Visa to Bhutan
The Bhutanese visa process may appear complicated but is actually quite straight forward once you understand the system. Most countries issue visas from their embassies abroad and stamp it in your passport, but not Bhutan. Bhutanese embassies abroad cannot issue Visas for visit to Bhutan. You must apply in advance through a tour operator such as Yeega Adventure Tours and receive approval before you travel to Bhutan. Once the full payment of your holiday (including a USD $40 visa fee) has been wire transferred and received in the TCB bank account then only visas are approved by the Immigration Department and Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) in Thimphu, which you allowed to enter Bhutan or board the Druk Air flight and Bhutan Airlines.
The actual visa is stamped on the passport upon arrival in the country, either at Paro airport or (if entering by road) at Phuentsholing. You just need to provide us details as per your passport that should include your name, permanent address, occupation, nationality, date, and place of birth, passport number, more than six months valid and its date and place of issue and date of expiration. There is no need to send the pictures or sign the visa application at this time. Double-check that the information you send is correct; if there are any discrepancies when you arrive in Bhutan, there will be further delays and complications.
With the exception of visitors from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, all other visitors to Bhutan need a visa.
Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can obtain a visa or entry permit 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)).
Bhutan Tour Tariff
The minimum daily tour price is fixed by the Royal Government of Bhutan.
Rates for groups (3 persons minimum):
minimum daily tour price
- peak season USD 250 per person per night
- off-season USD 200 per person per night
Rates for 2 persons:
minimum daily tour price
- peak season USD 280 + 30 per person per night
- off-season USD 230 + 30 per person per night
Rates for individuals:
minimum daily tour price
- peak season USD 290 + 40 per person per night
- off-season USD 240 + 40 per person per night
For surcharges please visit http://www.tourism.gov.bt/about-bhutan/surcharges
For groups of less than three, the Royal Government of Bhutan imposes surcharges. In the figure above, surcharges are separated from minimum daily tour prices, Please visit the Tourism Department website: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/plan/minimum-daily-package
The minimum daily package covers the following services.
- A minimum of 3-star accommodation (4 & 5 stars 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 also include:
- All internal taxes and charges
- A sustainable development fee of $65.
This sustainable development fee goes towards free education, free healthcare, poverty alleviation, along with the building of infrastructure.
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Weather and Climate of Bhutan
The climate in Bhutan is extremely varied. This variation in the climatic conditions and average temperature can be attributed to two main factors, the vast differences in altitude present in the country and the influence of the north Indian monsoons.
Southern Bhutan has a hot, humid sub-tropical climate that is fairly unchanging throughout the year. Temperatures can vary between 15-30 degrees Celsius. In the Central parts of the country, the climate cools a bit, changing to temperate and deciduous forests with warm summers and cool, dry winters. In the far Northern reaches of the kingdom, the weather is cold during winter. Mountain peaks are perpetually covered in snow and lower parts are still cool in summer owing to the high altitude terrain.
The Indian summer monsoon lasts from late-June through late-September and is mostly confined to the southern border region of Bhutan. It brings heavy rain and high humidity, to the southern region. These rains bring between 60 and 90 percent of the western region’s rainfall.
Annual precipitation ranges widely in various parts of the country. In the northern border region to Tibet gets about forty millimeters of precipitation a year which is primarily snow. In the temperate central regions, a yearly average of around 1,000 millimeters is more common, and 7,800 millimeters per year has been registered at some locations in the humid, subtropical south, ensuring the thick tropical forest, or savanna.
Getting into Bhutan
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 of 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 Bhutan with the Indian state of Assam.
Travel By Land
Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar are the only land border areas open to tourists.
The town of Phuentsholing in south-west is located approximately 170 km east of the Indian national airport at Bagdogra. After crossing Phuentsholing, you begin your journey to Thimphu, the capital city with travel time of about six hours for the 170 km stretch.
Gelephu, in south-central Bhutan, is another entry point to Bhutan. It is approximately 250 kms from Thimphu and the journey will take you through the sub-tropical areas of Bhutan before entering the alpine zone and then finally into Thimphu. One will have to traverse across three districts and the travel time will be about ten hours.
The district of Samdrup Jongkhar in south-east Bhutan borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam and is approximately 150 kms away from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The journey from Guwahati is about three hours. Tourists entering Bhutan through Samdrup Jongkhar will take you to Trashigang, and from there over the lateral route to Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa, Wangdue Phodrang and then finally into the capital, Thimphu. The distance is about 700 kms and will take you a minimum of three days to reach Thimphu.
Travel By Air
There are flights to destinations that include Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Bodh Gaya, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati, Singapore and Mumbai.
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). At present two carriers operate to Bhutan, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines. There are also domestic airports in Yonphula in eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in central Bhutan, and Gelephu in south-central Bhutan.
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 and Kathmandu is one of the most exciting ones as the aircraft passes over four of the five highest mountains in the world. In fine weather, as you soar higher up, you can enjoy the spectacular view of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga at their best.
Customs & Duty Free
Travelers can carry the following items for personal consumption only 200 pieces cigarettes; 30 pieces of cigars or 150 gram of other tobacco. A person importing tobacco products for personal consumption from countries other than India shall pay 100 percent sales tax and 100 percent customs duty and only 100% sales tax if imported from India. While in Bhutan, visitors must retain the tax receipt to present to, if you encounter any checking by Tobacco Control Inspector.
Import/export of the following items is strictly prohibited:
- Arms, ammunition and explosives
- All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs
- Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
- Import of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations.
Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate.
Ngultrum is the local currency. The Ngultrum is pegged with the Indian Rupee at par. Foreign currency exchange services are available at the local banks. Updated foreign exchange rate information can be found at the local bank website and at the airport. Banks have also installed many ATM across the country. The ATM accepts VISA and MasterCard. Service charges may vary depending on the country and the Bank of where the card was issued and therefore we recommend travellers to get in touch with their bank prior to travelling to Bhutan. Most hotels, restaurants and shops accept card payment as well.
The following information acts as a guide when traveling to Bhutan. This practical advice is not a comprehensive list but should provide some useful information for you as you plan your travelling.
Travel / Medical Insurance
The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for our visitors. Travel insurance can be provided through your Bhutanese tour operator or international partner. You may also visit the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan website at www.ricb.com.bt for more information.
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) It is at par with the Indian rupee which is widely accepted in the country.
In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores.
Financial institutions in Bhutan have been greatly enhanced and today we have a number of banks that cater to the needs of the people.
Some of the banks that you can avail of while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank. Traveller’s cheque can be easily withdrawn and exchanged for local currency. Many of these banks provide internet banking facilities.
All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets.
It is recommended that you bring flat-to-round pin converters for your electronics if necessary, however, most hotels offer multi plug sockets. Bhutan is a carbon neutral destination. Our energy is clean and green generated by hydro power.
Bhutan offers immense opportunities for photography especially during outdoor sightseeing trips.
However you should check with your guide before taking pictures or filming inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions as in some area photograph/filming is not permitted.
You are free to capture images of the landscape, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, rural life, flora and fauna, distinctive Bhutanese architecture and the exterior of Dzongs and Chortens.
Some popular handicraft items available for purchase are hand-woven textiles of raw silk or silk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, handmade paper products or finely crafted gods of silver. Other items you may be interested in are the exquisite Buddhist thangkha paintings or Bhutan’s wide array of colourful and creative postage stamps. You can come across these items in the many handicraft shops in and around Thimphu and in other major towns. Please remember that buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in Bhutan.
Tipping is a purely personal matter. We leave it up to you as to whether you want to give a gratuity to your guides and drivers. However, if doing so, we recommend that you place the gratuity in an envelope.
The country has a good network of telecommunication facilities. Most hotels and cafe’s offer Wi-Fi internet access. Bhutan has a comprehensive mobile (cell) phone network with global roaming also assessable.
Clothes & Other Paraphernalia
With great altitudinal variations, weather is quite mixed in Bhutan. So be prepared to face the unforeseen weather conditions.
We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. Long pants and long sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.
Measures, Weight & Time
Bhutan ascribes to the metric system and most weights are measured in gram (g) and kilogram (kg). The standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT.
Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, please seek advice from your doctor with regard to vaccinations and appropriate medication you should have prior to your travels. As a minimum you should have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations.
Bhutan is one of the safest countries in the world however you should still exercise caution when visiting. Please ensure that your belongings especially your passports, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. Please refrain from leaving such items within sight or in locked vehicles while sightseeing.
Avoid drinking tap water which has not been boiled or ice cubes in drinks at all times as most water sources in Bhutan are untreated. One can easily acquire affordable treated and bottled water.
Also, Bhutan has a duty to protect its citizens from drugs and tobacco products. To do this we need your help and cooperation. Please co-operate if stopped and asked about your baggage. Please do not carry tobacco goods in excess of the set limit. For more information please see following link. Tobacco Control Act
Public holidays are observed throughout the nation. However, each Dzongkhag has its own list of regional holidays that are observed especially during the annual Tshechus (Religious festivals). For such a list, please contact your service provider or travel agent.
A wide variety of accommodation is available ranging from luxurious 5-star hotels to cozy little hotels and homestays in traditional Bhutanese homes and settings. Visitors can be assured of their warmth and comfort of the hotels. Similarly, the ambiance and hospitality offered by the hotels are incredible.
The types of accommodations can be divided into:
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.
Bhutan has hundreds of hotels located all across the country. They range from small, simple and clean local hotels to luxurious resorts for affluent travelers seeking the ultimate getaway.Hotels in Bhutan are rated according to a National 5 Star rating System. 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.
There are various Guesthouses located around the Bhutan. They are graded on the same scale as hotels. The exact services available can vary among Guesthouses.
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. In order to experience a traditional life, electricity and running water are not available at Farm-Stays. Hot water can be provided by the family but will be served in a wash basin/bowl.
Visitors have the option of spending a night in the traditional home of a Bhutanese family. A Home-Stay will give you an excellent glimpse into the day-to-day life of a typical Bhutanese family.
You’ll enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and the unparalleled hospitality of a Bhutanese host.
All officially sanctioned and listed home-stays are located in the gorgeous Bhutanese countryside, far from the noise and crowds of population centers. In order to experience a traditional life, electricity and running water are not available at Home-Stays. Hot water can be provided by the family but will be served in a wash basin/bowl.