Bhutan Travel Information

All leisure travel, by Bhutanese law, attract government fee of USD200 per night per person, along with one time visa fee of USD 40 per person. The visa itself is valid for 90 days, so you can easily extend your stay in Bhutan by adding USD200 per nights for the actual intended duration.

The total fees can be processed through the government web portal and or you could have nationally registered tour operator in the country, arrange the visa along with other travel arrangements. So, either you can simply come on your own or have us do everything for you. Or you can pay the fees directly to the government, sort the visa and then get in touch with us for packages. You can contact your travel representative in your own country to have them contact us here in Bhutan or you can get in touch with us directly. If you feel more comfortable to have someone of your own, we can work with your representative or we can have our partner in your country get in touch with you.

Then, you could either pick one of the set programs according to your convenient date of travel or get us to customize a trip for you or you could join a group on a scheduled departure trip. That way, you could join in a group but you can also come on your own as individual or with family or friends. We can set it to your taste and how you would like to experience the country and what part – cultural, mountains, nature – any or all. Here is the link to the packages that you can choose or get it customized or simply we can design a custom one from the scratch for you.

Here, we have some of the general travel information including on government regulations and other conditions for your journey to Bhutan. More details would be provided once we decide on a trip type.

Tour Booking Process:

It begins once you decide on the time period that you would like to travel with us. Then how much of time you would like spend in Bhutan and how much long the way. Then with your interest, we will make suggestions and recommendations. You can go through some of the already set programs we have with us here at the packages page. Once you contact us, we will send you few questions to get going. Once the packages (with activities and level of service) is decided with the time of travel, you will need to secure the bookings with payments – part or full, which needs to be wire transferred (SWIFT). The payment, while we are mentioned as beneficiary, is held with the Bhutanese government regulatory body – the Tourism Council of Bhutan, which will release the payment only at completion of the trip. Cancellation Policies: Depending on the time of booking, one may need to deposit part or full payment to secure the arrangements and depending on the time of cancellation from the time of departure for the trip or trip start, one may forfeit none, part or all payment. For full details of the tiered cancellation charges and associated, please contact us – we will send you full set of conditions. This will supersede any terms and conditions that maybe present with regulatory authority as Tourism Council of Bhutan and other service provider such as the airlines or the hotels.

Visa, Government Regulations & Package

All visitors (except those of Indian & Bangladesh) traveling to Bhutan need a visa, which can be obtained by paying government fee of USD 200 per day per person along with one time visa fee of USD40 per person. Your package price will include this tariff. You can pay this directly to the government, get visa and come to us or simply process all through us.

Our packages include royalty termed as Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD 200 per day per person and is different from visa fee (of one time USD40), and goes to government directly. (Unlike in the past, it is not mandatory to come on package tour or a tour operator).

You are required to send the photo-page of your passport (with validity of more than six months before your date of travel), passport size photograph along with travel insurance for us to process the visa.  The visa will be processed through the Department of Immigration, Bhutan once the full payment of your holiday (package price, SDF and visa fee) has been wire transferred and received.  

At your point of entry, you will be required to show your visa clearance letter and only on arrival the visa will then be stamped into your passport.  

Indian and Bangladeshis pay Sustainable Development Fee in Indian Rupee (INR 1200 per person) and 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). We can make the arrangement prior to your arrival.

Sustainable development fee (SDF)

The Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD200 per person per day that is paid to the government is included within our package prices. If you prefer, you can transfer SDF directly to the government as well. For the nationalities of Bangladeshi and Indian, the SDF is collected in INR of total INR1200. This SDF can be paid through us or directly to the government. The SDF does not include one time visa fee of USD40 for nationalities other than Indian and Bangladeshi. The visa is valid for 90 days but it has to be complemented by Sustainable Development Fee for actual duration of stay.

Hotels & Accommodation

Your package will include accommodation, the level of which will depend on your choice of package. Nonetheless, it will have minimum of 3-star level, which is included in our standard packages and is minimum standard decreed by state regulations. There are packages that have 4 and 5 star accommodations or mixed. The choices, with our recommendations and details of the accommodation will be presented as we begin our planning.

meals & Drinks

Your package will include all meals throughout the trip. Drinks generally, alcoholic or soft drinks, by default, are not included – usually hot beverages after the meals and separately once a day is included. Depending on the premium coverage, alcoholic and other drinks can also be included.

Ground Transport

Our packages include the Ground Transport. This includes the transfer to airport, sights of visit through the trip in Bhutan. The type of vehicles will reflect group size, terrains of place of visits, preferences for premium, etc. The fleet we use includes Toyota Coaster buses, SUVs, Mini Van, etc.

Time

Bhutan Standard Time (BST) is 6+ hours ahead of GMT similar time zone as Dhaka; half an hour ahead of India, 15 minutes ahead of Nepal and one hour behind Bangkok.

Temperature, Clothing and Packing

Even though Bhutan has some of the highest elevations in the world, it also has some tropical conditions given its latitude position being near equator (27°30” N). Depending on the time of your travel in Bhutan and places the program has been set, we will provide you with custom packing list but generally, various layered clothing is always good idea. So that when you experience subtropical conditions you can shed after you have descended from 10500ft alpine conditions in an hour of driving! Please refer Location, Geography & Temperature‘ page in About Bhutan for average temperatures in some of the places in Bhutan.

Ports of Entry

By air, one can enter Bhutan from Bangkok (Thailand), Delhi (India), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Kathmandu (Nepal), Kolkata (India), Singapore and Bagdhora (India, Seasonal). One can enter Bhutan by road from India. There are 3 main routes from India into Bhutan – one from the West Bengal state of India entering into Bhutan (west side) through Phuentsholing (major trade hub of Bhutan) situated south west side of the country. One can also enter South East side to come to Samdrupjongkhar of Bhutan first to enter from East. One can enter central side through South Central situated town of Gelephu. In the north, there is no road into China.

Flights

There are two airlines that operate into Bhutan – namely state owned Druk Air and private Bhutan Airlines. Druk Air operate to more number of destinations and has more aircrafts in the fleet. Druk Air has Airbus A320neo, Airbus A319 and for short haul domestic flights, they use ATR propellor airplanes. Original Bhutan is authorized agent for Druk Air.

Any international flights to one of the ports into Bhutan on average takes 12 hours from North America or 6 hours on average from Europe.

Given that the airport is weather bound and requires visual sighting for landing, there sometime maybe delays and cancellation. It is always recommended that one plan extra night in the port that one is flying out to. And some nights before to get attuned to the time difference.
Depending on your travel program or the package you choose with us, you may have to fly domestic flights in which case ATR propeller plane will either take you to central Bhutan – Bumthang or East Trashigang or South Central Gelephu from Paro west (the international airport).

Delays & Insurance

While there are no extra visa fees for the delays resulting out of weather bound flights, one may need to incur for the extra services and incidentals. It is always recommended that you have travel insurance, which we can arrange as well through our partners. Many of the destinations en-route to Bhutan requires you to have travel insurance, with COVID coverage, so please check with them.

Money

The Bhutanese Ngultrum (pronounced ‘newl – trum’) is pegged to Indian rupee and so the value is same as rupee, and exchange rate moves up or down with rupee. Currently a dollar fetches on average 79 of Ngultrum (as of Sept 2022), but this will vary depending on the denomination of the currency as well.

Along with credit card, most of the souvenir shops will accept US dollars or Indian currency but for the incidentals, it is best to get some local currency at the beginning of the trip. This is for your use while in Bhutan but for trip payment, made beforehand, the payment is accepted through wire-transfers only.

Basic Cultural nuances

Given that it is vastly Buddhist country, one is expected to go around temples, stupas, prayer flags in clockwise direction.

It is considered respectful to point images to statues of deities with all open hand (or all fingers); same gesture is considered more polite in pointing at each other or others.

It is considered more polite to receive or give with both hands – sometimes Bhutanese will shake your hand with both of their hands as to show more respect. There are no preferences in either of the hands.

The Bhutanese are multilingual and so will often speak multiple languages and dialects of their country often mixing them together (you may hear spate of English in barrage of local dialects or vice versa) but often to be polite one may “la” to names or any terms to make it respectful and polite.