When you talk about Bhutan, lots of questions come up. “Omg! It’s really hard to go there right?” “It’s super expensive!” “There’s a limit on the number of visas issued to tourists!” Because relatively few people have been to Bhutan, there’s a lot of confusion and hearsay. We get it. It sounds pretty complicated and the entire process really confusing, but it’s truly not.
We’re here to debunk some common myths and misunderstandings people have. By the end of this article, we’ll eliminate any confusion you may have and you’ll realize that with some planning, you too can experience happiness in the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
1. Visitor quotas
This myth is actually rooted in fact. The Royal Government of Bhutan used to limit the number of visitors to 5,000 a year up until 1999. They believed -and rightfully so- that unrestricted access would have detrimental impacts not just on their carefully preserved culture, but on the natural environment they strive to conserve.
Currently, there is no quota on the number of tourists allowed to visit Bhutan. We repeat (because we get asked this question so. many. times.) THERE IS NO QUOTA! Spread the word! However, as Bhutan is only served by 2 airlines flying relatively few routes, the number of visitors is limited to the capacity of the planes serving those routes.
For Druk Air flight schedule, click here
2. It is difficult to get a visa for Bhutan
Having cleared the air that there is no actual visitor quota, you can’t just up and go. With the exception of passport holders from India, Bangladesh and Maldives, all other foreigners must obtain a visa before being permitted to enter Bhutan.
In keeping with Bhutan’s highly regulated policy of “High Value, Low Impact Tourism,” visas can only be applied for on your behalf by a licensed Bhutan Tour Operator, with whom you will have to book your tour (don’t let the word tour freak you out. It’ll be a private trip with you and your travel companions, you won’t suddenly be lumped together with another massive group) and organize your trip. Basically, once you have booked and paid for your trip, leave everything -including worrying about your visa- to your agent.
For more information about visas, click here
3. Travel to Bhutan is really expensive
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The daily tariff. All tourists must pay a daily tariff of US$250 per day during the peak tourist season (March – May) and US$200 during the non-peak (December – February) season with a surcharge of US$40/30 per person for single/pair travellers. Grab your friends, travel in a group of 3 or more and enjoy (some) savings!
What most people don’t realize is that this amount covers A LOT of stuff. Let’s break it down for you. It includes the following:
Private guided tour
Visas for Bhutan
3 meals a day at designated restaurants/hotels
Accommodation at 3* hotels
A licensed and qualified English speaking guide
An experienced driver
A tour vehicle
Entry fees & road permits
Government fees, royalty, taxes & surcharges
Mineral bottled water throughout your stay
Set of traditional costume (to be returned at the end of the stay) **
Full service & assistance before, during and after your trip **
** Druk Asia customers only
You end up not having to take much cash when you’re there. We tell our customers to bring about US$200 for tips, souvenirs, drinks etc. Not so bad after all, huh?
For more information about our packages, click here
4. Travelling during the non-peak period is not recommended
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Bhutan is great all seasons of the year. Having said that, there are peak travel periods (spring and autumn) that tend to happen during the festival season and when the weather is optimal for trekking.
The non-peak months of summer and winter have their benefits as well. Winter is a fantastic time for photography with clear, sunny skies and amazing lighting, snowcapped peaks in the distance, a chance to see the endangered Black-necked cranes and if you’re (very) lucky, even a chance of snowfall.
If you’re not one for the cold, consider visiting in summer. Expect to see lush greenery and rainbows crowning majestic landscapes, along with some smaller scale festivals and generally pleasant temperatures. Expect some rain as summer also happens to be the monsoon season. This is usually limited to light rainfall during the mornings. As Dolly Parton said, “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
On top of everything else, expect to 1) see less tourists 2) save US$50 on the daily visa during the non-peak months. Ka-ching!
To read up on best times to visit Bhutan based on your interests and preference, click here
5. I can’t travel alone, free and easy style
Imagine travelling alone high up in the mountains of the mystical Last Shangri-La with a view to die for and prayer flags fluttering in the distance… that image alone conjures the feeling of finding one’s true life purpose. I mean, people do go there seeking happiness after all.
But if you’re a tourist in Bhutan, alone = you + guide + driver. They’re not there to invade your personal space or ask prying questions, merely to explain the sights and culture of Bhutan to you to ensure you get the best out of your trip. Everyone needs a little company sometimes… amirite.
Good news on the free and easy bit though. Your itinerary is completely customizable, so you get to decide which daily activities you’d like to do or skip, and we can help plan it according to your specific interests. If you want to be alone alone, add meditation to your itinerary.
There! Not so complicated anymore, huh?
For all your enquiries, reach us at [email protected]
To stay up to date on news and tips, join our newsletter at drukasia.com