Guide of applying for a Visa for Bhutan

Guide of applying for a Visa for Bhutan

By CarolUpdated Jun. 9, 2021

Except for India, Maldives, and Bangladesh, citizens from all other countries need a visa to enter Bhutan. Visitors traveling to Bhutan from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives can obtain a permit at the port of entry. Citizens of all other countries need to apply for a visa before they travel. Unlike most countries in the world, Bhutan visas are not granted by consulates and embassies. The immigration department in Thimphu issues it.

There is only one way to apply for a Bhutan visa, i.e., through a travel agent. You can initialize your application through a licensed tour operator who is qualified to operate Bhutan tours, including local tour operators in Bhutan, travel agents in your resident country, or online travel agents. The travel agents will issue a permit through the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

Quick Facts

  • Paro International Airport is the only entry point by air.
  • Bhutan is only accessible by road from India, through Phuentsholing, Gelephu, and Samdrup Jongkhar.
  • A Bhutan visa can be processed only by a travel agent. It requires a clear scanned copy of your passport (photograph page).
  • The Bhutan visa fee is US$40 per person and is non-refundable.
  • A special permit is needed for entering some temples and restricted areas.

Entry Points to Bhutan

There are four legal entry points to Bhutan: Paro International Airport, and across the land border with India at Phuentsholing, Gelephu, and Samdrup Jongkhar.

By air, you will land at Paro International Airport, about 50 km (30 mi) from Thimphu in the southwest of the country. Drukair and Bhutan Airlines are the only airlines that operate flights to and from Bhutan. Drukair operates flights from New Delhi, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Dhaka, Bangkok, Bagdogra, and Guwahati.

Bhutan is accessible by road only from India. There are three entry and exit points between India and Bhutan that are open all year round. You can enter Bhutan from any of these points, but we suggest Phuentsholing, which is approximately 170 km (100 miles) east of Bagdogra Airport.

How to Apply for a Bhutan Visa

The Bhutan visa is a single-entry permit and can only be issued through a travel agent, who will arrange a Bhutan tour on your behalf. The visa application is processed by travel agencies through an online system and is approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan upon receipt of full payment for travel costs.

A visa clearance letter is issued, which must be presented at the immigration desk upon arrival at the airport. The official visa is then stamped on the passport. Here are the steps you need to follow to apply for a Bhutan visa.

Step 1: Book Your Tour

Book your tour package with a licensed travel agent. You need to complete the full payment for your Bhutan tour.

Step 2: Present Your Passport

  • Forward a scanned copy of your passport (photo page) to the travel agent by email.
  • The passport must have at least 6 months of validity remaining.
  • Share proof of your occupation.
  • Mention your address and contact number.

Step 3: Submit Visa Application

Your visa application will be submitted by the travel agent on your behalf, as the Tourism Council does not accept applications from individuals. At this stage, the Tourism Council of Bhutan will require the travel agent to pay the full amount of your tour by wire transfer.

Step 4: Get a Visa Clearance Letter

Once the payment is received, the Tourism Council will issue a clearance letter and confirmation code within 72 hours. You will receive it from your travel agent by email.

Step 5: Book a Flight

Proceed to book your flight through Drukair or Bhutan Airlines once you get the clearance letter. They are the only airlines that can operate flights to and from Bhutan.

Step 6: Purchase Insurance

It is mandatory to have a valid travel insurance policy BEFORE you enter Bhutan. Insurance cover is not included in any package/tariff provided by either the Tourism Council of Bhutan or the travel agent.

Step 7: Stamp Your Visa

Bring your passport and clearance letter to Thimphu. Upon arrival at the airport or the border crossing, show the clearance letter at the immigration counter. The visa endorsement is printed on your passport, and the visa is only valid for the exact time of your travel in Bhutan.

How Much Does a Bhutan Visa Cost

The processing fee for Bhutan visas is US$40 per person, and this amount is non-refundable. Usually, the visa fee is included in the tour package. 

Please remember that you need to pay for your tour before applying for a visa. The Tourism Council of Bhutan fixes the tour cost based on its policy of Minimum Daily Package. The minimum travel cost in Bhutan is US$250 per day in the peak season (March–May and September–November) and US$200 per day in the other months.

The Minimum Daily Package fee includes the following.

  • 3-star accommodation
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Local transfer and tour guide
  • Government tax

Note: The price is the same for your free day.

If you are looking for accommodation in five-star hotels and resorts, you need to spend hundreds of dollars a day. The same goes for hiking or using high-quality equipment or camping equipment. The tour is prepaid, so you only need money to buy drinks, souvenirs, and tips; for this, just bring cash. The Minimum Daily Package fee doesn’t include a credit card service fee. 

Visa Extension

Bhutan visas typically have a validity of 6 months from the date of arrival. If you want to extend your stay by a few more days, your travel agent will handle the visa extension formalities for you, and you need to provide a copy of the earlier visa that was issued by the immigration office. The visa renewal fee is Nu 500 (≈US$7).

If you want to extend your permit before arriving in Bhutan, you need to approach your travel agent for help. They will cancel previous applications and submit new visa applications for processing. The extension period shall not exceed one month from the first day of your arrival. In this case, the additional travel expenses needed for reapplication and the original visa application fee are not refundable.

Additional Travel Permit for Bhutan Tour

1. Restricted Area Permits

All areas outside the Paro and Thimphu valleys are classified as restricted areas, and special permits are required to visit them even if you are accompanied by a tour guide. The travel agent will handle the “road permit” for the places in your itinerary. The travel agent must return the permit to the government at the end of your tour.

They will carefully check whether there is any significant deviation from the authorized plan. Generally speaking, you won’t even notice it because all the procedures will be taken care of by your tour operator. However, you can’t extend or change the route during the tour.

2. Permits to Enter Temples

Most temples in Bhutan are open to visitors on non-festival days. When accompanied by a guide, you can enter the courtyard of these dzongs as well as the clans (assembly halls). But, according to the policy of the Tourism Council, some temples cannot be entered without a permit.

The tour operator usually deals with the permission work in advance, so if you want to go to a specific place, it’s good to let them know before you travel. This also means that you cannot temporarily add or change a temple visit during the tour.

If you are a Buddhist, you can apply for a permit to visit specific religious sites and institutions. You can add to the credibility of your application by including a letter of recommendation from a registered Buddhist organization in your country.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Bhutan Visas

Q: When should I start applying for a Bhutan visa?

A: You can apply at any time as long as your tour has been booked by a travel agent. In the peak season, we recommend booking at least 6–9 months in advance. For regular travel, we recommend reserving your place 3–6 months in advance.

Peak season: March to May, September to November

Shoulder season: January, February, June to August, December

Q: Can I send my visa application to the Tourism Council of Bhutan on my own?

A: No. Bhutan visa applications cannot be sent directly by individuals. It can only be sent through an authorized travel agent or tour operator.

Q: How long does it take to get a visa?

A: The Tourism Council of Bhutan sends a clearance letter when your tour is paid. Print it out so that you can present it at the airport to get a visa stamp on your passport.

Q: Is there a visa-free policy?

A: Any individual with a diplomatic passport of Switzerland or Thailand does not need a visa to visit Bhutan for up to 90 days. Passport holders of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives can get a permit at the port of entry to Bhutan.

Q: If I cancel my tour, will I get a refund?

A: Visa and travel permit fees are not refundable. Tour refunds depend on the terms and conditions set by the travel agents. The Drukair or Bhutan Airlines flight tickets are non-refundable once tickets are issued.

We highly suggest you purchase travel insurance as soon as your tour is booked.

Q: Is there a US Embassy in Bhutan?

A: There is no US Embassy in Bhutan as there are no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. Nevertheless, they still enjoy friendly and warm relations through the US Embassy in New Delhi.

Explore Bhutan with Asia Highlights

As you can see, the procedure for a Bhutan visa is very convenient and simple. This can attract a lot of travelers from around the world. When you plan your Bhutan tour with us, we will help you avoid any hassle.

Travel with us and be prepared for the most unforgettable vacation in Nepal. Contact us if you have any questions!

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  • 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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