Do you love mountains ? Want to experience picturesque view points without burning a hole into your pocket , Then Bhutan is the obvious answer . Well, at first I want to clear one thing this blog is purely for SAARC travelers (Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders). Bhutan was in our top priority from long as we wanted to be in quite place where we can be aloof for a week and we could not find a better place than this .
Without Wasting anytime lets jump to the basic FAQ s for the tour .
1. Which is the best Option to reach Bhutan ?
-- You can go Via Train , Via Plain or via Your Own Vehicle .
Option 1:- If we choose to take your own vehicle you have to get the permit before entering Bhutan, that is in Phuentsholing .But there is catch there is some rules while driving in Bhutan , like if any royal family is passing by normal car needs to stop and let the Royal family pass. But roads in Bhutan are pretty good to drive .
Option 2:-. If you choose to go there by flight there are two options . 1. Druk Air 2. Bhutan Airlines . But Druk Air does not operate everyday and We found that Bhutan Airlines are always booked by agents . Although if you are really lucky you can get the flight ticket but it will cost you around 14k both side from Kolkata.Speaking of value for money it is or not depending on traveler's prospective but the view of the Himalayas from flight is just too good . And one more catch Always choose the left side of the flight while going to Bhutan and right side while coming back .
Option 3:-Now the third option is by train and we opted for this option . But there is only one direct train that is Kanchankanya Express and that departs from Sealdaha station in Kolkata at 20:30 and reach Hasimara 10:46 next day (Note Hasimara is not the last stop , so please track the train ). Now why we chose this option , as it is a night journey so we are not wasting any day and we obviously saved some money which we used in some other purpose . Other options by train are to get down at NJP and take share or private vehicles from there towards Hasimara and it will be a 3-4 hours journey.
2. Which all documents are required for entering into Bhutan ?
---- Well every tourist will be given permit to enter Bhutan upon reaching Phuentsholing Permit office , That is located near Phuentsholing gate . you can cross Phuentsholing gate without any document and reach the permit office , in the office they will ask for the Passport or Voter card of every individual . Now if you are traveling with your spouse and in your passport your spouse's names is not added then they will ask for the marriage certificate (Which happened in our case ). Apart from this they will ask for at least one day's of hotel booking receipt. This total procedure of getting permit in hand will not take much time ( Around 30-45 Minutes ) depending on the crowd .
3. Can you apply for this permit online or prior to reach Bhutan?
--- Online application is recently launched for Indian and Bangladesh,but in that case there are certain criteria to match . Those are
1. Bhutanese guide 2. Bhutanese vehicle 3. Three star hotel or Tourism council of Bhutan registered farm houses in all the places. So if you don't want to waste your money in these cases there is no other option left as the Bhutan councils in kolkata and Delhi don't provide permit now .
4. What is the best time to go to Bhutan?
---What I always believe is a cold place can be best enjoyed in Winter , I traveled in starting of December as I knew I would be getting the best views of Bhutan that time . But Don't go in January or late December as some of the higher places like Chelela pass will be covered by snow . You can opt for October as well you can find the sweetest of apples in Bhutan . But if you want my suggestion go in December for the best views,clear sky and if you want to see the black neck crane in phobjikha starting of December is the best time . Avoid January and February . From march end things will become clearer. December can be cold , temperature starts decreasing from 4-5 PM . At night it can be as low as -1.
5. Any suggestion for the tour operators ??
--- In Bhutan there is no railway connectivity , only option is Bus service , and there is two main city In Bhutan , Paro and Thimphu and bus runs between these two cities but buses are very less .so best option is to hire cabs . You can either book a tour operator or you can book it from Phentsholing itself . You need a day's booking in hotel. So if you book vehicle by your own make sure to book a hotel in any one of the places of your interest prior to visit Bhutan. I am listing down few of the most reliable tour operators across Bhutan .
1.B. K. Prasad of BK Tour & Travels : +91-9593837520 (India), +975-17601325 (Bhutan). You can also mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
---Oldest tour operator in Bhutan. I tried to contact him but he was charging extra 2500 for visiting HAA Valley .
2.Mr. Sujit Goswami of Maruti Tour & Travels : +91-9609791522 (India).
Otherwise you can mail him at email@example.com.
-- I have traveled with him but he charges 25% advance. He is very professional and you don't have say anything after reaching there . Most recommended.
Sujit Goswami charged me 2500 per day for Wagon R.
3.Mr. Thinley Dorji of Bhutan Travel Routers : +975-17814514.
You may also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact him at Facebook or his Facebook Company Page.
-- charges high from the first two option
4.Mr. Raju & Miss Menuka from Heavenly Bhutan : +975-17617107 / +975-517661700.You can mail them at email@example.com or can also contact them via their Facebook Page.They are very reputed. You can read about their reviews at Trip Advisor Forums
-- charges high from the first two option
6. Help me with a basic itinerary ?
Day 1-- Board Kanchankanya from Sealdaha , reach Hasimara next day @ 11 AM ( this is not the last/end platform , so do keep track for the station ). From here you have to take shared cab/auto to Jaigaon ( the border town , Jaigaon is the Indian side , Phuentsholing is the Bhutan side ), there is a gate in between.Take your permit in Bhutan immigration office , it is placed in Phuensholing side and head for Thimphu.
Day 2 :- Sightseeing in Thimphu , full day. ( must see :- Buddha Point , textile and fertility museum , Takin Preserver may be optional )
Day 3 :- Day trip to Punakha via dochula pass ( must see :- the Dzong in Punakha, Hanging Bridge in Punakha), back in Thimphu
Day 4 :- Head to Paro , rest @ Paro
Day 5 :- head to chelela pass , back to Paro sight seeing , in and out shopping , ( everything is costly here,Similar items are available in Phuentsholing or Jaigaon )
Day 6 :- Tigers Nest ( This is a hike , it can be optional , this is a moderate level hike , If you are in Bhutan it should be top of your wish list.
verdict : -- best place in Bhutan.. But need a whole day
Day 7 :- head back to Hasimara from Jaigaon . catch the train , timing 4:40 PM
7. Suggest me some good restaurants ?
----You can find Indian and Tibetan cuisine across Bhutan. Here are some restaurants in which I have eaten out .
1.Hotel Ghasel (Veg Food)
2. Hotel Tandin (Indian Cuisine),
3. Bhutan Kitchen (Bhutanese Cuisine),
4.Rice Bowl (Chinese Cuisine) at Thimphu.
5.While at Paro, don’t miss out on Hotel Sonam Trophel,they make finger licking food.Dochula pass cafeteria has good Puri aloo bhaji and paratha’s.
Some More Restaurant :-
1. Coffee culture - Thimphu
famous for Ema Datshi, momo, Chocolate lava cake
2.The Art Cafe-- Thimphu famous For breakfast
3. Musk restaurant :-Thimphu famous for Sikkimese food . beef chilly
4. Hontey momo in HAA valley
8. Where I have stayed during my Bhutan Tour ?
1. Namshelling Boutique Hotel , Thimphu
Cost :- 5210 Rs Excluding Breakfast for two days. Awesome Decoration,Wooden floor, Huge size room . Food is average tough. Booked through @Make my trip . They have provided the lowest amount. They have a separate smoking zone outside the hotel , parking area. it is a 3 star hotel in true sense .