The way to Bhutan: travel by air and travel by land.
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 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 with the Indian state of Assam.
All visitors to Bhutan require a visa to enter the country (see visa under the plan tab). Visa clearance must be obtained before coming to Bhutan and travel must be booked through a Bhutanese tour operator or international partner. Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can receive a visa on entry and it is not necessary for them to book travel through a tour operator, however it is recommended. In the case of Indian nationals a passport or voters card are acceptable on entry.
Travel by Air
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). Drukair and Bhutan Airlines are only the airlines operating flights into and around the country.It services Bangkok in Thailand, Delhi, Kolkata, Bodh Gaya, Guwahati, Bagdogra, Mumbai in India; Dhaka in Bangladesh; Kathmandu in Nepal; and Singapore. There are a regular domestic service to Bumthang (central region) and flights available to Trashigang (eastern region) and Gelephu (southern region).
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, Kathmandu and Delhi is particularly rewarding as it offers spectacular views of 4 of the 5 highest mountains in the world. In clear weather, as you soar higher up, you’ll be treated to amazing close-ups of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga at their best.
Travel By Land
The town of Phuntsholing is located approximately 170 km east of the Indian national airport Bagdogra. After crossing Phuntsholing, your will begin a mountainous climb through hair-pin bends until you enter Thimphu, the capital city. The 176 km journey usually takes around 6 hours. Travel sickness tablets are recommended for young children and adults who may not be accustomed to the mountain roads.
Gelephu in South-Central Bhutan is another entry point to Bhutan. It is approximately 250 kms from Thimphu. The journey will take you through lush sub-tropical jungles and pristine alpine forests before finally bringing you into Thimphu. You will traverse across three districts with a travel time of approximately ten hours.
Samdrup Jongkhar is the only entry point in eastern Bhutan. The town borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam and is approximately 150 kms from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The journey from Guwahati is about three hours. Tourists entering Bhutan through Samdrup Jongkhar will have to travel through Trashigang, the largest district in the country, and from there east through Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa and Wangde Phodrang to reach the capital city, Thimphu. The distance is about 700 kms and you should allow three days journey time.
There are many different types of accommodations available to visitors in Bhutan. Hotels standards cannot be compared with international hotel standards however there are hundreds of options available ranging from luxurious 5-star resorts to cozy little hotels and home-stays in traditional Bhutanese homes.
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.
Hotels in Bhutan are rated according to a National 5 Star rating System. Bhutan has hundreds of hotels ranging from small, simple and clean local hotels to luxurious resorts for affluent travelers seeking the ultimate getaway.
All Tour Operators are required to provide their guests with a minimum of 3 Star accommodations so you can be assured of your comfort. Most hotels provide their guests with Television, Room Service, Fitness Centers, Spas and Wi-fi. However the exact services available will vary from hotel to hotel. Travellers can choose luxurious five star hotels and resorts like Amankora Resort, Uma Resort, Zhiwaling Hotel and Tashi Taj Hotel etc upon extra payment.
There are various Guesthouses located around Bhutan. They are graded on the same scale as hotels. The exact services available can vary among Guesthouses.
FARM-STAY / HOME STAY
Visitors also have the option of spending a night in a traditional Bhutanese Farm House. Agriculture is still one of the major sources of livelihood amongst the Bhutanese people and a Farm-Stay will give you an excellent glimpse into the day-to-day life of a typical Bhutanese family. You’ll be able to observe age old Bhutanese farming traditions as the family goes about its daily tasks. You’ll enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and the unparalleled hospitality of a Bhutanese host.
All officially sanctioned and listed Farm-stays are located in the gorgeous Bhutanese countryside amidst lush farmland far from the noise and crowds of population centers
Minimum Daily Package
• A minimum of 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star may require an additional premium).
• All meals
• A licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay
• All internal transport (excluding internal flights)
• Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
It also includes:
• All internal taxes and charges
• A sustainable tourism Royalty of $65. This Royalty goes towards free education, free healthcare, poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure.
The minimum daily package for tourists travelling in a group of 3 persons 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.
These rates are applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan.
On the day of departure, the ‘local agents’ host obligation shall be limited to providing breakfast only and any extra requirements shall be payable on usage basis. 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.
If confirmed tours are to be cancelled, it is subject to a cancellation charges as follows.
45 days or more prior to arrival date in Bhutan – no charges
30 days or more prior to arrival date in Bhutan–20% charges
20 days or more prior to arrival date in Bhutan–30% charges
15 days or prior to arrival date in Bhutan–50% charges
Less than 15 days prior to arrival date in Bhutan–no refund
An administration fee of $75 will be applicable for all cancelled tours
Cancellation of your flight tickets is subject to the following cancellation and refund rules.
100% refund for tickets cancelled more than 30 days prior to date of travel.
50% refund for tickets cancelled between 20 and 30 days prior to date of travel.
No refund for tickets cancelled within 20 days of arrival date in Bhutan.
An administration fee of $25 per ticket will be applicable for all cancelled tickets.
No refund is given for the passengers who fail to show up for a flight or the No Show tickets.
Rescheduling is permitted for the No Show tickets with charges, but once rescheduled; tickets are non-refundable and non-reroutable.
These are as follows:
Single individual – US$ 40 per night
Group of 2 persons only – US$ 30 per person per night
There shall be no charge for CHILDREN up to the age of 5 years. However, those between the ages of 6-12 years accompanied by elders/ guardians shall be given 50% discount on daily rates and 100% discount on Royalty. This Royalty is currently set at $65 per day.
Full time STUDENTS below the age of 25 years, holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions, shall also be given a 25% discount on the Royalty.
A discount of 50% on minimum daily package shall be given to one person in a group of 11 people. 100% discount shall be given to one member in a group exceeding 16 persons.
Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can obtain a visa at the port of entry on producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 month validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters Identity Card (VIC)). All other tourists 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 your tour operator who will then apply for your visa. The visa will be processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) once the full payment of your holiday (including a USD $40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received in the TCB bank account. Once received the visa clearance will be processed within 72 working hours. At your point of entry you will be required to show your visa clearance letter, the visa will then be stamped into your passport.
Visa Process Guide
In order to simplify the process of obtaining a Tourist Visa for Bhutan we have provided this helpful guide:
Please Download the visa guide
Visa Appliaction Form