bhutan currency bhutanese ngultrum money cash fort palace

Bhutan Currency Spotlight

In Business and Currency by Continental Staff Comments

Bhutan’s currency, the Ngultrum, is pegged to the Indian rupee, and the country’s economy (one of the smallest in the world) is also dependent on India for trade. On Bhutan’s coins and notes, you’ll see a colourful window into the culture and political structure of the country with images of the current and previous kings, many Buddhist symbols, and much more.

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History and Culture | Travel Guide

  • Currency of Bhutan: Ngultrum
  • Bhutan Currency Code: BTN
  • Symbol: Nu
  • Subunits: chhertum
  • BTN Notes: Nu.1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000
  • BTN Coins: Ch. 1,5, 10, 20, 25, 50
  • Bhutan Monetary Authority: Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan
  • Bhutan GDP (nominal): $5.871 billion

History

Coins in Bhutan were minted by the Cooch Behar mint located in West Bengal in the foothills of the Himalayas until 1789. After that Bhutan started issuing its own currency in the form of coins called chetrum. These coins were made of hammered silver and copper, usually in denominations of ½ rupee until 1929, when more modern coins were introduced in denominations of 12 rupee and 1 paisa coins. Nickel ½ rupee coins were circulated in the 1950s. Cooch Behar coins continued to circulate at the same time as Bhutan’s currency.

In 1957, Bhutan decimalised its currency, while the Bank of Bhutan was founded in 1968. The country soon underwent a period of increased monetisation, and the Ngultrum and chhertum were introduced in 1974. The Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan took over the responsibility of printing notes in 1983 from the Ministry of Finance.

Coins

The first set of coins in 1974 included a square Ch. 5 coin and a scallop shaped Ch. 10 coin. Today the Ch. 5 and Ch.10 are rarely used.

DenominationObverseReverseDescription
Ch. 20Man working in a field with “Food for All” written on the coinVersion of the Bhutan Coat of Arms, with the value of the coinReeded edge, released in 1974
Ch. 25Golden fish of good fortune, “Royal Government of Bhutan”A Dorje (meaning lighting, diamond and a ritual weapon) from the coat of arms representing the relationship between religious and secular powerReeded edge, released in 1979
Ch. 50Treasure vase (one of 8 revered Buddhist symbols) “Royal Government of Bhutan”  Eight revered Buddhist symbols with “Bhutan” written in the middleReeded edge, released in 1979
Nu. 1Coat of Arms in a circle, Wheel of Dharma on a lotus, “Royal Government of Bhutan” Divided into nine sections, eight various Buddhist symbolsReeded edge, released in 1979

Notes

DenominationObverseReverseColour
Nu. 1Government crest, two dragonsSimtokha Dzong (Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras) An important historical site, former Buddhist monastery and language learning institute.Blue, red and green
Nu. 5Bja Tshering (mythical birds of long life) Taktsang (Himalayan Buddhist sacred site in Bhutan) Orange
Nu. 10Dungkar (a conch and one of the eight lucky symbols) , Jigme Singye Wangchuck (the “King – Father of Bhutan”)Paro Rinpung Dzong (a large Buddhist monastery and fortress) Purple
Nu. 20Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (current King of Bhutan)  Punakha Dzong (“the palace of great happiness or bliss) administrative centre of Punakha Yellow and green
Nu. 50Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (current King of Bhutan)Trongsa Dzong (largest Dzong fortress in Bhutan) Pink, orange and green
Nu. 100Jigme Singye Wangchuck (the “King – Father of Bhutan”), Norbu RinpocheTashichho Dzong, (Buddhist monastery and fortress), dragonsGreen
Nu. 500Ugyen Wangchuck (first King of Bhutan) with the Raven Crown (worn by the King of Bhutan with a raven’s head on the top)Punakha DzongPink, orange and green
Nu. 1000Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck with the Raven Crown Tashichho DzongYellow, red and gold

Value

The Bhutanese ngultrum is pegged to the rupee at par. It was valued at BTN 44.19 to US$1 on July 29, 2011 but has since fallen in value. In July 2012 the BTN was worth 55.3, a year later it was around 60 in July 2013, 64 in July 2015 and 66.7030 at the time of writing (November 1, 2016).

USD US dollar bhutanese ngultrum rate watch

BTN to 1 USD over the past 5 years (courtesy of Rate Watch)

CAD Canadian dollar bhutanese ngultrum rate watch

BTN to 1 CAD over the past 5 years (courtesy of Rate Watch)

Economy of Bhutan

Bhutan has one of the smallest and most underdeveloped economies in the world. 60% of the population relies on agriculture (primarily animal husbandry and subsistence farming) or forestry. India is Bhutan’s most important economic connection, due to strong trade links, financial aid, the pegged currency and Indian migrant labour for many development projects. 83% of Bhutan’s exports are shipped to India, with a further 10% to Hong Kong. 72% of imports come from China, and 6% from South Korea.

Hydroelectric power also plays a crucial role in Bhutan’s current economy. It makes up 99.61% of the country’s electricity production and has substantially boosted GDP, making up 42% of exports from the country. Overall the country has high levels of growth. 9.7% in 2011, 6.4% in 2012, 3.6% in 2013, 3.8% in 2014, and 5.9% in 2015.

Tourism is being cautiously pursued by the government, but only in a manner which is culturally and environmentally responsible. However tourism earnings declined last year due to devastating earthquakes.

bhutan economy coins flag pile money

The Bottom Line

Bhutan’s small, underdeveloped economy is continuing to grow, but only under the watchful eye of the government. Economically and monetarily the country is tied to its giant neighbour, India.


Continue exploring Bhutan with our Profile and Travel Guide! You can read more about the Indian rupee HERE.

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