ENTRY FORMALITIES FOR BHUTAN
Bhutan; the Land of Druks, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit on earth. Caressed by the magical charm of Eastern Himalayas, enchanted by celestial glaciers, adorned by pictorial valleys, historic villages, and blessed by ancient monasteries and dzongs, this scenic country makes it for an excellent vacation destination in the Asian subcontinent.
Sharing its limits with foreign countries like India, Tibet, and China, there are a total of three entry points through which visitors can step on the Land of Thunder Dragons. Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Gelephu are the three entry points to Bhutan. However, Phuentsholing among these is considered as the ideal entry point to Bhutan as this Druk town is located adjacent to an Indian town called Jaigaon in the Alipurduar district of West Bengal. Other two entry points – Samdrup Jongkhar and Gelephu, can be accessed easily from the Indian states of Assam.
However, in order to enter Bhutan, one must complete certain formalities and acquire a valid Bhutanese visa. Passports are not essentially required to acquire a valid visa to Bhutan, but while entering the Druk land, one must possess a valid passport with at least 6 months’ validity.
SAARC nationals from India, Bangladesh, and Maldives do not require any Bhutanese visa to visit the Happiest Himalayan Kingdom. However, citizens of these three countries must produce a valid voter’s ID issued by their country’s respective Election Commission and other national proof to procure an ‘Entry Permit’ to Bhutan. For an Indian citizen, voter’s ID issued Election Commission of India, AADHAAR Card, Driver’s Licence, etc. are mandatory while entering Bhutan.
While entering the Dragon Country, visitors from the above three mentioned countries would also require a completed Identification Slip and give an undertaking at the Bhutanese Immigration Centre to get the ‘Entry Permit’ that allows them to enter only Phuentsholing, Paro, and Thimphu.
In case, Indian citizens wishes to visit other tourist destinations in Bhutan, they need to apply for a ‘Special Area Permit’ that is issued either at Thimphu Immigration Office or Phuentsholing Immigration Office.
To note here, for Indian citizens below 18years, they need to accompanied by an adult while producing ID proofs issued by Indian Government or their schools.
For natives of Bangladesh and Maldives, they should also acquire an ‘Indian Transit Visa’ while making their way to Bhutan. To get an ‘Entry Permit’ to Bhutan, they must produce a valid passport with at least 90 days’ (for Bangladesh nationals) and 6 months’ (for citizens of Maldives) validity from the date of entering Bhutan.
For foreigners (excluding India, Bangladesh, and Maldives), they can apply for a Bhutanese Visa only through designated or tour operators approved by the Royal Government of Bhutan, or any of their local tour operators who are in ally with tour operators from Bhutan. As the tour gets booked, foreign nationals should pay 40USD to the tour agency to apply for a Bhutanese Visa.
Meanwhile, before the visa gets approved, foreign nationals should also book a valid Bhutan tour package by paying a daily fee of 200USD/day (for non-peak season – March to May and September to November) or 250USD/day (for peak season – December to February, June to July). Whether a peak season or a non-peak season, 65USD from the daily fee will go to Bhutan’s National Trust that is responsible for free education and healthcare in the country.
Once all these formalities are done, the visa application usually takes another 3-5 days. By the time visa gets approved, the Royal Government of Bhutan issues a ‘Letter of Invitation (LOI)’ for the foreign national which can be collected by the concerned tour operator. For foreign national flying to Paro International Airport, they can collect the ‘Letter of Invitation’ at the Immigration Desk at the airport prior to meeting their tour operator.
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