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Thimphu (Tibetan script: ཐིམ་ཕུག།) is the capital and largest urban centre in Bhutan and has about 100,000 inhabitants. It is located in a valley along the Wang Chhu river on an altitude of 2,320 metres above sea level. The goverment of Bhutan has been located here since 1952 and uses the Tashichoedzong building just outside the city as its main residence. Surrounded by green forests and the snowcapped peaks of the eastern Himalaya on the background, the city has an extremely pleasant charm and the local culture only adds to the imagination. Thimphu is the only capital in the world that has no traffic lights, one was installed in the 90s but it was thought to lower happiness so it was removed. The city has a lot to offer for travellers, including good accommodation and 'tsechhus', the colourful dance festivals.
One of the largest events in Bhutan, the three-day Thimphu Festival begins on the 10th day of the eighth lunar month. Costumed dances include the Dance of the Black Hats and masked movements performed by monks. Rituals and prayers continue for a full three days, concluding with the display of a giant, holy thangka.
Despite its elevation, Thimphu has a warm, mostly mild climate. The summer lasts from June to September with generally warm weather but this is also the rainy season. Average temperatures in summer are almost 25 °C during the day. Winter night temperatures average below 0 °C however and snow is possible from December to March. The best times to visit are spring (March-May) and autumn (late September - November) when mostly warm, dry and sunny condtions are the norm. Temperatures are usually around 20 °C or a bit more while nights can be relatively cool, so bring some extra warm clothes.
Nearly all visitors arrive via plane from Paro Airport (PBH) in Paro. It is currently the country's sole International airport and a 45 minute to 1 hour drive from the capital. An International airport is nearly completed in the south central district of Gelephu and there are three domestic airports and two domestic carriers.
All inter-district buses arrive and depart from the city's bus station, located across the river from the city centre. It is a six to seven hour drive (mostly through Chukha district) from the border town of Phuentsholing.
Various private operators like Dhug, Meto and Sernya run Toyota Coaster services from Phuentsholing to Thimphu. These buses can seat 22 and are very comfortable. Advance reservation can be made at Phuentsholing bus station.
Once in Thimphu one can find various buses plying to other parts of the country.
There is a set rate for taxis plying city routes. Maximum is around 60nu. There are taxi ranks on Norzin Lam (across from the cinema hall) and at the inter-district bus station. Taxis also cruise and can be hailed at any point.
The city operates an efficient, albeit infrequent, public bus service connecting the downtown with outer suburbs. The station for local buses is located just east of the stadium on Chang Lam.
The city centre is small enough to negotiate on foot.
It is important to note that most restaurants (including those in hotels) in Thimphu stop serving food between 9:;0pm and 9:30pm.
There are a handful of cafes that serve quality coffee, which are listed below. Only Ambient (which roasts their own beans), Central, Coffee Culture and Karma's have professional espresso machines; other places either sell only filter coffee or use an automatic coffee machine. Outside of these cafes, coffee in Bhutan is mostly the instant variety, particularly Nescafe.
WiFi is readily available in the majority of hotels throughout the country. Many of the internet cafes offer WiFi also. Most population centres have internet cafes, although they are relatively expensive, and the connection is slow. Please make sure your travel agent find an appropriate internet cafe in advance if you need a connection for work.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Bhutan is: 975. To make an international call from Bhutan, the code is: 00
Telephone call booths are existent in major towns in Bhutan. Most of Bhutan has mobile phone coverage, which is smart phone capable. B-Mobile has agreements with North American, some Asian and European countries on mobile roaming. Tashi Cell is another mobile company based in country.
Tourists can now quickly and easily register for a B-Mobile SIM that is valid for 1 month. Simply take your passport to a B-Mobile office. The SIM card costs 50Nu, and comes with 50Nu credit. Ask them to activate 3G and data access while you are there, and test it works before leaving. There are no data plans per say, but the rate is affordable by international standards (0.0003Nu/KB). The only available SIM card size is the standard size, but some offices have sim cutters for the iPhone 4 & 5. B-Mobile recharge cards can be purchased in most general stores.
Bhutan Post offers services throughout the country. It's reliable but it takes quite some time for your postcard or letter to arrive in other countries.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Thimphu searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Thimphu and areas nearby.
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