Travel to Bhutan from India: All You Need to Know
Bhutan is one of those few countries which can be visited without a 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 the friendly relationship between India and Bhutan. This article throws light on travel to Bhutan from India.
The entry points to Bhutan are through Phuntsheoling (most preferred option) and Gelephu (not much information about this) if you are traveling by road. There is no direct train to Bhutan. There are direct flights from India to Bhutan from Delhi and Kolkatta. The entry point is Paro if you are flying into 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 the Bhutan gate, a huge board welcomed me to the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan. Read about my experiences on travel to Bhutan from India.
Who can get a Permit to Visit Bhutan?
If you are a citizen of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, you just require a Permit to visit Bhutan from India. Apart from the above-mentioned countries require visas before arriving in Bhutan and they must book their travel through a locally licensed tour operator.
Also, foreign nationals (except India, Maldives, Bangladesh) have to pay a visa fee of $250 a day during tourist high season, and $200 a day for the 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 Bhutan Permit:
Once you are ready with the documents; fill up the Permit form, stick the photograph on it, and submit at one of the counters at the Immigration Office of the 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 the 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.
Read: Interesting facts about Bhutan
You can download the form from the Ministry of affairs Bhutan before your travel to Bhutan. It saves you precious time and energy.
The immigration office at pheuntsholing open from 9 AM to 5 PM, lunchtime 1 PM to 2 PM Bhutan time [Bhutan time is a 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 other places like Haa Valley, Punakha, Bumthang, Wangdue; you need to extend the permit at the Thimphu immigration office. This office is located at the Norzim Lam area opposite the textile museum and opens on weekdays between 9 Am to 4 PM. Carry the copy of the Permit and identification document and fill up the extension form, your extension will be ready within 30 minutes. Stamp for an extension will be put on the original Permit.
Read : Thimphu Travel Guide
Travel Tips for travel to Bhutan from India:
- If you are visiting Bhutan with your own vehicle, you need to obtain an additional vehicle permit.
- All the permits are routinely checked and stamped at all the checkpoints across 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 about issuing permits to solo travelers and solo riders in particular. You may have to take permission and obtain permits from the Immigration officer after the right justification of solo travel. I was traveling with my friends, and the immigration officer asked me about the relationship with them.
- The 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 on your own and respect the local culture and traditions.
- On the Indian side at Jaigaon, you get the 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 restaurants in Pheuntsholing near the Bhutan Gate. Denominations up to INR 500 are accepted in transactions throughout Bhutan.
- If time permits you can visit Monastery at a hilltop in Pheuntsholing and few other places on the way to Thimphu.
- Almost all hotels provide a good Wi-Fi facility in Bhutan. Indian Sim card works finely till Phuentsholing. If you want to buy a local SIM card, Tashi Cell is a cellular operator in Bhutan.I had purchased a SIM card for INR 300 with Talktime of INR 150.
Hope this may be helpful to organize your travel to Bhutan from India. If still you have any queries, feel free to leave it in the comments box.
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I read online that from April 10th onwards, even Indian travellers have to show proof of hotel booking to get a permit at phuentsholing. Is this true? Did you have to show this when you travelled?
Hey I had visited Bhutan during April first week and they didn’t ask any hotel booking requirements.They just wanted application form and valid ID proof/Passport thats it.read more on http://www.consulatephuentsholing.nic.in for latest updates
I wish I had read this article when I visited Bhutan. Very informative.
A couple of points from our trip that you might want to add:
1. They now ask for rough itinerary to be mentioned in application form.
2. They also ask for hotel booking confirmation.
Although the office is not super stringent about checking them.
Thank you so much for appreciation.And ya I know there are few changes going on in Permit issue.I will definitely add points as suggested by you.
Wow, it is great to know that traveling to Bhutan from India is easy and without any visa formalities. Bhutan has wonderful places with splendid hills, monasteries, and nature. I am saving your post for my future reference.
You should visit Bhutan soon before they update some visa rules for Indians.Its so beautiful country and I loved my time there.