Visa policy of Bhutan

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Visa for Bhutan issued in 2002

Travel to Bhutan is highly regulated under the policy "High Value, Low Impact Tourism" in order to minimize the impact on the country's unique society and environment. Bhutanese policy ensures that only a limited number of tourists enter the country at any one time, preventing it from being overwhelmed by mass tourism and thus altering its character, and that the tourists who do come get the most out of their visits.

Entry restrictions[edit]

All foreigners except for citizens of Bangladesh, India, and Maldives must obtain a visa before visiting Bhutan. If approved, they are given a visa clearance letter, and must present it at the port of entry. The visa is then stamped into their passport. Foreign tourists must use a licensed Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners to pre-arrange their visa and book their holiday. A daily fee is also charged for every day of stay. For most foreign tourists, it amounts to $250 a day during tourist high season, and $200 a day for low season.[1][2] Discounts also apply for minors and larger groups while surcharges exist for groups smaller than 3. The minimum daily package required for visa processing covers accommodation, food, guide and vehicle with driver. Part of it goes towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation in Bhutan.[3][4] Licensed tour guides accompany tourists during their trips and arrange accommodations - independent tourism by citizens of non-visa exempt countries is prohibited.

The only exceptions for having to book a tour as a condition for being allowed to visit are for those who receive a formal invitation to Bhutan from "a citizen of some standing" or a volunteer organization,[5] and those who come as guests of the Bhutanese government.

Visa free[edit]

Citizens of Bangladesh, India, and Maldives do not need a visa and a booking with a licensed tour operator to visit Bhutan, provided they have a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry.[6] Indian citizens may also use their Voter ID to obtain entry into Bhutan.[7] Indian citizens who do not have either of these two documents can obtain an "Identification Slip" from the Indian Consulate Office in Phuentsholing, provided they are able to present proof of Indian citizenship.[8]

Holders of diplomatic or official/service passports of Switzerland and Thailand do not require a visa to visit Bhutan for up to 90 days.[9]

Restricted areas[edit]

Upon entering Bhutan, foreigners are issued an "Entry Permit" valid for Thimphu and Paro only. The rest of Bhutan is considered a restricted area, and foreigners need special permits to enter. Immigration checkpoints are located at important road junctions throughout the country, where police check the permits of all foreigners they find. In addition, foreigners wishing to visit Buddhist temples must obtain a Temple Permit from the Ministry of Culture.[10] While these permits are typically arranged by the tour operators, Indian, Bangladeshi, and Maldivian visitors who did not book a through a licensed tour operator must apply for them in person.

References[edit]