For most visitors planning on a trip to Bhutan, the question they struggle with is how long they should stretch the trip. This is because the cost of a trip to Bhutan includes the minimum daily package of USD 250 per person per night set by the Bhutanese government.
The amount one has to dish out every day is not exactly backpacker friendly and so the duration of your stay will depend on how much you wish to spend. But, having said that, it is important to note that this minimum daily package fee covers all your expenses in Bhutan including accommodation, food, transport, camping equipment, and a licensed guide all of which will be provided to you by the tour operator (such as Little Bhutan) that you book with.
It also includes a royalty of USD 65 that goes towards social benefits like education and healthcare. No doubt, the amount is still higher than most visitors would normally spend when traveling on their own but it has been crafted by the government to encourage Bhutan’s stand of a sustainable high value, low volume tourism policy. And also, Bhutan is worth the money as it is a country like no other.
If you do decide to book a trip through a registered tour operator like Little Bhutan with an impeccable record, then you will have to pay the total sum (the duration of your visit) to the Tourism Council of Bhutan via the Bhutan National Bank prior to your arrival. This may sound off-putting, but, don’t worry, because tour operators like Little Bhutan provide all the guidance that you require.
It is mandatory to book your tours with a tour operator
Please note that it is not possible to travel around Bhutan independently, this is to ensure your wellbeing during your stay. This of course can be a deterrent to those used to planning and organizing their own trips, but, however, the good news is that you can draw up your own itinerary with your tour operator with considerable liberty. Little Bhutan can customize your tours to suit your needs and also provide suggestions and recommendations.
Once you determine where you want to go and what you want to do, get in touch with Little Bhutan to review your itinerary and provide suggestions. Our staff will get back to you quickly and let you know of all the possibilities including 4 and 3 star accommodations or farm house stays in the places of your interest. All this will be included in the minimum daily package. For other items like beer or chocolates, you will have to spend a little but it will not amount to more than USD 5. Bottled drinking water will be provided by Little Bhutan.
Obtaining a Visa
Visas for all travelers to Bhutan will be arranged by the tour operator except for citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives who can obtain a visa on arrival. Visa clearance letters are usually issued within the month prior to arrival and only after full payment of the Minimum Daily Package to the Tourism Council of Bhutan has been made. The cost of a visa is USD 50 and is stamped onto the passport upon entry to the country.
Flights are booked by the tour operators. Arranging flights in and out of Bhutan at short notice is next to impossible and flights are usually booked months ahead, so tour operators like Little Bhutan need some time to do the bookings. Usually cancellation may or may not entail additional costs.
Druk Air, Bhutan’s national carrier and Bhutan Airlines fly to India, Thailand, Nepal, Singapore and Bangladesh.
Planning your Itinerary
Bhutan can be divided in Western Bhutan, Central Bhutan and Eastern Bhutan. The only international airport is in the western part and this is the most visited region especially by those with short itineraries. But if the duration of your stay is longer, you can talk with your tour operator to plan tours to different regions of the country.
What you can expect
Tours to Bhutan are much more comfortable in terms of transport and accommodation when compared to your usual style of travelling, so usually there are no complaints in that department.
The biggest accomplishment will be experiencing the pristine beauty of a country as yet untouched by globalization and the great warmth of its happy people.