Important Information that Travelers need to know when planning a trip to Bhutan. Bhutan Travel Requirements
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 engage tourism service providers, like us, a licensed Tour Operator in Bhutan, to process the travel documents and plan a trip OR Visitors can process a visa or permit online from the website of the Department of Immigration, Bhutan.
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 the 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 valid for the duration of the trip. If you do not have one, we can do the Insurance in Bhutan before your arrival from a Local Insurance Company.
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. However, we recommend you to process your travel to Bhutan as early as you can, so that accommodation and other logistics can be can be arranged as per your choice
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. If you do not have one, we can do the Insurance with a Local Insurance Company in Bhutan before your arrival.
Sustainable Development Fee
6. What is the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF)?
6.1. From our reopening on 23rd September year 2022, visitors to Bhutan will make an active contribution to Bhutan’s economic, social and cultural development. The Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) 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. Since the opening of tourism in the year 1974, guests have played a critical goal in Bhutan’s development and this relationship is very important to safeguard, protect and preserve the Kingdom of Bhutan and its priceless assets.
This fee also helps to ensure that Guests to Bhutan are in sustainable numbers and we can continue to offer our Guests tranquillity and intimate experience.
7. How much is the SDF and where do the funds go?
7.1. Guests from India are levied SDF of Nu. 1,200 or 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.
7.2. Visitors from all other countries are levied SDF of USD 200 per person, per night.
7.3. 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.
SDF Exemption and Discount for Children :
For children of 5 years and below SDF is Exempt so they do not pay any SDF
For children between the ages of 6 to 12 years, there is a levy of 50% of the SDF
For children aged 12 years and above are levied the full adult SDF
SDF (Sustainable Development Fee) INCENTIVE : As of 1st June 2023, any tours booked after and from 1st June 2023 with travel complete within 31st December 2024, the Bhutan Government has given the following incentives with regards to SDF. This measure is taken to restart the Bhutan tourism after the covid 9 pandemic, since Bhutan was one of the last countries to open to tourists ;
4+4 – If you pay the SDF for 4 nights, then for the next 4 nights, there will be no SDF charged
7+7 – If you pay the SDF for 7 nights, then for the next 7 nights, there will be no SDF charged
12+18 – If you pay the SDF for 12 nights, then for the next 18 nights, there will be no SDF charge
8. How can the SDF payment be made?
8.1. The SDF must be paid during the visa or permit application via wire transfer or using a credit card. Your Local Tour Operator can assist you efficiently
8.2. The SDF must be paid in USD; however, Indians can also pay in INR.
8.3. A guest who is eligible for a visa on arrival, should also pay the applicable SDF in USD at the port of entry.
9. Will day visitors be levied SDF?
9.1. The SDF will be waived for visitors to the Bhutanese towns bordering India, until the first designated point identified by the Government. The SDF will be levied on visitors spending the night within border towns.
Planning a trip
10. How does one plan a tour or trip to Bhutan?
10.1. While visitors to Bhutan can plan their own trip, they can also engage local tourism service providers, who can provide more assistance. However, it is mandatory to stay in certified accommodation for the whole duration of the trip.
Local Tour Operators are licensed Operators based in Bhutan and have knowledge about the Tourism regulations of Bhutan so it is highly recommended to seek their assistance to organize your Bhutan trip so that you do not waste time organizing your trip or coming in conflict with the law.
10.2. Guests visiting Bhutan shall arrange:
(1) Accommodation; Must have a confirmed booking
(2) A tour guide (see question 24)
(3) Travel insurance, and;
(4) Transportation around the country, including airport transfers.
11. How can a visitor find the best tour operator in Bhutan?
11.1. All the tour operators listed on www.bhutan.travel are licensed by the Government of Bhutan and guests can select the best tour operator based on their requirements. You can check of our legality by searching for Bhutan Jewel Travel on the Government Official website www.bhutan.travel
12. How can the tour payments be made?
12.1. All payments can be made directly to the business accounts of the service providers as per the policy of the service provider. Bhutan Jewel Travel has an official Foreign Currency Account affiliated to the Government Bank thus safe and reliable transaction can be carried out.
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 for you by your Local Tour Operator from 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 or seek assistance from your Local Tour Operator. A Nominal fee is applicable for this service if the Guests seek the assistance of the Tour Operator.
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 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., OR if you have a Local Tour Operator organizing your Tour, you can seek their assistance for less hassle
17. Who can apply for visa or permit extension?
17.1. A guest or a service provider can process an application for a visa or permit extension.
18. Is there a refund on SDF if the trip is cancelled or shortened?
18.1. Yes, the SDF will be refunded by the Department of Immigration for any cancelled 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 or apply through your Local Tour Operator.
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 the National Carrier and Bhutan Airlines a privately owned airline.
19.3. Private jets can fly into Bhutan after getting the relevant approvals from the competent authorities. You can seek the assistance of a Local Tour Operator to manage this efficiently
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).
Traveling within Bhutan
20. What is the best way to travel to a hotel from the airport?
20.1. Visitors can pre-arrange a pick-up service from the airport with their accommodation or tour operators. Bhutan Jewel Travel starts its tours with Pick and drop Services.
21. How to travel within Bhutan?
21.1. There are domestic flights to Bumthang (Central Bhutan), Gelephu, Sarpang (Southern Bhutan) and Yongphula, Trashigang (Eastern Bhutan). Some routes are still not open so Please contact us for the latest status of the domestic flights
21.2. Visitors can also book helicopter services for special itineraries.
21.3. The other option is to hire a local tourism service provider who can arrange all the internal transfer and tour programs.
22. What is the most convenient local transport?
22.1. The most convenient transport facility is to hire a vehicle and driver from a tourism service provider.
It is not possible to hire a vehicle without a driver in Bhutan.
Trekking in Bhutan
23. Can visitors go trekking on their own?
23.1. It is mandatory to arrange trekking trips that require overnight stays through a local tour operator. The local tour operator can help you with all the logistical support for the hiking or trekking trip.
24. Do visitors need a guide?
24.1. A guide is strongly recommended for all visitors to Bhutan. This is to ensure that all visitors have a good experience while visiting our country, and see the best that Bhutan has to offer. Guides also help look after the safety and security of the visitors, as there are wild animals in the countryside, and the altitude and landscape can sometimes pose unique challenges. While the guides do not have to accompany visitors for all experiences (such as restaurants and shopping), it is recommended that guides accompany visitors for experiences such as visiting temples and local places of interest.
It is mandatory to have a guide for all trekking activities and for any journeys that extend beyond Thimphu and Paro.
For any visitors who enter Bhutan via the land borders, guides are mandatory when the visitors leave the border towns.
24.2. If visitors follow the itineraries or journeys set by the Local Tour Operators, they will not need a guide as they will already have a guide who will be arranged by the Tour Operator.
25. How can visitors find the best guide for their trip?
25.1. All the tour guides listed on www.bhutan.travel are licensed by the Government. Visitors may also ask the Local tour operators to help arrange a guide for them. Bhutan Jewel Travel has a code of conduct for its Guides thus the guides we assign are trained and briefed for the best services
26. What types of accommodation are available in Bhutan?
26.1. Bhutan offers a wide range of accommodation facilities, from luxurious 5-star hotels to cosy homestays in traditional village settings. A guest is required to stay in a minimum of 3-star hotels certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).
27. Where can I find information about accommodation?
27.1. Visitors can request a list of certified accommodation from bhutan.travel host service OR the Local Tour Operator can recommend the best accommodation certified by the Government as fit for occupancy by Guests
28. Can the visitors stay in a private home or camp at campsite areas?
28.1. Guests must stay in an accommodation certified by TCB or if trekking, camp at the designated areas only. Your Local Tour Operator can assist with these arrangements
29. Is there a vaccination requirement to visit Bhutan?
29.1. 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 to maintain COVID-19 surveillance for new variants. No fee shall be charged for the RT-PCR testing for surveillance.
30. Can unvaccinated guests enter Bhutan? If so, what is the procedure?
30.1. Yes, unvaccinated guests can enter Bhutan and there will be no quarantine period.
31. If someone gets COVID-19 while travelling in Bhutan, what happens?
31.1. 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.
32. Will there be any COVID-19 protocols for leaving Bhutan?
32.1. There will be no COVID-19 protocols to leave Bhutan, unless they will be required by the country the guest is travelling to.
33. What currency can the visitor use in Bhutan?
33.1. The official currency of Bhutan is Ngultrum (Nu.) and only the local currency is accepted in the country.
34. Can visitors use international visa cards to make payments?
34.1. International credit cards are widely used in the urban areas in Bhutan. However, this service may not be available in other parts of the country.
34.2. Visitors can also use the digital wallet app called goBoB that can be operated with a local sim card and is also widely accepted throughout the country.
34.3. 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.
35. Where can currency be exchanged?
35.1. There is a currency exchange facility at the airport, and currency can also be exchanged at the banks, hotels and at the authorised money changers in the city areas.
35.2. It is recommended to carry some cash just in case cards have an issue like being lost or internet is weak AND also some local shops may not have the card payment facility, or during trekking where you might not have access to internet.
Other Essential Information
36. Are there any restrictions on dress code?
36.1. There are no restrictions on dress code in general.
However, respectable dress code covering your knees and shoulders (smart casual) is recommended while visiting temples and religious places.
37. Where can visitors get a sim card from?
37.1. Visitors can get a sim card from visitor information centres on arrival, branch offices of Bhutan Telecom and Tashicell or from authorised agents in towns. Your Local Tour Operator can assist you on this.
38. How much cash can visitors bring to Bhutan?
38.1. Visitors can bring cash equivalent up to USD 10,000.
39. Where can visitors shop for Bhutanese products?
39.1. 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. Your local tour operator and Guide can assist you on this.
39.2. Guests are required to process export permits online [https://mocp.doc.gov.bt/] for non-antique products such as statues, ritual objects and religious handicrafts from the Department of Culture before exiting the country.
40. Where can visitors find essential customs information?
40.1. For a detailed list of prohibited, restricted or declarable items, please visit the website of the Ministry of Finance [https://www.mof.gov.bt].
41. 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 wild flowers covering the meadows like a carpet. It’s a remarkable time of the year to explore nature.
Summer is green, fresh and revitalising. 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 feast 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 the glimpse of the high snow glistening in the Himalayan mountains and view the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.
42. Is Bhutan a safe destination to visit?
42.1. Yes, Bhutan is a very safe destination for visitors and crime is uncommon. However, petty crime sometimes happens and visitors should take care of themselves and their belongings.
42.2. Bhutan being a mountainous region, Flooding and landslides can happen. In the monsoon season from June to September and sometimes extending till end of October, transport and services can be affected. Check with your hotel or tour operator for possible disruptions.
42.3. There are a number of stray dogs that roam freely around the city areas. While normally the dogs keep their distance and do not bite humans, sometimes dog attacks happen. It is recommended that visitors to Bhutan do not feed or pat the stray dogs. It is also recommended that guests take care around the stray dogs and keep their distance, especially if they have children.
43. Where should visitors contact for grievance redressal?
43.1. Visitors can always contact the Tourism Council of Bhutan through firstname.lastname@example.org or call +975 17122257 or 2300 within Bhutan.
44. What are the emergency contact details?
44.1. The hotline number for general enquiries about tourism is +975 17122257 or 2300 if within Bhutan
Medical emergency – 112
Police – 113
Disaster Communication helpline – 999
45. Are there any visitor information centres at the airports and land entry points?
45.1. Yes, there are visitor information centres at the arrival area just before immigration check at the airport and in all entry points.
46. To organize your Bhutan Tour, please email us at email@example.com and discover true Bhutan with us.
THANK YOU and SEE YOU IN BHUTAN