How to Visit Bhutan: Planning Your First Trip

Here’s Part 2 of our 6 part series on how to visit Bhutan.

We have already covered the itinerary and day-by-day breakup of planning an unforgettable road trip. Haven’t read our popular, comprehensive Bhutan Travel Guide yet?

Read it here.

In this blog, we will cover the planning aspect of the Bhutan road trip, including visa procedure, booking flights, expenses, etc.

Planning a trip to Bhutan needs meticulous planning, to say the least. There’s plenty of things I would love to share with you all so that you can plan your trip to Bhutan effortlessly. 

How to Visit Bhutan – Air or Road

One way is to fly into the Paro City in Druk Air, take a car on rent, and get exploring. 

The other way – the one we opted for to visit Bhutan from INDIA- is to fly into Bagdogra, hire a taxi, drive to Jaigaon. Take the permit from the immigration office at Phuesholing and drive to the Thimphu city. A road trip from Indian to Bhutan would cost you around 60000 INR per person for 6-7 days.

Bhutan Map

Visit bhutan

Route taken by us to reach Bhutan

Visa and Permit to Visit Bhutan

Good news! Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldivians do not require a visa to enter into Bhutan. Visitors can simply acquire an ‘Entry Permit’ on arrival from the Immigration Office of Royal Government of Bhutan  Phuensholing, and those flying into Paro can take theirs from Paro itself.

This entry permit is valid for just 7 days, and you cannot explore beyond Paro and Thimphu with this permit. Nonetheless, you can enter other restricted cities/towns such as Punakha and Has by getting the permit renewed from the immigration office at Norzin Lam in Thimphu.

Note: Carry your passport or valid identity card with two passport size photographs to sail through the immigration process seamlessly. Of course, we forgot to carry our passport pictures but luckily were able to get them clicked timely from a studio in Phuesholing. Since the immigration office gets packed right at the opening time, avoiding such mishaps and having all the documents in place can help save time and get through the process, fast.

Non-Indian residents require a visa clearance prior to entering Bhutan, which they can either do by processing permits through an online Bhutanese agent or via a foreign travel agent. On full payment of the travel package (which includes a USD $40 visa fee), tourists can get a visa from the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

Bhutan follows a policy of “low-quantity” and “high-quality” in truest aspect. Tourists (With the exception of Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian nationals) are required to pay an official US$250 per day per person to the government in order to sample the life of this hidden mountainous gem. In this way, the country desires to prevent mass tourism from flowing in. This amount is inclusive of hotels, car rentals, a tour guide, and sightseeing. I believe that’s a fair deal.

how to visit bhutan

Virgin beauty of Bhutan

Bhutanese Food

Typically, Bhutanese cuisine is influenced by the neighbors, particularly India and Tibet. The food is less oily but extremely spicy; expect almost all the dishes to be made from chilies. There are some delicacies which you can try (which are too good to miss): Ema Datse (chillies and cheese), Dumplings (momos), and Kewa Datse (potatoes and cheese).

Try to stock up on water and light snacks including cookies, fruits, and chips before you begin your Bhutan road trip. Nonetheless, there’s no need to go overboard as there’s a lot of cheap and easily available food options in Bhutan.

Finding Indian food can be a bit of a challenge but there are small restaurants along the way, some of which cater to typical Indian gastronomic fantasies. A meal at the roadside restaurant or a shack will set you back by approximately INR 500. There are high-end and exquisite restaurants for you to try Bhutanese cuisines in Bhutan during this amazing road trip. Some of our favorites are mentioned below –

Between Phuensholing and Thimphu

  • Hotel Sonam

In Thimphu

  • The Zone
  • Ambient Cafe
  • Karma’s Coffee
  • Hotel Tandin
  • Cafe Himalaya & Bakery

In Paro

how to visit bhutan

A kitschy cafe serving veg food items

Hotels to Stay in Bhutan

Hotels in Bhutan can either be homely or high-end; both accommodation options tends to be intriguing. There are numerous hotels and traditional lodges where visitors can choose to stay during their visit to Bhutan.

While booking online is pretty much an easy option, we took a different path this time and tried our luck of arriving in the city first and then booking the hotel fitting to our taste. Surprisingly the traditionally built hotels in Bhutan ensure warm hospitality and convenience. A consistent comfort is assured during the entire stay.

Some budget hotels you can choose to stay in are as follows:

  • Phuntsho Pelri Hotel
  • Dolemar Hotel
  • Peaceful Resort
  • Ro-Chog Pel Hotel
  • Rema Resort

Top-rated hotels to stay in Bhutan:

  • Taj Tashi
  • UMA by COMO
  • Le Meridien
  • Hotel Norbuling
  • Hotel Druk Thimphu Bhutan
  • Kichu Resort Paro

Nightlife in Bhutan

As the sun sets, most of the Thimphu goes to sleep, but not completely. The nightlife in Bhutan, particularly Thimphu, is quite new and a fraction of people likes to rustle up a beat.

There are discos, bars, and music lounges where young and westernized set of people like to party and booze. Mojo Park, Club Ace, and Space 34 are some of the most acclaimed ones in the capital city, which receive crowd including royals, local folk mix, as well as dignitaries. Enter without expectations, smile, enjoy, and get into Bhutanese groove. You’ll love it like we did.

Car Rentals in Bhutan

Mini cars ply Bhutan streets and can be hired at a low fare rate. A little bit haggling with the drivers can get you a better price, but they are too sweet to refuse. Those on a package are sorted as they’ll have their car rentals included in the same during their visit to Bhutan.

It was easy for us to book ourselves a car as one of our friends had already been to Bhutan, and he introduced us to his driver. We paid 2500 per day car rental for each day, which included pick and drop and sightseeing. To say the least, we were super impressed with our friend, driver Thinley who guided us about each attraction well and even showed interest in taking our pictures. What else can you need!

Timezone

Bhutan is half an hour ahead of India. While India follows GMT + 5.5 Hours, Bhutan has a difference timezone that is GMT/UTC + 06:00 hour. Keep this difference in mind if you wish to commute from Phuesholing to Thimphu via bus as otherwise, you might miss it. 

Dressing in Bhutan

Oh! How I loved the way people used to dress up in Bhutan. They are quite stern when it comes to following the dress code. It is necessary for the nationals to wear their national dresses (Gho for men and Kira for women) on all the religious occasions and to places like Dzongs, government office, and monasteries. Gho is a knee-length robe that is tied to the waist and Kira is an ankle-length sari-like garment that is worn with a short jacket (Tego).

So one thing you need to know for how to visit Bhutan is that even tourists are required to wear full pants when entering their religious places as they need to respect their culture. It is best to wear modest casual wear to Bhutan as most of the places you would be going are temples and monasteries. Carry soft-soled yet sturdy shoes and a few lightweight jackets, just in case the weather goes from pleasant to cold.

Don’t forget to remove your shoes while entering a religious place and even cap when near their national flag.

how to visit bhutan

Cute Bhutanese girl wearing Kira

Photographing Bhutan

Bhutan is one photogenic country where the landscape, nature and the age-old architecture spellbinds. It is a photographer’s paradise, and it’s a pleasure capturing people and their smiles, as they are happy to do so. Though the people in Bhutan are quite shy to pose but they barely refuse. So, it’s a good idea to seek their permission before taking a picture.

There will be numerous photography opportunities for the photographer in you – from landscapes to temples and colorful festivals, everything about this place is fascinating. However, do not click pictures inside monasteries and Dzongs as a symbol of respect for their deity.

how to visit bhutan

Always zesty and cheerful about getting clicked

Climate of Bhutan

Any season is appropriate for paying a visit to Bhutan as the climate is temperate and warm round the year. Spring (March, April & May) is the time when the country is ablaze with a range of gorgeous colors. You can witness flora at its full bloom during this season. During these months, you can also be a part of Paro tsechu festival.

Autumn (September, October & November) is spectacular with clear blue skies and cool temperature. It is the time when willows start shedding their brown leaves.

Monsoon (June, July & August) is generally not a good time to plan your visit to Bhutan as during these months the country receives huge rainfall. You won’t be able to go trekking or explore Bhutan to the best.

Winter (December, January & February) is generally cool and also a good time to plan your travel to Bhutan.

Expenses

The total expenses heavily depend on the types of hotels you choose to stay in and restaurants you choose to dine. For this country, we chose quaint lil hotels for the days as it was majorly a sightseeing holiday. For food and accommodation, you can expect to spend INR 20000 and INR 15000 on car rental (with driver). Visit Bhutan without expectations and leave the country with a heart filled with positivity and love!

Pin Me:

 

Related Posts

40 Comments

  • Reply Loudy December 1, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Very intersting, i always loved to learn about other cultures and religions

    • Reply admin December 6, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks Loudy, it’s actually fun knowing about other cultures and religions first-hand. 🙂

  • Reply Joe December 1, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing this very useful information! Bhutan is a place that is on my radar, so its good to know all the practical details like this before I book flights etc there. What you say about the dress sounds especially useful!

  • Reply Adonis Villanueva December 1, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    Excellent guide! Looks like you got everything covered but food and cuisine. I’ve always been fascinated with Bhutan and I hope to make it out there someday. Thanks for the informative article!

  • Reply Crystal December 2, 2016 at 2:49 am

    love the blog! would love to visit bhutan one day for sure!

  • Reply sophie December 2, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Hi, this looks great, I am traveling to bali in 2017 june for my honeymoon, and I think I should tavel bhutan as well, especially for the mental peace .. Haha! Thanks again for the tips. Cheers.

  • Reply Hallie December 2, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    “Getting clicked” is that what they call getting a photo taken there? Or is that something you say? It’s a cute term. Great tips for a trip there. Thanks.

  • Reply The Travel Ninjas December 4, 2016 at 12:31 am

    What good luck, we were hoping to visit Bhutan in the coming year. Your guide is so helpful. It also encourages us to make this trip a reality.

  • Reply Doreen Pendgracs December 4, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Thx for this comprehensive guide to Bhutan. I’ve not yet been there, so this guide is very helpful.

  • Reply La Vida Viva Travel December 5, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Very useful information, thanks for sharing. Bhutan hasn’t been on my radar but now definitely considering it. Will definitely keep these tips in mind!

    • Reply admin December 16, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Definitely. The raw beauty of Bhutan makes it a tourist’s dream. 🙂

  • Reply Chris December 5, 2016 at 1:57 am

    Another very interesting piece.

    I’m also fairly certain that most nationalities are required to be accompanied by a local guide for most of their travels as well… at least this was the case when Sarah visited (back then it was only $100US per day)

    • Reply admin December 5, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Glad to know that.
      Oh, and the rates have been revised. It’s tariff is US $250 per night per person for high season (March, April, May, September, October and November). And US $200 per night per person for low season (January, February, June, July, August and December). I know it’s a tad too high but is worth it.

  • Reply Mar Pages December 5, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for the heads up on carrying two passport size photographs to speed through customs. Awesome tip along with many other useful guides. Looks like a photographer’s paradise, you must have been really trigger happy.

    • Reply admin December 16, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      My pleasure. It’s always better to be well-informed before planning any trip. And Yes, Bhutan happens to be a photographer’s paradise with every nook and corner waiting with so much happiness and beauty. Simply in love with this gorgeous country. 🙂

  • Reply neha December 6, 2016 at 9:08 am

    This guide is exactly what I have been looking for. Have been planning a trip to Bhutan for sometime now. Do you have another post on what all to see and how many days to stay?

  • Reply Ashley Renne December 7, 2016 at 6:44 am

    I just stayed in a COMO hotel and lovvved it. Idk if I could survive Bhutan though – extremely spicy food?? Yikes lol. I’d probably be munching on snacks the entire time.

    • Reply admin December 16, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      Extremely would be an understatement! 😀 Lol, but there are a handful of nice cafes and restaurants that serve burgers and sandwiches probably on which you could survive. Nonetheless, Bhutan is beauty, for which it shouldn’t be missed! 🙂

  • Reply Ami December 9, 2016 at 2:56 am

    These are some really useful tips about Bhutan, especially that of the immigration requirements. It is good to know these from someone who has been there. Sometimes the official websites are confusing. Thanks for sharing these.

  • Reply Vyjay December 9, 2016 at 5:36 am

    Bhutan is a mesmerising mountain kingdom with picturesque landscapes. This is a wonderful guide with detailed information. A great resource to bookmark for future reference.

    • Reply admin January 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      I agree. It’s a slice of heaven that entices visitors completely. Glad you liked reading our blog. 🙂

  • Reply Nicki December 17, 2016 at 7:00 am

    Thanks for the guide. I would not have thought it would be as expensive as you mentioned considering its location. What do you think is driving those prices?

    • Reply admin December 17, 2016 at 7:27 am

      Bhutan is something unique, Nicki. If we think from a practical side, then $200 per day ($250 in peak season) is inclusive of three meals, 3*star equivalent hotel, transportation, visa, permits, english speaking guide, museum entrance fees and drinking water. Moreover, this move is to preserve the beauty of the country and keep mass flow of crowd at bay.

  • Reply Joi December 17, 2016 at 8:29 am

    Looks like a cool place to go visit on my next vacation! I’m interested in the food specially those potatoes and cheese lol that might be really good, spicy?

    • Reply admin January 1, 2017 at 5:22 pm

      Really spicy would be an understatement, Joi. It was mostly made of spices. 😉

  • Reply ArtByHeart December 17, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Great blog. I have always wanted to visit Bhutan, but never been able to fit it into my agenda. Tibet was a wonderful experience, so Bhutan is the next on the list. I am really attracted to it’s green environmental policies and wonderful culture highlighted in your pictures.

    • Reply admin January 1, 2017 at 5:24 pm

      Thank you so much. And yes, smoking isn’t allowed in the country so they have really taken good steps to preserve their environment and air. You’ll love Bhutan! 🙂

  • Reply Hra December 17, 2016 at 10:43 am

    What a great guide!! Its so useful for first timers!! i absolutely love your photos as always 🙂 Thanks for sharing with us… i definitely pin it

  • Reply Lynne Sarao January 1, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Wow! Thank you for this very detailed guide on how to visit Bhutan. It’s a place that I’d absolutely love to visit if I ever get the chance. And I’d like to go before it gets very touristy. It’s interesting to learn about the visa, food and dress codes. I’m off to read your other posts on the country now as well!

  • Reply Lisa January 1, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    What a nice post! This is a great breakdown for first timers especially concerning the culture. I am surprised that it’s a little pricey but, if I am going that far anyway. The food sounds interesting as well. Would love to do some hiking there, any restrictions for that?

  • Reply Soumya Nambiar January 1, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    I have heard that entry for solo travelers is a bit difficult. Any clue on this? I loved your photos, especially of the girl in a Kira.

    I love spicy food, so I guess Bhutanese cuisine would be ideal. Hope to visit one day soon.

  • Reply Jenni January 1, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    A really informative guide to anyone visiting Bhutan hopefully I might need it one day

  • Reply Sanne - Spend Life Traveling January 1, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    I don’t know what it is about Bhutan but to me it just looks and sounds like such a magical place. Thanks for sharing these tips since I do really hope to visit soon!

  • Reply Pete January 1, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    As a professional driver, I find it easy to get around Western cities, but how about Bhutanese roads and traffic? I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving in India – I’ve seen the traffic in Mumbai and Kochi! – and I wonder if Bhutan has similar rules?

    That is, do you have to learn more than just the bare mechanics of driving to understand horn signals, how to make a right turn and when to ignore traffic lights and road signs in the customary manner?

  • Reply Madhurima Maiti January 2, 2017 at 5:11 am

    This is a really informative piece and it’s going to be very helpful for planning my trip to Bhutan which I have been trying to make happen since a long time 🙂 I will be getting back here for learning more about your trip. More power to you 🙂

  • Reply Milena January 2, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Buthan is still such a mysterious destination. A few weeks ago, however, I was on a travel meeting with a university doctor who decided to hitchhike there. As the first documented Polish hitchhiker! Amazing destination, but unfortnuately so expensive for us, Polish citizens.

  • Reply Katie January 2, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Bhutan looks incredible and I would love to visit! I just can’t justify the $250 daily fee – one day maybe?! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Erica January 2, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    This trip looks AMAZING! I love lesser traveled places like this. Will definitely bookmark this and consider Bhutan for a future trip.

  • Reply Sarah January 8, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Bookmarking & pinning this post! Bhutan is on my “must visit soon” list & this is a wealth of knowledge! I’ll check out your other posts as well. I love Bhutan’s foreign visa policy as I’m sure it help preserve such a unique and beautiful culture/landscape.

  • Reply Nirvana Trip September 29, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Excellently detailed. Thanks. Have been thinking of driving to Bhutan..!!
    Thanks

  • Leave a Reply