Bhutan Travel Information
All leisure travel attract government fee of USD 200 per night per person, along with one time non-refundable visa fee of USD 40 per person. Even though visa, once approved, is valid for 90 days, one is only allowed to stay for the duration for which government fee (also known as SDF: Sustainable Development Fee of USD 200) is deposited in advance. During the 90 day visa period, one can extend duration of stay provided the government fee/ SDF is deposited prior to start of new period of stay.
The Indian nationals do not require visa but need permit to enter Bhutan. For leisure travel, Indians have to pay SDF of Rs. 1200 per person per night.
The visa can be applied directly or through registered Bhutanese service provider like us. For the visa application, the digital copy of passport, passport size photograph along with valid travel insurance (covering the period of stay in Bhutan) has to be produced. Either you can apply the visa directly yourself and then contact us for travel arrangement or we can do all of the arrangement including the visa. It would mean single transfer of payment, if done through us with no extra charges.
Covid-19 Travel Requirements: Starting 23 Sep 2022, no COVID-19 testing or proof of vaccination is required for all travelers. All restrictions have been lifted and borders open for all travels. However, there is small chance that one (if above 12 years of age) may be tested (RT-PCR) randomly at the formal points of entry or during the trip to maintain COVID – 19 surveillance for new variants. No fee shall be charged for the RT-PCR testing for surveillance. In the country, there are recommendation of masking in public places and hand-washing. More details, including requirements of other ports of entry is given in About Bhutan page under Covid-19 Status.
Here are other general Bhutan travel information. More details will follow once we establish your trip preferences.
Tour Booking Process:
We can make recommendation of events or seasons around which you can decide the dates of your travel – tentatively to begin. Are there other destinations along the way that you would like to stop at? Are there any specific aspect of Bhutan that you are interested in? Based on your answers to some of our questions on your interests, we will make recommendations.
Once the package (with activities and level of service) and time of travel is decided, you will need to secure the bookings with payments – part or full, which needs to be wire transferred (SWIFT).
Cancellation Policies: Depending on the time of booking, one may need to deposit part or full payment to secure the arrangements. Depending on the time of cancellation from the time of 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, permit & Other fees
All visitors (except Indian nationals) traveling to Bhutan need a visa, which can be obtained by paying one time non-refundable visa fee of USD40 per person. Instead of visa, the Indian nationals require permit.
For leisure travel, the visa fee has to be supplemented with government fee (also called SDF: Sustainable Development Fee) of USD 200 per night per person. For leisure travel of Indian nationals, government fee of Rs. 1200/- per person per night is levied.
The visa is valid for 90 days, during which any extension is permissible provided the applicable SDF is paid prior to start of new period.
The visitors from Bangladesh and the Maldives can process their visas on arrival at their port of entry and visitors from India can process their permits on arrival. The nationals of Switzerland and Thailand who hold diplomatic or government-official passports, are also eligible for a visa on arrival at their port of entry.
A digital copy of your passport if applying online (or the hard copy of your passport if applying in person) has to be submitted for visa application. The passport must be valid for six months from the intended date of departure from Bhutan. A recent passport-size photograph along with valid travel insurance for the duration of the trip, is also required during the time of application.
The visa will be processed through the Department of Immigration, which can be applied directly by yourself or us.
Once the online application is approved, a visa clearance letter (in PDF) will be issued, which has to be produced at the port of entry (including at the airline counter to board flight to Bhutan). Then on arrival, the visa will be stamped in your passport.
Once in the country, there are entry fees to popular attractions and sites. Our packages include these charges along with the SDF, unless you specifically would like to pay on your own.
Sustainable development fee (SDF)
The government fee or royalty called the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) is collected for all inbound leisure travel. The SDF is USD 200 per night per person for all nationalities, except for the Indians. The Indian nationals have to bear SDF of INR 1200 per night per person.
The SDF does not include one time visa fee of USD40. (Visa is required for all nationalities except the Indians).
The SDF must be paid during the visa or permit application via wire transfer or using a credit card. The SDF is paid in US dollars. Indian nationals applying for a permit can pay in Indian rupees. There are additional bank charges. We can make the payments on your behalf, as part of our package.
Visitors eligible for a visa on arrival, pay the applicable SDF in US dollars at the port of entry.
The Sustainable Development Fee, whether paid through us or to the Department of Immigration directly, goes to the government. It is considered an “active contribution” by the visitors to the Bhutan’s development, including socio-economic, conservation of culture and nature and education of youth.
Hotels & Accommodation
Our packages include minimum of 3-star level accommodation. The standard packages features 3-star level accommodation, with deluxe and luxury packages having 4 and 5 star properties. Our recommended packages have mix of classes, reflecting logistical sense and trip needs rather than the accommodation levels.
meals & Drinks
The meals throughout the trip are included in your package. Drinks generally, alcoholic or soft drinks, by default, are excluded but can be included with premium coverage.
The ground transport for throughout the trip are included in our packages. This includes the airport transfers, site visits and transfer between different destinations/ accommodation within the country. Often it is same vehicle and accompanying staff that are used throughout trip, though it can be changed according to the needs. The terrains, road conditions, group size or preferences for premium determines the vehicle type and use.
Bhutan Standard Time (BST) is UTC +6 hours, which is the same time zone as Dhaka. This is half an hour ahead of India, 15 minutes ahead of Nepal, one hour behind Bangkok and two hours behind Singapore. This is 13 hours ahead of PST and 5 hours ahead of CET.
Temperature, Clothing & Packing
Bhutan is a mountainous country, placed quite close to equator with latitude of 27°30” N. While Bhutan has some of the highest elevations in the world, it also has land close to sea level. The altitude range is from 150m/495ft to 7540m/ 24800ft approximately. Just in an hour of driving, one can experience sub-tropical as well as alpine conditions. Once the time and places of your travel in Bhutan is set, we will furbish you with custom packing list but generally, layered clothing is recommended. Please refer ‘Location, Geography & Temperature‘ page in About Bhutan for average temperatures in some of the common places of visit in Bhutan.
Ports of Entry
By air, one can enter Bhutan from Bangkok (Thailand), Delhi (India), Dhaka (Bangladesh, periodic), Kathmandu (Nepal), Kolkata (India), Singapore (periodic) and Bagdogra (India, Seasonal). As of now, the only port of air arrival in Bhutan is Paro International Airport, from where one can fly to 3 other domestic airports.
By land, you can enter the country from south western Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing, alongside Indian town of Jaigaon, West Bengal. There are other points of entry along the border that is subject is special approval as of now and in state plans to be approved for future use.
There are different country specific Covid-19 related travel requirements in the each of the port of entry, which has been listed under ‘Covid-19 Status in Bhutan’ in ‘About Bhutan’ page. These requirements are subject to change without notice.
There are two airlines that operate in and out of Bhutan – namely state owned Druk Air and private Bhutan Airlines. Their fleet includes Airbus A320neo and Airbus A319. Only Druk Air operates domestic short haul flights (with average air time of 20 minutes ) for which, an ATR-42 turboprop airplane is used.
There maybe delays and cancellation since all the airports in Bhutan (including the Paro International Airport) have visual runways and requires visual approach procedures, which are affected by weather.
Original Bhutan is authorized agent for both Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines.
Druk Air have recently taken over the corporation that provides state helicopter services. They run 3 Airbus H130 helicopters that can be chartered for sightseeing but used in-country mainly for medical emergencies.
Delays & Insurance
If there is delay in departure because of cancelled flight, there are no extra visa fees and airline will arrange for your accommodations. One would need to bear the resulting incidentals. On early departure, there are no refunds for unused services or cancelled during the time of travel. There are different terms applied for cancellations prior to the trip.
The Bhutanese tourism regulations requires all travelers to Bhutan to have travel insurance. Many of the destinations en-route to Bhutan have similar requirement of travel insurance, some specifying COVID coverage, so requirements for those destinations has to be checked. There are local travel insurance providers and we have international partners, who can provide same.
The Bhutanese money called ‘Ngultrum’ (pronounced without the ‘g’ in the spelling) is tied to Indian rupee (INR) with fixed exchange rate. A dollar (US) is exchanged for an average 79 of Ngultrum (as of Oct 2022), but this will also vary depending on the denomination of the currency as well. The Indian rupee is also accepted in smaller denominations. The 2000 note of INR is not accepted.
Some of the larger properties and most of the souvenir ships will accept credit card, with addition of bank charges (usually 3%). For your incidentals, you can exchange your cash into local currency or withdraw from the local ATM (that is of Bank of Bhutan or Bhutan National Bank) subject to bank charges. One of the banks (Bank of Bhutan) provides app with use of local phone SIM card that can convert and provide local currency in digital wallet, that can be used for online/ offline transaction while in the country.
Other regulations to consider
- There is no public smoking allowed in Bhutan. One has to go to designated smoking areas, while in restaurants or public places.
- The use and distribution of disposable plastic is banned in the country. (Though you can find them easily!).
- One is forbidden to export any antiques or things that is more than 100 years old. All of the antiques purchased in the country have to be verified by Department of Culture before departure.
Please note that our pre-trip literature will include more details, necessary information on regulations and local etiquette.