Step by step guide for traveling to Bhutan
Decide when to go.
Do some research on Internet or ask your friends and family members who have been to Bhutan before, if any, while deciding when to visit Bhutan. Some factors such as weather conditions, seasons, special discounts or offers may determine your time to visit Bhutan.
The best recommended months are March, April, May, September, October and November but despite these best months, visiting Bhutan is manageable all year round. Winter season (December, January and February) is also a best time to visit Bhutan.
It is advisable that you plan your Bhutan holiday at least a month or two earlier, so that everything can be arranged smoothly starting from flight tickets, tour money transfer, visa applications and logistic arrangements.
Decide where to go and what to do in Bhutan.
After deciding your travelling dates, check out for few interesting destinations, attractions and activities that you want to undergo in Bhutan. Western and northern central region of Bhutan receives around 90 percent of its visitor. This is because most of the tourists attracting sites and facilities are located at these regions. Some of Bhutan’s tourists attracting sites are Taktsang monastery (Paro district), Memorial Chorten (Thimphu district), Punakha Dzong (Punakha district), Gangtey valley (Wangduephodrang district) and Bumthang valley (Bumthang district).
With more than 80 percent of its visitors coming for cultural sightseeing tours, Bhutan is definitely a cultural destination.
Besides cultural sightseeing, Bhutan is also a trekking destination. It has around 20 trekking trails, some requiring climbing over 17,000 feet above sea level and few are considered amongst the world’s toughest routes to trek on.
Festivals are another attraction for Bhutan. Different types of festivals are celebrated in Bhutan throughout the year and among this, Tshechus are the most celebrated festival in Bhutan. It is celebrated throughout Bhutan in different villages, monasteries, Dzongs (fortresses) and Lhakhangs (temples). During this festival (Tshechu), different kinds of mask dances which are mostly influenced by Buddhist culture are put on the show by local communities.
Other activities that one can mix up with cultural sightseeing and festival tours are white water rafting and bicycling. Despite Bhutan being entirely located on Himalayan mountain ranges, Mountain climbing activities are forbidden in Bhutan.
Visit www.bhutantourinformation.com to find more tour packages.
Select your Bhutan Tour Operator.
All the tourists visiting Bhutan, except regional (Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivians) have to book their tour through a licensed Bhutanese Tour operators by law.
There are more than thousand tour operators in Bhutan at present. Google is the best way of finding your suitable tour operators in Bhutan or take some recommendations from those who have been to Bhutan before or visit Tourism Council of Bhutan’s website www.tcb.gov.bt.
While choosing your tour operator, cross check with Tourism Council of Bhutan’s website (www.tcb.gov.bt), to check whether your chosen tour operator is listed as a legal tour operator in Bhutan or not. After choosing your tour operator, discuss in detail regarding your Bhutan tour and ask for quotation and tour itineraries.
Book your flight tickets.
Finalize your Bhutan tour at the earliest and book your flight tickets to Bhutan. With only two airlines operating, flight tickets to Bhutan during peak tourist seasons are booked out for months. You can directly check and buy your flight tickets online or request your Tour Operator to book on your behalf. For details regarding online booking, visit www.drukair.com or www.bhutanairlines.com.
Paro international airport (PBH) is the only international airport in Bhutan. It is located 65 km west of Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Some of the international destinations from where you can get into Bhutan are Bangkok (Thailand), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Katmandu (Nepal), Singapore, Delhi (India), Kolkata (India), Guwahati (India) and Bagdogra (India).
Confirm your tour, wire transfer your tour payment and Bhutan visa fee
Once confirmed with your tour, transfer your full tour payment along with Bhutan visa fee of $40 per person to Tourism Council of Bhutan’s bank account. Banking details will be provided by your respective tour operators.
All the tourists visiting Bhutan must transfer their entire tour payment prior to their arrival in Bhutan. Your visa to Bhutan will not be processed without receiving your full tour payment in advance. No credit cards, debit cards or visa cards are accepted to transfer your tour money to Bhutan; it must be wired transferred through a bank.
Get your visa approval; welcome to Bhutan.
Send a scanned copy of your passport (photo page) with a minimum validity of 6 months from your expected departure date from Bhutan. Your respective tour operators, after receiving your tour payment and passport copy will apply for your Bhutan visa through an online system to Tourism Council of Bhutan.
After cross checking, Tourism Council of Bhutan will then issue your visa clearance letter within 72 working hours. Once approved, your respective tour operators will mail you the copy of your visa clearance letter. On showing this visa clearance letter, your actual visa will be stamped into your passport at the port of entry.