Rush hour in Thimphu

Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, has a relaxed feel. The population is about 130,000 (the country’s total population is only 700,000). It spreads through the beautiful Thimphu Valley and is at an altitude of about 2,300m.

Although rush hour is a new phenomenon here, allegedly Thimphu is one of only two capital cities in the world without traffic lights. Good fact to know for future pub quizzes. According to the guide book, locals apparently objected to their introduction as not being a good cultural fit and so they were removed!

Traffic is controlled instead by white gloved “dancing” policemen.

The speed limits in Bhutan are low: 20km ph in urban areas, upto 60 km ph elsewhere but given the mountainous terrain and the condition of the roads, you are lucky to get above 30 km ph at any point.

One negative of exploring Bhutan is that you spend a lot of time in your car: given the hilly terrain, the number of roads is physically limited and a large-scale road widening project is under way meaning roadworks are widespread. For some reason instead of working on short sections of the roads, the work is being undertaken on their full length and, as a result, the state of the roads outside of Western Bhutan, is pretty atrocious (and this is even in comparison to some of the Nepali shockers we have experienced). This coupled with hairpin bends causing motion sickness can make for pretty painful journeys, no matter how comfortable your SUV vehicle or how patient and professional your driver.

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