Bhutan is one of those few countries which can be visited without Visa for Indian travelers. Bhutan a friendly neighbor of India is known for being a happy country. Even Indian’s don’t need a passport to enter into the “Last Shangri-la”. All you need is a Permit to visit this beautiful country which is also free of cost. This is due to friendly relationship between India and Bhutan. This article throws light on entry procedures to Bhutan.
The entry points to Bhutan are through Phuntsheoling (most preferred option) and Gelephu (not much information about this) if you are travelling by road.The entry point is Paro if you are flying in to Bhutan.Being an Indian I saw a total shift in culture even as I crossed the Indo – Bhutan border at Jaigaon. Jaigaon being the border town for trade is always busy with traders from surrounding villages. When I reached Bhutan gate,a huge board welcomed me to the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan.
Who can get a Permit to Visit Bhutan?
If you are a citizen of India, Bangladesh and Maldives, you just require a Permit. Apart from above mentioned countries require visa before arriving to Bhutan and they must book their travel through a local licensed tour operator.
Also foreign nationals (except India,Maldives,Bangladesh) have to pay visa fee $250 a day during tourist high season, and $200 a day for low season. This includes accommodation, transportation, meals, plenty of bottled water and special entry fees. read more about visa on tourism Bhutan.
Documents Required for Permit:
- Passport Size Photographs. [Carry 2-3 photos]
- Original Identification Document – Either of Passport OR Voter ID. Don’t forget to Carry 2 copies of the same.Please note Aadhar card/Licence/Pan Card is not valid for getting the Permit.
- If you are flying to Bhutan, you will be landed at Paro airport and your passport will serve as identification document and permit will be issued at Paro airport immigration Office.
Validity of the Permit:
- If you are visiting pheuntsholing only, it doesn’t require any permit, but permits are required beyond the pheuntsholing. Just cross the India-Bhutan gate and you are in other country.
- The permits you obtained at Phentsholing/Paro allow you to visit Thimphu and Paro only and valid for only 7 days.
- Permit is issued free of Cost.
Procedure for getting the Permit:
Once you are ready with the documents; fill up the Permit form, stick the photograph on it and submit at one of the counter at immigration Office of Royal Government of Bhutan in Phuntsheoling. It is located on the first floor. After reaching the office, submit one copy of your document and fill up the permits form (stick your photo on the form). You need to specify the duration of your visit on the form.You will be asked to wait for few minutes to scrutinize the documents and you will be allotted a token number.
After getting token number, go to the respective counter where you have to give fingerprints and retina scans which will be preserved as official identification proof in Bhutan. Once this process is over, the permit will be issued to you. This is an important document which you need to submit back on the check post on your exit route from Bhutan. Generally Permit issued within 30-40 minutes depends on the crowd.
You can download the form from Ministry of affairs Bhutan before your travel to Bhutan. It saves your precious time and energy.
The immigration office at pheuntsholing open from 9 AM to 5 PM,lunch time 1 PM to 2 PM Bhutan time [Bhutan time is half hour ahead of Indian time] on weekdays. i.e Monday to Friday. On Saturdays, Sundays and on Govt holidays of Bhutan it remains closed.
Extension of Permit at Thimphu:
If you are planning to stay in Bhutan for more than a week and visiting the other places like Haa, Punakha, Bumthang,Wangdue; you need to extend the permit at Thimphu immigration office. This office is located at Norzim Lam area opposite textile museum and open on weekdays between 9 Am to 4 PM. Carry the copy of Permit and identification document and fill up the extension form, your extension will be ready within 30 minutes. Stamp for extension will be put on the original Permit.
- If you are visiting Bhutan with your own vehicle, you need to obtain additional vehicle permit.
- All the permits are routinely checked and stamped at all the check points across the Bhutan.
- Go early in the morning to bit the Crowd if you want to leave early as the road from pheuntsholing is curvaceous and it can take 7-8 hours to reach Thimphu/Paro.
- Bhutan is very skeptical on issuing permits to solo travellers and solo riders in particular. You may have to take permission and obtain permits from Immigration officer after right justification of solo travel. I was travelling with my friends, and immigration officer asked me about the relationship with them.
- Permit form must be filled up properly. No information should be left blank.
- There is no need to book a tour with any tour operator for visiting this beautiful country. You can explore at your own and respect the local culture and traditions.
- On the Indian side at Jaigaon, you get a last chance to withdraw Indian currency which can be exchanged at the rate of 1:1 with Bhutan Ngultrum. I had exchanged the currency at one of the restaurant in Pheuntsholing near the Bhutan Gate. Denominations upto INR 500 are accepted in transactions throughout Bhutan.
- If time permits you can visit Monastery at hill top in Pheuntsholing and few other places on the way to Thimphu.
- Almost all the hotels provides good Wi Fi facility in Bhutan.Indian Sim card work finely till Phuentsholing. If you want to buy local SIM card, Tashi Cell is cellular operator in Bhutan.I had purchased SIM card at INR 300 with talktime of INR 150.
Hope this may be helpful to organize your Bhutan travel.