The Royal Government of Bhutan recognizes that tourism is a world-wide phenomenon and an important means of achieving socioeconomic development particularly for developing countries like Bhutan. It also recognizes that tourism, in affording the opportunity to travel, can help in promoting understanding among peoples and building closer ties of friendship based on appreciation and respect for different cultures and lifestyles.
There are, however, problems associated with tourism which, if not controlled, can have devastating and irreversible impact on the local environment, culture and identity of the people. Realizing these problems and the fact that the resources on which tourism is based are limited, the tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable and economically viable. The number of tourists visiting Bhutan is regulated to a manageable level because of the lack of infrastructure.
Towards achieving this objective, the Royal Government, since inception of tourism in the year 1974, has adopted a very cautious approach to growth and development of the tourism industry in Bhutan. In order to minimize the problems, the number of tourists has been maintained at a manageable level and this control on number is exercised through a policy of government regulated tourist tariff and a set of administrative requirements explained in the following Sections.
Tourism in Bhutan was privatized by the Royal Government of Bhutan in 1991. Today it is a vibrant business with 33 private operators at the helm of affairs. The Royal Government of Bhutan adheres strongly to a policy of low volume, high value tourism.
VISA TO BHUTAN
Tourists to Bhutan are obliged to use Druk Air (the only airline serving Bhutan) either on entering or leaving the country. The Government may refuse entry to those wishing to visit for mountaineering, publicity and other research activities.
Valid passport required by all.
Required by all except nationals of India.
(a) There are two ways of entering Bhutan: by air to Paro Airport or by road to the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. All travelers entering the country by road must ensure that they have the necessary documentation for transiting through that part of India to Phuentsholing. Visitors are also advised to contact the Government of India Tourist Office to check exactly what special permits or other documents may be necessary as these regulations are subject to change at short notice.
(b) Visitors are required to book with a registered tour operator in Bhutan, which can be done directly through an affiliated travel agent abroad.
(c) A yellow fever certificate is required by all if arriving within six days from an infected area.
Types of visa and cost
Tourist: US$20 (payable in hard currency).
Visas are initially granted for stays of up to 14 days. The Bhutan Tourism Corporation Limited (BTCL) can apply for an extension of tourist visas for an additional fee per person.
Visa applications for all tourists processed by the travel/tour agent through the Tourism Authority of Bhutan (TAB). Only once the visa has been cleared can visitors travel to Bhutan. Visas are issued (stamped in passport) on arrival at Paro Airport or at Phuentsholing check post.
(a) Application forms, which may be obtained from the BTCL, who should be contacted directly.
(b) Faxed details of passport to the BTCL prior to arrival.
(c) All necessary documents for transiting India.
(d) Confirmed onward or return ticket.
(e) Sufficient funds for length of stay (Mar-May, Sep-Nov: US$200 per day; Jun-Aug, Dec-Feb: US$165 per day).
(g) Two passport-size photos.
Working days required
Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process and should be applied for at least 60 days prior to arrival in Bhutan.
Note: Travelers must arrange any visit to Bhutan through an authorized travel agent. Those traveling independently are not permitted to enter Bhutan. Most visits are trouble-free.