Bhutan

Everybody except citizens of India and Bangladesh must apply for a visa at least 30 days in advance of their proposed date of entry into Bhutan. There is no issuing of Visa on arrival. The local travel operator processes the visa on behalf of the guests. While the visa itself costs a reasonable US$20 for 14 days extendable once, the visa will not be issued without pre-paid bookings for a tour, which costs from US$200 per person per night. These fees include room, board, guide, and transportation within Bhutan. This policy is influenced by the Gross National Happiness GNH policy, whereby the country intentionally develops slowly and learns from mistakes made by other countries. The tourism policy is designed to limit the number of arrivals through price controls. Bhutan claims it cannot afford to have too many tourists as it will dilute the rich and ancient tradition & culture. Although the tours are organized by private local tour operators, the cost is set & monitored by the government and thus not negotiable. It is illegal to under cut prices for the tours. However, a rule of thumb is that tours are slightly cheaper during off-season January, June, & July and more expensive for groups of three or less. There is surcharge of $40 per night for solo travelers and $30 pp/per night for groups of two people. There is also a surcharge for luxury hotels and certain treks. The only other options for visiting the country are to receive an invitation by "a citizen of some standing" or a volunteer organization. Once the tour or invitation has received government approval, visas will be issued either by immigration at Paro airport or in Phuentsholing - basically all the work for a visa application is completed within Bhutan. There is no need to visit a Bhutanese embassy or consulate.

As travel to Bhutan almost invariably requires at least one flight change in India, Nepal, or Thailand, ensure that you can meet the visa requirements of those countries before departing on your journey. Nepal and Thailand offer visa on arrival or visa waiver for many nationalities. India generally requires visa procedures to be completed before arrival, and this can take up to two weeks.

Bhutan has a number of embassies and consulates, including those listed below (http://www.embassypages.c...).

India: Royal Bhutanese Embassy - Chandragupta Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110 021. Tel: 609217/ 609218, Fax:6876710

U.S.: Consulate General of Bhutan - 2 UN Plaza, 27th Floor, New York NY 10017. Tel:212 826-1919, Fax:212 826-2998.

Canada: Honorary Consul of Bhutan - 150 Isabella Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 1V7. Tel:613 232-1222 Fax:613569-4667

Hong Kong: Honorary Consul of Bhutan - 32/F, New World Tower, 16-18 Queen's Road, Central, Hong Kong. Tel: 852 28443117, 2844-3111, Fax: 852 25247652 Email: joycecheung@nwd.com.hk

Thailand: The Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Bangkok - Jewelry Trade Center Building, Rm. 1907, 19th Floor, 919/1 Silom Road, Bangkok 10500. Tel:2671722, 630119 - Fax:6301193.

There are only two legal entry points into Bhutan: Paro's airport, and the land border with India at Phuentsholing. A third border crossing from Samdrup Jongkhar in southeastern Bhutan into India's Assam state is open, but for exit only - see Samdrup Jongkhar - 'get out' section for more detailed information.

By train
By train

There are no railways in Bhutan. The nearest options both in India are:

Hasimara on the main Kolkata/Siliguri line to Assam is the nearest railway station to Phuentsholing, 17 km away. Indian Rail operated train #13149 and #4084 stop here. As of October 2010, some sections of the road from New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri to Phuentsholing are in a very bad shape. Extending travel by train till Hasimara would save your freshness for Bhutan.

New Jalpaiguri Station
NJP in Siliguri is a popular choice for travellers heading to Bhutan by land. There are direct shared taxis from NJP to Jaigaon or there is the option of buses from Siliguri bus station. A taxi between the station and the bus station costs around 80rs max. Alternatively you can also take a local train to Hasimara which costs around Rs40 and takes around 3 hours. Trains from NJP should be booked ahead, as it is a popular stations amongst locals. There are not any trains leaving from this station with a tourist quota.