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.
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 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.
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.
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 ambience 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.
Hotel Rating System
In order to ensure that all visitors to Bhutan receive high quality accommodations and services we have initiated a 5-Star Rating System that classifies the various hotels and resorts operating in the country.
The system is referred to as the ‘Hotel Star System’ and it ranks the accommodations on a scale of 1-5 stars based on an exhaustive set of criteria.
Based on this rating system, establishments are classified into:
– See more at: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/plan/hotel-rating-system#sthash.hqsZZDLM.dpuf
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.