Getting into Bhutan

The way to Bhutan: travel by air and travel by land.

The Kingdom of Bhutan remained largely cut off from the rest of the world up until the early 1960’s. Entering the country was difficult as it was only accessible by foot from two main entry points, one in the North and another from the South. The Northern route was through Tibet, crossing high mountain passes that were inaccessible throughout the winters. The second entry route from the South came through the plains of Assam and West Bengal. The high, frozen passes in the North and the dense, jungles in the South made it extremely difficult to enter the country. However, carefully planned economic development has made the country much more accessible and there are now a network roads entering and traversing the country, as well as one international and multiple domestic airports. Today the main roads entering the country are through Phuentsholing in the south, linking Bhutan with the Indian plains of West Bengal, through the border towns of Gelephu, in the central region and Samdrup Jongkhar, in the east, that link with the Indian state of Assam. All visitors to Bhutan require a visa to enter the country (see visa under the plan tab). Visa clearance must be obtained before coming to Bhutan and travel must be booked through a Bhutanese tour operator or international partner. Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can receive a visa on entry and it is not necessary for them to book travel through a tour operator, however it is recommended. In the case of Indian nationals a passport or voters card are acceptable on entry.

TRAVEL BY AIR

The national airline Drukair flies from Thailand, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Singapore to Bhutan’s Paro International Airport, located in the west of the country.Paro is situated at a height of 2,225 m (7300 ft) above sea level and is surrounded by mountains as high as 4,876 m (16,000 ft). At present Drukair is the only airline operating flights into and around the country with a fleet of Airbus A319’s. It services Bangkok in Thailand, Delhi, Kolkata, Bodh Gaya, Guwahati in India; Dacca in Bangladesh; Kathmandu in Nepal; and Singapore. There are a regular domestic service to Bumthang (central region) and flights available to Trashigang (eastern region) and Gelephu (southern region). A second international airport is currently under construction in Gelephu along the southern border to India. Flying into Bhutan’s Paro International Aiport is typically an exciting experience as the descent into Paro valley brings you closer to the mountain tops than most other flights in the world. The flight between Paro, Kathmandu and Delhi is particularly rewarding as it offers spectacular views of 4 of the 5 highest mountains in the world. In clear weather, as you soar higher up, you’ll be treated to amazing close-ups of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga at their best. Visit www.drukair.com.bt for more information.

TRAVEL BY LAND

Phuntsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar are all located along the southern border of India and are the only overland border entries open to international tourists.The town of Phuntsholing is located approximately 170 km east of the Indian national airport Bagdogra. After crossing Phuntsholing, your will begin a mountainous climb through hair-pin bends until you enter Thimphu, the capital city. The 176 km journey usually takes around 6 hours. Travel sickness tablets are recommended for young children and adults who may not be accustomed to the mountain roads. Gelephu in South-Central Bhutan is another entry point to Bhutan. It is approximately 250 kms from Thimphu. The journey will take you through lush sub-tropical jungles and pristine alpine forests before finally bringing you into Thimphu. You will traverse across three districts with a travel time of approximately ten hours. Samdrup Jongkhar is the only entry point in eastern Bhutan. The town borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam and is approximately 150 kms from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The journey from Guwahati is about three hours. Tourists entering Bhutan through Samdrup Jongkhar will have to travel through Trashigang, the largest district in the country, and from there east through Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa and Wangde Phodrang to reach the capital city, Thimphu. The distance is about 700 kms and you should allow three days journey time.

Accommodation

Where is Bhutan

Accommodation

There are many different types of accommodations available to visitors in Bhutan. There are hundreds of options available ranging from luxurious 5-star resorts to cozy little hotels and home-stays in traditional Bhutanese homes.The types of accommodations can be divided into:

  1. Hotels
  2. Resorts
  3. Farm-stays
  4. Home-stays

Additionally visitors embarking on long treks will be provided with tents and whatever other camping equipment is deemed necessary. Regardless of where they stay, visitors can be assured of their comfort and traditional Bhutanese hospitality.

Hotels

Bhutan has hundreds of hotels located all across the country. They range from small, simple and clean local hotels to luxurious resorts for affluent travelers seeking the ultimate getaway.

Hotels in Bhutan are rated according to a National 5 Star rating System. All Tour Operators are required to provide their guests with a minimum of 3 Star accommodations so you can be assured of your comfort. Most hotels provide their guests with Television, Room Service, Fitness Centers, Spas and Wi-fi. However the exact services available will vary from hotel to hotel.

– See more at: http://www.hotel.bt

Bhutan Festivals 2021

The tentative yearly festival calendar for the year 2021 has been released with over 30 exciting festivals in various regions across Bhutan. Please click the following link to download the 2021 tentative festival calendar. Tentative Festival Dates, 2021

Travel Tips

ChecklistThe following information acts as a guide when traveling to Bhutan. This practical advice is not a comprehensive list but should provide some useful information for you as you plan your travelling.

TRAVEL/MEDICAL INSURANCE

You should not travel internationally without travel insurance.The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for our visitors. Travel insurance can be provided through your Bhutanese tour operator or international partner. You may also visit the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan website at www.ricb.com.bt for more information.

MONEY

Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) It is at par with the Indian rupee which is accepted as legal tender in the country. Note: INR (Indian Rupees) denominations of 500 and 1000 are not accepted in Bhutan. ATMs are located within all main towns throughout Bhutan, where money can be withdrawn using a Visa or MasterCard. For concerned travelers a list of ATM locations throughout Bhutan is found here: http://www.bob.bt/contact-us/atm-locator/. In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores.

BANKING

Financial institutions in Bhutan have been greatly enhanced and today we have a number of banks that cater to the needs of the people. Some of the banks that you can avail of while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Traveller’s cheque can be easily withdrawn and exchanged for local currency. Many of these banks provide internet banking facilities. TMs are located within all main towns throughout Bhutan, where money can be withdrawn using a Visa or MasterCard. For concerned travelers a list of ATM locations throughout Bhutan is found here: http://www.bob.bt/contact-us/atm-locator/. In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores.

TRAVELING KITS

Bhutan experiences great variations in its climate. In general summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, while winter temperatures are usually below 15 degrees Celsius. The northern regions of the country are colder than the more tropical south and it is recommended you pack accordingly. Trekkers will need to bring appropriate warm clothes and comfortable hiking boots (well broken in) preferably with ankle support and weather-proof to complement the weather and rugged terrain. Others suggested items to pack:

  • A pair of sunglasses
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Hat
  • Umbrella
  • Camera
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Flash light (with spare batteries)
  • Travel sickness tablets
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Anti-histamine cream
  • Anti-diarrhea pills
  • Altitude sickness medication it trekking above 3000m
  • Insect repellent

Visa

ALL VISITORS TO BHUTAN REQUIRE A VISA.

Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can obtain a visa at the port of entry on producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 month validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters Identity Card (VIC)). All other tourists must obtain a visa clearance prior to travel to Bhutan. Visas are processed through an online system by your licensed Bhutanese tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent. You are required to send the photo-page of your passport to your tour operator who will then apply for your visa. The visa will be processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) once the full payment of your holiday (including a USD $40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received in the TCB bank account. Once received the visa clearance will be processed within 72 working hours. At your point of entry you will be required to show your visa clearance letter, the visa will then be stamped into your passport.

Minimum Daily Package

THE MINIMUM DAILY PACKAGE COVERS THE FOLLOWING SERVICES.

A minimum of 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star may require an additional premium). • All meals • A licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay • All internal transport (excluding internal flights) • Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours It also includes: • All internal taxes and charges • A sustainable tourism Royalty of $65. This Royalty goes towards free education, free healthcare, poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure. The minimum daily package for tourists travelling in a group of 3 persons or more is as follows: USD $200 per person per night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December. USD $250 per person per night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November. These rates are applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan. On the day of departure, the ‘local agents’ host obligation shall be limited to providing breakfast only and any extra requirements shall be payable on usage basis. The list of hotels and lodges approved to provide accommodations all listed on this website. If you accommodation is not listed on this website then it is not licensed cater for international tourists. The Royal Government of Bhutan sets minimum selling prices for packages to Bhutan. These must be paid in US dollars prior to arrival in Bhutan.

CANCELLATIONS

Tour Programmes booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows: • within 30 days of start of programme ~ no charges • within 21 days ~ 10% of rate • within 14 days ~ 15% of rate • within 7 days ~ 30% of rate • less than 7 days or without notice ~ 50% of rate • after arrival in Bhutan ~ 100%

DELAYED ARRIVALS

There is no charge for delays in arrival and departure because of weather conditions disrupting flights or road blocks. The tourist must however bear the cost of food, accommodation, transportation, and other services required. It is highly recommended that you purchase travel insurance prior to travel.

SURCHARGES

Tourists travelling in a group of two (2) persons or less shall be subject to a surcharge, in addition to the minimum daily package rates. These are as follows: Single individual – US$ 40 per night Group of 2 persons only – US$ 30 per person per night The 10% agency commission payable to agents abroad shall not be deductible from the surcharge. The surcharge will not be applicable to representatives of foreign travel agents on business study or promotional visit duly approved and cleared by TCB.

DISCOUNTS

A) There shall be no charge for CHILDREN up to the age of 5 years. However, those between the ages of 6-12 years accompanied by elders/ guardians shall be given 50% discount on daily rates and 100% discount on Royalty. This Royalty is currently set at $65 per day. B) Full time STUDENTS below the age of 25 years, holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions, shall also be given a 25% discount on the Royalty. C) A discount of 50% on minimum daily package shall be given to one person in a group of 11 people. 100% discount shall be given to one member in a group exceeding 16 persons. D) A 50%discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 8th night and 100% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 14th night. E) Visitors availing discounts under Sections A & B shall not be eligible for discount under D.

WIRE TRANSFER

Prior to your trip to Bhutan you will be asked to wire the full payment for your holiday to the Tourism Council of Bhutan. This money will remain with the Tourism Council of Bhutan until your trip is complete. Only after you have completed your holiday will the monies be transferred to the local tour operator with which you booked your travel through. This helps to ensure the high quality of service received throughout your trip.

Travel Requirements

All tourists (excluding Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders) who wish to travel to Bhutan require a visa and must book their holiday through a Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners. The tour operator will take care of Visa arrangements for visitors. A listing of licensed Bhutanese tour operators can be found at the link below. Comprehensive list of Tour Operators: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/plan/tour-operators Learn more about visa requirements: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/plan/visa In keeping with the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s policy of “High Value. Low Impact” tourism a Minimum Daily Package is required for tourists. To learn more about the Minimum Daily Package, please follow the link below: Minimum Daily Package: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/plan/minimum-daily-package

IMPORTANT NOTICE

It has been brought to the notice of the Tourism Council of Bhutan Secretariat that some guests are booking their tours through unregistered Tour Operators and also making direct tour payments to the companies contrary to the official transfer channel. Such arrangements have caused immense difficulties to both guests as well as this office. This office would like to inform and request all travellers planning their tours to Bhutan to make their reservations only through registered Tour Operators in Bhutan. A list of local Bhutanese Tour Operators is available on www.tourism.gov.bt/plan/tour-operators or if in doubt, this office can confirm the authentication of the operators should a request for the same be made.