Exploring Bhutan’s Currency: Ngultrum and Chhetrum.

Bhutan, a small landlocked country nestled in the eastern Himalayas, is renowned for its unique culture, stunning landscapes, and commitment to preserving its traditions and environment. One intriguing aspect of Bhutan is its currency system, which consists of two main denominations: the Ngultrum (Nu) and the Chhetrum (Chh). In this article, we will delve into the details of these currencies, their history, usage, and significance in the Bhutanese economy.

Understanding the Ngultrum (Nu)

The Ngultrum, denoted by the symbol Nu, is the official currency of Bhutan. It is at par with the Indian rupee, meaning that 1 Ngultrum is equal to 1 Indian Rupee. The Ngultrum is further divided into 100 smaller units called Chetrum, with 1 Ngultrum equivalent to 100 Chetrum.

History of the Ngultrum

The Ngultrum was introduced in 1974, replacing the Indian rupee as the official currency of Bhutan. The word ‘Ngultrum’ is derived from the Dzongkha language, the official language of Bhutan, and translates to “silver” in English. The currency was initially pegged to the Indian rupee to facilitate trade and economic relations between the two countries.

Usage and Design

Ngultrum banknotes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1000. Each banknote features images of notable figures, historical landmarks, and unique flora and fauna of Bhutan. The coins in circulation include denominations of 1, 5, and 10 Ngultrum, with distinct designs reflecting Bhutanese culture and traditions.

The Chhetrum (Chh)

The Chhetrum, denoted by the symbol Chh, is the subunit of the Ngultrum. While no longer widely used in day-to-day transactions due to inflation and the preference for rounded figures, Chetrum coins are still minted and circulated for ceremonial purposes and to honor Bhutan’s heritage.

Significance of the Chhetrum

The Chhetrum holds cultural and historical significance in Bhutanese society. Traditionally, Chetrum coins were used in religious ceremonies, weddings, and other auspicious occasions as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. The intricate designs on the coins often depict auspicious symbols, deities, and motifs that carry spiritual meanings for the Bhutanese people.

Currency Exchange and Banking in Bhutan

Foreign travelers visiting Bhutan must exchange their currency for Ngultrum upon arrival, as foreign currencies are not widely accepted in local transactions. Currency exchange facilities are available at major airports, banks, and authorized money changers across Bhutan. It is advisable to carry sufficient Ngultrum for your trip, as credit cards and ATMs are not commonly used in many parts of the country.

Investing in Bhutanese Currency

Investing in Bhutanese currency, especially for speculative purposes, is not recommended due to its limited convertibility and fluctuating value against international currencies. The Ngultrum’s peg to the Indian rupee ensures relative stability but also limits its flexibility in the global foreign exchange market. However, collecting Bhutanese banknotes and coins as a hobby or for cultural appreciation can be a rewarding endeavor.


In conclusion, the Ngultrum and Chhetrum represent more than just monetary units in Bhutan; they embody the rich heritage, traditions, and values of the Bhutanese people. While the Ngultrum serves as the main currency for everyday transactions, the Chhetrum continues to hold symbolic significance in religious and ceremonial contexts. By exploring Bhutan’s currency system, we gain a deeper insight into the country’s history, culture, and identity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I use Indian rupees in Bhutan?
  2. While the Indian rupee is accepted in some border areas and at certain establishments, it is advisable to exchange your currency for Ngultrum before traveling deeper into Bhutan.

  3. Are credit cards widely accepted in Bhutan?

  4. Credit cards are not commonly accepted outside major hotels and a few select establishments in urban centers. It is recommended to carry sufficient cash in Ngultrum for your expenses.

  5. What is the current exchange rate between the Ngultrum and major foreign currencies?

  6. The Ngultrum is pegged to the Indian rupee at a 1:1 exchange rate. The exchange rates with other major currencies may vary and can be checked at authorized exchange centers.

  7. Can I exchange Ngultrum back into my home currency when leaving Bhutan?

  8. Ngultrum is not easily convertible outside Bhutan due to its limited circulation and pegging to the Indian rupee. It is advisable to spend or exchange your remaining Ngultrum before leaving the country.

  9. Are there any restrictions on the amount of Ngultrum that can be brought into or taken out of Bhutan?

  10. Foreign visitors are allowed to bring in and take out a limited amount of Ngultrum, which should be declared at customs. It is advisable to check the latest regulations before traveling.

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