are a careful shopper. To understand our Better way to enjoy Bhutan, let's do the math.
From the $200 government minimum cost per day or more you pay per day for a Bhutan tour package, $65 is a "sustainable tourism royalty" (OK, it's a tax) that helps to pay for national health care and education. If the reservation came from a travel agency, a 10% commission due the agent comes off the top.
That leaves tour companies from $115 to $160 per day to cover the cost of a car (with fuel and insurance), an experienced driver, a fully-licensed tour guide who speaks fluent English, accommodation and meals for the guide and driver, a hotel room for you, all of your meals, admission costs to the places you visit, and often a tea stop in the afternoon.
The tour company also needs to cover its overhead expenses like salaries, rent, utilities and advertising. Squeezing all of that out of $115 and making a profit is a huge challenge.
Since the costs of transportation and guides are somewhat standardized, the only way for a tour company to maximize its profit by cutting corners on hotels and meals. Consequently, the most common practice is to choose the cheapest hotels or to rotate hotels on a good/bad/terrible basis where possible in order to spend as little as possible.
This math also accounts for the single universal complaint from those who visit Bhutan--the food. Most hotels offer a buffet dinner in addition to breakfast. Since buffets are less costly, that is option most tour companies choose. Sadly, buffets tend to be the same thing everywhere and at breakfast, lunch, and dinner--potatoes, cabbage, eggplant, "red rice," "chili cheese," and very limited meat. All meat is imported since the strict Buddhist faith of the Bhutanese does not allow killing animals.
Our idea is better. We choose the best available hotels (excluding luxury hotels), even if the cost is $15 to $45 more per night. And, wherever possible, we arrange for lunches and dinners that are satisfying and memorable. While these are often set menus because of limited and seasonal availability of ingredients, they usually include the kind of traditional Bhutanese cuisine that very few visitors are lucky enough to sample. These may be outside of your hotel. For example, we always include a traditional Bhutanese dinner at the Folk Heritage Museum in Thimphu. Else where you will enjoy dinners in hotels and restaurants where magic happens in the kitchen.
Does this cost more? Yes, a little (around 3% to 5.5%). However, Bhutan is very special and should be enjoyed in comfort. After all, how many times are you going to travel to Bhutan, and what kinds of memories do you want to take home to share with your friends and family? Honestly, if you opt for the cheapest Bhutan tour you are going to end up with a cheap experience.
If you do not want to budget more than the minimum daily rate, we can still help you, although we choose the hotels. You will still have an outstanding experience that is truly Better.
While they certainly could, the mindset of most tourism people in Bhutan is to compete with the lowest price rather than superior quality arrangements and impeccable service. Some tour companies in Bhutan stick to large groups that they can handle on the cheap. Some are just hobbies, or are a small part of a larger business that does not specialize in travel. Some deal only with groups or with specific nationalities, like Indians and Thais. Keep reading and you will get to know why we are different and want to provide a better experience in Bhutan.
Prices depend on when you visit, how many people are traveling together, and how many hotel rooms you need.
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