About the post: In this guide, I have tried to answer all the common questions that pop up while planning a Bhutan trip such as – ‘’ Do I need a visa to enter Bhutan? ’’, “What documents do I need to apply for a Bhutan entry permit” and so on. Read on to know application and extension procedure of Bhutan entry permits for Indians, costs, route & vehicle permits and all the other information you need if you’re wondering how to get Bhutan entry permit for Indian as well as other nationals.
Visit Date: 4th -11th April 2018
Kindly note that all pieces of information are given according to this visit duration. Happy reading 🙂
When it comes to Indian tourists then it is not a visa but an entry permit you need to enter Bhutan. Note that, now it is mandatory to show your hotel confirmation receipt at Phuntsholing immigration office while applying for an entry permit. So, book your hotels prior to your visit and ask the hoteliers to mail you a booking receipt.
Who needs a visa to enter Bhutan?
According to the Visa policy of Bhutan, “Citizens of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives don’t need a visa and a booking with a licensed tour operator to visit Bhutan.” However, they need to obtain an entry permit at the port of entry on producing a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Indian nationals are allowed to use their voter ID card in case they don’t hold a passport.
All other tourists are required to obtain a visa clearance before visiting Bhutan. Hiring a licensed tour operator and following a pre-planned itinerary with a compulsory daily expenditure of $250 is mandatory if you’re from any nation except the three aforementioned countries. ☹
Before moving any farther I’d like to mention that details in this post are applicable for Indian nationals only. But I hope that it will also be helpful for Bangladeshi and Maldivian tourists, as they are also required to obtain a permit to explore Bhutan.
Bhutan entry and exit point
You have two options to enter Bhutan:
Over lands: Bhutan government has allowed entry and exit of tourists through 5 border towns – Samdrup Jongkhar, Gelephu, Samtse, Nganglam, and Panbang. However, according to the official website of the National Assembly of Bhutan, currently, regional tourists are not allowed to enter from other than the border town of Phuntsholing.
By Air: Of all four airports, Paro airport is the sole international airport in Bhutan. One can book Druk Airways flight for Paro from India (Kolkata, Delhi, Gaya, Guwahati and Bagdogra airport), Bangladesh (Dhaka international airport), Nepal (Kathmandu), Thailand (Bangkok airport) and Singapore.
Note that, Drukair is the only airline that lands in Bhutan. If you’re into adventures and can afford it, then I would suggest experiencing landing at Paro airport which is one of the toughest airports to land a flight on.
Entry permit Offices
Travelers flying to Bhutan can get their permit from the Paro airport itself. However, if one is traveling overlands, they are required to obtain an entry permit from Phuntsholing Immigration office of Royal Government of Bhutan ( Nearest railway station – Hasimara; Nearest airport – Bagdogra). Once you cross the border gate the office will be on your right and just beside the Hindustan Petroleum. It takes around 4 hours to reach the border gate from the airport, however, a shared auto which costs 40 Rs per head will take around 30 mins to reach the Phuntsholing-Jaigaon border from Hasimara railway station.
Online Bhutan entry permit for Indian
Bhutan government has launched an online permit system in 2017 for regional tourists i.e. tourists from Bangladesh, India, and Maldives; the facility will be applicable for entry from Paro and Phuntsholing.
- The advantage of online Bhutan travel permit: Visitors who use this facility, which can only be used through registered tour operators and TCB certified hotels, will be able to obtain permit clearances and route permits ahead of their arrival in Bhutan similar to international tourists who need visa clearance.
The online permit mandates you to be accompanied by a tour guide. It also requires applicants to have a passport with minimum 6 months validity before the exact date of travel. Voter ID/Adhar cards are not accepted. For more details on the online permit application system, click Here.
Important Note: Earlier it was possible to request entry permit from Royal Bhutan Consulate, Kolkata; and many tourists used to avail this facility to obtain their permit before arrival. But now as per the latest notice issued by the Bhutan government, Kolkata office has stopped issuing permits.
The rest of the part of this post is applicable for regional tourists entering Bhutan by road and want to obtain the permit from Phuntsholing Immigration Office.
Travelers, who want to visit Bhutan with personal Indian vehicle, are required to obtain a vehicle permit from Road Safety and Transport Authority office at Phuntsholing. The office is at a 5 minutes walking distance from the border gate. Find the Google map location of Phuntsholing RSTA office Here.
- Documents required :
One must carry the copy of the following documents along with the originals (in case the originals are required for verification) that are needed to obtain the vehicle permit:
- Valid entry permit of the driver
- Registration certificate
- Valid insurance
- Tax receipt
- Driving license (the name on DL should be exactly similar to the name on entry permit)
- Pollution clearance certificate
- A simple application on a plain paper
After paying the required fees and submitting the application, it takes around 30 minutes to get all formalities done and obtain your vehicle permit.
Important note: Both Phuntsholing and Thimphu RSTA offices remain closed on government holidays and the latter is closed on Tuesday too. Lunch hours are from 1 PM to 2 PM BST on working days. So, check for Bhutan public holidays prior to your visit in order to avoid any inconvenience.
Procedure Of Applying For Bhutan entry Permit for Indian
Bhutan tourism is designed for group travels and you must have to be with at least one person while applying for an entry permit or the permit won’t be issued. I’ve heard many people saying that solo male travelers are not allowed in Bhutan and this is true indeed. However, there are no such restrictions for solo female travelers. But I’ll recommend to group up with at least one person, even if you’re a solo female, to avoid any risks of getting your permit application delayed or even canceled.
Here are answers to some common questions that we get asked about entry permit application:
Q) Do we have to apply for entry permit individually or for all the members in our group on one application form?
A) All applications need to be made individually.
Q) What documents do I need to obtain an entry permit?
- Two passport size photographs and a copy of voter ID card/passport along with the originals for verification. If you’re not carrying any of these, the officials will issue you an entry permit only after ascertaining your identity. For that, you will be required to visit Indian Consulate office in Phuntsholing, apply and get an ‘identification slip’ after submitting proper proof of Indian nationality and go back to the immigration office to apply for an entry permit. You might lose a lot of time in this process, so always remember to carry your voter ID/passport. For children below 18 years old without a valid passport, valid school ID and birth certificate are required to apply for an entry permit.
- It is now mandatory to produce a hotel confirmation receipt (either from the hotel/ tour operator) at the counter. This is to make sure that all tourists visiting Bhutan have a proper place to stay and aren’t facing any inconvenience during their visit. So, book a hotel prior to your arrival and ask the hotelier to mail you a confirmation voucher before entering Bhutan.
- A proper tour itinerary (check out ours)should be attached along with your duly filled application form so that officials get a brief idea of what are you exactly going to do in Bhutan.
Important note: Aadhar card and Driving License are no longer accepted as an ID proof while applying for an entry permit.
Q) What is the procedure for obtaining the entry permit?
A) You have to go through the following process once you’re at the permit office:
First, you’ll be handed out an application form which you need to fill in with your details and intended travel plan, attach your photographs and other required documents and submit at the counter. This process takes place on the ground floor of the immigration office building. After entering through the enclosure entrance, you can easily locate the counter (from where you need to collect and submit your permit application form) on the left side of the building. After verifying your documents at the ground floor counter, the officials will stamp your form and you’ll be asked to submit your stamped form at the next counter, which is on the upper floor.
Once your name is called at the next counter, you need to reach there for biometrics that is, get your picture clicked and provide fingerprints. The officials there will ask you a few basic questions and then your form will be queued up for the 3rd counter. You can collect your entry permit from the 3rd counter in another 5 – 10 minutes and then you’ll have to go back to the main officer (counter at ground floor) to get it your permit signed.
Q) What is the cost of getting Bhutan entry permit for Indian nationals, Special area permit, and Extension of permits thereafter?
A) Absolutely no fee is charged for obtaining the entry permits from Phuntsholing immigration office, permit extension for a stay over 7 days and special area permits (Thimphu office) unless you hire a local agent to avoid going through the hassle yourself.
Kindly Note: Both Phuntsholing and Thimphu Immigration offices remain closed on government holidays and on weekends and lunch hours are from 1 PM to 2 PM BST on working days ( Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM BST). So, you should plan your visit accordingly in order to avoid any inconvenience.
Permit Extension & Restricted Area Permit
Both entry and vehicle permits issued at Phuntsholing are applicable for visit to Thimphu and Paro only and are valid for 7 days from the date of issuance. You need to extend your permits ( both entry and vehicle permits) and obtain special area permit from their respective offices in Thimphu. It needs to be done one day before your visit to places beyond Thimphu and Paro or if you wish to stay for over 7 days and up to a maximum of 30 days.
To get entry permit extension and route permit, you need to visit Immigration office at Thimphu, fill up the respective forms, submit your forms along with documents ( Copy of original entry permit, 1 copy Photograph). The officials there might ask you a few basic questions before verifying your documents, and after verification, they will ask you to collect your extension permits from the same office within one hour.
To get vehicle permit extension and route permit for your vehicles, you again have to go through the same process in Thimphu RSTA office, which is situated at Thimphu bus stand.
What To Do With Entry Permits?
You need to keep your permits along with you throughout your trip. Your permits will get checked at various immigration points while traveling between cities and also while entering all key Dzongs including Thimphu, Paro and Punakha Dzongs and Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Your special area permit gets checked in Hongtsho, just before Dochula Pass. So, you should get the required extensions in advance to avoid any inconvenience. At the end of the trip, you need to submit the entry permits along with extensions at the last immigration point during exit.
If you have any further queries or, if I’ve missed any point, please do write to us or comment below.