While shopping opportunities are rather limited in Bhutan, there are some excellent hand woven textiles, handicrafts and souvenirs to be had in the markets and shopping centres of this secluded Himalayan country. If you are looking for cheap curios or souvenirs, you are unlikely to find them in Bhutan. Compared with other popular travel destinations most gift items, crafts and stuff on offer are relatively expensive. On the plus side, products are usually of good quality and are original.
An inimitable Bhutanese product that sells like hot cakes are its postal stamps! These collectors items are in great demand all over the world.
Use this Bhutan Shopping Guide to help plan your exciting Bhutanese shopping adventure. We have detailed some of the best places to shop and the types of Bhutanese souvenirs you are likely to find. Revive your energy over lunch at one of the many snack stands, eateries and Bhutanese restaurants available around the shopping districts.
By far the best place to shop in Bhutan is Thimphu which offers a number of general stores, souvenir shops and boutiques. There is even a Duty Free Shop in Bhutan where you get imported products including liquor, cosmetics, food products, wine and other items. Interestingly, some of the general stores double as bars.
Weekend markets are very colourful affairs and display some of the best of Bhutanese textiles and jewellery among other things. The Thimphu market, held regularly on Saturdays and Sundays, is a shoppers' delight and not to be missed. Traders are invariably courteous and don't mind a bit of haggling, but that doesn't mean prices are going to come down a whole lot. Be cautious when buying antiques, because it is illegal to take out of the country any object that is over 100 years old. Remember to keep receipts even though genuine antiques are hard to come by and most times what you get are just copies.
Handicrafts, weaving, wood carving and similar activities are a way of life in Bhutan. Most of the products are actually made for use in Bhutanese households and apart from being great Bhutanese souvenirs, have practical uses too. The handmade wooden bowls called dappa and bamboo baskets or bangchungs are prime examples. They are good showpieces as well as useful containers. Jackets, rugs, wall hangings, blankets and bags made from Yathra, a vibrantly coloured woollen cloth make wonderful keepsakes and gifts. The Jakar area is particularly famous for its yathras.
A few of the other popular products include exquisite woven shawls, jewellery and carpets. Buddhist paintings, prayer wheels and beads, statues of local deities, masks, paper products, Tibetan horns and incense also find a lot of takers. Though expensive, the intricately decorated silver treasure chests and other metal works, usually adorned with turquoise and amber, are worth their price. You can even get metal works made to order in Bhutan. Archery is one of Bhutan's most popular sports and naturally you find bows and arrows, usually made from bamboo, on display at markets and shops in Bhutan.
Trophel Tours & Treks is accredited by Tourism Council of Bhutan (License No: 1030972) and member of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and Global Sustainable Tourism Council.