Bhutan was one of the last countries (post COVID-19) to open its borders to the world. Starting 23rd September 2022, tourists will be allowed to enter the country, without facing any quarantine, or other restrictions.
The Tourism Council of Bhutan now known as Department Of Tourism took these two years to develop new tourism policies and upgrade their tourism infrastructure. Listed below are the new rules for Indians to travel to Bhutan. So if you are planning a trip to Bhutan in the near future, do keep in mind the new rules and regulations.
Sustainable development Fee (SDF): Pre COVID, tourists from SAARC countries were exempt from paying the SDF, with the surcharge only being levied on tourists from all other countries.
As stated by the Department Of Tourism the SDF is collected to “ensure that tourists visit Bhutan in sustainable numbers and that the small kingdom continues to offer guests tranquillity and an intimate experience. The SDF is collected by the national exchequer and funds are allocated to various projects that enhance facilities, services and infrastructure for Bhutanese nationals and visitors, as well as funding free healthcare and education”.
Indians will now need to pay INR 1200 (= 1200 Ngultrum) per day in addition to the cost of other services.
Immigration & Permits: While Indians are exempt from requiring a visa to enter Bhutan, they do need a permit. While it can be procured on arrival, it is advisable to procure the permit online, or through a Bhutanese travel company.
Earlier where you could first enter Phuentsholing, spend a night and complete your immigration formalities the next day. Now, you need to enter Bhutan, through the new Immigration terminal connecting Jaigaon and Phuentsholing. It is also preferable to carry your passport (instead of your voter id card), which needs to be stamped in and out.
Driving an Indian Car in Bhutan : Pre COVID, Indians were free to drive their own vehicles throughout Bhutan. Permits from the Road Safety & Transport Authority (“RSTA”) until Punakha could be procured from the RSTA office in Phuentsholing, whereas permits for central and eastern Bhutan were to be procured from the RSTA office in Thimphu. While this process has now been centralised, a green fee of INR 4,500 (= 4500 Ngultrum) per day has been levied on Indian vehicles plying in Bhutan. With Self-Drive rentals difficult to procure, the road-trip enthusiasts will now have to shell out this sum, or settle for chauffeur driven cars, or locally registered motorcycles.
Guides: Unlike foreigners, Indians did not need a guide to accompany them on their travels through Bhutan before tourism halted due to COVID. However, the policies are now similar for Indian’s where a registered tour guide must accompany you for the duration of your trip!
If you’re interested in a road-trip to Bhutan, then you must take a look at our upcoming trip to Bhutan in May 2023. OneLatitude conducts two family driving holidays to Bhutan each year, with special permissions taken to self-drive Bhutanese registered vehicles.