Traveling tips for Bhutan – what you should know before a trip to Bhutan

Do you have any travel plans to Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan nation renowned for its extraordinary natural beauty and distinctive culture? Bhutan, with its verdant woods, majestic valleys, and towering mountains, is a traveler’s dream destination. To get the most out of your vacation, however, there are a few things you need know before you set off on your adventure.

There are many things to take into account, from being aware of the distinct culture and customs of the nation to knowing what to carry and how to get used to the high altitude. You can also visit this stunning nation with ease if you know what paperwork you need, how to get a visa, and what to anticipate in terms of lodging and transportation.

We’ll provide you with insightful information and helpful hints in this post to assist you in organizing your vacation to Bhutan. Regardless of your level of expertise, our guide will make sure you’re ready for a wonderful trip to Bhutan, whether this is your first time visiting this magical country or not. Now let’s get started and see everything that this amazing nation has to offer!

How do I prepare for a trip to Bhutan?

Preparing for a trip to Bhutan is an exciting endeavor! Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Visa and Travel Restrictions: Most travelers need a tourist visa, which must be applied for through a travel agency. The full payment for the trip must be received by the travel agency before the visa is approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
  2. Travel Insurance: It’s mandatory to have travel insurance for your trip to Bhutan.
  3. Booking Accommodations and Guides: While independent travel is possible, a tour operator can enhance your experience, especially for activities like trekking and attending festivals. Guides are mandatory for journeys beyond Thimphu and Paro.
  4. Flights: Only two airlines fly to Bhutan, and the best way to travel there is by air, landing at the country’s only international airport in Paro.
  5. Packing: Prepare your travel itinerary, apply for a visa if necessary, make vaccinations if required, check-up at the doctor/dentist, take out travel insurance, photocopy or scan important documents, write down your email and useful phone numbers, and inform your bank about your trip abroad.
  6. Cultural Etiquette: Observe proper etiquette at Bhutan’s Buddhist sites and familiarize yourself with local customs and traditions.
  7. Seasons and Festivals: Book early if you plan to visit during high seasons like autumn and spring, which feature famous tsechus (monastic festivals) and beautiful natural scenery

What documents are required for Bhutan?

To travel to Bhutan, the following documents are typically required:

  • Passport: A copy of your passport with a minimum validity of six months from the intended date of departure from Bhutan.
  • Passport Size Photo: A recent passport-size photograph.
  • Visa Application: Completed visa application forms.
  • Travel Insurance: Valid travel insurance is mandatory.
  • Proof of Payment: For the tourist tariff, which includes accommodation, food, transportation, and an official guide,.

For Indian nationals, additional documents such as a Voter ID card or Birth Certificate for children below the age of 18 may be required

How long does it take to process a Bhutanese visa?

The processing time for a Bhutanese visa is typically two working days. It’s recommended that all applications for a visa be submitted at least two days before the intended date of arrival. However, it’s always a good idea to apply well in advance to avoid any last-minute delays.

For Indian nationals, the processing time is usually 3–4 working days, and it’s advised to apply for a visa at least two weeks before the planned travel date. Remember to collect the visa clearance from the visa section during the afternoon hours, specifically from 2:00 P.M to 5:00 P.M.

Can I extend my Bhutanese visa if needed?

Yes, you can apply for an extension of your Bhutanese visa if needed. Visa extensions are granted on a case-by-case basis and can be applied for at the Department of Immigration in Thimphu, Bhutan. You will need to submit your original passport, a copy of your current visa, and fill out a visa extension application form along with two passport-sized photographs.

It’s important to note that the process can take several days, and there is no guarantee that your extension request will be approved. Therefore, it’s advisable to apply for the extension well before your original visa or permit expires. Make sure to have all the necessary documents and a legitimate reason for the extension to increase the chances of approval.

What are the don’ts in Bhutan?

Here are some important things to avoid doing when visiting Bhutan:

  1. Disrespect the king or any member of the royal family: The monarchy is deeply respected in Bhutan.
  2. Disregard cultural customs: Bhutan has a rich cultural heritage, and it’s important to respect local customs and traditions.
  3. Engage in overt displays of affection: Public displays of affection are generally considered inappropriate.
  4. Inappropriate attire at religious sites: When visiting temples, please dress appropriately and avoid wearing short skirts or inappropriate clothes.
  5. Photography inside temples: No photos are permitted inside.

What are the rules for travelling to Bhutan?

Here are some important rules and requirements for traveling to Bhutan:

1. Visa and Entry Requirements:

  • You must have a valid passport with an expiration date of at least 6 months after your planned departure from Bhutan.
  • A visa is required to enter and exit Bhutan. You can apply for the visa through a licensed tour operator approved by the Bhutanese authorities. The visa will be pre-approved and issued upon your arrival in Bhutan.
  • If you’re traveling for business or non-tourism reasons, arrange your visa through your sponsoring organization in Bhutan.
  • Permits are necessary for travel to certain states within Bhutan, and your tour guide will assist in obtaining these.

2. Sustainable Development Fee (SDF):

  • All visitors must pay a daily SDF set by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. The fee is $100 per night, with deals available (e.g., 4 days free for 4 days purchased). Check for the latest rates and deals.
  • Travelers from India have different fee structures and can visit with a special permit.

3. Travel insurance:

  • Mandatory: You must have travel insurance that covers accidental death, permanent disability due to accidents, emergency medical evacuation, and hospital charges in case of sickness. Ensure you have proof of insurance coverage in English when applying for your visa.

4. Customs Rules:

  • Strict rules apply to goods you can take into or out of Bhutan. Declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty. Exporting antiques is illegal.
  • You can bring a small supply of tobacco for personal use, but taxes and duties apply.
  • Indian rupees are widely accepted in Bhutan.

5. Safety and Security:

  • Bhutan is exceptionally safe, but always exercise common sense precautions.

What is the dress code for Bhutan tourists?

The dress code for tourists in Bhutan is relatively relaxed, but it’s important to respect the local customs and traditions. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Conservative Dressing: Bhutan is a relatively conservative Buddhist country. It’s advisable to exhibit modesty while travelling in Bhutan. Avoid revealing clothing. Men can bring jeans, cotton pants, T-shirts, casual shirts, and a warm jacket/coat for the evening.
  2. Dressing for Temples and Dzongs: When visiting religious places such as dzongs or monasteries, do wear long pants and avoid sleeveless tops. If you are wearing a sleeveless top, wear a jacket. You will have to remove your shoes when entering temples or dzongs.
  3. Layered Clothing: The climate in Bhutan can vary a lot depending on both the season and the specific altitude of where you are traveling. Therefore, dressing in layers is recommended to accommodate the ever-fluctuating temperatures.
  4. Footwear: Good walking boots are imperative when travelling in Bhutan. Whether you choose to focus your itinerary on trekking or on cultural experiences, chances are that you will be embarking on a hike or two.
  5. Socks: There are several reasons to pack a few pairs of socks. For one, Bhutan is cold. Socks will keep your feet warm and toasty. Moreover, they offer protection while hiking, keeping you safe from stray branches or insects

How much money should I bring to Bhutan?

The amount of money you should bring to Bhutan depends on your personal spending habits and the activities you plan to do. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Daily Sustainable Development Fee (SDF): All travelers to Bhutan, except for Indian nationals, are required to pay a USD 200 SDF per night. For families, there is a 50% discount for children below 6 years of age and a 100% discount for children below 2 years old.
  2. Visa Processing Fee: In addition to the SDF, there’s also a one-off visa processing fee of USD 40 per person.
  3. Personal Expenses: How much money you should bring depends entirely on your budget. But if you want to buy some souvenirs, have some for extra drinks or food, and maybe take part in some other activities, you should consider bringing around 20–50 USD per day.
  4. Cash Limit: As per the new guidelines announced by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), travelers are allowed to carry a maximum of Nu 25,000 per person into the country.

Can I wear shorts in Bhutan?

In Bhutan, it’s generally recommended to avoid wearing shorts. The country has a conservative dress code, and wearing shorts could make you feel uncomfortable. Instead, opt for long pants or skirts that cover your ankles. This is especially important when visiting religious sites like monasteries or dzongs. So, it’s best to leave your shorts at home when packing for Bhutan.

Is Bhutan cheap to visit?

The cost of visiting Bhutan in 2024 can vary depending on the type of tour and services you choose. Here are some details:

1. The Bhutan travel cost for international tourists includes a sustainable development fee (SDF) / government tax of US $100 per person per night stay in Bhutan. This applies to all individuals over the age of 12.

2. The Bhutan visa fee is US $40 per person per trip.

3. Package tour cost:

  • Solo travelers: US $245 per night stay in Bhutan.
  • 2 pax in a group: US $190 per person per night stay in Bhutan.
  • 3 pax and above: US $180 per person per night stay in Bhutan.

4. Package trek cost:

  • Solo trekker: US $350 per night on trek.
  • 2 pax in a group: US $260 per person per night.
  • 3 pax and above, US $225 per person per night.

These costs cover accommodation in 3-star hotels, all meals a day, guide services, bottled water during the entire trip, and transport within Bhutan, including airport transfers. For trekking, it also covers the services of a trekking guide, cook, helpers, yaks/ponies to carry the supplies, sleeping tents, mess tents, kitchen tents, toilet tents, sleeping mats, and 3 meals a day.

What are the three major problems in Bhutan?

Bhutan, known for its Gross National Happiness philosophy, faces several socio-economic challenges. Three major problems currently affecting the country include:

  1. Economic Challenges: Bhutan is grappling with an economic crisis characterized by a growing trade deficit and rising import costs. The global economic slowdown and supply chain disruptions have severely impacted small- and medium-sized businesses, leading to inflation, economic setbacks, and job losses.
  2. Socio-economic Issues: High levels of poverty and youth unemployment persist in Bhutan. The healthcare system is facing difficulties, and there are significant incidences of violence against women. Despite efforts to address these issues, many government measures have not achieved the desired outcomes.
  3. Environmental Concerns: Traditional practices like firewood collection, along with modern issues such as industrial pollution, wildlife conservation, and climate change, pose threats to Bhutan’s population and biodiversity. These environmental challenges are compounded by the country’s reliance on hydropower and tourism sectors, which are sensitive to ecological changes.

How safe is Bhutan to visit?

Bhutan is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. The crime rate in Bhutan is low, and violent crime is rare. However, like any travel destination, petty crimes such as burglary, theft, pickpocketing, and bag snatching can occur, so it’s always wise to look after your belongings and use licensed tour operators.

In terms of natural safety, Bhutan can experience flooding and landslides during the monsoon season from June to September, and earthquakes can occur at any time. It’s important to follow the advice of local officials and be prepared for such events.

Travel advisories from various countries suggest exercising normal precautions when visiting Bhutan. The U.S. Department of State currently has Bhutan at Level 1, which means travelers should exercise normal precautions. The UK government has also provided updated travel advice for Bhutan, emphasizing the importance of reading all the advice and getting appropriate travel insurance.


What is Bhutan known for in terms of food?

Bhutanese cuisine is known for its unique flavors and ingredients. Here are some key aspects:

  1. Ema Datshi: This is the national dish of Bhutan. It’s a spicy dish made with large or small green or red chili peppers in a cheesy sauce. You’ll likely find this dish served at every meal.
  2. Rice: A staple of Bhutanese cuisine is Bhutanese red rice, which is like brown rice in texture, but has a nutty taste. It’s the only variety of rice that grows at high altitudes.
  3. Meat and Dairy: The diet in the hills includes chicken, yak meat, dried beef, pork, pork fat, and lamb. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular.
  4. Other Dishes: Other popular dishes include jasha maru (a chicken dish), phaksha paa (dried pork cooked with chili peppers, spices, and vegetables), thukpa, puta (buckwheat noodles), bathup, and fried rice.
  5. Snacks: Popular snacks include momo (Bhutanese dumplings), shakam eezay, khabzey (dried fritters made with flour, water, and sugar, which are then deep-fried), shabalay, juma (Bhutanese sausages marinated in spices), and noodles.
  6. Beverages: Popular beverages include butter tea prepared using tea leaves, salt and butter (called suja), milk tea (called ngaja), black tea, locally brewed ara (rice wine), and beer.

If you’re considering a vacation to Bhutan, we hope you find this article useful. Save this page to get future travel advice and information. Please leave a comment below if you need any help or if you have any queries. Share this article with everyone you know who might be considering a vacation to Bhutan.

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