Bhutan has a picturesque landscape with a rich culture and heavenly places on the lap of the mountain. Bhutan’s ‘high quality, low volume’ travel policy preserves its inherent culture, sanity and pristine nature. For citizens of Most of the South Asians especially for India, Bangladesh and Maldivians visa is not required for travelling to Bhutan.
This is A Bhutan Travel guide to planning your trip to Bhutan, you can plan your expenses and itinerary if you are planning to visit the country of mountains, myriad cultures, and unique beauty of Bhutan; here is all the information you will require to plan your next holiday.
At a glance: A Guide to Planning your Trip to Bhutan
Required Documents: Photo ID, confirmation of hotel booking, passport-sized photos and covid-negative report
Point of Border crossing and immigration: Phuentsholing
Covid Restrictions: Implied partially
Cost of Bhutan travel from India: 470 USD to 550 USD
Transport for Indian Travellers: Indians don’t need visas to cross India-Bhutan Border. A government-issued ID will suffice if you are travelling through the land border, and if you are using any other transport method, you will need two valid documents:
- Passport with the validity of at least six months
- Voter ID card issued by the election commission or Adhar card
- The birth certificate is recommended to carry for children travellers under the age of 15
Transport options for Indian citizens:
Indian travellers have three options while travelling to Bhutan.
1 India to Bhutan flight:
Flights are available from most international airports in the major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Bodhgaya etc. Domestic airlines and currently Druk air, air India, spice jet airlines have services for flights from India to Bhutan almost daily. It takes about three hours from Delhi to Paro.
2 India to Bhutan trains:
The best and cheapest way to travel from India to Bhutan is by train, and you can get to the NJP station in West Bengal from Kolkata, Delhi or any major city. You can avail of the train to Jaigaon or Hasimara in West Bengal. There are no direct trains into Bhutan, and you have to rent a cab or local transport to cross the Bhutan border once you reach Hasimara or NJP.
3 India to Bhutan by Road:
You can either book a cab or ride a bike on the Asian Highway 48 to travel across the border. If you are crossing the border from Hasimara you can see the mystical mountain ranges of Bhutan. The Indo- Bhutan border leads to Pheuntsholing in the southern part of Bhutan.
Complete Immigration Process in Pheuntsholing
After arrival in Pheuntsholing Indians have to obtain an entry permit at the immigration office that has a 7-day validity and if you are crossing with your bike or other vehicles, you have to also require the permit for showing it at every checkpoint.
Here’s the complete immigration process:
- You have to arrive at the immigration office early for submitting the required documents.
- You have to provide Voter’s ID, booking slip of your stay or hotel confirmation, passport photo and self-declaration only if you are travelling solo.
- You will be handed a entry permit for the radius of 5Km of Pheuntsholing and that is valid for 7 days. For longer stay you have to collect permit from Thimpu Immigration office.
- There is a sustainable developement fee of 1200INR per day that is levied on Indian Travellers, other than that no fees should be demanded except for the charges regarding tour agencies if you have booked through agencies.
Covid restrictions in Bhutan:
All Indian and travellers from other South Asian countries must produce a Covid-negative result on arrival to Bhutan, and 21-day quarantine is required for passengers with symptoms. According to the Ministry of Health of The Royal Government of Bhutan, you have to abide by the covid-screening and protocols as implied at the time of your arrival whether you cross the border by road or by air.
Places you must visit in Bhutan:
The capital of Bhutan, Thimphu’s main attraction is Tashichho Dzong, the Dzong with a golden roof, Thimphu Chorten, Buddha Dordenma and accompanying sights. Dzong is basically an administrative centre with a monastery or centre for cultural and spiritual activities.
Thimpu is a city with lush valleys in the spring, clean and noiseless streets and a piece of land that brings you peace.
Points of attractions in Thimpu:
Tango Buddhist Institute
Activities to do in Thimpu:
While travelling in Thimpu, along with visiting the landmarks of the city, there are activities you can explore are
- Attending a concert in the clock tower
- Trek Jomolhari mountain
- Visit Jhungsi Factory of Handmade paper
Almost 50 km west of the capital, Paro is a heavenly valley city that should be on your list because of its lush green valleys, monasteries above the mountain and picturesque landscape.
The most sighted tourist places in Paro are the breathtaking Taktsang Lakhang, Chelela Pass, Rinpung dong, National Museum of Bhutan, Druk Choeding Temples, Paro River and adjacent places. Paro is a beautiful valley where you can spend 1 or 2 days.
- Taktsang Lakhang or Tiger’s nest
- Chelela Pass
- National Museum of Bhutan
- Drukgyel Dzong
- Airport Viewpoint
Punakha is widely known for the Punakha Dzong or the administrative centre of Punakha, and the second-oldest Dzong in Bhutan. While travelling from Thimpu to Punakha you will go through the scenic Dochula pass and also the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens.
Punakha will offer you beautiful landscapes along with activities if you plan to visit its two most celebrated rivers Mo Chuu and Pho Chuu. For an all-round soul-satisfying experience Punakha here is the list of places you must visit other than the Dzong:
- Khamsum Yulley-Namgyal-Chorten
- Chimi Lakhang
- Sangchhen Dorji Luhendrup Lakhang
- Dochula Pass
- Mo river
And, here are some activities to explore in Punakha:
Rafting and kayaking in Mo river
Bird and animal watching at the Jigme Dorji National Park
Spring Bath in the Jigme Dorji National Park
Visiting Punakha Suspension Bridge
The Royal Manas National Park:
Bhutan’s Conservation showpiece of the Kingdom, the Royal Manas National Park, is Bhutan’s oldest national park and has a rich collection of flora and fauna.
You travel to the south Bhutanese town of Gelephu and cross the Indo-Bhutan border to enter Kakrajhor in India and access the national park through the Bhutanese border village Panbang.
Activities in the royal manas national park:
- Watching tiger, forest, elephant reserve Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary
- Rafting at Bogamati picnic spot
- Safari at Mathanguri
5 Day Bhutan Itinerary:
A minimum of 5-6 days of duration is required to travel to Bhutan, and the charming country with a beautiful landscape will offer you a short vacation with peace of mind. While planning your tour to Bhutan, check out the official website of the Tourism Council of Bhutan, where you will find itineraries and tour packages that cover all the trip’s cultural, adventurous, and sightseeing aspects.
Here is a 5-day itinerary that is suitable for travellers from the Indian subcontinent or as a Bhutan travel guide for Indian travellers.
Day 1: Move to Thimpu
Cross the border and move to Thimpu, a 5-hour drive from Pheuntsholing and if you are arriving through Paro via flight, Thimphu is 1 Km away.
Day 2: Finish sightseeing in Thimpu and drive to Dochula Pass
On day 2, you can visit Thimpu’s landmarks in the morning and drive to Dochula Pass in the afternoon. Dochula pass is just 23 Km away from Thimpu and takes approximately a 1-hour drive, and you can stay the night either by finishing the drive in Punakha or driving to Paro if you are staying in Paro.
Day 3: Visit Punakha
On day-3 you can visit Punakha if you have stayed in Punakha the previous night, explore the beautiful city and enjoy its panoramic nature and activities
Day 4: Move to Paro and Hitch-hike to tiger’s nest
Day 5: Sightseeing Paro and departure
Cultural tourism Bhutan Travel Guide
As culture is one of the aspects of a country that works as a shield and authenticity of the country while in Bhutan understanding and experiencing the Bhutanese culture will leave you with a lifetime of memories.
Bhutanese culture can be an integral part of your Bhutan tour if you are more informed about the historical places, ancient festivals and the timings. If you are travelling in the month of march you will be in luck for traditional festivals such as
1. Gomkora Festival
2. Paro Festival
3. Domkar Festival
Other than the spring festivals there is a lot more festivity around January and other times of the year as well. To gain extraordinary experiences of the cultural side of Bhutan, here are some tips that you can apply as a Bhutan travel guide.
Visit the historical museums and monasteries.
Visit the UNESCO heritage e.g. the ancient remains of Drukgyel dzong, Punakha dzong, the sacred sites of Phajo Drugam Sigpo etc.
Plan your tour with a reputed guide or agency who can help you develop a deeper connection with the culture of Bhutan.
Bhutan is one of the sought-after and suitable destinations in the ongoing situation of the pandemic in 2022 as it is one of the smallest countries where maintaining covid-protocols is not difficult.
The country is enriched with culture, history, colour and has the bliss of the mighty Himalayas. Reading this Bhutan travel guide, would this country be your next destination?