1. Do visitors need a visa to visit Bhutan?
1.1. Yes, all visitors will need a visa to visit Bhutan, except for visitors from India, who will require a permit.
1.2. Nationals of Bangladesh and the Maldives shall be eligible for a visa on arrival at the port of entry.
1.3. Visitors from India will need a permit to visit Bhutan. This applies to anyone holding an Indian passport, or an Indian voter ID card. For Indian nationals aged under 18 years, a passport or a birth certificate will suffice, and they must be accompanied by legal guardians.
2. How can visitors process their visa or permit?
2.1. Visitors can get in touch with us (Bhutan Utpala Tours) to process the travel documents and plan a trip.
2.2. Although visitors from Bangladesh and Maldives can process visas on arrival and visitors from India can process permits on arrival at the port of entry, it is recommended that these be applied online to reduce wait time and for faster clearance at the port of entry.
3. What are documents required to process the visa?
3.1. A passport copy is required. The passport must be valid for six months from the intended date of departure from the Kingdom.
3.2. Travel insurance is valid for the duration of the trip, and
3.3. A recent passport-size photograph.
4. How much is the visa fee and how long does it take to issue?
4.1. The visa fee is USD 40 per person and it is non-refundable. While the process to issue the visa is usually quick, the visa can take up to five working days to process.
5. What are the documents required to process the permit (for Indian guests)?
5.1. Visitors from India can use a passport or voter ID card. Children under 18 years of age can use a birth certificate or passport and must be accompanied by a legal guardian.
5.2. Passport size photograph is also required.
5.3. Travel insurance is required and should be valid for the whole duration of the trip.
6. How can I purchase insurance if I don’t have any?
6.1 There is also an option to purchase domestic travel insurance from Bhutanese insurance providers at the port of entry during arrival. There are also tourism information officers stationed at all ports of entry who can assist travelers. Click here to get details on the insurance from Bhutan Insurance Limited.
Sustainable Development Fee
7. What is the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF)?
7.1. From our reopening on September 23, visitors to Bhutan will make an active contribution to Bhutan’s economic, social and cultural development. The Sustainable Development Fee enables investment in transformative programs that preserve our cultural traditions, protect our heritage and environment, upgrade infrastructure, create opportunities for our young people, and build resilience.
8. How much is the SDF and where do the funds go?
8.1. Guests from India are levied SDF of Nu. 1,200 or an equivalent amount in INR per person per night, which will remain in effect for two years, following which time it may be reviewed and revised in keeping with the principle of the preferential rate after two years.
8.2. Visitors from all other countries are levied an SDF of USD 200 per person, per night.
8.3. There will be a concessionary levy of 50% on the SDF for children between the ages of 6-12 years and exemptions of SDF for children aged 5 years and below.
8.4. The SDF funds go to the national exchequer and are allocated to various projects that enhance facilities, services and infrastructure for nationals and guests who visit Bhutan, as well as funding free healthcare and education.
9. How can the SDF payment be made?
9.1. The SDF must be paid during the visa or permit application via wire transfer or using a credit card.
9.2. The SDF must be paid in USD; however, Indians can also pay in INR.
10. Will day visitors be levied SDF?
10.1. The SDF will be waived for visitors to the Bhutanese towns bordering India, until the first designated point is identified by the Government. The SDF will be levied on visitors spending the night within border towns.
Planning a trip
11. How does one plan a tour or trip to Bhutan?
11.1. Visitors can engage local tourism service providers [Bhutan Utpala Tours] who can provide more assistance.
11.2. Our Package Includes:
(2) A tour guide certified by Tourism Council of Bhutan.
(3) Transportation around the country, including airport transfers.
12. How can the tour payments be made?
12.1. All payments can be made directly to our business account as per the policy of the service provider.
13. How long can a visitor stay in Bhutan on a visitor visa or permit?
13.1. The visa or permit will be issued for a maximum of 90 days.
14. How can I extend a visa or permit while in Bhutan?
14.1. The visa or permit extension can be processed by us to the Department of Immigration before the expiry of the visa or permit, whichever is applicable. The applicable SDF and visa or permit extension fees shall be paid to the Department of Immigration.
15. How long does it take to extend the visa or permit?
15.1. While the process is usually quite quick for visa or permit extensions, it can take up to five working days.
16. How does one make SDF payment for a visa or permit extension while in Bhutan?
16.1. Visitors can extend their stay via the online visa application portal, using the same log-in details that were used to process the original visa. The SDF payment can also be made via the same portal.
17. Who can apply for a visa or permit extension?
17.1. We, the service provider can process an application for a visa or permit extension.
18. Is there a refund on SDF if the trip is canceled or shortened?
18.1. Yes, the SDF will be refunded by the Department of Immigration for any canceled or shortened trips and any bank charges will be deducted from the amount that is refunded. A refund request of the SDF shall be submitted online using the immigration system. The refund will be processed only after the exit of the visitors from the Kingdom.
Getting to Bhutan
19. What is the best way to get to Bhutan?
19.1. Visitors can travel to Bhutan by taking flights from Bangladesh (Dhaka), India (Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Bagdogra), Nepal (Kathmandu), Singapore (Changi) and Thailand (Bangkok).
19.2. For now, there are two airlines that fly into Bhutan – namely, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines.
19.3. Private jets can fly into Bhutan after getting the relevant approvals from the competent authorities.
19.4. All visitors can also enter via land from Phuentsholing. Indian guests can enter Bhutan via other land entry points (Gelephu, Samdrup Jongkhar and Samtse).
20. What types of accommodation are available in Bhutan?
20.1. Bhutan offers a wide range of accommodation facilities, from luxurious 5-star hotels to cozy homestays in traditional village settings.
21. Can the visitors stay in a private home or camp at campsite areas?
21.1. Guests must stay in an accommodation certified by TCB or if trekking, camp at the designated areas only.
22. Is there a vaccination requirement to visit Bhutan?
22.1. Although we recommend all visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to help stop the spread of the disease, there are now no COVID-19 vaccination requirements for adults or children to enter Bhutan from September 23, 2022.
However, all individuals (12 years and above) entering Bhutan may be subjected to random RT-PCR testing at the formal points of entry or at the worksite to maintain COVID-19 surveillance for new variants. No fee shall be charged for the RT-PCR testing for surveillance.
23. Can unvaccinated guests enter Bhutan? If so, what is the procedure?
23.1. Yes, unvaccinated guests can enter Bhutan and there will be no quarantine period.
24. If someone gets COVID-19 while traveling in Bhutan, what happens?
24.1. If a guest tests positive for COVID-19 during their stay in Bhutan, they will be required to quarantine in their hotel until they test negative. The cost for the additional quarantine nights and PCR tests will be borne by the guest. The SDF will be waived during the quarantine period.
25. Will there be any COVID-19 protocols for leaving Bhutan?
25.1. There will be no COVID-19 protocols to leave Bhutan unless they will be required by the country the guest is traveling to.
26. What currency can the visitor use in Bhutan?
26.1. The official currency of Bhutan is Ngultrum (Nu.) and only the local currency is accepted in the country.
27. Can visitors use international visa cards to make payments?
27.1. International credit cards are widely used in urban areas in Bhutan. However, this service may not be available in other parts of the country.
27.2. Visitors can also use the digital wallet app called goBoB which can be operated with a local sim card and is also widely accepted throughout the country.
27.3. Visitors are recommended to inform their card issuer banks about their trip to Bhutan, in order to avoid card usage restrictions by the issuing bank.
28. Where can currency be exchanged?
28.1. There is a currency exchange facility at the airport, and currency can also be exchanged at the banks, hotels and at authorized money changers in the city areas.
Other Essential Information
29. Are there any restrictions on dress code?
29.1. There are no restrictions on dress code in general. However, a respectable dress code covering your knees and shoulders (smart casual) is recommended while visiting temples and religious places.
30. Where can visitors get a sim card from?
30.1. Visitors can get a sim card from visitor information centres on arrival, branch offices of Bhutan Telecom and Tashicell, or from authorized agents in towns.
31. How much cash can visitors bring to Bhutan?
31.1. Visitors can bring cash equivalent of up to USD 10,000.
32. Where can visitors shop for Bhutanese products?
32.1. The Cottage and Small Industries (CSI) outlet, handicraft shops, the OGOP outlets, and the Centenary Farmers Market are some of the popular shopping areas for visitors.
33. Where can visitors find essential customs information?
33.1. For a detailed list of prohibited, restricted or declarable items, please visit the website of the Ministry of Finance [https://www.mof.gov.bt].
34. When is the best time to visit Bhutan?
Bhutan is a year-round destination.
Spring is a botanist’s delight with nature in full bloom and wildflowers covering the meadows like a carpet. It’s a remarkable time of the year to explore nature.
Summer is green, fresh and revitalizing. The low-hanging clouds draped over the head, hazy mist covering the green carpeted valleys, the place stems right out of the mystery. Most of the farming activities also take place in summer.
Autumn is a merry season of feasts and festivals. As farmers reap the fruits of their work, the streets are covered with healthy harvests of the year.
Winter is crisp and clear. You can get a glimpse of the high snow glistening in the Himalayan mountains and view the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.