Permits and Visa in Bhutan
All international visitors need VISA to enter into Bhutan except citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives. All visitors need a valid passport and a visa to enter and exit Bhutan. VISAS for Bhutan are issued either at Paro airport or at Gelephu, Phuentsholing or Samdrup Jongkhar, if you are entering by road.
All VISAS are approved in the Thimphu - capital of Bhutan and issued to tourists who have booked Bhutan travel with a local licensed tour operator, either directly or through a foreign travel agent. The local tour operator then submits the applications for tourist visas to the Tourism Council of Bhutan in Thimphu.
Before travelling to Bhutan, all visitors must obtain VISA clearance from capital Thimphu. The VISA clearance takes minimum 10 days to process and without it, air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased in any way. Entry into Bhutan can be made upon payment of $40 US while the procedure of stamping a visa into the passport by immigration authorities. Tourist visas are granted usually for the specific travel period.
VISA for International Travellers
VISA is issued at Paro airport. One can also get VISA at Phuentsholing, Gelephu or Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan if you are entering by road. Visitors are required to book travel through licensed Bhutanese tour operator, directly or through unauthorised foreign travel operator.
Online Visa applications can proceed by the authorised local tour operator or international tour operator so that you need not visit a Bhutanese Embassy or department. All tour payment including a USD $40 visa fee must be done before the traveller VISA is issued. The cash stays with the Bhutan Tourism Council until travel in-country is complete.
Once full payment has been receiving, VISA takes not more than 72 hours to be approved. Direct flights to Bhutan are available from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Singapore and Thailand. So the rest of the international travellers must require any of those countries VISA before transiting through. Nepal and Thailand offer visas on entry or visa waiver for some nationalities. However, India requires visas for most nationalities to enter. India allows 50 nationalities to acquire an electronic visa online without sending travel papers or going to a consulate.
The aggregate cost for a Bhutanese VISA is $250 a day during the peak season, and $200 a day for the off-season which includes the costs of transportation, accommodation, meals, water and some entry charges. Minors and big groups can apply for rebates or discounts also.
Individuals who get a formal welcome to Bhutan from "a national of some standing" or a volunteer association and the individuals who come as visitors of the Bhutanese government are not required to book a tour to visit the country.
While taking the entry, visitors need to show visa clearance letter. After that, the visa will be stamped into a passport.
VISA for Indian Travellers
No VISA is required for Indian travellers. Indian nationals are required to carry any of the Valid Indian Passport having a validity of minimum 6 months or Voter Identity Card, issued by the Election Commission of India. Indians coming to Bhutan by road are required to obtain an 'Entry Permit' which is valid to visit Thimphu and Paro. However, 'special area permit' is required to visit other places in Bhutan.
VISA for Children Below 18 Years Old
For children, who are below 18 years old, VISA application needs to be attached to the copy of birth certificate and identity proof.
On arrival at the airport, tourists will receive a baggage declaration form to list out all the expensive items bringing in BHUTAN while entering the country. Keep this form safely till to return as you need to show this form while leaving the country. Let your guide or travel agency know if you lose the form in any case.
Note: Export of antiques and wildlife is strictly prohibited in Bhutan.
Special Information for Indian Travellers
- Indians do not require a VISA to travel to Bhutan but need a permit. Permits are issued at Phuentsholing which may take as long as half a day. Permits also can get at Kolkata. Visitors are required to produce Identification proof like Passport or Voter ID Card.
- Travel time from Phuentsholing to Thimpu is around 7 hours by road depending on traffic jams.
- Travel time from Bagdogra Airport to Phuentsholing / Jaigaon by road takes around 5-6 hours.
- The entry gate from India closes at 20:30 (IST). However, a permit is not required for entering to Phuentsholing. Staying in hotels of Phuentsholing is allowed without taking permit. The permit is required to visit Thimphu and Paro only. If any visitor wants to go other places in Bhutan like Bumthang or Punakha, a permit is needed and can be made at Thimphu.
- Indians can withdraw Bhutanese currency using their Indian debit card and Indian currency is widely accepted in Bhutan.