The peaceful Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has finally opened its doors to tourists. What has changed, what is mandatory, what do you need to carry- read on for all the details.
INTRODUCTION OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT FEE
Bhutan is levying a daily sustainable development fee (SDF) on visitors to support Bhutan’s development. It is mandatory for Indians to pay 1,200 ngultrums, or the equivalent amount in Indian rupees, per person, per night. Children aged 6-12 years will be given a 50% concessionary discount on their SDF. Those aged 5 or younger are exempt.
Update (June 2023): According to the new rules, Bhutan has lowered the SDF for visitors paying in dollars. Tourists paying the daily fees for four days will be allowed to stay an extra 4 days. Those paying SDF for 12 days can stay for a full month. This will stay in effect till 2024.
Day visitors to the Bhutanese towns bordering India are also exempt from paying the SDF until they reach a point designated by the Bhutanese government.
It is now mandatory for Indians to be accompanied by a guide for journeys beyond Thimphu and Paro. Guides are thus also mandatory for visitors who enter Bhutan via land borders and plan to travel beyond the border towns. All treks must also be undertaken with an accredited tour operator or guide.
ENTRY PERMITS BY ROAD AND AIR
ROAD: Indians coming to Bhutan by road are required to obtain an 'Entry Permit' on the basis of valid travel documents from the Immigration Office of Royal Government of Bhutan at Phuentsholing, located on the Indo-Bhutan border opposite Jaigaon, West Bengal.
Note: Daily fee of 4500/- levied under "green tax" needs to be paid if driving your own vehicle.
AIR: Indians coming by air must possess valid travel documents and get an Entry Permit at the Paro International Airport.
Note: The 'entry permit' allows an Indian tourist to visit Thimphu and Paro only. However, any tourist going beyond Thimphu and Paro needs to acquire a 'special area permit' from the RGoB Immigration Office at Thimphu on any working day (Monday to Friday).
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR PERMIT
1) Visitors from India require a passport or voter ID card. Children under 18 years of age require a birth certificate or passport and must be accompanied by a legal guardian.
2) Passport-size photograph.
3) Travel insurance* valid for the whole duration of the trip.
*There is an option to purchase domestic travel insurance from Bhutanese insurance providers at the port of entry during arrivals.
No visa is required to visit Bhutan for Indian nationals.