The kingdom of Bhutan is located in the eastern end of Himalayas. It offers an amazing blend of traditions and modernity thriving in complete coherence. Following a unique phenomenon of gross national happiness, it proudly announces itself as one of the happiest countries in the world. The happiness is backed more by its ecological richness, strong cultural heritage and rich traditional lineage. It is famous for being the last bastion of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism. In 2009, it pledged to remain a carbon-neutral country to emit less carbon for the sake of the environment.
Getting into Bhutan
There are three main points of entry into Bhutan: Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar and Paro. Visitors can choose to go through Phuentsholing that connects Bhutan with the plains of West Bengal or through Gelephu and Samdrup that connects with the Indian state of Assam. However, the visitors can choose to come through Paro via Druk Air, the national airline of Bhutan.
Bhutan’s only international airport is in Paro located at a height of 7,300 ft above the sea level and surrounded by hills as high as 16000 feet. Druk Air is Bhutan’s flag carrier that operates two Airbuses (A319) to New Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Bagdogra, Dhaka, Bangkok, Guwahati, and Bodh Gaya. The most preferred locations to start on the journey are New Delhi and Kolkata in India, Bangkok in Thailand and Kathmanu in Nepal.
The peak seasons during which the tourists enter by road are February, March, April, May, August, September, October and November. The entry point in the west is the border town of Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar in the east and Gelephu in the south.
- Phuntsholing is about 170 km east of the Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal. It takes about 6 hour drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.
- Gelephu is another entry point in the south- central Bhutan. It is at a distance of about 250 Kms from the capital city, Thimphu.
- Samdrup Jongkhar is the entry point in the East Bhutan. It borders the Darranga district in the Indian state Assam located about 150 Kms away from Guwahati, capital of Assam. The distance to Thimphu from here is about 700 Kms taking about 3 days.
The entry permit is given by the Immigration offices on the show of your passport or the voter’s registration card. The endorsement is done at Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, Gelephu and Paro Airport.
Traveling within Bhutan
All the major towns and tourists places are connected with a good network of roads. The journey might be tiring but the visitors are rewarded with spectacular mountain views, lush green jungles, ancient temples and monasteries and several roadside restaurants and inns.
Bhutan Visa and Tariff
The government of Bhutan encourages the visitors to travel in groups. The holiday packages can be arranged by the international as well as Bhutanese local tour operators. The visit can be a group package or customized private travel plan. There is no restriction on the number of visitors and there is a minimum tariff fixed by the government visiting in a group of 3 or more persons. The independent travel is not allowed in Bhutan and is permitted only after paying a surcharge @US$ 40 per day through local agent.
The minimum tariff for a group of 3 or more visitors is written below:
The minimum price includes:
- High Season Tariff US$ 250 per person per night halt (March, April, May, September, October & November)
- Low Season Tariff US$ 200 per person per night halt (January, February, June, July, August & December)
- All internal taxes and charges (including the royalty paid to the government)
- Accommodation (double occupancy)
- All internal transport
- All travel with a licensed Bhutanese tour guide
- All meals
- Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
The rates are applicable to each tourist staying for night halt in Bhutan. The rates are applied uniformly irrespective of the type of location and accommodation. However, the minimum cost can vary depending upon the season, size of the group, duration of stay and the itinerary. One has to pay separately for the liquor, mineral water, beer, laundry bottled soft drink, and Bhutanese hot-stone bath.
Individual travelling is common but the tariff rate is higher. However, the individual couples and tourists are subject to FIT (foreign independent travelers) surcharge above the daily rate. The surcharge is US$ 40 per night for single person and US$ 30 per person per night for a group of two people. The 10% agency commission that is payable to agents abroad should not be deducted from the surcharge.
For children up to five years of age, there is no charge. The children between 6-12 years of age and accompanied by parents /guardians are given 50 percent discount on the daily rates and 100 percent discount on Royalty.
Full time students are eligible for a 25 percent discount on the daily rates but they must produce a valid identity card from their educational institute. In a group of 11 to 15 people, 50 percent discount is given to one person. In a group exceeding 16 person, 100 percent discount is given on land cost.
Bhutan Visa formalities/Visa for Travel to Bhutan
All the visitors require a visa to travel to Bhutan except for Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian nationals. All the visas are issued from Thimphu but only to tourists that are booked with a local or foreign travel agent. The visa is issued on arrival into the country through air or by road. The minimum time taken for visa clearance is 10 days. The visa application must be submitted at least days before the arrival date. The visa authorization letter will enable the travelers to board the Druk Air flight to Bhutan.
Visa fee is USD 40.
The travel to Bhutan requires at least one flight change in India, Nepal or Thailand; so, the travelers should meet the visa requirements of these countries. Nepal and Thailand offer visa on arrival or visa waiver for different nationalities. However, India requires the visa procedures to be completed before arrival, which can take upto two weeks.
Visas for Indian Nationals
All the Indian visitors are issued a 14-day permit upon arrival in Bhutan. Though no visa and passport is required, still the visitors need to carry their identification documents like passport or voter’s registration card. They must carry about six passport size photos for the permit.
Places To Visit In Bhutan:
It became the capital of Bhutan in 1961 and all the head offices of various governments and ministries are located here only. It is one of the most happening places in the whole country with several places of tourist’s attraction like Dupthop Lhakhang (Nunneries), National Library, Traditional Medicine Institute, Handicrafts Emporium, Folk Heritage Museum, Changangkha Monastery, Sangaygang view point, Cheri Monastery, Tango Monastery, Takin Preserve Center, Phajoding Monastery, Craft Bazar (Market) near Hotel Taj, etc.
This broad and beautiful valley is connected with a wide network of roads and is home to the Paro International Airport, the only port of arrival as well as departure by air for international tourists. The places of tourist attraction here are Ta Dzong (The National Museum), Kichu Lhakhang, Drukgyal Dzong, Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) monastery, Chelila Pass, etc.
Punakha Dzongkhag has 9 Geogs consisting of about 2001 households. Most of the Geogs are located in the banks of Pho-chhu and Mo-chhu except the Talo and Guma Geogs. The places to visit here are Dochula Pass, Punakha Dzong, Chime Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility), Khamsung Yulley Namgyal Choling Monastery, etc.
Located at half an hour distance from Punakha is Wangdue phodrang. Wangdiphodrang Dzong and Rinchengang village are important tourist destinations that can be visited here.
It is popularly known as the spiritual heartland of Bhutan consisting some of the most ancient and precious Buddhist sites, prayer wheels, fluttering prayer flags, chhortens and other Buddhist religious symbols. The tourists can visit the Jakar Dzong, Chakhar Lhakhang (Iron Castle), Kurjey Lhakhang (Body print of Guru Rimpoche), Kunzangdrak Goemba, the Lhodrak Kharchu Dratshang, Ugyenchholing Palace, Membartsho, Cheese Factory, Lhodrak Goemba and many more other places.
It is the old capital of Bhutan and the ruling city of the second king of Bhutan. It is located in the central part of the Bhutan connected to a wide network of roads. The places that are worth visiting here are Kuenga Rabten Palace, Trongsa Dzong, The Ta Dzong and Kuenga Rabten Palace.
The Haa Dzongkhag is a picturesque valley consisting of five Geogs. It is characterized by rugged and a mountainous terrain that has hindered it from any kind of development. The places that the tourists can visit here are Lhakhang Karpo, Lhakhang Nagpo, Chelila Pass, Jamtey Goempa, Dobji Dzong and Rasigang Village.
Mongar town is the eastern commercial and industrial center located on the top of a hill. The prominence of the unique and beautiful Dzong offers to its tourists an exhilarating panorama. Mongar Dzong, Kadam Lhakhang and Yadi Lhakhang are the places of that can be visited.
It is the biggest district in the country offering an exhilarating view of the countryside. From here, the tourists can enjoy the invigorating excursions to Khaling, Phongme, Radi, Trashi Yangtse, and other nearby eastern regions. Besides, one can also visit the Tashigang Dzong, Rangjung Monastery and Khaling Blind School.
It is located in Far East of the country bordering the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The Dzong here is not very stunning but it has some other beautiful structures of historical importance like the Chorten Kora, Tashi Yangtse Dzong and Gom Kora.