Is it Expensive to Travel Bhutan? — Bhutan Tour Costs

Is it Expensive to Travel Bhutan? — Bhutan Tour Costs

By CarolUpdated Sep. 24, 2021

Bhutan, nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, is rich in natural resources like mountains, rivers, and forests as well as diverse flora and fauna. The country believes in retaining its authentic culture and lifestyle, and Starbucks and McDonalds are yet to make an appearance. These examples show that the Bhutanese like to keep a tab on foreign influences so that they don’t lose their cultural identity.

To protect the country from being overwhelmed by mass tourism, the Bhutan government has adopted a “High Cost, Low Impact” policy. This means that they charge tourists a fixed travel fee per day. Unless you are an Indian, Maldivian, or Bangladeshi, you will be charged a minimum daily travel fee of US$200 or US$250 per person.

Most travelers prefer to stay in Bhutan for about 4–5 days and combine it with a trip to India. A typical 5-day itinerary covering Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, and Tiger’s Nest Monastery may cost around US$1250–1500 per person (based on group size). The fees include private guides and drivers, meals, accommodation, entrance fees, and taxes.

At first glance, this may seem expensive, but if you learn more about what this money goes toward and why this system was introduced, you will agree that a trip to Bhutan offers value for money.

Quick Facts

  • The Government of Bhutan has adopted a “High Cost, Low Impact” policy, which means that travelers need to pay seasonal daily travel fees of US$200 or US$250 per person.
  • Tourism is the most critical industry in Bhutan, and the daily tourist fee is used for the country’s development.
  • Most of your travel fees will go toward health care, education, and environmental protection.
  • A great way to make the most of your budget is to plan a tour in the low season, travel with more than three people, and book a flight as early as possible.
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Why Is Bhutan More Expensive Than Other South Asian Countries?

Compared with neighboring countries such as India and Nepal, Bhutan’s travel costs can appear high.

One reason is that a part of the daily tourist fees goes to the government as tax. About 30% of your tour free will go toward supporting health care, education, environmental protection, as well as preserving Bhutan’s culture.

Bhutan is a landlocked country with limited export or industrial activity due to its mountainous terrain. The tourist fee that the government charges is crucial for the country’s development. By charging this tax, the government is trying to balance its developmental needs as well as its well-preserved culture.

Charging a high tourist fee is also a way of limiting tourist numbers while providing high-quality services to travelers. Aside from the daily cost, which is capped at US$200 or US$250, you should add a visa fee and extra tariffs in case less than three people are touring the country.

The Bhutan Government Intends to Protect Its Culture and Wilderness

Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world that has never been conquered by foreign forces. The country remained isolated from the rest of the world until the mid-1970s. Aware of the possible consequences of high international tourism, the government has imposed restrictions on the number of tourists who are allowed to enter each year.

At least 40% of the land is covered by pristine parks and sanctuaries. The Government of Bhutan is keen to protect its wilderness as much as possible. Its wild beauty is unlike anything you will see in the world; keep an eye out for the endangered black-necked cranes.

Avoiding cultural dilution and environmental degradation are some of the significant incentives for the government to maintain its high tourism fee: Bhutan believes the high tourist tax guarantees a “high value and low impact.” Every traveler needs to pay a high price to lower the negative impact of the country’s tourism.

Tourist Fee for Health Care and Education

Bhutan is still a developing country in many ways. Until the tourism industry took off, there was minimal infrastructure in the country. The government collects a tax of US$65 from the minimum daily tariff, known as the Sustainable Development Fee or Tourism Royalty Fee. 

This part of the fee is used to fund infrastructure development, education, and free public health care services. This may seem an unusual system, but it does help the country become a more sustainable and comfortable place to travel and live in.

What Does the Minimum Daily Package Include?

Except for Indian, Bangladeshi, and Maldivian nationals, all visitors to Bhutan are subject to a minimum tariff based on the number of days spent in Bhutan.

  • Price in low seasons (winter/summer): US$200 per person per day (December–February and June–August)
  • Price in peak seasons (spring/fall): US$250 per person per day (March–May and September–November)

 

Although a part of the fees is reserved for environmental protection and domestic taxes, a significant portion will be used for your travel expenses. Your daily fee includes your accommodation, meals, guide, driver, and car.

1. Private Tour Guide

A licensed English-speaking tour guide will accompany you throughout your journey. Being a tourist guide is a prestigious occupation in Bhutan, and it takes years of training to become a tour guide. They know the country’s history to the last detail and can tell you all about Bhutan’s flora and fauna, attractions, and culture.

2. Private Vehicle

You can enjoy private land transfers between airports, hotels, and scenic spots while sightseeing within the country. Usually, this means a comfortable 4x4 or medium-sized tour van. A friendly driver will also be ready to help you carry your luggage.

3. Daily Meals

The traveler fee includes three meals daily — breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is usually provided in your hotel. Lunch and dinner are typically at local restaurants. If you are vegetarian or vegan, we can ensure that your culinary needs are met. If you wish to have meals in a luxurious hotel, you need to bear the additional costs.

4.Accommodation

Hotels range from 3 to 5 stars in Bhutan. The minimum daily package means that you will have at least 3-star hotel accommodation during your stay in Bhutan. This includes a variety of hotels or homestays that enable you to interact with residents. 

The 3-star hotels are comparative with most international hotels, with clean and comfortable rooms. You can also spend a few days at a homestay during your trip. The homestays included in the minimum daily package are equivalent to staying in a 3-star hotel. They provide food and other facilities.

If you want to stay at a better hotel, you must be ready to pay several hundred dollars more per day. The higher-end hotels include 4- or 5-star hotels of international standard. You can also book luxurious resorts with spas in Paro and Thimphu.  

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5. Other Inclusions

The traveler fee also includes the entrance fee to scenic spots, camping equipment for trekking tours, and taxes.

6. Surcharge

The daily package fee includes all the necessary expenses for your stay in Bhutan. The standard costs not included in this fee are visa fees and an additional tax if you are traveling alone or if there are less than three people in your group. To give you an overall idea, we have calculated the tour fee that you will need to pay per person per day if you are staying in 3-star accommodation.

Group Size Low Season Peak Season
One person US$290 US$340
Two people US$280 US$330
Three or more people US$240 US$290

 

  • A visa fee of US$40 per person is added to the total cost of your tour. Once you make the payment, you will receive a clearance letter with a confirmation code from the Tourism Council. Your visa will be stamped on your passport upon your arrival.
  • If you plan to travel solo, an extra single room supplement fee of US$50 per day is levied.
  • A surcharge of US$40 per person per day is added if just two people are traveling. For a group of more than three people, there are no extra charges.
  • For those interested in hiking with high-quality camping equipment, the travel fees will be hundreds of dollars more. You should ask your travel agent about the detailed pricing.

5. Additional Expenses

Other costs include voluntary tips you pay to your guide and driver or for souvenir and alcohol purchases during your tour. Internal flight transfers and flights to Bhutan, as well as travel insurance, must be shown to your travel agent before you travel.

Bhutan Is Worth the Money

Bhutan is one of the quietest and most beautiful countries in the world. You must travel to this lesser-known travel destination at least once in your lifetime. For such a small country, Bhutan has plenty to offer. Buddhism is the main religion there, and it has a strong influence on the daily life of the Bhutanese.

Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest Monastery, which is situated on a rock face 900 m (2900 ft) above the valley floor, is a must-visit attraction in Bhutan. From dzongs to monasteries, you will enjoy many Buddhist-style architectural marvels in the country. Based on the duration of your tour, you can also choose to visit Punakha Dzong, the second-oldest and second-largest dzong in Bhutan.

The country boasts a diversity of plants and animals. More than 70% of Bhutan’s land is covered with forests. There are 37 known species of animals housed in Jigme Dorji National Park. The animals range from snow leopards and tigers to Himalayan black bears and red pandas.

Royal Manas National Park is a sanctuary for a wide variety of birds, plants, and animals, including some rare and endangered species. There are more than 500 species of flora, 400 species of birds, and over 180 species of butterflies there.

Bhutan is considered a paradise for hikers. The Snowman Trek will take you through the most beautiful trails and give you a chance to see the majestic Himalayas. The real attraction is that these trails are traversed only by a handful of trekkers every season. The Bumthang Owl Trek will take you along the famous Drangela Pass.

The Bhutanese people are amicable and love to engage with tourists. It’s easy to meet locals when you have a friendly local guide around you all day. There are very few countries in the world that will offer you such a warm welcome.

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Make the Most of Your Budget

1. Seasonal variations and early flight bookings can make your trip to Bhutan cost-effective. You can pay a lower fee during the off seasons (December/January/February and June/July/August) in Bhutan.

2. Book a few months in advance to enjoy lower fares.

3. Travel with more than three people to avoid paying extra taxes.

Explore Bhutan with Asia Highlights

Don’t hesitate to plan your trip to Bhutan with us. We will be happy to hear about your travel plans and will help you organize your bookings. Our travel advisor will provide you with professional consultation and feasible solutions.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights

  • Tailor-made experience: All of your ideas/needs will be carefully considered to create your ideal trip.
  • Worry-free planning: Every step of your trip, you will be looked after by your 1:1 travel consultant based in Asia.
  • No-risk booking: We refund as much as we can and adapt flexibly to unexpected changes.

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