Bhutan - Tour Operators

Old Dec 12th, 2006, 05:42 PM
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Bhutan - Tour Operators

Please help! Planning travel to Bhutan in Fall of '07. Wilderness Travel offers a "private journey" (for 2 people), and I am exploring packages offered by Uma Paro Hotel (part of the COMO group). Any information about reliability, quality of their tours would be appreciated. Thanks-
 
Old Dec 13th, 2006, 08:50 AM
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I was looking at Bhutan also. We've been to Tibet.

Wilderness Travel is listed as #6 on Tour Operators by Travel and Leisure, Aug 2006. That's all I know.

Their Bhutan trip looks good. Wish I could go, but not for at least a year.
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 06:23 AM
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We used Geographic Expeditions to plan a trip to Bhutan. They have very good relationships locally and we'd highly recommend them.
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 06:57 AM
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All of the tour operators offer a "private journey." Note that the laws of Bhutan requre a local tour operator, so if you choose (for instance) a US based tour operator, all of the arrangements will be made by a Bhutanese operator. I did a bit of research on some local operator a couple of years ago, and plan to do so again when we are ready to go to Bhutan. Go to the kingdom of Bhutan website.
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 07:24 AM
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I have done quite a bit of research on this but have not been to Bhutan. There are a few reports from Fodorites on this forum on their travels to Bhutan.

I am sure the Uma would do a good job - you will pay dearly for the privilege but the accomodations will be excellent compared to anything else in Bhutan. As Kathie says Wilderness Travel, Geographic Expeditions and others all have to deal with local Bhutanese tour operators so why not go direct and bypass the middleman? Good reliable tour agencies in Bhutan include Etho Metho and Yu Druk. Almost all will do "private" tours for 2 people. Etho Metho however is known more for dealing with groups. Many of these agencies have websites and are used to dealing with travelers via e-mail.
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Old Dec 30th, 2006, 09:10 AM
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Don't know that operator, but from an earlier posting on this thread it seemed that someone must have liked it. ;-) I used Blue Poppy recently and was very pleased, particularly with their pre-trip follow-ups. Since one of the owners is based in the UK, he is quite tapped into how to deal with western clients.

Some pics can be found here:
http://www.c-41.net/Albums/2006/Bhutan/index.html
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Old May 9th, 2007, 08:09 PM
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I have just finished planning my trip to Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal for April/May 2008. Spoke to both Geo and Asia Transpacific. Difference is Geo does the world and Asia Transpacific only does Asia. All trips seem to be very similar, just got a better feeling with Asia Trans... Most packages are the same price, not inexpensive, but one pays for the knowledge and the planning that would take a very long time to research, especially the flight info for Lhasa and Paro. If you get a local guide and if something goes wrong, what do you do? NADA.. I have always used P & O to do my Asia trips to Cambodia/Myanmar/Bangkok/China etc. One becomes a VIP by using them more than once and they know exactly my preferences for hotels, guides, restaurants etc. Have never had any problems -which is exactly the way I like it...Make sure you check out if the railroad is used, what type of vehicle is used etc. You are not talking about 5* anything in Bhutan, the food is known to be the very worst in the world. I am accustomed to 5* hotels and dining, but I will be taking protein bars and
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Old May 9th, 2007, 11:56 PM
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I too am planning a trip to Bhutan for December. I have traveled with Geo Ex on a private journey to Burma and Rajasthan and with Wilderness Travel to Thailand and South India. They both have great guides and seamless operations and would travel with them again. But for this trip I decided to go directly to the local Bhutanese operators since that is who the US companies have to contract with anyway.
I got good responses from three companies that are small and do customized tours: Bhutan Journeys, Blue Poppy Tours and Snow White Tours. I decided to work with Snow White, based on their responses, my instuition and recommendations. I spoke to two previous travelers who sang their praises, especially the owner's willingness to do special things (like pull extra permits to gain entry to restricted places, arrange personal meetings, seek the best rooms in the hotel category you choose). I will keep you posted as the planning evolves.
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Old May 15th, 2007, 06:24 AM
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Agree with Kiwi that you get more security if you pay an international outfit you are familiar with.

However, like Robbie, I too went direct. Traveling in Bhutan is so expensive already that I don't feel like feeding the middle-man. The food is definitely not the worst in the world (try Mongolia), but I wouldn't go for a culinary epxerience. (But then NY is much closer.)
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Old May 15th, 2007, 10:32 AM
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I wouldn't say the food in Bhutan is the worst in the world. My main complaint was that it was almost all hotel buffets, and rapidly became boring. (I was traveling with Geo Ex.) Three of us did convince our local guide to take us to eat "out" one night, and there was a little more variety. But it seemed that no-one did eat out. That was in 2001, so things may be livelier now.

By principal complaint with Geo Ex was that we left the festival in Thimpu for a lengthy lunch, and by the time we returned things were winding down. If you're interested in watching the dancing, make that clear up front!
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Old May 18th, 2007, 11:13 AM
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Far Fung Places, San Francisco, Ca. is a very good travel company for trips/treks to Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal. They deal with BTCL which is a very good Bhutanese travel company in Bhutan. We were satisfied with their arrangements. Remember these are third world countries so gauge your expectations accordingly. There are two 5* hotels in Paro, the Aman and the Uma Paro. We've been to both and they are excellent. There's an interesting hotel in Paro called the Zhivaling with beautiful architecture. Had lunch there, but did not stay there, very gracious people who permitted me to tour their facility.
The Aman has hotels elsewhere in Bhutan, but it is very pricey, $1000/night.
Aloha, Anne from Hawaii
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Old May 18th, 2007, 12:42 PM
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Carpio, when I checked with Far Fung places, they only did group tours, while any of the Bhutanese tour companies will do a private tour.
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Old Oct 6th, 2007, 11:42 AM
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Any more feedback on GeoEx for Bhutan? Now I'M jumping on the Bhutan bandwagon for October 2008!
 
Old Oct 9th, 2007, 05:50 AM
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I just came back from Bhutan in May/June. I traveled with my husband and a driver and tour guide. We used Bhutan Scenic Tours, they have a website. I stayed at the Zhiwa Ling in Paro, which was very nice. We were there for 7 days. The tour was great and included golf in Thimphu. They took us to great restaurants. My friend did the Uma Paro tour and did not really like it so much especially for the $. I highly recommend Bhutan Scenic Tours.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 05:54 AM
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Since I went in "off season" they actually gave us 10% off the rates because they said they did not have to exert so much time in securing hotels since it was not festival time. I almost went with Blue Poppy but they wanted to charge an extra 10% service charge over the rates so I decided to go with Bhutan Scenic Tours which was recommended by someone on tripadvisor.com

also tshering dorji, the owner of bhutan scenic tours, is very responsive with the planning of our trip, secured us seats on the appropriate side of the plane when we left from nepal to bhutan so we could see everest (i believe its the right side going to bhutan and left side when coming back from bhutan to nepal). he also took us out to dinner and gave us gifts of bhutan when we left, which was totally a nice surprise.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 01:01 PM
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Fluke. Can you tell me the names of the restaurants you liked in Bhutan? A good meal (I imagine in Paro or Thimphu) would be an unexpected treat!! We leave in 7.5 weeks.

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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 06:55 PM
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The Red Rice in Paro was excellent (no tour groups!)
we ate there 3x.

There was a great restaurant in the town of wangdue (sp?) i cant remember the name but the food was great. Our tourguide (bhutan scenic tours) took us there. it kind of overlooked the river.
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Old Oct 20th, 2007, 02:51 PM
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We are going ahead and booking a 2-week trip to Bhutan with GeoEx for next fall!
 
Old Oct 23rd, 2007, 04:59 PM
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Thanks Fluke. In addition to the Bhutanese companies I mentioned in an earlier post, I also had a very positive feeling about Nirvana Expeditions (Sonam Dorjee) from my correspondence with him.
Through planning my trip with Kencho (owner of Snow White Treks & Tours) I have learned that so many things are possible, if you know to ask. And some of what I learned came from previous clients of SW that Kencho put me in contact with. For example, we are using ponies to "hike" up a steep hill to a monastery instead of risking a rigorous hike at 8500 ft, Kencho has pulled permits so we can go inside some monasteries that are off limits to tourist (without special permits), arrangements have been made to meet with a young lama, a psychiatrist, etc. Do you think I'm getting excited???
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