I recently travelled to Bhutan and had one of the best experience of my life. And so here I am to share my travel details which may be helpful for anyone who wants to travel Bhutan as well.
I travelled in February 2019 with a my college friends (kinda reunion). This was accomplished by a very long planning and preparation. Since I have a few to-dos, let's go through a few things to know before planning a trip to Bhutan -
Tickets and Visas
For us, we had planned this around 4 months in advance and the round trip from Delhi to Bagdogra (nearest airport in India) costed close to 6600 INR per person. As far as the visa is concerned, it was handled by our tour agent. If you are travelling on your own, you can get an on arrival visa at Phuentsholing immigration office. You need to submit two copies of your passport photo and Id proof (only voter Id or passport is valid).
From the immigration office itself, one can get a local sim for Bhutan. We got a SIM that was valid for a month and it was free of cost which included 100 INR talk-time and 400 MB data. In case you need more SIMs, you need to pay additional 100 INR. Usually, you will find good WiFi at all hotels, but if someone is too internet addict ???? , one can take additional internet packs on the sim issued.
Travel and Accommodation
Our travel and hotel expenses were included in our travel package which costed around 58000 INR for 7 people. This was from Hasimara railway station to way back. So from Bagdogra to Siliguri to Hasimara, we took cheap hotels, public transport as much as possible to keep our expenses low. And believe me, the experience was not bad. ????
From Bagdogra to Siliguri by a bus (hardly half an hour ride) Siliguri to Hasimara by train (around 3 hours) Hasimara to way back in a minibus (included in our package)
This was our ride which made our complete travel so much easier.
One can also find Ola at all places in India. In case, someone is not comfortable with public transports.
Speaking of hotels, we spent a night in Siliguri and booked a 3 star hotel through booking.com which was located on Hill Cart Road - the main market. Other hotels booked were in Phuentsholing , Thimpu and Paro.
We went for a week trip starting from Delhi to Bagdogra.
Day 1 : From Bagdogra to Siliguri and then we visited Bengal Safari.
Few of us also visited Tea garden which is definitely not a recommendation ???? Because in that area, in every few kilometres you have a tea garden. ???? ???? ????
Day 2: We took an early train to Hasimara which was a passenger train, giving us the best views along the way. ????
Travelling hilly areas via train can be one of the best experiences.
On our way to Hasimara
From the station we went to Phuentsholing and checked into the hotel. Then we visited the immigration office to complete our visa formalities. I recommend to keep some time for this as there can be rush at the office. Also, check for holidays in advance in Bhutan so that you are not stuck ( Office timings are 9am to 3pm and lunch time 12noon to 1pm. Sat-Sun the office is closed). The rest of the day was spent at Bhutan gate and visiting the local market. One can easily cross the border and enjoy a walk in both countries
Day 3: Started off our journey to Thimpu which is around 6 hours from Phuentsholing. Covered some more places on the way.
Day 4: In Thimpu, we visited Tashichho Dzong, Kuensel Phodrang, Sangaygang View point, Folk Heritage Museum and Takin Preserve Centre.
Tashicho DzongKuensel Phodrang Sangaygang View point
Day 5: Visited Punakha / Wangdue which was a 3 hour ride from Thimpu, On the way, we visited Dochu-La-Pass which was also the viewpoint for the Himalayas. Unfortunately, we could not see the mountains because of clouds.
Beautiful view around Dochu-La-Pass
Also visited Druk Wangyal Lhakhang, Punakha Dzong, Suspension bridge and river point.
Day 6: It was the day for trekking at Tiger's nest. I would highly recommend to eat well before you start. Also carry some food because it takes the whole day for trekking and there is only one canteen on the way which is over expensive.
Lucky enough to find snow filled mountains
Day 7: Returned from Paro to Hasimara enjoying all the views on the way.
Food and other stuff
For vegetarians, you can find a lot of options to eat ???? And if you are one of them who loves Puri Sabzi, you are at the right place for the trip. Most of the restaurants offer Indian food, though do not expect the same taste. We had heard that the food is quite spicy but we did not experience it.
Bhutanese food that we tried was not a variety - just mushroom fried rice, potato cheese, pork noodles and particularly not a fan of either of them. People who are chai lovers as we are, you will crave for ginger tea as we did!.
But thankfully we had our own unique ways of getting our chai prepared with ginger and masala ???? ???? The food cost can vary at places. We spent lump-sum at some places and on budget also. Trust me, we had chai for 120 INR and also for 20 INR.
However, it is difficult to find vegetarian snacks. For instance, we spent hours to find bread in stores and couldn't. Also, carry medicines you need because shops usually close early and there are not as many as we have in India.
We did not buy a lot of stuff and I personally do not buy lot of things. There is a big handicraft market in Thimpu and Paro where tourists can easily be fooled to buy things in quite high prices. Not to mention, we had some friends along who were pro at bargaining which we actually did! ????
Local market at Thimpu
Another important tip to keep enough cash for the trip if not travelling with international cards. In most places like local restaurants, shops etc cash is the only mode of payment and Indian currency is accepted everywhere. Each one of us carried around 3000 INR cash and it was sufficient for an entire week in Bhutan.
Check the temperature in advance for the time you are travelling. We travelled in February with the hope to find snow. Luckily, we found snowfall also! The temperature came down to -6 degree Celsius as well. Keep clothes according to the weather you are travelling and keep enough, but don't overload. One may not find friends like mine who will carry your luggage ???? Keep at least a day for each city. It is also not preferred to travel from one city to another in night as hilly areas can be risky. We were lucky that our driver was patient enough when we wanted some time at certain places. Most places close by 7-8 pm. It's better to get back in time so as to find options to eat. Verification is done again for Punakha in Thimpu. If someone loves to ride a bike or car, it is one of the best places to visit.
Lastly, what's important in the trip is the people you are travelling with. Because the best travelling partners bring out the best in you and let you enjoy your real self. If this is not the case, travelling to the best place cannot lift your mood.
Our gang with travelling partner Sonam C Ring and travel agent Avinash
Summing up all the additional food and travel expenses, our trip costed close to 20000 INR per person which I feel was quite #travelonbudget.