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Bhutan's simplified visa process makes it more accessible than ever

Renowned for its majestic landscapes and unique cultural experiences, Bhutan is now more accessible than ever for travellers, thanks to several key improvements in travel procedures. The country has focused on simplifying the visa process, reducing the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) to USD 100, and increasing flight options to improve travel convenience.

Simplified Visa Process:

Bhutan requires visas for all visitors, with no nationality restrictions. The introduction of an online visa application system has made this process more efficient. Typically, visas are processed within five working days, allowing for more accessible travel planning. The visa is valid for up to 90 days. Visitors (except those from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives*) must obtain a visa before arrival. The application involves paying a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) and a USD 40 visa fee. The flexible process allows applicants to apply online, through a tour operator, or via a hotel. There is no cap on visitor numbers to Bhutan, and everyone is welcome.

Self-application for a travel visa is convenient, requiring tourists to fill out an online form with essential documents:

1) A digital copy of a valid passport

2) A recent digital passport photo

3) Arrival and departure dates

4) Valid travel insurance for the duration of planned travel

5) Payment information

*Guests from India can obtain a permit online or on arrival. Guests from Maldives and Bangladesh can get a visa on arrival.

Reduced Sustainable Development Fee

The Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) serves as a daily contribution by tourists towards the nation’s development. The SDF is utilised transparently and responsibly by the Royal Government of Bhutan. This fund aids various sectors such as healthcare, education, environment, culture, and economy, fostering sustainable opportunities for Bhutanese citizens. As a carbon-neutral nation, Bhutan leverages the SDF to uphold its exceptional forest cover and carbon neutrality, ensuring a serene experience for visitors. Last September, Bhutan introduced a 50% reduction in the SDF rate, effective until August 31, 2027, with incentives for children. The new rates are USD 100 per adult per night, while children between the ages of 6 and who still need to turn 12 pay a reduced rate of USD 50 per night. Children yet to turn six years old do not pay any SDF fee. The revised fee structure enhances Bhutan’s appeal as an environmentally conscious and welcoming destination.

Increased Flight Options

Bhutan’s airlines, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines, have expanded their flight options, providing increased accessibility to the Kingdom with non-stop/transit flights connecting India, Singapore, Thailand, Nepal and Bangladesh to Paro International Airport. Soon, Bhutan Airlines will also start flights to Paro from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. It was also recently announced that Bhutan has signed an Air Service Agreement with the Government of the State of Kuwait. The expansion of connectivity aligns with Bhutan’s dedication to accommodating the escalating demand from travellers, ensuring a seamless and enriching experience for all.

Best Times to Visit Bhutan

The best time of year to visit Bhutan will depend on whether you’re interested in trekking, avoiding crowds, the location of the places you want to visit, or attending traditional festivals.

Mid-March to May showcases the stunning rhododendron blossoms across the eastern Himalayas, with milder temperatures and slightly less clear skies than autumn.

April offers excellent opportunities for lower altitude hikes. Trekking conditions are optimal in April, May, October, and November, with spring presenting more rainfall and autumn offering clearer mountain views and comfortable 20°C daytime temperatures. Trekking is less advisable during the summer (June to mid-September) due to rainfall.

October offers pleasant weather, clear skies, vibrant festivals, and excellent trekking conditions. November and December are prime times for observing the black-necked cranes in Phobjikha Valley. The valley hosts these cranes until March.

Summer is ideal for spotting alpine wildflowers, and it’s the season for high-altitude wildflowers, like the rare blue poppy, and summer festivals in lesser-visited areas like Haa Valley. Although it rains in summer, the rainfall is not usually a heavy monsoon, which means the waterfalls and rivers are gushing, and the country is covered in lush, green landscapes.

Winter (November to February) is also an excellent time to visit most Bhutan, barring high mountain passes. Fewer tourists and mild valley weather make for a serene experience, though warm clothing is recommended. The central tourist valleys only experience a little (if any) snowfall, and the clear skies in winter make it a popular time to visit for photographers.

Aligning a visit with one of Bhutan’s vibrant religious festivals can enhance a traveller’s experience. These festivals, determined by the lunar calendar, feature large gatherings of locals in traditional attire and various holy men and vendors. While the popular tsechus in Paro and Thimphu attract many tourists, smaller regional festivals offer a more intimate experience. The Royal Highland Festival in October, with its unique blend of horse racing, music, and yak beauty contests, is a highlight. Check the Bhutan Department of Tourism website or significant tour operators for up-to-date festival schedules.

 

For media enquiries, please contact;

Paul Charles / Katie Moine / Mel Paxton /  Sasha Cummings-Kline / Isabella Sheekey / Bella Keeley via Bhutan@pc.agency or +44 (0) 20 7768 0001.

 

About the Department of Tourism of Bhutan (DoT Bhutan)

The Department of Tourism of Bhutan (DoT Bhutan) is responsible for developing and promoting sustainable tourism in Bhutan. It works to share the Kingdom’s remarkable places, people and experiences with conscious travellers, guided by the principles of high-value, low-volume tourism.

Bhutan Believe

Bhutan’s new national brand: “Bhutan Believe”, underscores our nation’s belief in a better future, led by wisdom from our past. The national tagline for Bhutan – Believe – is about believing in the future of Bhutan and the potential, possibilities and opportunities that Bhutan offers in a rapidly evolving world. It’s also about believing in our citizens’ values, capabilities, contributions and potential. Our visitor manifesto sums up this optimism with the message: “We see a bright future. And we believe in our ability and responsibility to realise it together, and shine as a beacon of possibility in the world.” The hope is we become what we believe in. We are asked to believe in ourselves, our worth, and Bhutan’s future with hope and conviction.