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Bhutan Tourism Regulation

Tourism has not been that much widespread in Bhutan as we look after preserving and nurturing our culture and traditions. Bhutanese are immensely religious people, and therefore it would be a good idea to respect and understand the local customs and way of life, especially while visiting those places of religious significance. 

Tourism Industry in Bhutan is founded with the principle of sustainability in mind, which means that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable, and also economically feasible. 

Visitors may experience Bhutan only on all-inclusive package tours, for which a fixed daily tariff is set by the Royal Government of Bhutan. 

Bhutan Visa

Your passport must have at least 6 months' validity. You will also make sure that you have an additional page for a visa for Bhutan, as well as space for the visas for any countries you are visiting en route. If you need to get a new passport please do so well before your planned trip so that there is no delay in applying for your Bhutanese visa. 

The visa is issued by the Ministry of Home and Culture Affairs within Bhutan, as Bhutan has very few embassies abroad. No foreign missions abroad grant Bhutanese tourist visas. You may apply in advance through a tour operator, such as Yeoong Travels, and receive confirmation that your application has been approved before you travel to Bhutan. 

The information required is the following – 1) a passport identity page scanned and sent through email, 2) a recent and clear scan of passport-sized photograph, 3) your level of education, 4) your profession/occupation and, 5) postal address and contact numbers. 

Once you send your personal information, Yeoong Travels submits an online visa application. The visa is not issued until the TCB (Tourism Council of Bhutan) has checked that the full tour payment has been received into its bank account. 

The confirmation and reference number is then sent to Yeoong Travels, and a copy will be forwarded to you. You have to show this at the check-in desk for Druk Air. You cannot board the Druk Air flight without this document, so it is very important to have it along with your passport. 

Upon your arrival in the country, either at Paro Airport or at Phuentsholing/Samdrup Jonkhar/Gyelephu (if you are entering by road) the actual visa is stamped on the passport. 

Please keep in mind that the visa is issued for exactly the same number of days and dates as booked by you. If circumstances arise for a visa extension once you are in Bhutan, it can be arranged.

Permits

Route permits are required when moving between all districts in Bhutan, except from Paro to Thimpu. Yeoong Travels obtains a permit for the places mentioned in your itinerary, and this permit is checked and endorsed at the immigration checkpoints strategically located at important road junctions.

Tourists to visit the courtyards of dzongs and, where feasible, one designated lhakhang (temple) in each dzong but only when accompanied by a licensed Bhutanese tour guide. This provision is subject to certain restrictions, including visiting hours, dress standards and other rules that vary by district. Note that dzongs are open to all during the time of a festival. You may visit the courtyard, but not the inside of the temples, if your trip coincides with a festival. 

Accessibility

The most convenient way of entering Bhutan is by Druk Air, the country’s national (and so far only) carrier. As flights can be delayed due to weather conditions (particularly during the summer months), it is advisable to allow 24 hours before any onward connection. 

Druk Air is the only airline flying to Bhutan.
  • Two A319 aircraft with 20 business class seats and 94 economy class seats.
  • ATR Flight.
  • We have only one international airport and it is situated at an elevation of 2,200 meters in Paro, Bhutan.
The gateway cities into Paro, Bhutan are: 
  • Bangkok
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Kolkata, India
  • Gaya, India
  • New Delhi, India
  • Bagdora, India
  • Guwahati, India
  • Katmandu, Nepal

Baggage weight limits are: 
  • 30 kg for Business Class
  • 20 kg for Economy Class

Extra luggage cost per kilogram is:
  • US $5.00 / kg from BKK
  • US $4.00 / kg from DEL
  • US $2.50 / kg from all others

Gateway by land:
Arrival or departure by land is also possible through the southern border town of Phuentsholing. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, West Bengal, about 4 hours drive away. Phuentsholing allows entry/exit for travelers wishing to visit the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal along with Bhutan. It is possible to arrange land exit through the southeastern border town of Samdrup Jongkhar, which is approximately 3 hours drive from Guwahati, capital of the Indian state of Assam. Please check with Yeoong Travel if you are interested in this route.

Flight Connection

It would be very convenient if you arrive at Bangkok, Delhi or Kathmandu, one day earlier to the Druk Air departure for Bhutan. Druk Air flights usually depart early in the morning. We cannot be held responsible if you miss the connection to Bhutan, though we will do our best to help you get on the next flight and to extend your visa. All additional costs incurred will be borne by you. Similarly, on the return journey, we would not advise you to book a flight which connects on the same day unless you have a ticket that allows some flexibility. Druk Air flight schedules are subject to weather conditions in the mountains and are often altered at the last minute.

Flight Frequency and Air Fares

Our national airline flies several times a week between most of its destinations, but flight timings and frequency vary according to season. Druk Air's website www.drukair.com.bt includes details of current flight schedules and airfares (airfare cancellation policy). Please check the website or contact Yeoong Travels for the latest information when planning your travel arrangements. Please let us know if you would like the current flight schedule.

The magnificent mountain landscape en route is seen at its best in the winter months, when skies are generally very clear. While flying via Kathmandu to Paro you experience the most impressive view of the Himalayan Mountain Ranges, including the Everest region. Mountain Kanchenjunga is visible for some time on all routes when the weather is clear. Flying to and fro from Bhutan is a lifetime experience to be cherished.

Customs

Visitors have to complete a passenger declaration form which will be checked by custom officials at the exit point. 

After collecting your baggage, you must decide which channel to take - Green Channel (nothing to declare) or the Red Channel (goods to declare). 

As per international risk management practice, random checks on your baggage may be conducted by the Customs official, even if you are proceeding through the Green Channel. 

The following articles are exempt from duty: -
  • the visitor shall be allowed to import temporarily free of Customs duty his/her personal effects and articles required for the visit, provided that items imported are for personal use and that the items will be re-exported on their leaving Bhutan.
  • 1 bottle of Spirits not larger than one liter.
  • 1 carton of Cigarettes (containing 200 pieces) subject to 100 percent customs duty and 100 percent sales tax
  • device, equipment or appliances for professional utilization
  • photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic gadget for personal use.

The articles mentioned under (d) & (e) must be declared on the declaration form. If these items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty. Visitors are required to surrender their forms to the Customs authorities while departing. 

Import/Export

Import/export of the following goods is prohibited
  • Arms, ammunitions and explosives
  • All narcotics and drugs excluding medically prescribed drugs
  • Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
  • Antiques

Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival. Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items cannot be exported without a clearance certificate.

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