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GETTING TO BHUTAN


The way to Bhutan: Travel by Land and Travel by Air.

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.

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. And there are domestic airports in Yonphula in eastern Bhutan, Bumthang in central Bhutan, and Gelephu in south-central Bhutan. A second international airport is currently under construction in Gelephu along the southern border to India.

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.

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 Monggar, Bumthang, Trongsa, Wangdue Phodrang and then finally into capital, Thimphu. The distance is about 700 kms and will take you a minimum of three days to reach Thimphu.

MINIMUM DAILY PACKAGE


The minimum daily package covers the following services.
  1. 1. A minimum of 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star may require an additional premium).
  2. 2. All meals
  3. 3. A licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay
  4. 4. All internal transport (excluding internal flights)
  5. 5. Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  6. 6. It also includes: All internal taxes and charges
  7. 7. 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 list of hotels and lodges approved to provide accommodations all listed on this website. If you accommodation is not listed on this website then it is not licensed cater for international tourists.

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.

DELAYED ARRIVALS

There is no charge for delays in arrival and departure because of weather conditions disrupting flights or road blocks. The tourist must however bear the cost of food, accommodation, transportation, and other services required.

SURCHARGES

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.

These are as follows:

Single individual - US$ 40 per night

Group of 2 persons only - US$ 30 per person per night

The 10% agency commission payable to agents abroad shall not be deductible from the surcharge.

The surcharge will not be applicable to representatives of foreign travel agents on business study or promotional visit duly approved and cleared by TCB.

DISCOUNTS
  1. a. There shall be no charge for CHILDREN below the age of 5 years. However, those between the ages of 5-12 years accompanied by elders/ guardians shall be given 50% discount on daily rates. This Royalty is currently set at $65 per day.
  2. b. Full time STUDENTS below the age of 25 years, holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions, shall be given 25% discount.
  3. c. 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.
  4. d. A 50% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 8th night and 100% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 14th night.
  5. e. Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  6. f.Visitors availing discounts under Sections A & B shall not be eligible for discount under D.
WIRE TRANSFER

Prior to your trip to Bhutan you will be asked to wire the full payment for your holiday to the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

You must wire the tour payment calculated by your tour operator as well as USD 40 (one time visa fee) to the Bhutan National Bank through one of their certified international partners with the Bhutanese tour operator specified as the ultimate beneficiary. Please email the bank wire receipt copy to the local Bhutanese tour operator.

Bhutan is a small, landlocked nation located in the eastern Himalayas between India and China. Its landscape ranges from subtropical plains and forests in the South to subalpine forests and snowy mountains in the North. Bhutan is a predominantly Buddhist country and is known as the last stronghold of Mahayana Buddhism.
It is a government regulation that you must use a license Bhutanese Tour Operator to book your travel to Bhutan or one of their international partners.
All International tourists wishing to enter Bhutan require a visa which must be pre-arranged through a license Bhutanese Tour Operator or one of their international partners. Visa clearance must be obtained through your tour operator prior to travel. For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives may obtain a visa on entry.
International tourist visas a cost of USD $40 applies. This can be paid in advance to you tour operator or travel agent. For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives there is no cost incurred
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.
The $200 per day (low season) and $250 per day (high season) package includes a minimum of 3 star accommodations, costs for food, an experienced guide and transportation (with driver) within the country. Also included in the price is a $65 per day royalty that goes towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation. All of these services will be arranged by your tour operator.
Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum. Its value is tied to the Indian Rupee which is also accepted as legal tender. However Indian notes in 500 and 1000 denominations are not acceptable.
There is no limit on the number of tourists admitted into the country each year. In order to protect our culture, traditions and natural environment the government has adopted a strict policy of “High Value, Low Impact Tourism”. This policy is aimed at attracting discerning tourists that will respect the unique culture and values of the Bhutanese people while also providing the visitors with an unforgettable one of a kind experience.
The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillis are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy. Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. A wide selection of western and Indian food is also available in many of the restaurants around the country.

VISA


With the exception of visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives, all other visitors to Bhutan need a visa.

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.

TRAVEL TIPS


Checklist

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 You should not travel internationally without travel 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.

MONEY

Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.) It is at par with the Indian rupee which is accepted as legal tender in the country. Note: INR (Indian Rupees) denominations of 500 and 1000 are not accepted in Bhutan.

ATMs are located within all main towns throughout Bhutan, where money can be withdrawn using a Visa or MasterCard. For concerned travelers a list of ATM locations throughout Bhutan is found here: http://www.bob.bt/contact-us/atm-locator/.

In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores.

BANKING

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.

TMs are located within all main towns throughout Bhutan, where money can be withdrawn using a Visa or MasterCard. For concerned travelers a list of ATM locations throughout Bhutan is found here: http://www.bob.bt/contact-us/atm-locator/.

With the exception of visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives, all other visitors to Bhutan need a visa.

In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores.

ELECTRICITY

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.

TRAVELLING KITS

Bhutan experiences great variations in its climate. In general summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, while winter temperatures are usually below 15 degrees Celsius. The northern regions of the country are colder than the more tropical south and it is recommended you pack accordingly. Trekkers will need to bring appropriate warm clothes and comfortable hiking boots (well broken in) preferably with ankle support and weather-proof to complement the weather and rugged terrain.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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 in particular.

SHOPPING

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.

GRATUITIES

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.

CUSTOMS

The following articles are exempt from duty:

(a). Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor


(b). 1 litre of alcohol (spirits or wine)


(c). 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200%


(d). Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use


(e). Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use You have to complete the passenger declaration form at your port of entry.
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.
If importing any items to Bhutan which are for sale or gift, they may be liable for customs duty. On departure, visitors are required to fill out a departure form, which will be asked for by Customs authorities.
Import/export of the following goods is strictly prohibited:

(a). Arms, ammunitions and explosives


(b). All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs


(c). Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species


(d). Antiques Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arriva

COMMUNICATIONS

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.

Language
Bhutanese speak a variety of languages with Dzongkha being the national language and one of the most widely spoken. English is also spoken by the majority of Bhutanese making communication very easy. It is encouraged to speak with the local Bhutanese, especially in the urban areas and towns,as it will enhance your knowledge on Bhutan.

Guides and Interpreters
Bhutan has a good team of interpreters and licenced guides that are well versed in local history and possess good communication skills. All guides are tested and certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. Guides are available who are fluent in Japanese, Thai, Spanish and other European languages.

CLOTHES AND 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, WEIGHTS & 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.

HEALTH:INOCULATIONS

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.

PRECAUTIONS

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 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

Public holidays that are observed throughout the nation. However, each Dzongkhag has its own list of regional holidays that are observed especially while conducting annual tshechus (Religious festivals). For such a list please contact your service provider or travel agent.

MINIMUM DAILY PACKAGE


The minimum daily package covers the following services.
  1. 1. A minimum of 3 star accommodation (4 & 5 star may require an additional premium).
  2. 2. All meals
  3. 3. A licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay
  4. 4. All internal transport (excluding internal flights)
  5. 5. Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  6. 6. It also includes: All internal taxes and charges
  7. 7. 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 list of hotels and lodges approved to provide accommodations all listed on this website. If you accommodation is not listed on this website then it is not licensed cater for international tourists.

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.

DELAYED ARRIVALS

There is no charge for delays in arrival and departure because of weather conditions disrupting flights or road blocks. The tourist must however bear the cost of food, accommodation, transportation, and other services required.

SURCHARGES

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.

These are as follows:

Single individual - US$ 40 per night

Group of 2 persons only - US$ 30 per person per night

The 10% agency commission payable to agents abroad shall not be deductible from the surcharge.

The surcharge will not be applicable to representatives of foreign travel agents on business study or promotional visit duly approved and cleared by TCB.

DISCOUNTS
  1. a. There shall be no charge for CHILDREN below the age of 5 years. However, those between the ages of 5-12 years accompanied by elders/ guardians shall be given 50% discount on daily rates. This Royalty is currently set at $65 per day.
  2. b. Full time STUDENTS below the age of 25 years, holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions, shall be given 25% discount.
  3. c. 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.
  4. d. A 50% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 8th night and 100% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 14th night.
  5. e. Camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours
  6. f.Visitors availing discounts under Sections A & B shall not be eligible for discount under D.
WIRE TRANSFER

Prior to your trip to Bhutan you will be asked to wire the full payment for your holiday to the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

You must wire the tour payment calculated by your tour operator as well as USD 40 (one time visa fee) to the Bhutan National Bank through one of their certified international partners with the Bhutanese tour operator specified as the ultimate beneficiary. Please email the bank wire receipt copy to the local Bhutanese tour operator.

TOUR GUIDE

In order to ensure that visitors receive high quality, professional service every guide must complete a training course. Guides are trained to specialize in either cultural or adventure tours. Many guides complete language courses in German, Japanese, Thai and other languages so that they can easily communicate with guests and all are proficient in English.

We have only registered and certified guides.