India to Bhutan Entry permit : All you need to know

Visiting Bhutan can be complicated depending on your nationality. But, as an Indian, I fall under the advantaged category (for once) and can visit this peaceful nation without any hassle. When I decided to go, a few friends had been there. Hence, they became my vital source of reliable information.

If you need a Visa, there are several rules functioning around it. If not, you will have to get a permit. Let’s see which group you belong to:

Who needs a Permit: Citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives.
Who needs a Visa: Everyone who isn’t from the three countries mentioned above. For information on Bhutan Visas, go here. It needs prior planning and gathering required information.

This post is about Permits. Folks who are here for details on Visa formalities, I am sorry I don’t have much for you except an advice – Visit the country for its uniqueness.

Where else would you find an age-old monastery on one end of the road and a Swiss brewery on the other.

If you’re taking a flight from India, you’d probably be landing at Paro. If going by road, chances are you’ll be entering through Phuentsholing. The Permit rules remain same, irrespective of how you reach.

Documents for an individual:

  1. Passport size photographs. Carry at least two though you may need only one.
  2. Original Passport or Voter ID card. You need either of the two. Also, don’t forget to bring along two copies of the original document.

Validity:

  1. The Permit you collect from Phuentsholing or Paro immigration office is valid for 7 days, and will only allow you to visit Thimphu and Paro.
  2. For extending your stay or visiting any other town, you need to get it extended from Thimphu, for up to 30 days.

Cost
None. The Permits are issued without any fee.

Timings
The permit offices are usually open from 9 AM to 11 AM and then 1 PM to 3 PM on weekdays i.e. Monday to Friday. On Saturdays, they’re open only for the 1st two hours and remain closed on Sundays. These hours aren’t fixed and can be changed anytime.

Time taken
If you have the required documents, it shouldn’t take more than 30-45 minutes.

You can also take your bike/car from India and drive around the country. For that, you will need to obtain an additional vehicle Permit. Related information can be found here.

There is a misconception among many Indians that you need to go with a travel company to explore the country. It may be recommended considering how irresponsible some of us are, to not keep the surroundings clean and green. But, by no means it’s mandatory. We traveled on our own, not just the more popular western parts but also the central Bhutan. Next time, I’d definitely love to do a long road-trip across the nation. From Tashigang in the east to Haa valley in the west, attempting a few more treks, cycling my way through mountain roads and exploring the wildlife sanctuaries.

Secret confession: I had forgotten my original identity proof and had only carried photocopies. I was an idiot. Don’t be one. I think I was allowed to enter because the officer on the other side was in a great mood that morning. He cracked a joke on us and let us go.

Additional Tips:

  • From what I’ve heard, you may need to wait longer at immigration offices, if travelling alone. Their government officials don’t like solo travelers.
  • Aadhar card and driving licence aren’t valid anymore for an individual’s entry. Stick to passport or Voter ID card.
  • By any chance if you reach Phuentsholing over a weekend, and can’t receive permit, you can still enter Bhutan and roam around the town until 8 PM.

Let me know if I missed anything and I’ll include it in the post. If you liked this post, read ‘How I reached Bhutan from India by road

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© 2016, Swati. All rights reserved.

14 comments

  1. HI Swati, thanks for all the info!
    I and my friends are reaching Bagdogra on Saturday afternoon so I’m guessing we won’t be able to get entry before Monday, right?

    Also, which parts are we allowed to roam around without a permit? Thanks!

    1. Hi Darshan
      Ya you won’t be getting a permit before Monday. You can only roam around Phuentsholing, the small town at border and should come back to India side before 8 PM.

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