If you like Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Sikkim and other north Indian places, you’ll surely love Bhutan. Because Bhutan represents better version of those places. Its geographical terrains and people’s cultural traditions are distantly similar with that of those places. Therefore, today I am bringing you a detail guide on how to travel to Bhutan from India.
Bhutan is an exclusive and elusive travel destination in Asia that you must visit at least once in a lifetime. The vast Buddhist culture with ancient heritages gives its tourists a good exploration platform.
Classic buildings like Dzongs, Temples and Monasteries add so much to its landscape. Tourists who travel to Bhutan from hot places get to breathe cool and fresh mountain oxygen. Hiking to various tourist attractions of Bhutan overlooking scenic valleys never fail to offer great getaways.
Moreover Indian tourists don’t have to pay daily hefty tariff of USD 250 per day like tourists from other countries. Therefore, you don’t need another reason not to travel to Bhutan. Take this advantage and travel to Bhutan at least once in your lifetime.
Travel to Bhutan from India (Roads, Flights, and Trains)
There are no railways and marine services in Bhutan. However, its Paro Airport has connections with various Indian airports. DrukAir and Bhutan Airline are two airline companies of Bhutan operating international flights. Consequently India to Bhutan flight would be quite an easy pick for Indian tourists.
You can travel to Bhutan from India by road driving your own cars. Samdrup Jongkhar, Gelephu and Phuentsholing are three entry gates for people who travel from India to Bhutan by road. You can also hire Bhutan taxi or private vans in Bhutan at reasonable cost.
In yet another option, tourists from Calcutta can travel to Bhutan taking a ride in Bhutan’s Bus till Phuentsholing. However, I was told it’s not an AC bus. There is no Kolkata to Bhutan volvo bus service. Even travelling from Siliguri to Bhutan by road would take less than 4 hours.
To travel by train, the closest Indian train station is at Hasimara West Bengal. Yet from Hasimara Train Station, it’s a scenic drive of about 16 Km till Bhutan Gate in Phuentsholing. You won’t be spending more than Rs.150 in a shared taxi from Hasimara. Shared auto charges less than Rs.50/person.
Indian Airports Connected to Bhutan’s International Airport
Indira Gandhi International Airport
The air charge from Delhi to Paro is Nu.10,700 for one-way trip and Nu.19,300 in two-ways trip.
Bagdogra International Airport
Flight charges from Bagdogra to Paro is Nu.5,660 in single trip and Nu.10,200 for two-ways trip.
Netaji Subhas International Airport
Air fares from Calcutta to Paro is Nu.7,900 for one-way trip and then Nu.15,300 for a round trip.
Mumbai International Airport
Air fares from Mumbai to Paro is Nu.14,600 for one-way trip & then Nu.27,300 for a round trip.
Bodh Gaya International Airport
The flights between Paro and Gaya operate only during winter. I could not confirm its rates now.
However, these rates are on the date of writing this article. It might change with foreign exchange rates fluctuation. Check websites of DrukAir and Bhutan Airlines for latest rates. They also give discounts and other offers during tourist seasons of Bhutan.
Travel to Bhutan from India: Bhutan Travel Permit for Indians
Tourists of Indian nationality don’t need Bhutan VISA like tourists from other countries. People from Bangladesh and Maldives also don’t need Bhutan VISA. However, you need Bhutan entry Permit to travel to Bhutan’s restricted places. To process Bhutan entry Permit, you have 3 options:
You won’t have to rush for Bhutan travel permit at last hours. However, at least one person from the travel group should be present there. And the entire procedure would take at least 3 working days.
People who reached Bhutan by road, Bhutan entry permit will be processed at Regional Immigration Office Phuentsholing. But you must carry valid documents like CID/Voter ID/Passport. People from Bangladesh and Maldives compulsory need passport with validity of 6 months for the same.
Remember on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, Immigration Offices will remain close. So plan your travel accordingly. Don’t forget to see schedules of public holidays of Bhutan in your travel period. You can also read Bhutan Immigration website for other related information.
There will be thousand of Indians and Bangladeshis for Bhutan entry permit especially in Phuentsholing. I have heard stories of few tourists who have waited for Bhutan entry permit even for weeks. Don’t want to wait in queue that long, you can opt for option-1 or option-3.
In this option, everything is about submitting Bhutan entry permit application form in advance and processing Bhutan entry Permit online. However, you must submit all required documents online to an authorized tour agent in advance. The documents to be submitted are:
- 2 recent passport photos.
- Valid Passport.
- Travel Itinerary with dates.
Travel agent will take care of transportation and hotel bookings in this case. However, if your Bhutan travel permit is processed in this way, you can save time. The need to process another special Bhutan travel permit for travelling to places other than Thimphu and Paro is out of question.
However, in Bhutan only few tour companies are authorized by Tourism Council of Bhutan and Bhutan Immigration authority in processing Bhutan Travel Permit online. Rab-zhe Bhutan Tours and Travels provides service of processing Bhutan permit for Indian online
In Option-1 and 2, you have to process Special Travel Permit at Bhutan Immigration Office Thimphu. Without special permit, you cannot travel to places like Haa, Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa and Bumthang.
Tourists travelling by flights get Bhutan Travel Permit at Paro Airport after filling up Bhutan immigration form. However, they don’t get special travel permit there. They also have to apply for it at Thimphu Immigration Office.
Bhutan Tourist Attractions for Indian Tourists
Let me make an assumption that you will be in the country for an ideal period of 3 weeks. There are many Bhutan tourist attractions. Yet I will mention top tourist attractions of Bhutan that you’ll be able to cover up during this 3 weeks travel plan.
Thimphu: Places of interest
- Thimphu Trashichhoe Dzong.
- Royal Textile Academy.
- National Memorial Chorten.
- Changangkha Lhakhang.
- Dechenphodrang Monastery.
- Tango-Cheri Monastery.
- Motithang Takin Preserve.
- School of Zorig Chusum.
- Buddha Dordenma Statue.
- Dechenphu Lhakhang.
- Drolma Zhingkham Lhakhang.
- Dochula Pass.
- National Library of Bhutan.
- Weekend Market.
- Thimphu Handicraft Market.
Paro: Best tourist attractions
- Paro Rinpong Dzong.
- Paro Tadzong.
- Kyichu Lhakhang.
- Taktshang Monastery.
- Drugyel Dzong.
- Kila Goemba.
- Dobji Dzong.
- Dzongdrakha Goemba.
- Zuri Dzong.
- Tachog Lhakhang.
Haa: Top places for Tourists
- Jamtey Goemba.
- Lhakhang Karpo.
- Lhakhang Nakpo.
- Janatenkha Goemba.
- Jungney Drak.
- Chelela Pass.
Wangdue: Top Places to visit
- Rinchenling Monastery.
- Phobjikha Valley.
- Wangdue Dzong.
- Gangtey Goemba.
- Pelela Pass.
- Nyenzirgang Lhakhang.
Punakha: Interesting places
- Khuruthang Zangdopelri Lhakhang.
- Royal Botanical Park.
- Chimi Lhakhang.
- Punakha Dzong.
- Nalanda Buddhist College.
- Talo Goemba.
- Phochu Suspension Bridge.
Trongsa: Points of interest
- Kinga Rabten Palace.
- Trongsa Tadzong.
- Trongsa Dzong.
- Chendebji Chorten.
- Yotongla Pass.
- Tsangkha Lhakhang.
- Gongsa Garden.
- Trongsa Viewpoint.
Bumthang: Tourist Places
- Mebartsho (Burning Lake).
- Kurje Lhakhang.
- Kenchosum Lhakhang.
- Domkhar Dzong.
- Jampa Lhakhang.
- Jakar Dzong.
- Kharchu Dratshang.
- Jalikhar Honey Bee Farm.
How is Transport Services Cost in Bhutan for Tourists?
It depends on how you want to travel across Bhutan. If you travel on travel package via Bhutan tour operators, probably you don’t have to worry. Everything will be arranged by the tour company. But your Bhutan travel cost would be comparatively higher, probably.
Depend on public buses and taxi cabs to take you places within Bhutan if you want to travel as a backpacker or solo traveller. If you want to hire a Bhutan taxi cab, 4 people in your group is the best number.
Taxi in Bhutan aren’t metered. They fix charges based on rates fixed by RSTA of Bhutan. To avoid yourself paying exorbitantly higher, you can refer rates fixed by government before actually confirming the booking.
How to proceed with Bhutan’s Budget Hotel bookings?
I don’t recommend you booking Bhutan hotels online. Because in Bhutan, hotels that are present online are tourist hotels which are quite expensive. You’ll get good hotels with standard rooms for Nu.600/night during spot booking. But probably these hotels won’t be online.
The hotels that are online with charge Nu.1,500/night would be same like the ones that charge Nu.600/night having no online booking facilities. Therefore, you need to ask anyone when you are in Thimphu, Paro or Punakha to get such budget hotels.
When is the Best Time for Indian Tourist to visit Bhutan?
You want to attend tshechu/local festivals in Bhutan. This means you have to plan your trip according to schedules of those festivals. Thimphu Tshechu usually falls in September and Paro Tshechu in April. You can also pick Bhutan travel packages that facilitate tourists in attending those local festivals.
The exact dates for those festivals however don’t remain same as their schedules are based on lunar calendars of Bhutan. If you cannot make in them, there are Dochula Tshechu and Thimphu Dromchoe. These festivals are also equally exciting for culture tourists.
However, if you are rather for sightseeing and trekking, you can travel to Bhutan in mid spring and mid autumn seasons. It’s during these seasons Bhutan will be in its best grandeur. There are numerous short nature hiking trails in Bhutan. Phobjikha Nature Trail is one of the best short hiking trails in Bhutan.
However, Indian tourists can also travel to Bhutan in winter to experience snowfall. Places like Paro, Thimphu and Haa are the best places in Bhutan to experience snowfall. These places receive snowfalls during the months of December, January and February.
How is Bhutan’s Internet and cellular Services for Tourists?
All Indian tourists can use your Airtel SIM in Bhutan with an international roaming activated services. But I am quite sure that its call and data charges will be expensive.
You can buy Tashi Cell SIM or BMobile SIM against a copy of your passport for just Rs.100 on reaching Bhutan. You can activate 3G and 4G at their dealer counters for free. Call rate is Rs.5/min to India and Rs.2 for local calls.
To enjoy separate higher speed internet in your laptops wherever you go within Bhutan, you might consider buying Data Card for Rs.2,500 from any of the above Bhutan’s ISPs.
Travel to Bhutan from India: Things to pack in your Bags
- Full pants, shirts and collar to enter Dzongs.
- Light shoes & ankle socks for hiking or trekking.
- Motion sickness medicines (hilly roads).
- Warm woolen clothes & gloves in winter.
- Backup charger or power banks.
- Universal converter kits and plugs.
- Rain coat or umbrella.
- Sunscreen, sun glasses and balms.
- Books or journals for reading (optional).
- Light and good water bottle.
- Your chocolate bars during hiking.
- Ankle socks and slippers.
- Swimwear during medicinal stream bath.
- Chargeable torch during power cut-offs.
- Insect repellents for outdoor camping.
- Decent camera and accessories.
- Basic medicines for headache/minor scratch.
Foods or drinks Indian Tourists must try in Bhutan
- Ema Datshi, Kewa Datshi, Sikaam Paa and Phaksha Paa with Red Rice.
- Rs.500 worth of Cordyceps tea from Bhutan Cordycep Sinensis.
- Bhutanese salted Suja tea with hand beaten local corn flakes.
- Druk 1100, Thunder 15000, or Red Panda Beers with Jaasha Maaru.
- Aaraa (local home-made alcohol) with Juma paa or Gyep Tshem.
Travel to Bhutan from India: Some Points to remember
- Need small denomination money to offer in temples.
- No MacDonald and KFCs in Bhutan.
- Very less use of Credit or debit cards.
- Smoking in public is illegal.
- Rs.2,000/500 notes are generally not accepted.
- BTN is at par with INR.
- Bhutanese foods are quite spicy.
- Don’t purchase any religious antiques.
- PNB MasterCards work in Bhutan.
- Almost no wheelchair access in temples/Dzongs.
Be Bhutanese in Bhutan – Customs of Bhutan for Tourists
- Don’t wear hats, skirts & sleeveless shirts while entering temples, Dzongs & cultural places.
- Bhutanese usually don’t like being photographed. Ask him/her before shooting a photo.
- It’s viewed culturally decent to take off shoes while entering Dzongs and temples.
- Smoking, and consumption of alcohol or narcotic products near Dzongs or temples is Taboo.
- It’s a symbol of disrespect if you shout, yell and laugh out louder near temples/Dzongs.
- Pointing someone (statues and religious figures inside temples) with a forefinger is rude.
- Bhutanese in general are poor ice breakers. You can speak first to start conversation.
Read this Article to know more facts of Bhutan. However, they are just general and uncommon facts which some of them won’t apply to Indian tourists.
Bhutan Travel Insurance Policies – The Question of Yes/No?
Indian tourists travelling to Bhutan don’t have to undertake prepaid tour packages of Bhutan unlike tourists from other countries. This means subscribing to insurance policy that coveres cost of travel cancellation isn’t needed.
However, if you are to undertake hiking, outdoor camping or trekking, you can consider subscribing Trekking Insurance Policy of Royal Bhutan Insurance Corporationf of Bhutan Ltd (RICBL). It covers risks of personal accident, medical and evacution expenses due to accidents or other related risks.
You can visit RICBL offices at Phuentsholing,Thimphu and also in Paro. If you are travelling Bhutan with a local tour operator, they’ll arrange it if you ask them.You can also enquire calling at their toll free numbers 181 and 151.
Bhutan may not have skyscrapers and tall buildings. People there may not be trendy and exposed. However, everything in Bhutan seems like things of past that many communities have lost them for modernization.
It’s the only country that values its cultural traditions and measures happiness of its people. The chance to travel to Bhutan from India would be a lifetime journey for Indians. Apply for Bhutan entry permit or Bhutan travel permit and start planning your travel. I am sure that you’ll enjoy your Bhutan trip.
I wish you good luck with your travel to Bhutan. If you have any queries, write to me or drop them as comments. I will try to help you in every way possible.