It’s true what they say about Bhutan, You will fall in love with the place, the people and the culture.
I started #SOLO into Bhutan but as they say, you never travel solo. Travelling is all about knowing people, culture and the places. I am going to write as much as possible so you can understand why you should visit Bhutan and how you can make it your memorable trip.
How to enter Bhutan?
Bhutan, the land of thunder dragons is our border country. We have friendly border with them, and you can just walk into Bhutan without any Visa/Permit. To travel anywhere in Bhutan you need permit for different parts of the country. These permits are just like the one you need to travel in Himachal. Permits are meant to ensure your safe return from Hill areas.
There are Two ways to enter Bhutan from India.
- Fly Directly into Bhutan ( Only International Airport – Paro ) : You can fly directly into Bhutan. The only airlines which is allowed to land in Bhutan is Drunkai- Royal Bhutan Airlines.
- Fly to Siliguri, West Bengal : You can reach Siliguri, West Bengal using your preference. The airport name is Bagdogra Airport. Railway station is Siliguri Station.
- Distance from Siliguri to Bhutan Border is three hours. Phuentsholing is the border town in Bhutan and Jaigaon is the border town from India.
- There are many ways to reach border from Siliguri.
- Once you get down at the Airport/Railway station you will find many cab drivers who will charge you Rs.3000 to drop you to Jaigaon.
- You can take Bus from Bhutan Bus service which is as good as Delhi Metro.
- From Siliguri Station, you can take a local train to Hasimara. Jaigaon is just 15 mins from Hasimara and you can get a cab in only Rs.40.
Which one should you prefer ?
Well, it totally depends on your preference. If you are short of days you can fly directly into Bhutan but then you will miss those beautiful roads of India and Bhutan. And i don’t find it senseful to land into Paro and travel all the way back to Border to see the beauty which you could have already done when you had not even started your journey. I would definitely go back and i would again prefer the roads.
Financially it also makes a huge difference if you are travelling in a Group. But for a solo traveler it might actually cost more to travel by roads.
The border town Phuentsholing, is the perfect welcome into the beautiful country. You will start getting the glimpse of the culture, beauty and nature this country has for you. The minute you cross the border, you will start seeing the cultural difference. People actually understand the meaning of zebra crossings and how to leave there city clean. Food is the best way to understand any culture and Phuentsholing has everything for you. This is another part which people miss when they travel directly into Bhutan. You can check the pictures i took from Phuentsholing below.
The door to the land of dragons.! No doubt bhutan is one of the kingdoms of Himalayas. The dramatic landscapes from plains to steep mountain and valleys are just incredibly beautiful. You can start noticing the difference as soon as you cross this gate.! PS: I was told solo travellers are not accepted easily inside bhutan. To my surprise, I noticed one of the best hospitality. Immigration officer asked me couple of questions and allowed me the permit. The whole process took less than 15 minutes. #bhutandiaries #bhutan #solotravel
The mess with Permit/Visa ?
I am writing this as of 6th June, 2018. The permit office is friendly. They work at standard office hours from Monday to Friday. You just need a fill a form, attach your travel plan and the hotel booking for the day one. They will allow you the permit with in few minutes. The issue is with solo travelers as you have to prove you can take care of yourself. Since i traveled solo, i had a little conversation with the officer but luckily i got the permit with in 15 minutes. You can read the conversation here.
Important points to get the permit :
- You must have your Day 1 Hotel booked while getting the permit.
- A photograph of all the members.
- Valid ID Proof.
- An undertaking – for SOLO travelers only.
- Itinerary, You may have to give some reasonable itinerary – Important for SOLO travelers.
Most of you must be looking for a tour plan/ itinerary. I believe the best itinerary is what you create. I started Bhutan with itineraries from multiple blogs but when i actually started exploring the place i realized it’s not the places you need to visit, it’s the culture and peace you need to visit in Bhutan. I started exploring with people and this is how i covered up my journey.
DAY 1 – Day 2: Thimpu, The capital city of Bhutan.
Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan, You will find a bit commercialized culture. The city has good list of tourist places but the USP of this place is the culture, monasteries, local shops and food. You should visit the market to explore multiple food places and shops just to meet people and talk to them. They will show you the beauty of this city. You can reach Thimphu very easily on Day 1, Take some rest, enjoy your stay and visit the city on Day 2.
- If you have entered Bhutan directly into Paro. Thimphu is just 1 hour journey from Paro. You can get Shared Cabs in Rs 180. You can also book a private cab but shared cabs are good way to start to meet locals and start your journey.
- If you are coming by road, You can take a Private Cab/Bus/Shared cab from Border town Phuentsholing. Private cab will charge you standard rate Rs. 2500. Shared cab will cost you only Rs. 750 and buses might cost you only Rs 100. I took shared cab and had the pleasure to meet this awesome driver ‘Karma’. Karma not only showed me many points, he allowed me to drive his car. The other 3 people were from Bhutan and they gave me the glimpse of the generosity and culture Bhutan is going to show me. It was a good welcome into the country of happiness.
You can complete Thimphu city in one day with the help of local cab driver. The usual charge to roam around the city is Rs,2500 for a day.
You can find few of my clicks from Thimphu below :
For me the best thing about Thimpu was my stay. Normally i don’t write about hotels but this one touched my heart 😛 Staying at RTC (Royal Thimpu College) is just want you need to get out of the regular city chaos.
RTC is the only private college in Bhutan and is managed by the Royal family. It’s built in between the hills. Greenery and silence is just lovely.. This is something I’m definitely gonna come back for. You can book this place from Airbnb. Below are some of my clicks from this beautiful college where i stayed..!
Staying at RTC (Royal Thimpu College) is just want you need to get out of the regular city chaos. RTC is the only private college in Bhutan and is managed by the Royal family. It’s built in between the hills. Greenery and silence is just lovely.. This is something I’m definitely gonna come back for. As they say in Bhutan, Happiness is peace.! #bhutandiaries #bhutan #solotravel #peace
NOTE: Your next destination is Punakha and you need another permit to travel to Punakha. You need to get this pass from Thimphu Immigration office and this needs to be done on day 2 itself. The office is open in the morning for permits.
DAY 3: Punakha, Bhutan
Punakha is another town from the Himalayas of Bhutan. It’s mainly known for the Punakha Dzong, a 17th-century fortress at the juncture of the Pho and Mo Chhu rivers. You can book a cab from Thimpu to reach Punakha and do the sightseeing on the same day. This is where i met these two awesome people, Smrita and Amrit, with whom i decided to share the cab and then our destiny made us to stay together for most of the trip. It’s funny how you meet people and they became friends in very short time.
Places to visit in Punakha is Punakha Dzong and hanging bridge. This Dzong is the most beautiful construction i have seen in Bhutan and pretty much everything to look for in Punakha.
Start early from Thimpu, Reach Punakha in 3 hours and do the sightseeing. Now you can either come back to Thimpu but i decided to stay as i had plan to visit Phobjikha next day.
We found this hotel which was just next to Mo Chhu river. We bought Peach wine, grape brandy and beers. The night was beautiful and the company was great. Believe me, you must visit the riverside, smoke a blut, drink the local and enjoy the breeze. The peace was incredible.
DAY 4: Phobjikha, Bhutan
Phobjikha is a beautiful U-Shaped Valley. It takes approximately 3 hours to reach Phobjikha from Punakha. The roads are bit odd and there is no public transport. You have to rent a cab to go to Phobjikha and come back to Punakha.
About Phobjikha, The valley is just what you need to get out of regular ‘Tourist’ crowd. It’s not a regular Tourist place and not many packages will include this, and this could be the reason the place is unexploited. The greenery, the view was just impossible to get captured in the lenses.
We started for Phobjikha in morning, visited the valley and drove back to Paro. This is a bit difficult task to do in one day and you may have to convince your driver to complete this. The cab driver will charge you Rs 6000 – Rs 8000 for the day. But the valley and the view is worth the price. I would recommend you to convince your driver to drove you back to Paro so you can save the next day and start early for Paro. Yes, paro is your next destination.
DAY 5: Paro – Tiger’s Nest
Paro is the second largest city of Bhutan, after Thimpu. Having the only international Airport, paro is the tourist capital and so is the reason this place is over commercialized and is not just what you went looking for in Bhutan. Paro has Good Cafes, Night Clubs, Shopping malls, Etc. The only attraction was Tiger’s nest and Paro airport for me.
Day 5, we did Tiger’s Nest – Taktshang, Bhutan. What a magical monastery at such height. Tiger’s nest is a must go. You will find the culture and history of Buddhism and a lot more into the culture of Bhutan.
It’s a relatively 3 hour trek to get to tigers nest. The trek is moderate level and anyone could do. The views are just amazing.
DAY 6: Paro sightseeing – Chele la pass – Phuentsholing/Paro
Finally, it’s time to say goodbye to the awesome country. Where happiness is a place. It might be your saddest day as you are going for the last Dzong’s, Monasteries and the good people of Bhutan.
You can start your day early, Visit Chele la pass, which is around 1 hour from Paro city. The drive is smooth and the view is amazing. Go back to paro, do sightseeing quickly as there is not much to visit in the city.
- If you are traveling back to India by Paro, Airport. You can book your flight accordingly.
- If you are traveling back to India by road, You should start a bit early and reach phuentsholing for the night. Next day you can travel back to India just the way you entered into Bhutan.
Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting. Bhutan is an unforgettable place. I don’t think I will ever be able to forget these people and this one hell of an awesome trip. Cheers to these awesome people and Happy country.
Frequently asked questions about Bhutan?
- Permit Office : Permit office is open on Mon – Fri, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
- Solo Traveler : No issues, just be ready to prove you can take care of yourself and you are good to go solo. You can read How to enter SOLO into Bhutan for my interview with the Immigration officer.
- Mode Of Travel : You can find shared cabs for almost all the places. To roam around the city also you can find local cabs everywhere. Bus timings are pretty strict in the morning and you need to pre-book tickets.
- Visa : You don’t need visa/passport. Just you need permit to travel in different part of the country. You should get your permit for Punakha/Phobjikha on Day 2 in Thimphu itself.
- Bike/Car : You can brink your vehicle from any part of the country. Just have the papers ready and you will get permit for your vehicle without any hassle.
- Minimum spent for Indians ? No, there is no minimum spent rule for Indians.
- Shopping : You should shop from Thimphu local market. Paro is commercialized and hence costly.
Please contact me, if you need any information on Butan. Happy to help 😀 🙂