You will be endorsed by the immigration officers upon your arrival before you are issued with a permit. Make sure you go personally. You may have to carry your passport (also some passport photographs) or voter’s registration card. If you plan to travel by road, the endorsement is done at the entry points in Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Gelephu. If by flight, you will enter from the Paro Airport.
Travelling within Bhutan
An important feature of the road system is the innumerable curves and bends that one will have to negotiate. Besides the bends, another characteristic of the road network is the steep ascents and descents that slow down the car travels. An average speed for road travel rarely exceeds 40 kilometers an hour, with tourist buses making even slower progress. One is however generously rewarded for the long and tiring car journey by the spectacular views of the mountains, the lush green jungles, the ancient villages, the majestic temples and monasteries and the many road side restaurants and inns.
The roads are well sealed but the rides can still be bumpy as the lanes are single and narrow at most points. The advantage is that the Bhutanese are well accustomed to driving such lanes and know their land well and are careful drivers.
Tourists can travel in Bhutan with medium-sized buses (20-22 seats), small buses (8-12 seats) or hired cars. Road widths do not permit larger buses.
Bringing in your own vehicle
Indian visitors can bring in their own vehicles. For the entry of the foreign cars, the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) – www.rsta.gov.bt – will have to endorse the documents. But we strongly recommend that you use our cars and the services of the local drivers as the narrow and winding roads in Bhutan may pose a challenge for you.
The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for the visitors. You may visit the web site at www.ricb.com.bt.
Bhutan experiences a great variation in its climate. Summers are warm with average daily temperature ranging from 20 to 25 Celsius, while winters are cold. In winters temperatures are usually below 15 Celsius. So bring with you a couple of warm clothes and comfortable shoes to go with the weather, the terrain and the program. You might want to consider ‘what to wear’ for hikes, trekking and sightseeing, as well as for dinners, appointments and functions that we have for you. Others that you could consider bringing with you would be a pair of sunglasses, sun screen lotion and a hat; antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream, anti-diarrhoea pills, altitude & car sickness medicine; insect repellent, flash light (w/spare batteries) umbrella, camera, films and accessories (including spare camera batteries)etc.
Bhutan is an ideal place and a frequent haunt for photographers offering immense opportunities for photography especially during outdoor sightseeing trips. However you may need to check with your guide for indoor photography as taking photographs inside Dzongs, temples, monasteries and religious institutions are restricted unless you have a special permission from the Department of Culture. One can however, capture images of the landscapes, the panoramic views of the mountain ranges, the rural folk life, the flora and fauna, the Bhutanese architecture and the Dzongs and Choetens in particular.
Cloths and paraphernalia
With great altitudinal variations, weather is quite erratic in Bhutan. So be prepared to brace the erratic weather as you step outdoor. We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, fortresses and other religious institutions. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.
Before embarking on a trip to Bhutan, it is advisable to have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations.
Tipping is a purely personal matter. We do not have any tradition of giving tips and we clearly leave it up to you as to whether you want to give tips to your guides and drivers. However, Bhutan has the tradition of soelra (a form of tip usually given by an elderly or economically well off, as a form of expressing gratitude).
The following articles are exempt from duty:
(a) Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor (b) 1 litre of alcohol (spirits or wine) (c) 200 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200% (d) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use (e) Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.
You have to complete the passenger declaration form on your arrival before checking out. The articles mentioned under (d) & (e) must be declared on the declaration form. If any such items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty.
On departure, visitors are required to surrender their forms to the customs authorities.
Import/export restrictions of the following goods is strictly prohibited:(a) Arms, ammunitions and explosives (b) All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs (c) Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species (d) Antiques.
Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival. Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate.
The minimum tariff for tourist visiting in a group of 3 persons or more are as follows:
High Season Tariff – USD 250 per person per night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November.
Season Tariff – USD 200 per person per night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December.
The minimum price includes:
All internal taxes and charges (including the royalty)
All travel with a licensed Bhutanese Tour Guide
All Internal Transport
Camping Equipment and Haulage for Trekking Tours
The rates are applicable per tourist per night halt in Bhutan. On the day of departure, the ‘local agents’ host obligation shall be limited to breakfast only and any extra requirements shall be payable on actual basis.
The rates shall apply uniformly irrespective of locations and the type of accommodation provided/asked for. List of hotels and lodges approved for international tourist accommodation updated from time to time shall be issued by TCB.
Individual tourists and smaller groups of less than three persons shall be subject to surcharge, over and above the minimum daily rates applicable, as follows:
Single individual US$ 40 per night
Group of 2 persons US$ 30 per person per night
The surcharge will not be applicable to representatives of foreign travel agents on business study or promotional visit duly approved and cleared by TCB.
a) There is no discount on Diplomatic visas.
b) 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.
c) 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.
d) 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.
e) 50% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 8th night and 100% discount on Royalty shall be provided after the 14th night.
f) Visitors availing discounts under Sections A, B & C shall not be eligible for discount under E.
Other than Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals, all visitors to Bhutan require a visa; all visas are issued from Thimphu; visas are only issued to tourists booked with a local licensed tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent. Applications for tourist visas are submitted by the tour operator. Visa clearance from Thimphu must be obtained before coming to Bhutan. Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process. Air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased without visa clearance. At your point of entry the visa will be stamped in your passport on payment of US$20; two passport photos will also be required. Visas are issued for a 15-day period; extensions can be obtained in Thimphu at a cost of Nu 510.
Tour Programmes booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows:
within 30 days of start of programme – no charges
within 21 days – 10% of rate
within 14 days – 15% of rate
within 7 days – 30% of rate
less than 7 days or without notice – 50% of rate
after arrival in Bhutan – 100%
There is no charge for delays in arrival and departure because of weather conditions disrupting flights or road blocks. The tourist must however bear the cost of food, accommodation, transportation, and other services required.