Bhutan visa requirements
A mention of Bhutan in the legendary movie The Lunch Box enunciated by the late legendary actor Irfan Khan left all of us in a fix.
In the movie, his visit to Bhutan got first generated by his never-met-before love interest Nirmat Kaur. She particularly mentioned that Bhutan has a low cost of living.
A place that had everything in cheap and good quality must be on everyone’s retirement plan. If not for retirement, then probably for a lifetime worth of achievement plan. Bhutan is a splendid home to mountains, palaces, museums, and serenity.
Do you, too, feel like leaving your current space and visiting such a beautiful and magnificent place called Bhutan?
To get there, you need to acquaint yourself with the Bhutan visa requirements. Visa requirements for Bhutan consist of the following.
Bhutan Visa Cost
According to the Bhutan Tourism Council, Bhutan visa cost gladly fluctuates based on the peak season. If you plan to travel to Bhutan during March-May and September-November, then it is around 250 USD per person.
For months like June, July, August, January, and December, it is around 200 USD per person. These costs are like a fixed minimum daily package for tourists like you. However, if you want to know the charges of a Bhutan visa, then it is around 40 USD per person. It is, of course, non-refundable.
Apart from these costs, you might have to engage in a Sustainable Development Fee or the Bhutanese Government fees. It is around 65 USD. This bill got passed by the National Assembly of Bhutan. The bill is named Tourism Levy and Exemption Bill of Bhutan, 2020.
Bhutan Visa Policy
1. In 2009, Bhutan hired a consulting company called McKinsey for reforming the Bhutan visa policy (Liberation Policy). It said that there would be an entry of an unlimited number of foreign tourists to increase the graph of tourism. For the time being, it got approval from the then Prime Minister and the cabinet of Bhutan. However, the widespread opposition party of Bhutan rejected it.
2. A part of the daily fee collected from the tourists goes to free education, healthcare, and poverty alleviation in Bhutan. Discounts get applied to tourists who are minors and for larger groups.
3. Throughout the tour, licensed tour guides accompany the tourists. There is a strict prohibition for Independent tourism by foreigners in Bhutan. Tourists from Bangladesh, India, and Maldives can undergo independent tourism.
Bhutan Visa Cost For Indian
Despite being close to India, Bhutan will now charge 1200 INR per person to Indians traveling to Bhutan from July 2020. Bhutan visa cost for Indian citizens was free for far too long now. Other countries to have followed the same pathway are Maldives and Bangladesh.
Visa requirements for Bhutan also say, for Indian children between the ages of 6 and 12, a compulsory daily fee of 600 INR is in demand.
Documents required by the Bhutanese Government include - Indian passport with a validity of a minimum of 6 months and a voter ID card issued by the Election Commission of India. At first, no visa was in demand to visit the pleasant heaven of Bhutan.
By air - travel documents along with an entry permit issued by the Immigration Office of Royal Government of Bhutan at Phuentsholing are all you need at the Paro International Airport.
By road - Just the entry permit along with your travel documents.
The entry permit only allows Indians to travel to Thimphu and Paro.
Bhutan Visa Application
A few pointers to remember before you apply for a Bhutan visa application:
1. Without the Bhutan tour operator, you cannot apply for a Bhutan visa.
2. All the Bhutan travel visas get processed by the Bhutan Tourism Council.
3. Without a tour operator, you can only enter Bhutan when you are a guest of the Bhutan Government. And if you are a volunteer or a part of a tour organization.
4. Such strict rules exist for the Bhutan Visa application because Bhutan wants to conserve its natural environment and cultural heritage.
5. It usually takes 1 to 2 weeks for a Bhutan travel visa clearance before you leave for Bhutan. Tour operators suggest you apply for a Bhutan travel visa or Bhutan work visa a couple of months before your departure date.
Here are the steps for the Bhutan visa application:
1. Get in touch with a registered tour operator mentioned in the Bhutan Tourism Council list.
2. Pay the tour and submit all the Bhutan visa requirements.
3. Bhutan visa requirements include- colored scan of passport, student ID card or occupational ID card, contact information, current and permanent address.
4. Tour operator submits the application to the Bhutan Tourism Council for you.
5. Bhutan Tourism Council reviews your Bhutan visa application for a Bhutan travel visa or Bhutan work visa.
6. It then issues a Visa Clearance Letter.
7. You need to print this letter and get it with you when you enter Bhutan by air.
8. Additionally, you should have travel health insurance. Usually, the tour operators do not give that.
9. When you enter Bhutan and show your Visa Clearance Letter to the Immigration officers, they review it.
10. Once they have reviewed it, they stamp the actual Bhutan travel visa or Bhutan work visa on your passport.
Bhutan Visa Information
Here are few pointers to help you know more about the Bhutan visa information:
1. Your passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months right from the date of your arrival in Bhutan.
2. You must have a Bhutanese visa to enter the natural habitat of Bhutan and, of course, to leave it as well.
3. The approval of the Bhutan travel visa takes place in the capital of Bhutan - Thimphu.
4. The clearance of the visa takes about seven days for processing.
5. Without the clearance of a Bhutan travel visa, you cannot buy airline tickets.
6. Tourist visas get sanctioned for the decided travel period.
7. At the entry, the immigration of Bhutan will stamp on your passport a visa for 40 USD.
8. You need to possess two passport size photos.
9. There are two types of entry permit:
10. Entry permit - It gets issued on arrival at either of the two airports - Paro or Phuentsholing.
11. Route permit - It gets issued when you travel by road to Bhutan. With the help of your vehicle, you can travel to mesmerizing places like Punakha, Wangdue, and Bumthang in Bhutan. This way, you will not just stay in Paro and Thimphu.
12. Bhutan entry permit is valid for seven days. You can extend it up to a maximum of 30 days from the point of entry.
How To Get Bhutan Visa?
Here are three steps if you want to know how to get a Bhutan visa.
1. Bhutan travel visa gets approved in Thimphu.
2. It gets issued by the licensed local tour operator.
3. You can get it approved directly or by a foreign travel agent.
Online Regional Permit System
1. To ease travel from Bangladesh, India, and Maldives to Bhutan, the Immigration Department has put forth the Online Regional Permit System.
2. There are registered Bhutanese tour operators and TCB-certified hotels.
3. They allow the online processing of permits for regional tourists.
4. It is applicable for entry from Paro and Phuentsholing.
5. Such permits come before the tourist arrives in Bhutan.
6. These permits include permit clearances and route permits.
7. It is similar to the methodology adopted and followed by international tourists.
1. Two passport-sized photographs
2. A copy of your passport
3. Voter id card
4. Accommodation and lodging details
5. Children below the age of 18 need to have a birth certificate and a valid school identity card.
6. Entry permit for Thimphu and Paro
7. For other places, you need a Special Area Permit.
8. Special Area Permit - a photocopy of route permit - entry permit, and you need to fill an application form. At the Road Safety and Transportation Authority, you will get an Extension Permit if you are traveling by your vehicle.
Bhutan Work Visa
To get a Bhutan work visa, your employer should have a valid work permit from the Bhutanese Chief Labor Officer, Department of Labor. A Bhutan work visa and a long-term visa for Bhutan do not get issued rampantly. If you want to stay and work in Bhutan, you need to work there as a volunteer. Else, as a tourist, you need to pay a daily fee of 250 USD.
Here are the requirements for a Bhutan work visa:
1. Approval for working in Bhutan from the Labor Department, Ministry of Labor and Human Resources.
2. Ardently filled the Work Permit application form.
3. Ardently filled Undertaking of Employer
4. Ardently filled Undertaking of Employee
5. A photocopy of passport
6. A photocopy of voter identification card
7. Medical Fitness Certificate issued by a Bhutan Government-certified Medical Officer
8. Passport-size photographs
9. Notarized academic certificate
10. Additional documents (if required)
What Does The Health Insurance Plan Cover?
1. The Government of Bhutan cannot pay your medical bills.
2. The doctors and medical staff at the hospitals expect cash payment for services.
3. The U.S.A. Medicare does not pay for overseas travel.
4. Tuberculosis is a genuine medical condition in Bhutan.
5. Medical facilities are available in Paro and Thimphu.
Bhutan is a beautiful land of remarkable landscapes, tasty spicy food, and breathtakingly fresh greenery.
PS: Do not feel offended if you see a lot of phallic symbols in Bhutan! Bhutan is under a lot of influence from Drukpa Kunley. He was a saint who traveled the country preaching and teaching a new form of Buddhism - through sex.
Arati Kulkarni is passionate about research writing besides being a doctor. She has completed graduation in Homoeopathy, post-graduation in Emergency Medicine and an MBA in Healthcare Management (2019). Her hobbies include travelling around the world, learning new things, cooking, and shopping. She has been to most of the places in India, from Gurgoan in North India to Mysore in South India. For her, travelling adds a new chapter to her life.