Travel and Visa Information
Obtaining a visa to visit Bhutan is easier than you think. Did you know that it is the least you have to worry about to enter Bhutan? We will get it done on your behalf. Once you have finalized your trip and payment has been made, we will process your visa with the government. Visitors must have a visa prior to arriving in the kingdom. No foreign mission or embassy abroad grants Bhutan tourist visas. Should you wish to extend your stay in the country beyond your pre-planned duration, Bridge To Bhutan will help facilitate and guarantee your stay extension.
All information required in the Visa Application form must reach us at least three weeks before the intended arrival date to enable processing with the concerned authorities. Alternatively, a copy ofvisa application formcan be filled out by tourists and mailed/faxed/e-mailed to us.
The actual visa is stamped on arrival in Bhutan but it must be cleared in advance and a visa clearance number issued.
For all travelers entering Bhutan by Druk Air, the visa clearance is forwarded to the concerned overseas Druk Air stations. Without a visa clearance number, passengers are not allowed to board the flight.
For travelers, entering the country by road through Phuentsholing (the border town in southern Bhutan) the clearance number is forwarded to the Immigration office at Phuentsholing for reference and the visa is stamped on arrival.
Visa fee is US $40 per person for a 14 day visa which can be further extended without additional fees.
Bridge To Bhutan will advise all visitors of their visa status before their intended departure dates. We will send you a copy of the visa clearance letter prior to your arrival.
Please use your full name exactly as it appears on your passport. Regardless of your name change, it is absolutely imperative that your Druk Air ticket have the same name as your passport and your visa! We must use your complete passport name to process your visa and to book your tickets with Drukair.
• For all Cultural Tours, the booking must be completed at least 4 weeks in advance, but for tours during festival periods, 12 weeks advance reservation is required. Spring and autumn festivals, during the peak seasons, require early flight and hotel reservations in order to get confirmations. Bhutan has only one airline with two mid-sized Airbus planes.
• For trekking groups, it is important to book at least 8 weeks in advance, as these require a lot of detailed planning.
ENTRY POINTS (via Air)
The best way to enter Bhutan is by Drukair ('Druk' means Dragon), the national air carrier. The flight into Paro International Airport, Bhutan’s only airport is one of the most spectacular flights in the world. Druk Air has two flight schedules - a summer and winter flight schedule. They differ in timings though the days of operation remain the same. Bridge To Bhutan can arrange to purchase the Druk Air tickets for you and shall not be liable for unforeseen costs due to airfare changes.
Druk Air has flights from/to India (New Delhi, Kolkatta and Gaya), Thailand (Bangkok), Nepal (Kathmandu) and Bangladesh (Dhaka). Druk Air is the only airline operating in Bhutan. The airline operates two Airbus A319.For current flight schedules and fares, please check Drukair's website.
Entry point (via Land)
• Entry/Exit to/from Bhutan is also possible through Phuentsholing, the southern Bhutan border town. Bagdogra, in the state of West Bengal (India) is the nearest airport, approximately 4 hours away. For travelers wishing to visit the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal along with Bhutan, Phuentsholing serves as a convenient entry or exit point.
• Exit from Bhutan can also be made through Samdrup Jongkhar. This frontier Bhutanese town is approximately 3 hours drive from Guwahati, the capital town of the Indian north- eastern state of Assam, which too has an airport. Samdrup Jongkhar is an authorized exit point only and an important link for visiting other north eastern Indian states.
AS PER GOVERNMENT RULES, IT IS MANDATORY TO TRAVEL AT LEAST ONE WAY BY DRUK AIR. THIS CAN BE EITHER ENTRY OR EXIT. HOWEVER, IF DRUK AIR SEATS ARE NOT AVAILABLE, BOTH ENTRY AND EXIT ARE PERMITTED BY ROAD.
Visitors are required to complete the Customs Form and hand it over on arrival. The following articles are exempted from duty:
Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor.
2 liters of alcohol, 400 cigarettes, 150 gms. of pipe tobacco.
Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use.
Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use. The articles mentioned under 3 and 4 must be declared on the Customs Form. If such items are disposed of in Bhutan, by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty.
The Import and Export of the following goods are strictly prohibited:
Arms, ammunitions, explosives and military stores.
All narcotics and drugs, except medically prescribed drugs.
Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species.
All visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items. Custom authorities will not allow any old/used items to be taken out of the country if they have not been certified as non-antique. The import of plants, soil etc. is subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival.
The Bhutanese unit of currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.), with 100 Chetrum = 1 Ngultrum. The Ngultrum is at par with the value of Indian rupee. Presently, US $ 1 = Nu. 60 (which fluctuates as does any currency). Visitors are advised to carry their money in the form of travelers’ cheques, with a little cash (US dollars) which might be needed for incidental expenses.
“Dzongkha” ('D' is silent), ‘the language of the ‘Dzongs’, is Bhutan's national language. English is commonly spoken in the main towns and it is also one medium of education in schools throughout the Kingdom. All correspondences and business affairs within government and private sector is conducted in English.
There are comfortable hotels, lodges and guest houses at all tourist destinations. Western Bhutan has better hotels, while in the central and eastern parts of the country, accommodation establishments are simpler and offer minimum facilities. There is no star categorization of hotels, and five star luxury is not available. Having said that, however, in the last few years, a few boutique hotels and resorts have opened. We have the Amankora resorts, Uma resort, The Taj Tashi and the Zhiwaling. We can make bookings for you in these resorts. Bridge to Bhutan has carefully selected accommodation units with the best location, and possesses the essential Bhutanese character. Away from the towns and villages there are purpose-built huts on some of the principal trekking routes. Otherwise, there is nothing like camping out under the clearest night skies that you have ever seen. Wherever you spend the night, the warm Bhutanese hospitality will make you feel welcome. PLEASE COME WITH AN OPEN MIND.
All Bridge To Bhutan tours are escorted by well trained, English speaking, knowledgeable tour leaders and guides, certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, Royal Government of Bhutan. We don't compromise on the quality of your trip leader in Bhutan as we know that the choice of these so called Ambassadors can make or break the trip.
Bhutanese delicacies are rich with spicy chilies and cheese. The hotels and lodges on Bridge To Bhutan’s selected list offer delicious Chinese, Continental, Indian and Bhutanese cuisine. Even on treks, our cooks prepare dishes of all kinds suitable for western tastes. Most meals are buffet style but we can also order by the menu depending on the group size and the time availability.
The southern part of Bhutan is tropical, and in general the east of Bhutan is warmer than the west. The central valleys of Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Mongar, Trashigang and Lhuntse enjoy a semi tropical climate with very cool winters, whilst Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Trongsa and Bumthang have a much harsher climate, with heavy monsoon rains in the summer and heavy snow-falls in the winter, which often block the passes leading into the central valleys. Winter in Bhutan is from mid-November until mid-March, and at this time of the year the climate is dry, with day time temperatures falling below zero. The monsoon usually arrives in mid-June, with the rain falling mainly in the afternoons and evenings. At the end of September, after the last of the big rains, autumn suddenly arrives, and ushers in a magnificent season for trekking until mid-November.
Due to the wide range of temperature and climatic conditions, it is advisable to bring an assortment of appropriate clothing. For protection against the cold, layered clothing is better than a few thick items, so choose your clothes accordingly. Clothes should preferably be made from natural materials, which allow the body to breathe. You will offend people if you walk around in skimpy or tight fitting clothes. Although there are normally opportunities to wear shorts, we would advise women to wear skirts or loose trousers. In general, visitors should wear decent casual clothes (a collared shirt/coat with long trousers/skirts and no hats) while visiting Dzongs and temples.
WHAT TO PACK
The following is a fairly exhaustive list of what you should pack for your trip: clothes as per the season, sunglasses/spare glasses or contact lenses, a pair of casual shoes, washing kit, shaving kit, towel, hat, umbrella/poncho, walking poles (for hikes and treks),camera, film and accessories, books, maps, insect repellent, hand cream, small sewing kit and safety pins, torch or flash light with spare batteries, mirror, nail clippers, scissors, sun cream, lip salve, soluble aspirin, antiseptic cream, dramamine, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhea pills, and a preparation for the relief of sunburn. It doesn't hurt to bring some nutrition bars, small hand sanitizers and several pairs of socks.
The photographic opportunities on all trips are immense. It is said that, one cannot take bad pictures in Bhutan. You will wish to record the local people, their houses and shops, etc. Always ask by gesture if it is acceptable to do so. Also, while visiting Dzongs and religious institutions, please follow your trip leader’s instructions carefully.
HEALTH AND MEDICAL INFORMATION
No vaccinations are currently required for traveling to Bhutan. However, if you are arriving from an area infected with yellow fever, you are required to have a yellow fever vaccination and it must be administered at least 10 days before your arrival into Bhutan. Also if arriving from cholera infected areas, the vaccination is strongly recommended. Anti-malarial medication is also strongly recommended for all travelers who are visiting rural areas in the districts that border India. For more infomation, click here.
The country’s exquisite postage stamps, lovely hand woven fabrics, carved masks, woven baskets, wooden bowls, handmade papers, finely crafted metal objects and thangka paintings are the items mostly purchased by travelers in Bhutan. The buying and selling of antiques is strictly forbidden in the kingdom.
Tipping is neither compulsory nor is there any fixed amount, but it is normally expected and greatly appreciated - the bottom line in determining whether and how much to tip is to ask yourself how much the individual concerned added to the value of your travel experience. On an average, we suggest a gratuity of $10 per person per day.
In Bhutan, electricity runs at 220/240 volts, 50 Hz. If you do bring electrical appliances, bring along an international converter kit complete with a set of adapter plugs.
Bhutan is 6 hours ahead of GMT and there is only one time zone throughout the country.
Tourism has been strictly limited in Bhutan in order to preserve and nurture the traditional culture. The Bhutanese are spiritual people and therefore it is important to show respect and understanding for local customs, especially while visiting religious institutions. The tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable. For these reasons, the number of tourists visiting Bhutan is kept to an environmentally manageable level by setting a high minimum tariff.
Minimum Tariff is set by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, Royal Government of Bhutan.
Bridge To Bhutan charges the following tariff as listed below:
International Tourist tariff
Refer our FAQ page
Tariff for Individual and Small Groups (FIT)
Individual tourists and smaller groups of less than three persons shall be subject to a surcharge, as follows:
Single individuals: US $ 40 per night.
Group of 2 persons: US $ 30 per person per night.
Eligibility for Discounts from the Tourist Tariff
There shall be no charge for children up to the age of 5 years. However, those between the ages of 6-12 years accompanied by the elders/guardians shall be given 50% discount on daily basis.
Full time students below the age of 25 years holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions shall also be given 25% discount on a daily basis.
A discount of 50% on daily rates shall be given to one person in a group of 11 to 15 people. 100% discount shall be given to one member in a group exceeding 16 persons.
A discount of 10% on the daily rates shall be provided for stays between 11 to 20 nights and 20% discount on stays beyond 21 nights.
Visitors availing discount under Sections 1, 2 and 3 shall not be eligible for discount under 4.
Trip Cancellation Policy
Cancellation of a trip should be notified in writing directly to Bridge To Bhutan. Tour programs booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows:
a) 45 days or more prior to start of the tour - Full refund
b) 30-45 days or more prior to start of the tour - 20% of the rate
c) 22-29 days prior to start of tour - 30% of the rate
d) 15-21 days prior to start of tour - 50% of the rate
e) Less than 15 days prior to start of tour- 100%
f) After arrival in Bhutan, or cancellation without notice - 100%
A separate administration fee of $75 will be applicable for all cancelled tours.
Your flight tickets, if bought, are governed by a separate Druk Air cancellation policy. Druk Air tickets are valid for one year from the date of issue and are subject to the following cancellation and refund rules:
a) Full refund (minus administration charges) for tickets cancelled more than 45 days prior to arrival date in Bhutan
b) 50% refund for tickets cancelled between 30 and 45 days prior to arrival date
c) No refund for tickets cancelled within 30 days of arrival date in Bhutan
d) An administration fee of $25 per ticket will be applicable for all cancelled tickets
e) Passengers who fail to show up for a flight will not be eligible for a refund
f) Flights can be rescheduled for a $30 re-booking fee; however, once rescheduled, tickets are non-refundable and non-reroutable
g) Lost tickets are non-refundable
There shall be no fixed charge for the number of days of delay in arrival of visitors due to weather conditions, Druk Air problems or road blocks except for minimum charge on hotel cancellation, transport & guide.
There shall be no charge for the number of days of delay in departure of visitors due to the weather conditions, Druk Air problems or road blocks. They will be charged only the actual expenses for accommodation, food, transport and any other services required.
Single Room Supplements
The quoted package rates are valid for accommodation on a twin sharing basis and the following supplements will be applicable in case of single room accommodation:
For high season: US$ 50 per single room per night
For low season: US$ 25 per single room per night
Remittance of Tour Payment
Tour payment must be settled at least two months prior to the date of arrival in Bhutan. Visas will be cleared by the government subject to full payment only.