Markets are held regularly, generally on Saturday and Sunday, and are a rich source of local clothing and jewellery, as well as food. Silversmiths and goldsmiths in the Thimphu Valley are able to make hand-crafted articles to order. Phuentsholing has a small department store, the only one of its kind in Bhutan.
Yathra is a brightly coloured woven material made from wool and dyed with natural colours. It is sold in pieces or sewn into jackets, bags, rugs and wall hangings. Yathra is available in Thimphu and other cold areas, but is a speciality of the Jakar area.
Dappa are hand-made wooden bowls. The halves of the bowl fit tightly together so they can be used to carry cooked food, which is their function in Bhutan. However, they also make excellent salad or cookie bowls. Dappa are a speciality of the Trashi Yangtse region, but can be purchased throughout the country.
Haggling at tourist-oriented shops is expected, but the margin for discount is small (unless you make a bulk purchase). However, store owners are extremely honest and there is little possibility to be cheated or offered an inflated price.
Shopping hours are generally Monday to Sunday, 8 am-8 pm, for most shops.
Basically, Thimphu has three kinds of stores: clothing, handicraft and hardware. Between these, there is a small assortment of stationery-cum-bookstores and supermarkets. Almost all stores stock the same goods, so if you cannot find the required items in the first couple of stores it is generally useless to persist. However, what the city lacks in variety, it adequately substitutes with friendliness. As the store keeper informs you that the goods you want are not available and cannot be ordered, you will inevitably be facing a warm and friendly smile.
Be aware that most handicrafts sold in Thimphu are made in Nepal or other Himalayan areas. Exceptions are cloth items, some thankas and goods made of lemon grass oil. These are generally made in Bhutan.
Yarkay Central is located across from Hotel Norling on Norzin Lam has four good quality craft stores – Kelzang Handicrafts is the most commercial and sells a range of goods, including t-shirts; Druk Handicraft and Kurtue Handicrafts specialise in woven goods and Karchung sells a small, but good quality range of art work and wood carvings.
Blue Poppy Bhutanese is a handicraft store specialising in woven fabrics and paintings located in the Kawajangsa area of the city, near the indigenous medicine hospital. Opposite the post office, Lungta is one of the largest handicraft stores in the down town area. Good selection of hand made goods from all over the Himalayan region.
The Handicraft Emporium, at the top end of Norzin Lam is open daily and offers a magnificent assortment of hand-woven and hand-crafted goods.
The weekend market in Chubachhu has over 100 stalls selling hand woven cloth and other handicrafts.