Travel to Bhutan is expensive and not easily undertaken. However, the unspoiled scenery and fresh mountain air make it very worthwhile. Here are some quick tips for making your Bhutan travel arrangements.
- The Bhutanese Government is very reserved about allowing visitors into the country. Independent travel to Bhutan is opening up but it's not something the Government encourages. Generally, visitors to Bhutan must either be tourists, or guests of the Government. The only other options for visiting the country are to receive an invitation by "a citizen of some standing" or a volunteer organization. All tourists must travel on a preplanned, prepaid, guided package tour or custom designed travel program.
- Visas to Bhutan must be applied and paid for in advance, from selected travel agents (not Embassies), at the same time as booking the rest of your trip. You should try and make your travel arrangements at least 90 days prior to travel to allow time for all the formalities to be completed.
- Everyone traveling to Bhutan requires a visa, except for Indian passport holders. Visas are issued for a duration of two weeks, and cost $20. Your visa will be placed in your passport when you arrive at Immigration control at Paro airport.
- If you fly to Bhutan, you must use the national airline, Druk Air. The only airport in Bhutan is located at Paro. Druk Air flies to Paro airport from Bangkok (Thailand), Kathmandu (Nepal), New Delhi and Kolkata (India), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Yangoon (Myanmar). Expect to pay around $360 one way for a flight from Delhi to Paro, and $240 from Kolkata to Paro.
- It's also possible to travel to Bhutan from India overland by road. The main border crossing is Jaigon-Phuentsholing.
- The minimum price of tours to Bhutan are set by the Government, to control tourism and protect the environment, and can't be negotiated. You can expect to pay $230 per person, per day, for groups of two during the high season (February to May and August to December). During the low season (Janury, June and July) the price drops to $195 per person, per day, for groups of two. The price includes all accommodations, meals, transportation, guides and porters, and cultural programs.
- The Bhutan Tourist Corporation Limited (BTCL) comes highly recommended for making travel bookings to Bhutan. They advertise themselves as Bhutan's number one travel agency since 1991. The drivers, guides, and accommodations provided are excellent. The cost must be paid in advance, and they'll only accept bookings of two or more people.
- ATM service is unavailable in Bhutan, and credit cards are not widely accepted.