Visa policy of Bhutan

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Visa for Bhutan issued in 2002

Travel to the Kingdom of Bhutan is highly regulated under the policy "High Value, Low Volume" Tourism[1] in order to minimize the impact on the country's unique society and environment. Bhutanese policy ensures that only a sustainable 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 best experience and values out of their visits.

Visa policy map[edit]

Visa policy of Bhutan
  Bhutan
  Permit Required
  Visa-on-arrival

Visa exemption[edit]

Freedom of movement[edit]

Citizens of  India do not need a visa to enter Bhutan, because the 1949 Treaty between Bhutan and India allows for free movement of people between the two nations on a reciprocal basis. From 23rd September 2022, this freedom of movement is now restricted to travel with in the border towns of Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar. Travel beyond these border towns will require pre-arranged permits.

Since 1st July 2020, visitors from India, Bangladesh and Maldives are required to pay a concessional Sustainable Development Fee of 1,200 BTN per night, to avail a permit to enter Bhutan.[2]

Indian citizens are required to get a permit before entry into Bhutan by air and land, and may use any of the acceptable documents mentioned below to enter Bhutan:

Visa on arrival[edit]

Citizens of the following countries can avail their visa on arrival in Bhutan. [3]

Diplomatic, service and official passports[edit]

Holders of diplomatic or official passports of the following countries can avail visa on arrival at their port of entry.[4]

Visa required in advance[edit]

All foreigners (except for citizens of Bangladesh and Maldives) must obtain a visa, while Indian nationals must obtain a permit before visiting Bhutan and may only enter Bhutan through Phuntsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar if coming by land or Paro if coming by air. 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. A daily Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) is also charged for every day of stay. For all foreign tourists, it amounts to $200 a day, while India nationals pay 1,200 ngultrum, or the equivalent amount in Indian rupees, per person, per night.

Children aged 6 to 12 at the time of travel receive a 50% concessionary discount on the SDF. Those aged 5 or younger are exempt. [5]

Day visitors to the Bhutanese towns bordering India are also exempt from paying the SDF until they reach a point designated by the Bhutanese government.[6]


Liberalization proposals[edit]

In 2009, the government of Bhutan hired the consulting company McKinsey to re-assess its policies on tourism. McKinsey’s plan to de-regulate tourism and allow an unlimited number of foreign tourists to enter the country was preliminarily approved by the Prime Minister and the cabinet, but finally rejected due to widespread opposition in the country. According to Canadian scholar Kent Schroeder, “the reversal of McKinsey’s liberalization proposal represented a significant triumph for many within the private sector and civil society.” [7]

Statistics[edit]

Most visitors arriving to Bhutan were from the following countries of nationality:[8]

Rank Country or territory 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
1  India 230,381 191,836 172,751 114,301
2  Bangladesh 13,016 10,450 10,536 7,753
3  United States 11,707 10,561 9,220 7,292 7,137 7,291 6,997 6,102
4  China 7,564 6,878 6,421 9,208 9,399 8,111 4,827 3,816
5  Singapore 4,744 3,886 4,129 3,015 2,587 1,720 2,051 1,611
6  United Kingdom 4,241 3,585 3,246 3,124 2,958 2,680 2,309 2,491
7  Thailand 4,086 3,886 4,047 4,177 3,778 12,105 3,527 3,617
8  Germany 3,375 3,422 2,970 2,297 2,498 2,971 2,770 2,895
9  Australia 3,153 2,739 2,249 1,818 1,833 2,037 2,062 1,950
10  Japan 3,010 2,674 2,744 4,833 2,437 2,707 4,035 7,029
11  Malaysia 2,761 3,140 2,956 1,967 1,546 2,067 2,054 1,312
12  Vietnam 2,072 1,961 1,423
13  France 1,953 1,773 1,545 1,501 1,563 1,636 1,572 1,863
14  Canada 1,870 1,807 1,524 1,110
15  Spain 1,659 1,397 1,142
16  Taiwan 1,496 1,491 1,812
17  Switzerland 1,379 1,352
18  Italy 1,229 978
19  Indonesia 1,033
20  Netherlands 757
Others 20,007
Total 315,599 274,097 237,529 209,570 155,121 133,480 116,209 105,407

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bhutan revises its tourism policy to redefine High Value Low Volume tourism". Daily Bhutan. Daily Bhutan. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Bhutan set to raise SDF to 200 USD". Daily Bhutan. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  3. ^ "Visa to Bhutan". Druk Asia. Druk Asia / Tourism Council of Bhutan. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  4. ^ "Do I need a visa to enter Bhutan?". Tourism Council of Bhutan. Tourism Council of Bhutan.
  5. ^ "Passport & Visa to enter Bhutan". Drukair Singapore. Drukair. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  6. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Tashel. Dept of Immigration Bhutan. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  7. ^ Kent Schroeder, Politics of Gross National Happiness: Governance and Development in Bhutan, Cham (Switzerland): Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, 60–63.
  8. ^ "Bhutan Tourism Monitor". Tourism Council of Bhutan. Tourism Council of Bhutan. Retrieved 23 September 2022.