I have oral allergy syndrome and I'm going to be traveling to Bhutan in fall. I've encountered a very wide range of attitudes towards allergies in different countries, from totally getting it to 'Tomatoes are a fruit?' 'Are you sure you don't just dislike [allergen]? Try some!'

What level of comprehension can I expect in Bhutan? Am I going to need to hand out flyers everywhere we eat?

  • 1
    Post-trip, for the record: 1) there were almost no a la carte meals on the trip; 2) Bhutanese food is not very heavy in allergens that set off oral allergy syndrome; 3) there is no word for 'allergy' in dzongkha, just a word meaning 'food I don't eat for Reasons' - but that's a fairly well respected idea and also many people speak a little English; 4) people won't necessarily understand what does and doesn't count as a nut, fruit etc. Altogether, I had very few difficulties.
    – RSid
    Jan 9, 2014 at 17:21

3 Answers 3


The Bhutanese recognize dietary needs very well, as a large portion of the population have specific dietary needs (vegetarianism is largely observed). However I also have oral allergy syndrome and I find that it's not a largely understood form of allergies. Depending on your severity, but most of their food is quite simple (limited in ingredients, heavier on spicing), so you should be able to pick the foods that you're in the clear for. Good luck, and hope you like Yak-related products :-)

  • @RSid don't forget to update me! :-) Feb 27, 2013 at 0:27

Despite the country, sometimes allergies are not taken seriously by healthy people, they just can not imagine that the food they all like is something that could cause harm to other people! so, weird questions and reactions towards this kind of allergy are common. I myself can not eat shrimps and some other sea food, and most people like shrimps so they always ask me "are you sure you don't want to eat it?" or "you will miss a great meal!".

Anyway, Asians are usually respectful when it comes to diet for many reasons one of them is religion. It is totally normal to find some people there who do not eat this or that while others eat this and that, and people respect it, hence I think mentioning that you do not want a certain food to be in your meal will be totally understood without questions or silly reactions. In addition to that, people with allergy are everywhere, so everybody specially restaurant staffs have must faced some people with allergy at some point.

Finally, people with allergy have to make it clear no matter where they are about their allergies. I suggest you learn how to say allergy in the local language and this should make the task easier. Wish you the best.


From my experience traveling around Bhutan for about a month in the fall of 2010, I fear that this could be a tricky one. But it really depends on your exact travel plans. Given the nature of tourism in Bhutan (highly regulated, with the $200+/day tourism tariff), you will likely be staying in hotels/inns with many other tourists...where buffet breakfasts, lunches, and dinners abound. The buffet seemed a ubiquitous institution all across Bhutan. Indeed, I remember only two meals over the course of the entire trip (both in Thimphu) at which we ordered a la carte from a menu. Since you are likely to be guided by an English-speaking tour operator (on behalf of the Bhutanese government), you will absolutely be able to, at the very least, communicate your needs. It's just tough to predict how attentive hotel kitchens will be given the highly systematic nature of their meals.

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