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 during the winter months. 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 socio-economic development has made the country much more accessible and there are now a network of roads entering and traversing the country from the south, as well as one international and three 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 Bhutan with the Indian state of Assam.
Travel By Land
Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar are the only land border areas open to tourists so far.
The town of Phuentsholing in south-west is located approximately 170 km east of the Indian national airport at Bagdogra. After crossing Phuentsholing, you begin your journey to Thimphu, the capital city with travel time of about five hours for the 170 km stretch.
Gelephu, in south-central Bhutan, is another entry point to Bhutan. It is approximately 250 kms from Thimphu and the journey will take you through the sub-tropical areas of Bhutan before entering the alpine zone and then finally into Thimphu. However, the guest can also take the domestic flight to Paro from Gelephu.
The district of Samdrup Jongkhar in south-east Bhutan borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam and is approximately 150 kms away from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The journey from Guwahati is about three hours. Tourists entering Bhutan through Samdrup Jongkhar will take you to Trashigang, and from there over the lateral route to Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa, Wangdue Phodrang and then finally into the capital, Thimphu. The distance is about 700 kms and will take you a minimum of three days to reach Thimphu. You can also take domestic flight to Paro from Yonphula in Trashigang.
Travel By Air
There are flights to destinations that include Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodh Gaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati, Singapore and Mumbai.
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 two carriers operate to Bhutan, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. There are also domestic airports in Yonphula in eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in central Bhutan, and Gelephu in south-central Bhutan.
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 and Kathmandu is one of the most exciting ones as the aircraft passes over four of the five highest mountains in the world. On a clear day, you can enjoy the spectacular view of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga at their best.
With the exception of visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives, all other visitors travelling to Bhutan need a visa.
Indian, Bangladeshi’s and Maldivian national’s can obtain a permit at the port of entry on producing a passport with a minimum of 6 months validity (Indian nationals can use their Voters Identity Card (VIC)).
All other nationalities 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 enable us to process your visa. The visa can only be processed once we receive the full payment of your travel to Bhutan (including USD $40 as visa fee), thus we request the guest to transfer the full amount to our Bank in Bhutan. It will take us minimum 72 hours to process the visa for you.
At your point of entry you will be required to show your visa clearance letter, the visa will then be stamped into your passport on arrival at Paro Airport.
A wide variety of accommodation is available ranging from luxurious 5-star hotels to cozy little hotels and home-stays in traditional Bhutanese homes and settings. Visitors can be assured of their warmth and comfort of the hotels. Similarly, the ambiance and hospitality offered by the hotels are incredible.
The types of accommodations can be divided into:
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.
The 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 travel to Bhutan.
Travel / Medical Insurance
The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for our visitors. Travel insurance can be provided through us or an international partner. You may also visit the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan website at www.ricb.com.bt for more information.
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) which is at par with the Indian rupee that is widely accepted in the country.
All credit cards can be used in Bhutan to purchase your gift items etc… In addition you can also withdraw moneys from ATM in most part of the country.
The banks that you can avail services of while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Except for the Druk PNB the other three banks provide internet banking facilities.
All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets.
It is recommended that you bring flat-to-round pin converters for your electronics if necessary, however, most hotels offer multi plug sockets. Bhutan is a carbon neutral destination. Our energy is clean and green generated by hydro power.
Bhutan offers immense opportunities for photography especially during outdoor sightseeing trips.
However you should check with your guide before taking pictures or filming inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions as in some area photograph/filming is not permitted.
You are free to capture images of the landscape, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, rural life, flora and fauna, distinctive Bhutanese architecture and the exterior of Dzongs and Chortens.
Some popular handicraft items available for purchase are hand-woven textiles of raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products or finely crafted gold and silver items. Other items you may be interested in are the exquisite Buddhist thangkha paintings or Bhutan’s wide array of colorful and creative postage stamps. You can come across these items in many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu as well as in other major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.
Tipping is purely a personal matter. We leave it up to you as to whether you wish to tip your guides and drivers at the end of your tour in Bhutan.
The country has a good network of telecommunication facilities. This days most hotels and cafe’s offer free Wi-Fi internet access. Bhutan has a comprehensive mobile (cell) phone network with global roaming also accessible.
Clothes & Other Paraphernalia
With great attitudinal variations, weather is quite mixed in Bhutan. So be prepared to face the unforeseen weather conditions.
We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning to visit monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. Long pants and long sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.
Measures, Weight & Time
Bhutan ascribes to the metric system and most weights are measured in gram (g) and kilogram (kg). The standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT.
Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, please seek advice from your doctor with regard to vaccinations and appropriate medication you should have prior to your travels. As a basic precaution you should have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations.
Bhutan is one of the safest countries in the world however you should still exercise caution when visiting. Please ensure that your belongings especially your passports, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. Please refrain from leaving such items within sight or in locked vehicles while sightseeing.
Avoid drinking tap water which has not been boiled or ice cubes in drinks at all times as most water sources in Bhutan are untreated. One can easily acquire affordable treated and bottled water.
Also, Bhutan has a duty to protect its citizens from drugs and tobacco products. To do this we need your help and cooperation. Please co-operate if stopped and asked about your baggage. Please do not carry tobacco goods in excess of the set limit. For more information please see following link. Tobacco Control Act
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.
The minimum daily package applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan for tourists travelling in a group of 3 people or more is as follows:
• USD $200 per person per night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December.
• USD $250 per person per night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November.
The minimum daily package covers the following services;
• A minimum of 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star may require a premium payment).
• All meals
• A licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the duration of your stay
• All internal ground transport
• Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
Tourists travelling in a group of two (2) persons or less shall be subject to a surcharge, in addition to the minimum daily package rates as follows;
• Single individual – US$ 40 per night
• Group of 2 persons only – US$ 30 per person per night
Upon booking your trip to Bhutan with us we will be requesting you to transfer the full payment for your travel in Bhutan which will have to be forwarded to Tourism Council of Bhutan by us. We will forward you the banking instructions.
1. Where is Bhutan?
Bhutan is a small, landlocked nation located in the eastern Himalayas between India and China. Its landscape ranges from subtropical plains and forests in the South to sub-alpine forests and snowy mountains in the North. Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist country and is known as the last stronghold of Mahayana Buddhism.
2. Do I need to use a tour operator to book my travel?
It is a government regulation that you must use a licensed Bhutanese tour operator to book your travel to Bhutan or one of their international partners.
3. Is there a limit on the number of tourists that can enter Bhutan each year?
There is no limit on the number of tourists allowed to visit in a year. In order to protect our culture, traditions and natural environment, the government has adopted a unique policy of “High Value, Low Impact ”. This policy is aimed at attracting discerning tourists that will respect the unique culture and values of the Bhutanese people while also providing the visitors with an unforgettable experience.
4. What’s the food like in Bhutan?
The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillies are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that is not spicy.
Rice forms a staple Bhutanese diet. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are consumed most often. A wide selection of western and Indian food is also available in many of the restaurants around the country.