All You Need to Know About Bhutan Permits and Regional Bhutan Holidays
Bhutan-the Buddhist Himalayan kingdom, is known all over for being not just a land of vibrant cultures and happy laughter but a place of obscure beauty set amidst the breath-taking Himalayas, breathing out stress-less into the fresh air surrounded by the bliss of colourful monasteries. The place is indeed heavens for those seeking a little peace from their travel experiences.
This land-locked nation lies in South-east Asia and has added points for being marked as amongst the safest countries in the world for travelling. The place is also amongst travellers favourite because of the warm ambience one receives in here-don’t be surprised when you see strangers passing by smiles or being eager to help you when in Bhutan. The peace that Bhutan has to offer is indeed not to be found in any other place in the world. Permits for Bhutan trip are easy to be found as well.
Best time to visit Bhutan
A trip to this place would not need a lot of pre-planning and hassles. If you want to get the best out of your Bhutan trip, then plan your vacation in October and Nov. The green terrains of beautiful Bhutan start turning to golden which gives a perfect landscape view. Several festivals are organized across the country during these months, you can deeply explore the cultural side of this country. The winter season in Bhutan starts in December and lasts till February. When you move towards the northern regions (High Altitude Mountain Regions), the temperature falls to sub-zero, you can experience snowfall in the cities like Paro and Thimphu in January and early February.
Considered as the prime duration to visit, the weather remains dry and less humid in March to May and would be the best time to indulge in trekking activities. Treks to various points start during these months and the Paro Tshechu festival (Most popular dance festival) unfolds in full swing in April. A lot of tourists from all over the world fly to Bhutan to attend the festival and meet the king. However, the flight tickets remain expensive during this peak season. Monsoon is observed from July to September in Bhutan when you get a closer and clear sight of the lush green Himalayan mountain range. Due to excess rain, there are some chances of landslides, so it is not advisable to plan a trip during peak monsoon season.
Permits Required For Bhutan Trip
By default, the Bhutan Entry permit is issued to Indian travelers for 7 Days to stay and visit the capital city Thimphu and Paro. If one wants an extended permit for stay or Entry to Restricted Areas (Beyond Paro and Thimphu), it can be received from the Bhutan Immigration Office in Thimphu itself.
An important point to note here is that the Bhutan Authorities issue permits only once in 6 months when you apply using VoterID/Passport (Once in 6 Months from one ID). It means that you can visit Bhutan only four times a year.
Permit required to visit Punakha and other offbeat places
If you are looking to visit some offbeat places like Punakha, Wandue, Bumthang, Phobjikha-Valley, Gantey, etc., you will have to submit your e-permit, and you IDs at Thimphu Immigration Office between 9.00 AM to 11.00 AM to get an extended permit. The Indian Travelers can get Bhutan to permit using their Permit, Passport, and Voter ID. After the formalities, they will give you a printed document stating the permission.
Permits for travellers elsewhere
All other tourists must obtain a visa clearance for permit for Bhutan trip. It is also to be noted that any ID used to enter Bhutan is valid only once in six monts, and for re-entry within the same year a different ID has to be used. Visas are processed through an online system by licensed Bhutanese tour operators through a foreign travel agent. It is required to send the photo-page of your passport to your tour operator who will apply for your visa for permits for Bhutan trip.
The visa will be processed by the Tourism Council of Bhutan after the full payment the holiday has been send and received in their bank account. Foreign travelers have to pay a daily fee for the the sat, The amount of the visa fees is $250 a day during peak season and $200 a day for low season. . This minimum daily package required for visa processing covers your accommodation, food, local guide and vehicle with a driver.
Process for getting the Bhutan Permit
Permit Using Passport – Online Permit
- You can apply for an online permit before your trip with the help of a Bhutanese tour operator or you can book an entire package with travel communities of our country and they will take care of your permits.
- Still, if you managed to get the e-permit somehow you still need to be physically verified by the biometric office in Phuntsholing When your trip starts, you have to submit the e-permit to the Phuntsholing Immigration Office and get your biometrics done to get the final seven-day permit. (7am – 9pm Mon – Fri)
- The Immigration Office (Both Permit and Biometric Offices)of Phuntsholing remains operational from 9 AM to 5 PM from Monday to Friday, you can get your permit from here and then you have to visit the Biometric Office to get verified Physically.
Permit Using Passport – Offline Permit
- If you missed to get the online permit, then you have to visit the Immigration Office in the first place to get your permission to travel.
- The process is similar but you have to stand in long queues for your permits and then you have to wait equally to get your fingerprints done at Biometric Office.
- It is highly recommended to get the e-permit as sometimes it takes more than a day to get the documents.
Permit Using Voter ID
- You cannot get an e-permit using your VoterID. However, you can get your offline permit using voter ID by visiting the Bhutan Immigration Office, following a similar procedure as mentioned above.
- An important point to note here is that the Bhutan Authorities issue permits only once in 6 months when you apply using VoterID/Passport (Once in 6 Months from one ID). It means that you can visit Bhutan only four times a year.
- Other than Phuntsholing you can get entry from Gelephu as well, it is a small village on the border of Assam state. It is the center for trade across both countries. People here are not aware of the permit process so it is better to enter Bhutan from Phuntsholing if you are taking a road trip.
Following are the necessary documents to get the Travel Permit for Bhutan
- 3 Recent Passport Size Images
- Itinerary For Your Complete Trip
- Hotel Booking Details/ Stay Vouchers
- A Bhutanese Guide (Not Mandatory).
Traveling in Bhutan has a different vibe, which takes you back in time. The unexploited natural environment and peaceful surroundings make it a perfect destination to explore on a bike trip. Riding a bike through the breathtaking valleys, ridges, picturesque villages and a place with unique traffic rules will be a treat for Bikers. Certain permits are required to ride bikes in Bhutan.
Permits required for Bikes
Here are proper guidelines to get permits for a Bike
- You will need the following documents along with your e-permit (Visa).
- Incase of Voter ID you need a printed letter (Permission Letter By Bhutan Authorities), Photocopy of your Driving Licence, Registration Certificate (RC) for Vehicle, Pollution Certificate, Insurance, and a declaration form you need to fill (Forms are available at RST offices).
- You have to pay INR 100/- per day per bike as fees.
- In case you are renting a bike from Bagdogra, you have to submit an additional declaration signed by the owner that he has transferred his bike on your name for n number of days. (Bike vendors are fully aware of this scenario, they will help you in simplifying the process.)
- You can rent bikes from Thimphu as well, the cost for bikes will start from approx INR 3500/- per day and you won’t need any permits for these bikes.
How to travel locally in Bhutan
The transport facility is quite amazing in Bhutan, you can hop on Local buses and costers to reach your destination. If you are traveling with your family or friends you can book cabs as well. Here I will mention one more interesting fact about Bhutan, this country has no traffic lights but still, everyone obeys traffic rules.
Phuentsholing Permit Office Timings
All working days (Monday to Friday) from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Bhutan Standard Time (9:30 AM to 5:30 PM IST). Same is also Thimphu Immigration Office Timings. Please check for Bhutan Public Holidays in advance as both Thimphu and Phuntsholing Permit offices remains closed on Bhutan Public Holidays. The lunch hours are 1 pm to 2 pm BST.
Government Holiday List For Bhutan
Then, there are a list of holidays in Bhutan which are government holidays, and thus road travels on these days can come with hassles.
Reaching Bhutan via Flight
One could also reach Bhutan via flights. Direct flights are available from Delhi (Indira Gandhi International Airport) and Kolkata (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport ) to Paro Airport in Bhutan. You can get your permit and biometrics done at the Immigration Desk at the airport using your passport. In case you want to get the permit using your Voter ID Card. You have to follow a similar process of visiting the immigration office and Biometric office to get your Entry permit. Carry all the important documents mentioned above, with your recent photographs. You can board flights of Druk Airlines and Bhutanese Airlines from the Capital City Delhi and Kolkata. The flight takes around 2 hours for you to reach from Delhi to Paro and approximately 1 hour from Kolkata. If you book your tickets well in advance, then it will cost you around 10,000-15000 which will increase as you reach to the date of your departure.
Bhutan – The Land of Thunder Dragon is still unexploited and not commercialized till now, that is why they don’t charge any Visa Fees from Indian travelers. Last year a group visited Bhutan and a biker climbed on top of the National Memorial Chorten in Dochula which created a huge outrage in bhutan. Due to these kind of incidents, Bhutan government announced to imply visa charges and increase fees for other permission for Indian travelers. It is important to follow the religious sentiments of local people of Bhutan, so that this place remain accessible for all the Indian Travelers.
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