By: Parallels & Meridians
A short guide to planning a trip to Bhutan
Travel is a passion for many of us. We are addicted to that surge of excitement when we book our tickets; board the plane, train, bus or even a cycle! We drown ourselves into that tingling sensation of looking ahead and knowing that we are headed to our ‘unknown’. However, we are all aware that traveling is not all romance. Planning a trip can also be a thorn in the flesh and it can leave us disheartened.
Bhutan, the beautiful mystery of the Himalayas, is on every traveler’s bucket list, but planning the trip might be quite a hassle! So, here are a few things that will help you plan better!
1. You can enter Bhutan only through tour operators.
Indians, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals, rejoice! Not only are you eligible for visa on arrival; you can also book your travels without a tour operator! For everyone else though, you need to book a tour through a tour operator. This is the only way you will be granted a travel visa. Not only that, it is highly recommend that your tours be booked by government recognized tour operators.
Honestly, we like the whole tour operator mandate. True, we will not have the freedom to go anywhere and everywhere we want, as we have planned itineraries, but we get to witness the beauty of Bhutan and understand her story too.
2. Visa on arrival is not an option.
As mentioned above, only three nationals are eligible for visa on arrival. For all other nationalities, you need to have visa clearance before flying to Bhutan. Acquiring a visa will not be difficult if you do it through a tour operator, which is basically the only way you can get to Bhutan anyway.
3. There are only two airline companies flying to Bhutan.
Do not be surprised when you search for flight tickets to Bhutan and end up with none. This is a head’s up! There are only two airline companies and 8 pilots authorized to fly you to Bhutan — Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines.
4. The $250 daily tariff.
The $250 daily tariff is not a myth; nonetheless, it is not as bad as it sounds. It includes a minimum or 3 star accommodation, all meals, a tour guide for the duration of your stay, internal transportation and camping equipment! Of course, $250 is a lot of money for one day, but if considered properly, it is not as expensive as it sounds.
5. And finally, a friendly reminder, be respectful of the Drukpa’s culture.
Bhutan is a country that was isolated from the rest of the world till recently; until 1999, the television and Internet was banned in the country. The isolation was in attempt to protect and preserve the Bhutanese culture, which is fair enough. Two things that we should be sensitive of are the religion, Buddhism, which is considered to be a way of life and the Royal family, who is adored by their people.
We hope you have a lovely time in Bhutan! And if you want, maybe you can tell us of the mysterious adventures you experienced. We would love to hear them! Cheers!