Bhutan :- A Beginner’s Travel Guide

Abhishek

Bhutan is a beautiful country north-east of India surrounded by the mighty Himalayas.A country where people consider their happiness to be of paramount importance, is worth a visit.Though, Bhutan has strict rules regarding the visit of foreigners,the rules are somewhat very relaxed for Indians.So, if you are an Indian,you can visit there at a very less cost.If you are not an Indian,You may have to adhere to certain regulations including the minimum amount required to be spent per day,access to only selected hotels etc.Recently,The Bhutan government has announced that a fixed amount of money needs to be paid by Indians too,the implementation of which is yet to be confirmed.Nevertheless,Bhutan is worth every penny spent there.Let’s see how you can visit Bhutan easily,specially in context to Indians.

Bhutan Gate
Bhutan Gate (Source)

You can enter Bhutan through many Entry points like Paro Airort,Phuentsholing,Gelephu and Samdrup. Phuentsholing in western Bhutan is the most preferred point for Indians.You Can reach there through nearby Railway Station at NewAlipurDwar/Hasimara.Buses/Taxis are Available from there.

Before Visiting Bhutan,you will be needing a pass/permit by the Govt. of Bhutan.The simplest method to get it is from the permit office near the phuentsholing entrance gate.You will be needing some identity documents with photograph.Opposite the permit office,There is a shop which sells the permit application form for INR 10.You can also get a Bhutan SIM on production of your permit for around INR 150-200.It will save your phone roaming bills for the next 10 days.Mobile network is good throughout Bhutan.

Hotels are Cheap in Bhutan.You can get good rooms with Hot Water facility and magnificent views starting from INR Rs 800 in Phuentsholing and about INR Rs 1500 in other areas like Thimpu and Paro.Transport is also very cheap.Buses are available for major routes.However,It is better to buy tickets in advance as most of the times,there is rush during the last hours.Shared taxis are also available.

Once you enter Phuentsholing,You can stay there for a day or two and get your permit and explore a few places.Beware of Altitude sickness.You may feel severe headache, nausea while moving up the elevations.Prepare to spend a day or two at lower elevation places like Phuentsholing to get used to elevation changes before moving to higher elevations.

Karbandi Monastery (Source)

Things to do in Phuentsholing

  • Take a Selfie at Bhutan Entrance Gate.
  • Visit Crocodile Breeding Centre near the bus stand at a walking distance
  • Shopping in the market near the border Gate
  • Visit Zangto Pelri Lhakhang and Park near Permit office/Town Hall.
  • Visit Karbandi Monastery,at about 1 km from Permit office on a small hill.
  • Visit Torsa River Side, at a walking distance from the market.

Once,you are done with your Permit, You can head on to Paro or Thimphu.It is better to go to Thimphu first and visit Paro in return as you may face altitude sickness in Paro due to high altitude.Once you reach Thimphu,you can explore these places:-

Places to visit in Thimphu

  • Thimphu Dzong, a grand fort
  • Simply Bhutan Museum
  • National Library of Bhutan
  • Dechen Phodrang
  • Chorten National Memorial
  • Motithang Takin Preserve
  • Tango Goemba
  • Changangkha Lhakhang Temple
National Library of Bhutan
National Library of Bhutan (Source)

After Thimphu,if you have time you can head on to Punakha which you can cover easily in a day on a private cab.You need to extend your permit first at Thimphu Immigration office to visit this place.You can visit these places there.

Places to visit in Punakha

  • Dzong
  • Suspension Bridge
  • Chimi Lhakhang
  • Jigme Dorji National Park
  • Dochula Pass
  • Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang
  • Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten

Moving farther than Punakha requires special permit and more time.Also,hotels may not be available and you have to stay at homestays.You can return to thimphu and then head on to Paro and visit these places.

Places to visit in Paro

  • Tiger’s Nest (Paro Taktsang)
  • Zuri Dzong Fort
  • Drukgyal Dzong Monastery
  • Rinpung Dzong Monastery
  • National Museum Of Bhutan
  • Dasho Nishioka Chorten Museum
  • Tamchoe Monastery
  • Chele La Pass
  • Jangtsa Dumtseg Lhakhang Temple
  • Kyichu Lakhang
  • Ugyen Pelri Palace
  • Dungtse Lhakhang
National Museum of Bhutan (Source)

Once you have visited Paro, you can buy some souvenirs,gifts etc from the market and get back to your hometown via Paro airport or take a bus/cab to phuentsholing to reach via road/rail.

Bonus Tips:-

  • Govt. Hospitals are free and Doctors are very friendly.Dont hesistate in visiting them in case of any health issues.
  • If you are planning to visit Punakha or other nearby places , Dont take shared cabs. They will come costly if you will visit all the places.As you will have to take reserved cabs later for local sight seeing. Also, no shared cabs are available to thimphu after about 3 PM..
  • Take good amount of cash with you. Your ATM card may not work in Bhutan.
  • Buy a mask.Some places are smelly.
  • Take proper warm clothes with you.Though most of hotels provide heaters, sometimes heating may not be sufficient.
  • Always cross the road through the Zebra crossing. Even though, People are decent enough to stop their car and let you pass if you are not doing so.
  • Make sure to know which places are allowed and restricted for tourists, especially at the religious places.
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