How do I enter Bhutan?
Drukair and Bhutan Airlines operate flights to and from Bhutan. Sectors covered are Bangkok, Kathmandu, Singapore, Dhaka, and India (Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Gauhati, Bagdogra). No international flights fly to Bhutan.
You can enter and exit from Phuntsholing, which is 3.5- 4 hours drive from Bagdogra International Airport, West Bengal, India and Samdrup Jongkhar, in the south east, three hours drive from Guahati, Assam, India.
Do I need the visa to travel to Bhutan?
All foreigners except the nationals of India, Bangladesh and Maldives would require prior visa. You just need to send the scanned copy of your passport and wire transfer tour payment in to a TCB designated Government Bank in Bhutan. We can process within 7 working days and send it by email. This you need to produce at the immigration desk along with your passport on arrival. Actual visa will be stamped on your passport. Ensure your passport has a minimum six months validity.
What documents do I need to submit for visa?
We need the scanned copy of your passport in colour of high resolution along with your occupation, permanent address and level of education.
What documents will you provide that I need to take with me to Bhutan?
We will email you the visa confirmation letter and air e-ticket. Please carry two copies of them with you to be produced at the Paro International Airport.
How much does it cost to visit Bhutan?
Tariff is fixed by the Royal Government of Bhutan. Tourism in Bhutan is- high value, low impact- to control tourism and protect culture and environment.
High Season Tariff (March, April, May, September, October, and November)
US$ 290 per night for an individual traveler including the government surcharge of USD 40 per night.
US$ 280 per night for groups of two people including the government surcharge of USD 30 per night per person.
US$ 250 per night per person for a group of three or more
Low Season Tariff (January, February, June, July, August, and December)
US$ 240 per night for an individual traveler including the government surcharge of USD 40 per night
US$ 230 per night for groups of two people including the government surcharge of USD 30 per night per person
US$ 200 per night per person for a group of three or more.
Further, there is one time payment of $40 visa fee.
What is included in the tour package?
Visa fees & government taxes
Entry fees to various monuments, temples and national parks
Accommodation in (3 star hotel and above) on a twin sharing basis
All meals & sightseeing
Ground transport within Bhutan
A licensed English speaking guide
Private vehicle and driver for your entire trip
Highly experienced trekking guide, pack ponies, porters, cook and excellent trekking equipment for treks. We recommend you to bring your own sleeping bag for trekking.
Package Excludes: Air fare cost, trip and medical insurance, tips for guide and driver (optional), drinks and beverages, telephone calls, laundry, dry cleaning, and all other expenses personal in nature.
Is there any discount available?
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 elders/ guardians shall be given 50% discount on daily rates and 100% discount on Royalty.
Full time students below the age of 25 years holding valid identity cards from their academic institutions shall also be given a 25% discount on daily rates.
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 people.
Do you provide travel insurance?
No, we do not provide travel insurance
What if I need to cancel my trip?
An administration fee of $100 would be applicable for all cancelled Tour Programs. Tour programs booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows:
Within 01 month – 50%
Within 10 days of tour start date – 100% No refund.
How can I purchase air tickets?
We can purchase your Air tickets for you. All tickets will be e-tickets and will be sent to you via e-mail.
What is the weight limit on Drukair and Bhutan Airlines?
The limit is 20kg for economy class and 30kg for business class on DrukAir.The limit is 30kg for economy class and 40kg for business class on Bhutan Airlines. (except for PAro Kathmandu it is 20/30kg)
It’s possible to pay for excess baggage, but there is a chance that the luggage will have to be sent on the next flight. There is not a great deal of cabin space, please keep carry-on luggage to a minimum.
Can I have a private tour?
Yes, we offer private tours based on the interests of the clients. You can travel alone or bring your friends and family. You will accompanied by a private guide, vehicle and driver throughout your tour.
Why do I need a guide? Can I tour on my own?
Yes, you would need a tour guide as well as driver. Tourism in Bhutan is highly regulated by the government and you must come through a licensed Bhutanese tour company and you can’t tour the country on your own or rent a car. It is done to ensure and immerse you in culture and environment that is carefully preserved for centuries and to provide you with an authentic travel experience. The guides know the places well in Bhutan and would come handy especially when your hiking or visiting different places. Once the guests are in town or in hotel, they are free to walk on their own.
Can I have a customized itinerary?
We can customize your itinerary based on your interest and duration of the stay. If any local festivals or any occasion falls during your trip,we will include those too.
What kinds of vehicles do you use?
We use luxurious, clean and well maintained vehicles like Toyota and Hyundai, and Prado. Our drivers are all seasoned drivers and carefully chosen to escort our guests.
SUV – for groups of one or two people.
Hiace bus (Vans) – for groups of three to seven
Toyota Coaster bus for larger group with luggage van if necessary.
What is the food like? I am a vegetarian. Is that a problem?
The food is one of the greatest experiences when you travel to a different destination. You will have a variety of cuisines to choose from, including Bhutanese, Indian, Tibetan, Continental, and Chinese. The main staples of the Bhutanese diet are rice (red or white) and chilies. One dish favored by most Bhutanese is called “Emadatsi,” which is chilies and cheese. Meat is widely eaten in Bhutan, as are vegetables. Bhutanese food tends to be spicy, since many dishes are made with chilies, but the spiciness can be reduced to your liking.
Is it safe to travel to Bhutan?
The crime rate is very less in Bhutan. Security and safety are a high priority given to every guest who travels to Bhutan and it is safe for women and solo travelers.
Do I have to worry altitude sickness in Bhutan?
The altitude in Bhutan is higher than many people are used to. Though most visitors will have no problem adjusting, altitude sickness may be a problem for certain people. Our cultural tours do not reach altitudes higher than 3,500 meters. All of our treks reach at least 3,500 meters, and some of our treks go as high as 5,000 meters.
How much money should I bring with me?
It will depend on what you want to spend on. Some carry a big amount for buying souvenirs for their families and friends back home. It is good to bring USD if you want to do shopping. There are also ATMs in Thimphu where you can withdraw money with your Visa and Master Cards, but cash is better.
What is the currency in Bhutan?
The currency in Bhutan is called the Ngultrum (Nu). It is linked and equal in value to the Indian rupee, which is also accepted in Bhutan. You cannot purchase Nu prior to arriving in Bhutan, but you can easily buy Nu at the Paro airport, at Bhutan National Bank and the Bank of Bhutan, and at major hotels in Thimphu and Paro, all of which accept traveler’s checks and/or dollars and various other currencies. When visiting smaller towns, however, you should bring Nu for your purchases, as it may not be possible to exchange your currency.
What is the time zone in Bhutan?
Bhutan’s time is six hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), 30 minutes ahead of India, one hour behind Thailand, 15 minutes ahead of Nepal, and 10 hours ahead the US during daylight saving time and 11 hours ahead during the standard time .
What type of hotels do you use?
We use hotels approved by TCB, that is 3 standard and above, except for few hotels while traveling to eastern Bhutan. Even these hotels are basic, but clean, comfortable and provide good service.
When should I book my trip?
We have only two airlines operating flights to and from Bhutan. We request our guests to book 13 weeks in advance during peak season and 9 weeks in advance for off peak season for having to rush at the last moment.
Travelling within Bhutan
There are domestic flights to Bumthang in the central region and Gelephu in the south. Another airport in the east is under construction and the plan is to complete it by the end of 2016. Thereafter, travel to the east will be more convenient.
GBT will send you a visa clearance document by email which you will need to print to show at the airport along with your passport. If you are travelling by air, your visa will be stamped at the Immigration desk at Paro International Airport. If you travel by road, the visa will be endorsed at Phuntsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar entry points.
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 photograph/filming is not permitted.
You are free to capture images of the landscape, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, rural life, flora and fauna, distinctive Bhutanese architecture and the exterior of Dzongs and Chortens in particular.
The country has a good network of telecommunication facilities. Most hotels and cafe’s offer Wi-Fi internet access. Bhutan has a comprehensive mobile (cell) phone network with global roaming also accessible.
Bhutanese speak a variety of languages with Dzongkha being the national language and one of the most widely spoken. English is also spoken by the majority of Bhutanese making communication very easy. It is encouraged to speak with the local Bhutanese, especially in the urban areas and towns,as it will enhance your knowledge on Bhutan.
Guides and Interpreters
Bhutan has a good team of interpreters and licenced guides that are well versed in local history and possess good communication skills. All guides are tested and certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. Guides are available who are fluent in Japanese, Thai, Spanish and other European languages.
GBT makes every effort to stick to the original itinerary, but mountain weather is unpredictable and may necessitate itinerary changes. Booking through us means that you understand and accept this eventuality.
Tour programs booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to the following cancellation charges:
Within 1 month – 50%
Within 15 days of tour start date – 100% (no refund)
Delay of Druk Air/Bhutan Airlines Flights
Local operators are not liable to refund tour payments for flight delays up to 48 hours for any reason which is beyond their control. For delays more than 48 hours,clients may choose to either claim refunds or extend tours.
Personal insurance of any kind is not included in the tour price, thus you need to obtain travel insurance before the actual trip. GBT cannot be held liable for any illness, injury or death or any mishap occurrings during a tour or trek.
The only mode of payment to Bhutan is by wire transfer. Prior to your trip to Bhutan, you will be asked to wire the full payment for your holiday through a designated bank by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. At tourist visa will not be issued until full payment is made prior to departure. This money will remain with the Tourism Council of Bhutan until your trip is complete. Only after you have completed your holiday, TCB will transfer money to the handling local tour operator.
From May to September, cotton clothes are sufficient plus a woolen sweater or light jacket . From October to the end of April, you will need very warm clothes including long johns or woolen tights to wear under trousers and down jackets or coat. During visits to monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institution, you are advised to observe dress code of long pants, long sleeved shirts and shoes. You will be asked to remove your shoes or hats before entering places of worship; In cold weather, if your feet get cold easily, you may like to carry an extra pair of warm socks. Casual clothes are accepted for general tours. Since you will be outside most of the time, it is good to carry sun glasses, sun caps, sun-screen lotion and lip protection. Rain gear will be useful if you are traveling during the monsoon season from June to August.
All our guides are certified, licensed, and trained by Tourism Council of Bhutan. Our trekking guides have additional training on safety and first aid instructions to lead any group size. You will have a dedicated English speaking guide and driver for the entire trip at your disposal at all times. Special language guides in French, German, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, or Spanish are also available at additional cost.
Tipping is optional. If you appreciate the service offered by our guides, drivers and service staffs, you may tip them as you want, preferably putting the money in an envelope.
Ngultrum (Nu) is the national currency of Bhutan. It is at par with the Indian Rupee, which is widely accepted in Bhutan. You can exchange your money with Nu at the airport, hotels or from the Banks. There are also ATM machines in some centres for cash withdrawal. Visa and Master Cards are accepted by hotels and shops in urban areas, at a 6-7% surcharge.
TCB requires international guests to be kept in 3 star or above hotels, resorts and guest houses. These provide comfortable, well furnished double rooms, each with an en suite bathroom. Guests also have the option to stay in 4 star and above hotels, providing more facilities at additional cost.
Bhutanese food is hot and spicy, but it is tempered for guests. There are Chinese, Indian and Continental dishes to choose from, but who are more adventurous can try hot Bhutanese dishes. Meals are most of the time served in buffet style in hotels. Even on treks, we serve nutritious and tasty dishes and provide three meals a day. Rice is a staple served with every meal accompanied by vegetable or meat dishes cooked with chili and/or cheese. Bhutan is known as one of the few countries where chilli is cooked as main vegetable. Vegetarian options are widely available and the request for them is well understood. Standards of hygiene in tourist hotels are high.
The local drink in Bhutan is called Ara and is brewed from rice or corn. It tastes like Japanese saki wine and is popular in rural areas. Tea and coffee are served and the coffee culture is becoming more popular in Bhutan especially in Thimphu and Paro. Bhutanese tea is called Suja and is made using milk, tea leaf and butter.We recommend drinking bottled water rather than tap water.
We use comfortable and modern Toyota cars, land cruisers, SUVS and coaster buses for all group sizes. Every vehicle is rechecked properly before every tour to ensure the safety and comfort for all clients. Bhutanese roads are constantly being improved; they follow natural land contours, providing spectacular scenery which is an important part of your holidayl
It runs on the 240v system and usually three rounded plugs (Indian style) are used in Bhutan. The power supply is normally good, but it can fluctuate at times. (put picture)
Bhutan is 6 hours ahead of G.M.T, half an hour ahead of India, 15 minutes behind Nepal, and one hour behind Thailand.
All visitors are required to complete a customs form upon arrival at Paro airport. The following items are exempt from customs duty:
Instruments ,apparatus or appliances for personal use
Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods
Bhutan is the first country to ban usage of tobacco products. Smoking is prohibited in public places. Cigarettes may not be bought or sold in the country, however visitors can bring in 200 cigarettes (1 carton) subject to 100% customs duty and 100% sales tax.
Bhutanese traditional handicrafts make very attractive purchases. They include woven textiles, handmade paper products, woven baskets etc., The most popular purchases made by tourists are postage stamps at Bhutan Post which Bhutan is known world-wide. Buying and selling antiques in Bhutan is strictly prohibited.
Every district (dzongkhag) in Bhutan has a general hospital and is staffed with competent doctors and offer basic health services; however, you should come prepared with any necessary medicines like anti nausea pills, anti diarrhea pills, oral dehydration packets, eye drops, anti biotic ointment, and anti histamine ointment.
Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, please seek advice from your doctor with regard to vaccinations and appropriate medication you should have prior to your travels.
Measures, Weights & Time
Bhutan ascribes to the metric system and most weights are measured in gram (g) and kilogram (kg). The standard time is 6 hours ahead of GMT.
Bhutan is one of the safest countries in the world however you should still exercise caution when visiting. Please ensure that your belongings especially your passports, cameras, wallets and purses are properly secured. Please refrain from leaving such items within sight in locked vehicles while sightseeing.
Avoid drinking tap water which has not been boiled or ice cubes in drinks at all times as most water sources in Bhutan are untreated. One can easily acquire affordable treated and bottled water.
Also, Bhutan has a duty to protect its citizens from drugs and tobacco products. To do this we need your help and cooperation. Please co-operate if stopped and asked about your baggage. Please do not carry tobacco goods in excess of the set limit as mentioned under Customs.
Public holidays that are observed throughout the nation. However, each Dzongkhag has its own list of regional holidays that are observed especially while conducting annual tshechus (Religious festivals). For such a list please contact your service provider or travel agent.
A folding umbrella would come handy. Rain is possible any time, and is almost certain from June through August.
Be sure to carry ear plugs (and spares) for when you sleep. There are a lot of dogs in Bhutan as the Bhutanese consider them next mankind in the cycle of life. These dogs don’t realize this and will sometimes bark at night.
There could be occasional electric outages, thus it is good to always keep a torch (flashlight) beside your bed.
Make sure you bring a pair of good sunglasses for protection in the high altitude.
A Swiss style army knife is a good thing to bring, but with the recent concerns over air travel you may want to bring a folding utility tool such as a Leatherman and make sure to put it in you check-in luggage.
Bring a small alarm clock if you need help waking up after all those barking dogs, although hotel rooms have telephones or wake-up service.
Please Note: Our guide will definitely make sure you are not late for anything. We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to monasteries, dzongs, and other religious institutions. Long pants and long sleeve tops with collars should be worn when visiting such places. As a mark of respect be kind enough to remove your hats, caps, shoes.
There are special rules and rates for filming in Bhutan.
Tourists or professionals intent on filming in Bhutan must abide by Bhutanese Filming Regulations 1995 available with the implementing agency (Tourism Council of Bhutan) . The regulation does not apply to feature and cinematography films.
Application for a filming permit must be submitted to the Tourism Council of Bhutan TCB) at least 30 days in advance. The application must be accompanied by :
Synopsis of the film – theme/ background /objective/purpose
Composition of the filming team and the list of equipment including accessories and consumables( film crew members have to pay full daily tourist tariff)
Letter of recommendation from sponsoring agency (application form available with TCB at a cost of Nu 300)
Royalty on filming
First 30 minutes or part thereof – US $10,000
Next 30 minutes or part thereof- US $6,000
Every additional 30 minutes or part thereof- US $3,000
In addition a security of $5,000 must be deposited with TCB, which is refunded only upon completion of the film to the satisfaction of TCB.
All visitors require a visa to travel to Bhutan except for tourists from India, Bangladesh and Maldives. GBT will process the visa after receiving scanned passport copies and tour payment. You will receive a visa clearance letter by email. You will need to bring a print out copy of the visa clearance as your visa will be stamped at the immigration desk on your passport at Paro International Airport or at border entry points.