Unplanned trips are the best and I guess planned trips are awesome too, when you go without any expectation. Since Bhutan is a different country, first thing that comes to your mind is - How do I get Visa ?
Well, let me jot down the things I came upon while planning for a trip to Bhutan. It may be bad news or good news depending on which country you hail from.
Visa for Indian Passport holders -
For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives, there is no Visa cost incurred.
Visa for citizen of other countries -
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. The tourism sector is controlled by Tourism Council of Bhutan referred as TCB. TCB has set a minimum daily package. 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.
Tourists travelling in a group of two (2) persons or less shall be subject to a surcharge, in addition to the minimum daily package rates - https://www.tourism.gov.bt/about-us/surcharges
Carry Voters ID and Passport
Passport size photo - 5
Write your whole itinerary in a white paper as like while taking the Permit
Date : Source – Destination
Date : Source – Destination
Hotel Booking Receipts
The main gate opens at around 8:00 – 8:30 AM and they start accepting documents from 9:00 AM onwards. During peak season or long weekend, keep enough time in hand (around 2 hrs), as after the introduction of biometrics the process takes much longer than before. Once the gate opens at 8:00 AM / 8:30 AM, people just rush towards the counter. And the queue that forms there at the counter is what is actually followed. So be prepared for the same and get there early and be the first one to be in front of the gate. Once you are done for the biometrics you need to wait till your Entry Permits are printed and handed over to you from the counters towards the Exit. Throughout the process only one member from the group needs to stand in the queue. Bhutan doesnt allow Solo travellers, so if you are travelling Solo, make sure to club with any group who is available there, until you get the Permit. During biometrics everyone should be present in the room as everyone will be called serially as per the group lead standing in queue. This process is if you are travelling by road. Phuentsholing is the border town on Bhutan side whereas Jaigaon being the border town at Indian side. This permit is valid for 7 days only for Thimphu and Paro only. Only Voter ID Card OR Passport is accepted for adults. If you are taking the flight via Drukair, you can get the permit from the airport itself.
ILP (Inner Line Permit) : If you want to travel anywhere beyond Thimphu and Paro Dzongkhag (district), you must apply for ILP at Thimphu Immigration Office (if entering from P/Soling). Thimphu Immigration Office works on Weekdays from 9AM – 5PM with a lunch break of 1 Hour (1PM – 2PM) and is closed on Weekends and Govt. Holidays. Here you just need to provide photocopy of Entry Permits to obtain the ILP.
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
Currency : Ngultrum or Nu. (in short) is the official currency of Bhutan and in par with INR. However INR is accepted throughout Bhutan. So in case you are an Indian and visiting Bhutan with INR, there’s no need to convert, however you’ll get returns in Nu.
Although theoretically denominations of Rs. 500/- and Rs. 2000/- are not accepted. Carry Nu if you are visiting the offbeat/remote places.
While existing Bhutan, make sure to use up all your Nu, else you have to get it converted.
Extension Permit : If the number of days allowed by Immigration Officer, initially, while issuing Entry Permit is not sufficient, you need to get an Extension Permit (for extra required number of days) from Thimphu Immigration Office. Generally the first permit is valid for 7 days.
Vehicle Permit : Tourists planning to drive their own vehicle or rented vehicle have to additionally get their Vehicle Permit from Phuentsholing RSTA after obtaining Entry Permit. If you are hiring a local Bhutan vehicle, you do not need to worry about this.
Time : Bhutan time is 30 mins ahead of us.