A trip to Bhutan from India—–If there is any country on Earth that qualifies as Eden – not just in part, but in its entirety? I believe it is Bhutan. The world has few secrets left and surely Bhutan is one of them. It is so stunning that, when you enter the country, you won’t ever feel like leaving it again. Mountains, Rivers & monasteries are in abundant numbers.
Tiger’s Nest is the most popular destination to visit in Bhutan. A trip to Bhutan was one of my travel goal I set a few years ago and a country I had been wanting to visit for much longer. As I was planning to visit northeastern parts of India, I knew it would be great if I could add few days for Bhutan in my itinerary.
How to reach Bhutan from India:
The cheapest way to reach Bhutan from Guwahati is to take a train to New Alipurdar and then a bus to Jaigaon. If you are traveling from other parts of India to Bhutan, you can take a train to Siliguri/Jalpaiguri and then a bus to Jaigaon. From Jaigaon you can walk across the border area and reach Phuentsholing which is the border town on Bhutan side. Visit IRCTC for train bookings.
I never Opt for tour packages as there are many reasons for it:-
- Tour packages are very expensive, may almost cost you triple of what actually would have been, if you plan all by yourself.
- You would be limited to follow their itinerary. You can only see those places wherever they will take you to. There will always be a feeling of some place to be missed out rather than enjoying.
- The feeling as a bag packer is far more awesome than restricting your trip with such tour packages.
How to reach Bhutan from Guwahati India
India – Bhutan Border (Jaigaon-Phuentsholing)
Permits required to visit Bhutan from India/other countries:-
Tourism to Bhutan is not that simple. The tourism sector is managed by Tourism Council of Bhutan. TCB has set a minimum daily package. It’s US$200/US$250(Low/High season) per person per night.Visitors from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives are exempted from this rule. Indians do not need a Visa to visit Bhutan.
Update: Bhutan has ended decades of free entry to Indian tourists visiting Bhutan, the government in Thimphu has decided to levy a daily ₹1,200 ($17) fee for “regional tourists” from India, the Maldives and Bangladesh, starting from July 2020. The fee, called a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF). For more info, read Bhutan ends free entry for Indian tourists.
A valid Indian ID( Passport/Voter Id) with 2 photos would suffice to obtain a permit. You’ll be issued an entry permit at Phuentsholing which would be valid to visit Paro and Thimphu, for a maximum of 15 days.
Note: Aadhaar card, Pan Card, Driving License etc. will not be considered valid.
Persons over 65 and below 15 years of age who don’t have passport/Voter Id can show other documents with photographs to confirm their age and identity. These include PAN card, driving licence, Central Government Health Service (CGHS) card and ration card but not Aadhaar. For more details check out the article by The Hindu.
If you want to visit any other destinations other than Thimphu and Paro, you’ll have to get Restricted Area Permit from Thimphu Immigration Office. All the permits issued are free of cost and the Immigration Office at Phuentsholing is open only on weekdays (9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Bhutan Standard Time). Also, please check for Bhutan public holidays in advance as it remains closed on those days as well.
Obtaining Permit at Phuentsholing
Bhutan’s currency is the ngultrum, whose value is same as the Indian rupee. The rupee is accepted everywhere in the country. Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. There are no railways, though Indian Railways are planning to link southern Bhutan to its vast network.
Once you cross the border and enter Bhutan, you’ll notice the change in the architecture of buildings. There is nothing much to see in Phuentsholing, so I started inquiring about Paro route. There are many options to reach Paro from Phuentsholing. I took a minibus and reached Paro in 6-7 hours. It cost me somewhere around INR 250.
I reached Paro at around 4:30 PM. It gets dark very early in these parts of the globe. With help of wiki travel, I searched for a budget stay and got the same for INR 500/per night.
Paro City Bhutan
Getting a SIM card in Bhutan is easy. Show your entry permit to get a SIM Card. There are two network operators Tashi cell & Bhutan Telecom and both gives pre-activated sim card. Tashi Cell offers SIM Card for Nu. 200 with talk time of Nu. 200, so I took the same.
Wow!! Just the feeling you get when you enter this beautiful city. One of the best cities that I have traveled to. The view is breathtaking from every corner, it is surrounded by mountains and Paro Chhu River flows through the main town. It’s like a replica of the paintings we used to draw in our childhood. There is such peacefulness everywhere that you will definitely fall in love with the city.
I came across many local Bhutanese and they are truly humble and honest people by nature. They would help you in the best way they can and won’t ever cheat you.
Rinpung Dzong Paro city
Hike to Tiger’s Nest on the trip to Bhutan
Tiger’s Nest the iconic symbol was the main reason, I wanted to visit Bhutan. It is 10 km from Paro city, perched high on the mountainside above the Paro valley. I had been dreaming of Tiger’s Nest trek for years and it absolutely did not disappoint me. The views from the hike to the top are stunning and the best part was yet to come.
It’s a three hours hike, but I was so excited to reach the top, that it took me just one and a half hour to reach. As I reached very early, I was the alone tourist out there, thus I got a chance to click amazing pictures with no human in the background. Otherwise, it is generally very crowded.
Amazing feeling to take a selfie with Tiger Nest Bhutan in the background
The Tiger’s Nest will always remain as one of my favorite places. There is nothing else like it anywhere in the world. You will love every bit of the trek.
For my complete trek to Tiger’s Nest do check Hike to Tiger Nest.
I used the following backpack during this trip and will highly recommend it. (Quechua Forclaz 60 Backpack)
Thimphu-“The Capital City”
After spending 2 amazing days in Paro, I headed for Thimphu which is an hour drive from Paro. The entire route is embraced with some spectacular views. Thimphu offers a fascinating glimpse into Bhutanese life. It also features the impressive Tashichho Dzong, which stands above the city.
World’s Largest Buddha Statue Thimphu on trip to Bhutan
Mainly the hotels and lodges are present near clock tower area. Also, clock tower has an open amphitheater where different programs are organized all over the year. I was lucky enough as a cultural program was going on at the clock tower. It was amazing to witness the cultural dance program depicting the true style of the Bhutanese. Check out more details of Thimphu on Wikitravel.
Clock Tower Thimphu on trip to Bhutan
Cultural festival at clock tower on trip to Bhutan
A river flows across Thimphu on trip to Bhutan
Thimphu to Phunaka
After spending a great time in the capital city, it was now time to head toward Phunaka. Phunaka is around 3 hours ride from Thimphu and is famous for Phunaka Dzong. Lots of shared taxis regularly ply from Thimphu to get to Phunaka.
It is known as Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong meaning ” “the palace of great happiness or bliss”. It is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most ravishing structures. The Dzong is located at the junction of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley.
Cute kid on trip to Bhutan
Cute kid on trip to Bhutan from India
What I saw was mostly the Western parts of Bhutan, I would love to go back to explore more into the eastern parts of Bhutan. It’s a mystical, spectacular country with lovely and happy people. If you really tired of your daily routine and really want to spend some peaceful days of life-Bhutan should be your destination. I can assure you will love each and every moment you spend in this delightful country.
Looking for more places to visit in that part of the globe? Check out my blog post on – A solo trip to North East India and Bhutan (30 days – expenditure 21,000 INR).
Do follow me on Instagram as I am regularly posting travel posts and stories over there. Also, you can message me on Instagram if you want to join me on my next trip.
Are you looking for some essential travel gear? Check out my post on What’s in my Backpack.
Hope you would have enjoyed reading this blog post on the amazing country Bhutan. To get regular updates on budget upcoming blog posts from On a Cheap Trip, please subscribe by entering your name and E-mail address in the Newsletter below. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest as well as on Twitter.