The Royal Government of Bhutan is pleased to announce additional incentives and policy measures to boost the tourism sector. This is in view of the important role of the tourism sector in generating employment; earning foreign exchange; realizing the potential for spillover benefits for ancillary industries; and in boosting overall economic growth.
The incentives and measures shall consist of the following:
A fifty percent discount shall be granted on the prevailing SDF of USD 200 for US Dollar paying tourists visiting Bhutan. The effective SDF with the discount shall be USD 100 per person per day for US Dollar paying tourists.
In addition, a fifty percent discount on the SDF shall be granted on the rates applied to children aged between 6 to 12 years for US Dollar paying children visiting as tourists.
The 24-hour SDF waiver for tourists staying in the border towns shall continue.
The above incentives will come into effect from 1 September 2023 and shall remain effective for four years till 31 August 2027.
The Royal Government shall conduct periodic assessments of the domestic and international tourism scenarios and may discontinue the above incentives to uphold and promote the High-Value Low Volume Tourism Policy of Bhutan after 31 August 2027.
Note:- We will be updated when and when the government specifies all terms and conditions clearly.
Courtesy:Ministry of Industry, Commerce & Employment.
Traveling to Bhutan involves transit through selected Asian countries due to the absence of direct flights. To ensure a seamless journey, travelers must adhere to transit formalities set by the respective transit countries. Please note that regulations may evolve, thus consulting relevant authorities or airlines closer to your travel date is advised. Bhutan flights operate primarily from the following Asian countries only:
India, City of Delhi/Calcutta/Guwahati/Bagdogra
Thailand, City of Bangkok
Bangladesh, City of Dhaka
Singapore, City of Changi
India Transit Guidelines and Procedures
If you are transiting through an Indian airport and not leaving the international transit area, you generally don’t need an Indian visa. However, if you plan to leave the airport or if your transit time is quite long, you might need a transit visa. Check with the Indian embassy or consulate in your country for the latest visa requirements. Additionally, you can get an Indian E-visa that can serve the purpose of like regular visa but is limited to certain airports & seaports only. In case, if you wish to enter or exit Bhutan via land, Indian E-visa is not accepted, and you need a multi-regular visa. Below are general guidelines for transit in India
Documentation: Make sure to have all your travel documents including your passport (Which is valid for more than 6 months), boarding passes for both your incoming and connecting flights, and any required visas for your destination.
Eligibility: Some nationalities might require a transit visa for even short layovers, while others might be exempted. Check with the Indian embassy or consulate to confirm the requirements for your nationality.
Application Process: The application process for an Indian transit visa might involve applying to the Indian embassy or consulate in your home country or at the nearest Indian diplomatic mission.
Transit Visa Fees: Transit visa fees can vary based on your nationality and the duration of your stay. Check with the Indian embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date information on visa fees.
Validity and Conditions: Transit visas are usually valid for the duration of your layover, and you’re generally expected to stay within the international transit area of the airport for 72 hours. If you plan to exit the airport during your layover, you might need to apply for a regular tourist visa.
The Indian government had initiated and introduced eVisa which can obtain online before your travel date. This eVisa can serve the purpose of a regular visa and ease the hassle of going to the Indian embassy or consulate. The visa duration starts date of issue and not on the date of entry. In case, if your eVisa gets expired you have optioned to re-apply and get new eVisa. One cannot Switch or change visa type once issued.
e-Visa Facility for Entry into India: The Indian e-Visa is valid for entry through 24 designated airports (i.e., Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Chandigarh, Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum & Varanasi) and 3 designated seaports (i.e., Cochin, Goa, Mangalore). However, the Indian e-Visa holder can exit from any of the authorized Immigration Check Posts (ICPs) in India.
Transit Visa Guidelines for Thailand
One can avail Thai transit visa at the Thai Embassy or consulate office in your country and requirements may vary based on your nationality, the length of your layover, and the specific regulations in place at the time of your travel. Transit visas typically allow you to stay in Thailand for a limited period, often ranging from a few hours to a maximum of 24 to 48 hours, depending on the specific type of transit visa issued. Further, they do facilities transit visas (TVOA) on arrival for certain nationalities under specific conditions. However, these policies can change, and it’s essential to confirm the status and requirements directly from official sources. If your layover is short and you remain within the international transit area, a transit visa may not be required. However, if you plan to leave the airport for any reason, a transit visa might be necessary.
Transit Visa Application:
Documentation: You’ll need to provide the necessary documentation, including a valid passport, confirmed airline tickets showing your onward journey, and any other documents required by the Thai embassy or consulate.
Application Process: Complete the required visa application form and gather the necessary documents. Depending on the processing time, you’ll receive your transit visa if approved. When you arrive in Thailand, ensure you follow the rules and guidelines outlined by Thai immigration authorities.
Thai arrival Transit Visa:
Eligibility: TVOAs are typically granted to travelers who meet specific criteria, such as having confirmed onward travel within a certain time frame and holding valid visas for the destination country (Bhutan in your case). The eligibility criteria can vary based on nationality and other factors.
Duration: The TVOA may have a limited duration, usually allowing you to stay in Thailand for a short period, often ranging from a few hours to a maximum of 24 to 48 hours.
Documentation: To apply for a TVOA, you might need to provide documents such as a valid passport(Which is valid for more than 6 months), confirmed flight tickets for onward travel, and potentially a visa or other entry permit for your destination.
Application Process: Upon arrival at the Thai airport, you would typically proceed to the designated visa-on-arrival counter. There, you’ll need to fill out an application form, present the required documents, and pay the visa fee if applicable. After processing, you’ll receive the TVOA.
Fee: There might be a fee associated with obtaining a TVOA. Fees can vary based on nationality and other factors.
Nepal Transit Visa Guidelines
Nepal typically allows travelers to transit through its international airports without requiring a transit visa if they remain within the international transit area and have a confirmed onward ticket to their destination. However, if you plan to exit the airport during your layover, you might need to obtain a regular tourist visa, or any other applicable visa based on your nationality and intended activities in Nepal. Further Overtime immigration policies can change, and it’s essential to verify the current requirements with the Nepalese embassy or consulate in your country before your travel date. Here are some general guidelines regarding transit through Nepal:
Nepali Tourist Visa on arrival
Tourist visas can be obtained upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu for a layover.
Documentation: Ensure you have all required travel documents, including your passport, confirmed flight tickets for onward travel, and any visas needed for your destination.
Visa Fees: Visa fees can vary based on the type of visa and duration of stay. Usually, the Nepal tourist visa fee is US$ 25-30 Per person.
Airport Facilities: Nepal’s international airports, like Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, provide various amenities within the transit area, such as shops, restaurants, and lounges, where you can relax during your layover.
Online Visa Application (e-Visa):
Nepal also introduced an online visa application system (e-Visa) for certain nationalities, making it more convenient to apply for a tourist visa in advance of your travel.
The e-Visa system allows you to fill out the application form, upload your photo, and make the payment online. Upon approval, you’ll receive an electronic visa that you can print and present upon arrival.
Singapore Transit Visa
Singapore offers a Transit Visa (also known as a Free Transit Pass) for eligible travelers who are transiting through Singapore’s Changi Airport and meet certain criteria. The Transit Visa is designed for travelers who have a layover in Singapore and are connecting to a third country within a specific timeframe of 4 days (96 hours). Eligibility for the Transit Visa depends on various factors, including your nationality, the length of your layover, and whether you meet certain conditions.
On-arrival Transit Visa
Eligibility: Holding a valid onward air ticket to a third country within a specific timeframe (usually within 96 hours). Possess a valid visa or long-term pass for your final destination (if required). Have a confirmed flight reservation for the next leg of your journey. Eligibility can vary based on your nationality, so make sure to check the specific criteria applicable to your situation.
Application Process: In most cases, the Transit Visa is obtained upon arrival at Changi Airport’s immigration checkpoints.
Documentation: You’ll need to provide your valid passport, confirmed onward air ticket, and any other required documentation.
Exceptions: If you’re from a visa-required country, but you have a valid visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States, you might be eligible for the Transit Without Visa (TWOV) facility for 96 hours.
Application Fee: As of my last update, there was no application fee for the Transit Visa (Free Transit Pass). However, please verify this information, as policies can change.
Bangladesh Transit Visa Guidelines
The transit visa is intended for travelers who are transiting through Bangladesh and have a layover before continuing to their destination. Transit visas usually allow you to stay in Bangladesh for a short period, typically not exceeding 72 hours, and need to stay within the international transit area of the airport and not exit the airport during your layover. This duration might vary based on your nationality and specific circumstances.
Eligibility: To be eligible for a Bangladesh transit visa, you usually need to provide proof of an onward flight ticket to a third country within a specific timeframe (often 72 hours or less). Some nationalities might require a visa even for transit purposes, while others might be exempt. Check with the Bangladeshi embassy or consulate to confirm the requirements for your nationality.
Application Process: The application process for a Bangladesh transit visa might involve applying to the Bangladeshi embassy or consulate in your home country or at the nearest Bangladeshi diplomatic mission.
Documentation: You’ll likely need to provide documents such as a valid passport, confirmed onward flight ticket, and any other documentation required by the authorities.
Transit Visa Fees: Transit visa fees can vary based on your nationality and the duration of your stay.
Check with the Bangladeshi embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date information on visa fees.
Online Visa Application (e-Visa):
Bangladesh has introduced an e-Visa system for certain nationalities, which may also include the option to apply for a transit visa online before your travel. The e-Visa application process usually involves filling out an online form, uploading required documents, and making the necessary payment.
Indian tourists visiting Bhutan are not required to obtain a visa. However, they must need to obtain an entry permit. This entry permit can either be obtained in advance through a local travel agency or upon arrival at the entry point.
Indian nationals with valid Indian passports or voter cardholders can enter Bhutan by flight to Paro or the bordering towns of Phuntsholing and Samdrupjongkhar. Day visitors to bordering towns are exempted without a permit for a duration of 12 hours. However, if wish to travel beyond these designated areas and overnight stay in a border town must pay SDF. Day visitors or daily visitors are charged a User Fee of Nu.10 per person for using the Pedestrian Terminal for entry and exit.
Document Requirements for Bhutan Permit:
Indian tourists need to present the following valid documents to obtain a Bhutan permit upon arrival or send these documents to their local travel agency for obtaining a Bhutan e-permit in advance:
Valid passport or Voter ID (with a validity of at least 6 months before departure)
Copy of valid travel insurance
Recent passport-sized photograph
Payment of the daily sustainable development fees in INR
Note: Tourists traveling independently need to arrange for local Bhutanese guide services in advance and provide a hotel confirmation voucher. To apply for an online permit by yourself, visit the Bhutan Immigration web portal- https://visit.doi.gov.bt/
Daily Sustainable Development Fees (SDF):
In line with the Bhutan Tourism Levy Act 2020, Indian tourists are required to pay a nominal daily sustainable development fee per person per night, in addition to their daily expenses. In case, entry and exit by bordering town will be exempted from paying one night SDF.
INR 1,200/- per person per night (for adults aged 13 years and above)
INR 600 per person per night (for children aged 6-12 years)
Children below 5 years are exempt from this fee.
This fee has been implemented to preserve the country’s ecology, promote the development of tourist amenities, and manage the increasing tourist influx.
Indian-registered vehicles can enter the designated zone without charges. However, if a vehicle crosses the Rinchending Check Post in Phuentsholing, a Green Tax of Nu 4,500 per day is applicable. Vehicle owners must also register on the Check Post Management System (CPMS) https://1010.bt/epass/apply/ to pass the RBP checkpoints.
Required Documents for Vehicles:
Original driving license
Original Registration Certificate (vehicle registration must not exceed 10 years from the registration date)
Vehicle emission and roadworthiness certificate
If the driver and owner are different, an authority letter from the owner to the driver is needed.
Pedestrian Terminal at Jaigaon-Phuentsholing Border:
The Pedestrian Terminal at the Jaigaon-Phuentsholing border operates 24 hours. An online pre-registration system is available at the website-https://bms.doi.gov.bt. Successful registration generates a QR code that must be presented along with the required identity document at the immigration counter.
In June 2022, the National Assembly of Bhutan passed the new tourism levy bill, introducing changes to the Bhutan tourist fees and visa policy. Tourists can now visit Bhutan without paying the minimum daily package rate (MDPR). Instead, they are required to pay sustainable development fees (SDF) of USD 200 per person, per night, regardless of the length of stay. Additionally, there is a one-time non-refundable visa fee of USD 40. Besides SDF and visa fees, tourists need to pay additional or separate charges for accommodations, transportation, and other logistical aspects of Bhutan trips. This revised policy allows tourists the option to travel without going through a travel agency. However, prior confirmation of hotel and guide services is still required to process Bhutan visas independently through the immigration website. You can check out the Bhutan Immigration weblink for more details.>>>>>>>
Documents Required for Visa Processing
To process your Bhutan visa, you will need to provide the following documents:
A digital copy of a valid passport.
A recent digital passport photo.
Arrival and departure dates.
Valid travel insurance for the duration of your trip.
SDF payment details.
Typically, you can expect to receive an email copy of your Bhutan visa approximately 10 days before your intended travel date.
Incentive for Extended Stays
To encourage visitors to have a more immersive experience in Bhutan and gain a deeper understanding of its culture, the Bhutanese government has introduced a long-stay incentive. Travelers staying for more than 4 nights can benefit from a tiered discount on their SDF waiver:
4 + 4: Pay the SDF of USD 200 per person, per night, for the first four nights and receive up to four additional nights without the daily levy.
7 + 7: Pay the SDF of USD 200 per person, per night, for the first seven nights and receive up to seven additional nights without the daily levy.
12 + 18: Pay the SDF of USD 200 per person, per night, for the first twelve nights and receive up to eighteen additional nights without the daily levy.
The above calculation looks a bit complicated, and you may refer below for an easy understanding of how immigration offers a discount based on nights.
Total SDF Payable Per Person
4 to 8
USD 0 to 800
11 to 14
USD 800 to 1400
20 to 30
USD 1600 to 3600
Please note that these long-stay incentives will be valid until December 31, 2024.
Before the pandemic, my normal was work, work, work. Little time for family and friends as most of my day was spent settling disagreements between staff, tour guides, and drivers. However, the pandemic has turned my world, and all of Bhutan’s, upside down. Even though I now have plenty of leisure time to spend with my two sweet daughters, I still have to follow COVID-19 protocols issued by the government and, therefore, have little interaction with friends and colleagues. So, when the opportunity came for me to travel to Gangtey to help map out a new horseback riding tour, I hastily agreed.
In mid-December, I packed my bags and embarked on a short journey to Gangtey with my boss and ranch manager. To reach Gangtey, we traveled over the Dochula Pass to Punakha and then through Wangdue Phodrang. The drive from Dochula to Punakha was fascinating, as the local public was preparing for the National Day of Bhutan celebration to be held on December 17 in the Punakha Dzong. This date is important as it marks the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first Druk Gyalpo of modern Bhutan. After a wonderful, pure Bhutanese lunch at Lobesa, we purchased fresh vegetables for our trip since we will be preparing our own meals each day.
Village Ride & 360 Degree Ride
Today, I was the last person to awaken (I am blaming it on the long drive the day before) and partake of morning tea. After breakfast, we hurried to the field to meet the horses. Our ranch manager/horse guide extraordinaire, Mr. Kenzang, provided a short riding lesson and then we were off on our adventure! Norbu, my chosen steed, was a perfect choice for me.
On our first day, we were lucky enough to ride near the endangered, black-necked cranes. We were able to get pretty close to the birds, which is unusual. It was worth the day’s ride just to see the cranes up close. If you go to the information center for the black-necked cranes, you get to look through telescopes to see them, getting up close is not an option. As we continued our ride to the Lawok village, we passed through several villages spread out along the wandering clear stream that divides the valley. Lawok village is one of the biggest settlements in Phobjikha and is not often visited by tourists. I believe it is one of the prettiest villages in the Phobjikha zone. It is truly picturesque, with mountains above and the stream below going through the valley. Flocks of sheep can be found on either side of the riding trail grazing in the flats and the villagers can be found working in the fields.
The next day, I was not the last awake this morning, we planned a riding trail that is a 360-degree ride through dwarf rhododendron and pine forests to the ridgeline above the valley. From here you see an amazing 360-degree panoramic view of the entire Gangtey valley. It was a breathtaking view that we want to share with the world through our new tour. During the first two days of our ride, we rode at a slow leisurely pace to enjoy the scenery and to plot our future trail rides for upcoming tours.
We still covered more ground than we anticipated in the two days. I consider myself a novice rider, so trust me, you do not need the experience to take this tour. I really enjoyed the ride, the camaraderie, and the views of the valley are next to none. Our horses are well-trained and steady mounts and are suitable for all levels of rider, beginner through expert. By this evening, we are about halfway through the new riding tour.
Ride to Gogona & Khotokha Valley.
The next morning, we ride towards Gogona and the Khotokha Valley. Today we picked up the pace a bit and I learned what “Are you ready?” means. Let me tell you. When your guide says, “Are you ready?” it means that you better hold on a little tighter as we will be trotting or galloping. I found it most convenient to hold one hand on the reins and the other on the saddle to help with balance while galloping.
Our ride begins from the ranch as we follow the trail beneath Gangtey Monastery towards the black-necked crane information center. It was really interesting trotting along an ancient trail through the pine forest to the Tsele La (3430m) pass. As we made our ascent, the view of Phobjikha Valley was spectacular. The area is a corridor for conservation such as Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, and Wangchuck Centennial National Park. After the pass, we begin our descent through juniper trees to the Chubja settlement and the Gogona temple and village. The Gogona village is spread out over several meadows and most families living here make a living through farming. Tonight, we stayed in a local farmhouse, an experience that I highly recommend for those that want to truly experience all that Bhutan has to offer.
The next morning, we visited the Gogona community milk processing unit, which was fascinating. It was initiated in 1986 under Swiss assistance. Once we remounted our trusty steeds, we left the village following an ancient trail through thick hemlock trees to the Shobe La pass (3475m). From this mountain pass, there is a long and wonderful descent through mystical rhododendron woodlands that transform into pine timberland with amazing undergrowth. At the end of the ride, we reached the Khothokha Village where we had a picnic lunch before returning to the Gogona village for our overnight stay. With all the hours of riding and trotting and galloping, I now feel that I am a much-advanced rider and the answer to the question “Are you ready?” is always Yes
On waking the next morning, I received word from my dearest wife of rumors of an eminent lockdown in Thimphu due to COVID-19. We felt it prudent to cut our trip short and return to Thimphu. Rather than riding back, we drove over 2 hours to Gangtey and then straight away to Thimphu. Even though the car ride was long, I returned to Thimphu feeling rejuvenated, as I was able to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty that is always part of Bhutan’s countryside. Upon our return to Thimphu, we discovered that the rumor of a lockdown was, in truth, a fact. For the first time Bhutan has experienced community spread from COVID-19 and, in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, conduct contact tracing and testing, the people of Bhutan were asked to endure another, more serious lockdown. At present, we are expected to remain in total lockdown until early January 2021. However, we are hopeful that vaccines will prove successful and we can, once again, welcome travelers to Bhutan in 2021.
If you are interested in knowing more about riding in Gangtey, please visit our prepared itinerary for trail riding in Gangtey. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us, we will respond as soon as we can