Bhutan, rich in culture and beautiful landscapes is also known to regulate its tourist inflow. Under the ‘High value, Low impact tourism’ policy, the number of tourists entering the country is regulated to keep its unique society, culture, and environment intact. This policy also ensures that the tourists coming to the country can enjoy their time in Bhutan to the maximum. So if you intend to visit this beautiful country you need to do prior planning for a few things or can simply provide a few documents to a Bhutanese licensed travel agent or their approved partners and make them arrange everything for you.
Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian citizens enjoy an advantage over tourists from the rest of the world because for them a visa and booking with a licensed travel agency is not mandatory. Yes, you read that right. Tourists except from these three countries(India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives) have to get their visas before entering the country and must use a licensed Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners to do their bookings and arrange for their permits required during their stay in Bhutan.
Indian tourists can obtain entry in Bhutan by air and land by just carrying any of the following acceptable documents along with two passport-sized photos:-
Independent tourism is allowed only for Indian, Bangladesh and Maldives citizens. Solo travelers from these three countries also are not granted entry permits easily. A pre-planned schedule(though not mandatory) from these citizens is always appreciated. Any other international tourist must travel in groups organized by licensed tour operators, accompanied by local Bhutanese guides, follow a pre-planned itinerary and pay a fee of $250 per day.
The permits that are mandatory for everyone including Indians are as follows:-
- Entry permit for Indians entering Bhutan by road can be obtained from the Immigration Office of the Royal Government of Bhutan at Phuentsholing, located on the Indo-Bhutan border opposite Jaigaon, West Bengal. If traveling by air, it’s issued at Paro airport. The ‘entry permit’ is given by default only for 7 days and allows an Indian tourist to visit Thimphu and Paro only. 7 days permit can be extended by
- Special restricted area permit is mandatory for tourist who wishes to travel beyond Thimpu and Paro from the RGoB Immigration Office at Thimphu on any working days (Monday to Friday) because rest of the country is considered a restricted area for tourism. Hence this permit.
- Temple permit if you wish to visit any temple.
- Skiing permit for those seeking an adrenaline rush in snow-covered mountains.
- Special permits for self-driven vehicles from RSTA office in Phuentsholing to ply in Thimpu and Paro and to venture out of these two cities again a permit is required from Thimpu office.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t forget to keep your entry permit with you all the time as Immigration checkpoints are located at important road junctions throughout the country, where police check the permits of all foreigners they find.
- Entry Permits and extensions are required to be submitted at the last immigration point during exit. So keep them safe.
- Permit extensions to stay in Bhutan for more than a week is available from the Thimphu Immigration office in Norzim Lam.
- No charges are levied for procuring any type of Bhutan permits mentioned above for Indians.
Travel by Road
Bhutanese do allow Indian vehicles in their territory but only after completing a set of formalities. Though Indian vehicles are allowed, it is advised by Bhutanese authorities to take a local driver for your car and discourage self-driving. Plying your vehicle in Phuentsoling is allowed without a permit during the daytime.
The road authority in Bhutan is in the hands of the Road Safety and Transport Authority(RSTA).
If you wish to venture out of Phuentsoling, getting a vehicle permit( issued by RSTA) is mandatory. There are a lot of check-posts almost everywhere in the country, so don’t try to skip this one. Required documents for your vehicle:-
- Original Registration certificate – two photocopies required
- Original Insurance Paper – two photocopies required
- Pollution Under Control Certificate
- Your Driving license, if you do not wish to hire a local driver.
- NOC from the owner of the vehicle in case it’s not registered under your name.
In Bhutan, you avail true value for your money, since one Indian Rupee (INR) is almost equivalent to one Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN), thanks to the enormous trade that happens between the two countries that INR is widely and happily accepted.
- Currency note of Rs.2000 is not accepted.
- Indian Credit cards or debit cards are not easily accepted. So either ask your banker to upgrade your card into an international Debit/credit card or carry a forex card loaded with BTN.
- On withdrawal from ATM machines charges may be applied.
- You can even get discounts in a few hotels on making cash payments in Indian rupees.
Once you visit this beautiful country you will see happily bright and sunny faces everywhere as its the only country which measures and maintains its people’s Gross Happiness Index. It’s only when you take the rare journey into this extraordinary kingdom that you discover that there is no other destination so full of pure and exotic mysticism.
Plan a road trip to Bhutan to experience the tranquility of the monasteries and drive through the incredibly beautiful mountain peaks and embark on an epic journey to lifetime memories that you will cherish forever. And if you wish to make it completely hasslefree to procure all the permissions and documents required during your entire trip Backpackclan team is always there to help you sail through this conveniently. If lining up in long ques for a whole list of permits is not your cup of tea then we have a team of experts who will be delighted to assist and guide you at any given point of time.