This small landlocked Himalayan Kingdom to the east of Nepal is becoming increasingly popular as a destination for those wanting a unique experience, with majestic mountains, cliff top monasteries, rare wildlife and traditional Buddhist culture. It is the only country in the world that measures ‘gross national happiness’.
The following information provides some broad and general guidelines about health risks and recommendations for travel to Bhutan. This should not be taken as a substitute for a personal consultation with one of our travel health doctors, whose advice will be specific for you and your trip and may include issues not mentioned here.
Most Common Health Issues
Travellers’ Diarrhoea, Giardia and Dysentery
Observe strict food and water safety precautions. Talk to us and your tour operator about water safety options and plans. Take well stocked kit with guidelines for treatment and seek medical advice/evacuation for persistent or severe illness..
Differentiating between viral (colds or flu) and bacterial infections can be tricky, the latter requiring antibiotic treatment. Flu vaccination is highly advisable as well as pneumonia vaccination for those at risk. A well-stocked kit, including the antibiotic azithromycin with instructions on appropriate usage is advisable.
Altitude Sickness and Trekking Issues
Those going above 2500m need to be informed about the risks and the prevention and treatment of altitude sickness, which range from inconvenient mild symptoms to more severe forms affecting the lungs and brain. Certain trekking itineraries (rapid ascent) pose higher risk and some individuals are more prone than others. The medication Acetazolamide (Diamox) is often recommended to reduce severity of symptoms. Travellers should ensure they are fully fit for the rigours of long uphill and downhill walks. Nothing beats training walking up and down hills at home. Walking boots or shoes should be well worn in. Trekking pole greatly reduce stress on knees. Dress in layers that can be easily removed and in suitable modern synthetic trekking fabrics.
Animal Bites and Scratches
Rabies occurs in Bhutan. Highest risk is from dog bites. Consider pre-travel vaccination well before travel. Thoroughly flush/disinfect animal wounds and seek prompt medical care.
As well as being up to date for routine childhood vaccines such as tetanus, measles and hepatitis B, the following vaccines are often recommended –influenza, hepatitis A, typhoid, rabies. Japanese encephalitis is rarely a risk for tourists. Decisions regarding which are most appropriate depend on duration and nature of travel, itinerary, age and underlying medical conditions.