With the exception of visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives, all other visitors travelling to Bhutan need a visa.
Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can obtain a permit at the port of entry on producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters Identity Card (VIC)).
All other tourists must obtain a visa clearance prior the travel to Bhutan. Travellers cannot process on arrival tourist visa hence all travellers must process their visa prior to their arrival in Bhutan. Tourism regulation set by the Royal Government of Bhutan mandates that all tours must be booked through a certified local tour operator. The local tour operator will process the tourist visa on behalf of the travelers. The Tourism Council of Bhutan approves the tourist visa upon full payment of the trip. A one-time visa processing fee of USD 40 per person is levied.
At your point of entry you will be required to show your visa clearance letter, the visa will then be stamped into your passport.
Online Regional Permit System
In order to streamline and facilitate smooth visitation by tourists from Bangladesh, India and Maldives, the Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and the Tourism Council of Bhutan have launched the Online Permit System. The system facilitates the online processing of permits for regional tourists through registered Bhutanese tour operators and TCB certified hotels. The facility is offered as an optional channel to process permits for visitors from the region and is applicable for entry from Paro and Phuntsholing. Visitors who use this facility will be able to obtain their permit clearances and route permits ahead of their arrival in Bhutan similar to international tourists.
Minimum Daily Tariff
To achieve high value low impact sustainable tourism, all tourists visiting Bhutan are subject to the minimum daily tariff set by the Royal Government of Bhutan.
The Minimum Daily Package rate, Surcharge for Free Individual Traveler (FIT) or small group and Cancellation Policy shall be as follows:
|Season||Minimum Daily Tariff||Months Applicable|
|Peak Season||USD 250 per person per night||Mar, Apr, May, Sep, Oct, Nov|
|Lean Season||USD 200 per person per night||Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug, Dec|
The Minimum Daily Package rate includes:
- Sustainable Development Fee
- 3 Star accommodation on a twin sharing basis
- Daily three meals
- Certified Tour Guide
- Transport within Bhutan
- Trekking Haulage for trekking packages (Trekking packages are covered in the same tariff)
Individual travellers up to 2 people visiting Bhutan are subject to a surcharge as follows over and above your minimum daily tariff:
|Number of Tourists||Surcharge|
|One traveler||USD 40 per night|
|Two traveler||USD 30 per person per night|
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.
Free tour cancellation 90 days prior to arrival, 50% cancellation charges applies 60 days prior to traveling date and full cancellation charges applies post 60 days from the date of arrival.
Getting Into Bhutan
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 of 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 Bhutan with the Indian state of Assam.
Royal Bhutan Airlines and Bhutan Airlines operate inbound flights to Paro International Airport from Singapore, Bangkok in Thailand, Dhaka in Bangladesh, Katmandu in Nepal and from multiple Indian cities such as New Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai.
There are three points of entry by road.
1. Phuntsholing district in the south west that links with the Indian plains of West Bengal. This point of entry is 176 kilometers away from the capital city Thimphu. Indian National Airport in Bagdogra is approximately 170 kilometers away from the border town.
2. Tourist can also enter through Gelephu district in south central.
3. Samdrup Jongkhar district in south eastern Bhutan that link with the Indian state of Assam. Guwahati International Airport is approximately 150 kilometers away from Samdrup Jongkhar. This route is preferable if travelers plan on exploring eastern Bhutan.
Best Time to Visit Bhutan
Weather and climatic conditions
There are four distinct seasons in Bhutan (winter, spring, summer and autumn). The spring and summer months are usually pleasant with mild temperatures throughout the region. In the summer, it can get hot during the day and occasionally rain easily. In the winter months it is very cold at night and in the morning, during the day it can be pleasantly warm.
Every season has its charm, for example, the spring and summer season is a planting season for farmers across the country. Everywhere are colorful flowers and lush green rice fields to see, making the landscape fresh and stimulating. During the fall season, crops are harvested throughout the country and the fields shine in bright gold. The highlight of the winter season is the clear blue sky with an uninterrupted view of the valley and the Himalayas, ideal for hikers and mountain pass enthusiasts.
Tourists who want to visit a festival during their trip to Bhutan should plan their trip in spring or fall. The famous festival Paro Tsechu is celebrated in March or April and the Thimphu Tsechu in September or October. Parse Tsechu and Thimphu Tsechu are the country’s most popular mask dance festivals. Bhutan receives the most tourists during this time. Therefore, interested travelers should book their stay early to secure flights and hotel rooms.
If you want to do a trekking tour in Bhutan, you should plan the trip either in spring or autumn. The trekking routes remain inaccessible during the winter months, because the constant precipitation at higher altitudes makes walking difficult. In spring and autumn, on the other hand, there are mild climatic conditions and the weather is mostly dry, which is ideal for trekking tours.
Low Budget Travel
Budget-conscious travelers who would like to come to Bhutan should visit the country in winter or summer. During these periods, the daily rate will be reduced by $ 50 per person per night, significantly reducing travel costs. Airlines also offer cheaper fares during these times.
It is also possible to travel to eastern Bhutan at a cheaper rate: tourists only have to pay the sustainable development fee of US $ 65 per day.
Clothes and other paraphernalia
With great altitudinal 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 a visit to the 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.
Ngultrum is the local currency. The Ngultrum is pegged with the Indian Rupee at par. Foreign currency exchange services are available at the local banks. Updated foreign exchange rate information can be found at the local bank website and at the airport. Banks have also installed many ATM across the country. The ATM accepts VISA and MasterCard. Service charges may vary depending on the country and the Bank of where the card was issued and therefore we recommend travellers to get in touch with their bank prior to travelling to Bhutan. Most hotels, restaurants and shops accept card payment as well.
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 gods of silver. Other items you may be interested in are the exquisite Buddhist thangkha paintings or Bhutan’s wide array of colourful and creative postage stamps. You can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and in other major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.
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 in particular.
Travelers can carry the following items for personal consumption only 200 pieces cigarettes; 30 pieces of cigars or 150 gram of other tobacco. A person importing tobacco products for personal consumption from countries other than India shall pay 100 percent sales tax and 100 percent customs duty and only 100% sales tax if imported from India. While in Bhutan, visitors must retain the tax receipt to present to, if you encounter any checking by Tobacco Control Inspector.
Import/export of the following items is strictly prohibited:
- Arms, ammunition and explosives
- All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs
- Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
- Import of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations.
Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate.
Tourist SIM Card
Local telecom service companies offer tourist SIM card. The services include talk time, text and data services. Tourists can avail the SIM card from the airport or visit distribution shops in town. Tourists are required to submit a copy of their passport. The SIM card cost Ngultrum 100 to 200. SIM cards are available in Standard, Micro and Nano sizes.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 subalpine 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. Do I need a visa to enter Bhutan?
All International tourists wishing to enter Bhutan require a visa which must be pre-arranged through a license Bhutanese Tour Operator or one of their international partners. Visa clearance must be obtained through your tour operator prior to travel. For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives may obtain a visa on entry.
4. How much does the visa cost?
For International tourist visas, a cost of USD 40 is applicable. This can be paid in advance to your tour operator or travel agent. For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives, there is no cost incurred.
5. How do I get to Bhutan?
There are a number of airports where you can fly into Bhutan from (Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodh Gaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati, Singapore and Mumbai.). At present two carriers operate to Bhutan, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. Also, there are three land border crossings which you can travel into the kingdom overland. All crossings are along the Indian border only – Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar. All travel arrangements to Bhutan must be made through a local tour operator. A list of tour companies operating in Bhutan is available on this website. Your selected tour operator will make all the necessary arrangements.
6. What does the $200/$250 per day minimum daily package include?
The $200 per day (January, February, June, July, August) and $250 per day (March, April, May, September, October, November) package includes a minimum of 3 star accommodations, costs for food, an experienced guide and transportation within the country. Also included in the price is a $65 per day Sustainable Development Fee that goes towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation. All of these services will be arranged by your tour operator.
7. What currency is used in Bhutan?
Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum. Its value is tied to the Indian Rupee which is widely accepted in the country.
8. 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 one of a kind experience.
9. 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 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.