Bhutan, a sovereign state in South Asia, is no ordinary. It remained isolated from the outside world for centuries and opened to foreigners only in 1974. Today, Bhutan enjoys a reputation for unique cultural heritage and natural environment.
Despite receiving thousands of tourists annually, Bhutan is actually aware of the environmental impact of tourism on Bhutan’s unspoiled natural landscape and culture. Therefore, tourism is strictly regulated.
But there is always a way for anyone to visit Bhutan. Followings are the points to remember before planning a trip to Bhutan.
1. All international tourists need visa to enter Bhutan
Tourism in Bhutan is strictly regulated under the ‘High Value, Low Impact Tourism’ Policy. All tourists must obtain visa before entering Bhutan. No foreign missions/embassies abroad grant Bhutan tourist visas.
2. Contact licensed tour operator
Traveling independently in Bhutan is not allowed. All tourists must use a licensed Bhutanese tour operator, directly or through their international partners to arrange visa and trip. Travel agent then processes visa application through an online system.
Tourists are required to send the photo-page of their passport. Passport should have a validity of at least six months. Tourism Council of Bhutan processes the visa on receiving the visa application fee.
3. Visa Fee and Daily Tariff
A fee of $40 is charged as visa application.
All tourists must pay $250 per person per night halt during peak season (March, April, May, September, October & November) and $200 per person per night halt during low season (January, February, June, July, August & December). Shocked? Don’t worry.
Daily tariff includes a 3 star hotel, a registered tour guide, transportation and all meals.
4. Pay in advance
Tourists should pay visa fee and daily tariff in advance. Your travel agent wire transfers the fee and tariff to the bank account of Tourism Council of Bhutan.
5. Exemption of visa requirement and daily tariff
Citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives are exempted from visa requirement and daily tariff. Tourists from these countries can avail visas at the entry point by presenting their passports. The validity requirement of the passport is same as other international tourists.
Indian nationals can use Voter Identity Card in place of passport.
6. Print out visa-clearance letter
Visa fee and daily tariff paid in advance. Visa application approved and itinerary of the trip received. What’s next? It’s the time to enter Bhutan: the land of Thunder Dragon.
Don’t forget to print out your visa-clearance letter and carry with you. Immigration Officers will ask for it during the entry and stamp the visa on your passport.
7. Getting to the entry point
Bhutan has only one International Airport. It’s in Paro.
Most international tourist enter Bhutan by Air. Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines operate on a regular basis from five countries: Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Singapore.
Should a tourist opt to enter by road, Phuntsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar in Southern Bhutan are only land borders open to tourist.
8. A guide will receive you
After arrival at the entry point, tourists are officially guests of Bhutan. A guide will be there to receive. Then on, every tourist are treated like VVIP.
Have a wonderful trip!