GETTING TO BHUTAN
The way to Bhutan: Travel by air and travel by land.
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
The national airline Druk Air flies from Thailand, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Singapore to Bhutan’s Paro International Airport, located in the west of the country.
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 Drukair is the only airline operating flights into and around the country with a fleet of Airbus A319’s. It services Bangkok in Thailand, Delhi, Kolkata, Bodh Gaya, Guwahati in India; Dacca in Bangladesh; Kathmandu in Nepal; and Singapore. There are a regular domestic service to Bumthang (central region) and flights available to Trashigang (eastern region) and Gelephu (southern region). 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, Kathmandu and Delhi is particularly rewarding as it offers spectacular views of 4 of the 5 highest mountains in the world. In clear weather, as you soar higher up, you’ll be treated to amazing close-ups of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga at their best. Visit www.drukair.com.bt for more information.
TRAVEL BY LAND
Phuntsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar are all located along the southern border of India and are the only overland border entries open to international tourists.
The town of Phuntsholing is located approximately 170 km east of the Indian national airport Bagdogra. After crossing Phuntsholing, your will begin a mountainous climb through hair-pin bends until you enter Thimphu, the capital city. The 176 km journey usually takes around 6 hours. Travel sickness tablets are recommended for young children and adults who may not be accustomed to the mountain roads.
Gelephu in South-Central Bhutan is another entry point to Bhutan. It is approximately 250 kms from Thimphu. The journey will take you through lush sub-tropical jungles and pristine alpine forests before finally bringing you into Thimphu. You will traverse across three districts with a travel time of approximately ten hours.
Samdrup Jongkhar is the only entry point in eastern Bhutan. The town borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam and is approximately 150 kms from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The journey from Guwahati is about three hours. Tourists entering Bhutan through Samdrup Jongkhar will have to travel through Trashigang, the largest district in the country, and from there east through Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa and Wangde Phodrang to reach the capital city, Thimphu. The distance is about 700 kms and you should allow three days journey time.
Visa and Travel Insurance
All visitors to Bhutan require a visa.
Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can obtain a visa at the port of entry o producing a valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity (Indian nationals may also use their Voters identity Card (VIC).
All other tourists must obtain a visa 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 proceed 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 proceed 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.
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.
Bhutan experiences great variations in its climate. In general summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20-25 degrees Celsius, while winter temperatures are usally 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.
Other suggested items o pack:
A pair of sunglasses
Spare camera batteries
Flash light (with spare batteries)
Travel sickness tablets
Altitude sickness medication kit trekking above 3000m.
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 town throughout Bhutan, where money can be withdrawn using a Visa or Mater Card. For concerned travelers a list of ATM locations through out Bhutan is found here: ATM Location list.
In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationalwide, meaning visitrs can pay by credit card at most hotels and handicrafts stores.
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 fo your electroics 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.
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 photography/filming is not permitted.
You are free to capture images of the landscape, the panoramic views of the mountain rabges, rural, life, flora and fauna, distinctive Bhutanese architecture and the exterior of dzongs and chortens in particulars.
Some popular handicraft items available for purchase are hand-woven textiles of raw silk or ailk, carved masks of various animals, woven baskets of cane and bamboo, wooden bowls known as Dapas, Hans-made paper products or finely crafted gods of silver. Other items that you may be interested in are the exquisite Buddhist thangkha paintings or Bhutan’s wide array of colorful and creative postage stamps. You can some 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.
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.
(A) Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitors.
(B) 1liter of alcohol (spirits or wine)
(C) 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200 %
(D) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
(E) Ohotographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use
You have to complete the passenger declaration form at your port of entry.