Bhutan Tour Operator

Old Jan 7th, 2008, 12:38 PM
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Bhutan Tour Operator

Has anyone used "Exotic Bhutan", a tour operator out of LA I believe. Thanks.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 08:40 AM
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I just came back from Bhutan. i used snowwhite travel. they where excellent. why use a middle person to book when you can book direct ?any questions regarding my travels ,let me know !
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 09:01 AM
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SInce by law, all travelers must have arrangements with a Bhutanese tour operator, I also see no utility in contracting with a US tour operator who then contracts with a Bhutanese operator.

There have been a number of trip reports on Bhutan in the last few years, do a search here.
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Old Jan 13th, 2008, 09:08 AM
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How did you go about contacting a Bhutanese tour operator, if not thru an AMerican outfit? I spoke to someone who went on a customized trip, and because there were only 2 travelers, the government there put them up in a guesthouse, which was absolutely filthy, with raw sewage all over. That traveler advised that we go with a larger group, which will be placed in a nicer hotel. Any comments on this? Where did you stay, and how did all that work for you? Thanks a lot. I am somewhat hesitant about the entire trip after talking to the unhappy lodger.
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Old Jan 14th, 2008, 04:50 AM
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I. too, would like to hear Kathie's comments on this.
Old Jan 14th, 2008, 08:11 AM
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Let me start by saying that I have not yet been to Bhutan, but I have researched a trip and have corresponded with several Bhutanese Tour companies. Do a search here on Fodors for reports of people who have made the trip. There have been a number of tour companies recommended.

The way to contact Bhutanese Tour companies is via email. There used to be a Kingdom of Bhutan website that listed all of the registered tour companies in Bhutan. That website address has now been taken over by a Bhutan tour company and their US affillate, Far Fung Places. (I contacted Far Fung a few years ago. While they specialize in small group tours, at that time anyway, they did do some private tours. Their prices, however, were higher than the Bhutanese agencies I contacted.) Google Bhutan Tours and you'll get a long list of websites.

Many of the accommodations in Bhutan, by all reports are pretty basic, though some better places have been built (including some very expensive places like the Aman). Your tour agency will make reservatons for you, and you do have some choice. I've spoken with a number of people who have done private tours and all had good experiences. I don't know when the person who compained about their accommodations traveled to Bhutan, but things have changed a lot since Bhutan began to open up for tourism. Years ago, I understand you did not have a choice about where you stayed. I remember the report of a traveler (in the 1990s) who had reservations, but was moved to a tent because a group of foreign dignitaries was visiting and took all the reserved accommodations!

You really have to do your research to know what you want on a private tour and ask for it. It's certainly easier to do a group tour - all of the decisions about where to go, where to stay, where to eat are made for you. It just depends on how you like to travel.
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Old Jan 14th, 2008, 07:57 PM
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I haven't yet posted my Bhutan report but will ring in quickly on this topic. I too booked directly with a Bhutanese tour operator; all USA companies must do likewise. We used Snow White Treks and Tours and have never felt so well cared for by a company and its owner. The owner, Kencho (a woman) really listens to the wants and needs of her clients (I corresponded with her for many months crafting our trip). Email: [email protected].
Her ability to meet special requests is amazing. Her willingness to be honest and realistic was invaluable. Several other operators I contacted said yes, you can do this and yes you can do that. Only Kencho said things like "I would not advise this because....(and gave sound reasons) or "if you include X you will spend too much time driving and see things very similar to what you saw at Y". These aren't her exact words but she was forthcoming and straightforward. She never promised more than she could deliver and what she delivered was extraordinary.
We drove around the countryside in a near new Land Cruiser with lifesaving shock absorbers. At each tourist hotel she had pre-selected the best room for us (biggest or with best view, best bathroom, quietest,etc). Our guide was superb.
One quick example of many: we took an invigorating hike to Tango monastery, a bit outside the capitol city of Thimphu. On arrival we were told that the 13 year old reincarnate lama Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye would be unable to receive us as he was engaged in other matters. Kencho asked us to wait outside and a few minutes later we were escorted in to his residence. She knew an important teacher at the monastery and apparently had a word with him. Her connections with so many people in the country afforded us some incomparable experiences.
Dibob, if you want more info, you can let me know your email and I'll gladly reply to your questions.
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Old Jan 27th, 2008, 02:09 PM
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i too used snow white travel and agree with robbietravels. the tour operator is superb.
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Old Jan 30th, 2008, 07:32 PM
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you just go online and do some research, makes no sense to go thru a US or UK tour operator. the bhutanese tour operators are so much more knowledgeable about their country and since they live there they give you better advice. i used bhutan scenic tours and they were great. they took us to restaurants (instead of having us eat buffets in the hotels with all the other tourists)

re hotels, they give you a list of hotels and you can choose which ones you want to stay in.

all of the hotels that are included in the tour are just ok, i would say 3 star at best (and in some cases-- that is a stretch) if you want luxury, you have to pay extra.

the hotel dewachang in gangtey was very nice and clean.

the hotels in thimphu are so so and the hotel owned by the princess in punakha was the worst!

stayed at the olathang in paro- it was ok, we had our own cottage also, we ended up staying at zhiwaling after which was of course much nicer, but more $

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