Bhutan has a longstanding reputation as a secluded, private location that only welcomes a select group of privileged, fortunate visitors. Its spectacular fortress-like monasteries, timeless rural villages, and golden-roofed temples are as close to Shangri-La as you can find in the contemporary era. Bhutan’s tourism policy has always been one of “high value, low impact,” with the straightforward goal of maximizing financial gains while reducing adverse effects on the country’s environment and culture. It’s the ideal illustration of the nation’s guiding principle of “Gross National Happiness.” Beautiful, far-flung, and home to a unique culture, The Land of Thunder Dragons has been drawing more and more travelers in recent years. It is extremely astounding and deserving of the commotion.
Bhutan, the final Vajrayana Buddhist nation in the world, is home to numerous revered religious landmarks, including stupas by the side of the road, temples, monasteries, and nunneries. If you want to take pictures of people praying or taking part in one of our many holy festivals, kindly use caution. When visiting holy places or speaking with elders, hats and caps should be taken off out of respect. Cross your legs if you’re seated on the floor next to a monk, nun, elder, or host. Please cover your legs and wear long sleeves when visiting a temple. When entering sacred places, take off your shoes and avoid snapping pictures. Please refrain from touching any holy objects or artwork while inside temples, including the hallowed thrones used by the lamas.
Getting a Visa
All visitors, with the exception of those with passports from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, must apply for a visa in advance. According to a press announcement from the government, travelers to Bhutan are now required to pay US$200 per person, per night. Please be advised that this money no longer covers any services for people familiar with the prior visa procedure (such as accommodation). It is solely a sustainable development fee instead (SDF). This indicates that you are responsible for paying for all additional trip costs. Because of the expensive visa fees, most visitors to Bhutan never stay for very long. This is actually a component of the government’s “High quality, low volume tourism” plan.
When you schedule the rest of your vacation, you must also apply for and pay for the visas through registered tour operators—not embassies. To give yourself enough time for the necessary paperwork to be processed, you should book your travel at least 90 days in advance of your trip. Once the full cost of the trip has been paid, the tour operators use an internet system to apply for visas, which are then authorized by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. A visa clearance letter is sent to visitors, who must present it at immigration when they arrive at the airport. The passport is then stamped with the visa.
Certain Actions to avoid in Bhutan
When visiting Bhutan, you should try to abide by the following guidelines:
- Loud music shouldn’t be played in public spaces like national parks and places of worship.
- It is considered rude to take pictures or films of somebody without first getting their consent. Additionally, before taking any pictures or recordings inside locations like monasteries, make sure to get the attending authority’s approval. You will always have a tour guide with you who can translate for you.
- Bhutan celebrates “Dry Day” on Tuesday. This indicates that Tuesdays are a dry day for the residents. So it would be polite to abstain from drinking on Tuesdays as well.
- Similar to the previous point, but actually stricter, Bhutan forbids the sale of cigarettes. Cigarettes can be brought into the country by visitors, but you should only smoke them there.
- Wearing skimpy attire when visiting holy places like monasteries and temples is disrespectful. Be ready to remove your shoes if asked to do so when visiting places of worship.
- Bhutanese people are particularly concerned about the environment. Avoid using single-use plastic bottles, cans, and the like as much as you can.
Bhutan has considerable altitude sickness risk
Bhutan is a small, landlocked country that borders the Mountain Range. Because of this, much of the nation is situated at an extremely high altitude. Specifically, the northern part of the nation is quite mountainous and elevated. This means that travelers visiting the north of the country may occasionally experience altitude sickness symptoms. This is particularly true if you go trekking in Bhutan’s mountains. Gangkhar Puensum, Bhutan’s highest point, is located at a height of 7,570 m (24,836 ft) above sea level. This peak, which shares a border with Tibet in the north of the nation, is a candidate for the title of tallest unclimbed mountain in the world. The northwest of Bhutan, which is a hilly area, is home to several of the most well-known tourist attractions. Therefore, it could be a good idea to talk to your doctor about altitude medications before traveling to Bhutan.
What are the new rules for tourism in Bhutan?
Foreign visitors will now be charged a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of US$200 per person per day starting in September 2022. According to the government, this fee will further support the growth of sustainable tourism, tourism training, and carbon offsetting. The other significant difference is that tour prices are no longer fixed, allowing tour operators to choose their own prices based on the activities or service levels provided, giving customers some control over expenses like hotel rates. The bad news is that travel expenses are no longer included and are now in addition to the daily price of US$200. Another modification is the introduction of entrance fees for foreign visitors to the key attractions, which range from Nu 2000 (US$25) for the renowned Tiger’s Nest Monastery to Nu 1000 (US$12.50) for the majority of other well-known temples and dzongs (fortress-like monasteries). Most tours will cost an extra $100–200 as a result. On widely observed Buddhist festivals, the majority of these religious places will now be closed to visitors, which is unfortunate because these are sometimes the most vibrant times to visit.
How much does a trip to Bhutan cost now?
Most Bhutanese agencies will now charge between US$350 and US$450 per person per day for a fully included trip, up from the previous US$250 every day, when including the US$200 SDF per person per day. Trekking will probably cost more, and smaller groups of two or three people will be more expensive than more numerous individuals. The new regulations do permit overnight stays in guest houses, historic farms, or rural homestays, which are somewhat less expensive than tourist hotels.
Not to miss places in Bhutan
Not to miss places in Bhutan includes: Taktshang Goemba, Punakha Dzong and Thimphu.