What is a Bhutan entry permit?
Bhutan Entry Permit is a FREE pass issued to citizens of India, Maldives, and Bangladesh for traveling across Bhutan. All other country tourists need a valid visa.
Important Travel Tips – Bhutan -> Read here
Point of entries from where one can get permit
1. Phuentsholing – Immigration Office of Royal Government of Bhutan, Phuentsholing (Indo-Bhutan Border, Jaigaon, West Bengal). This entry point is suitable for those who are crossing land border and are planning to visit Paro, Thimphu, and Punakha (West-Bhutan).
2. Samdrup Jongkhar – Immigration Office of Royal Government of Bhutan, Samdrup Jongkhar (Indo-Bhutan Border, Gudama, Assam). This entry point is suitable if you are planning to visit East/Southern Bhutan.
3. Paro International Airport – Those who are directly flying to Bhutan can get their permit at Paro International Airport.
Validity of Entry Permit and Extension
For Indians, permit is issued only for 7 days and to visit only Paro and Thimphu. If you are planning to visit more places or stay longer, you need to get an extension from Thimphu Immigration Office. The extension can be maximum for 30 days. Entry Permit and extension of permit is FREE of cost for Indian Nationals.
Can Indian Tourists get Bhutan Entry Permit in advance?
Yes. Indians can get Bhutan Entry Permit in advance from Bhutan High Commissioner’s Office at Delhi or Kolkata Bhutan Consulate. These offices usually take more than a week to process a permit.
Bhutan Entry Permit Online
Bhutan Government has recently launched online permit facility for citizens of India, Bangladesh, and Maldives. The system will facilitate the online processing of permits for regional tourists through registered Bhutanese tour operators and TCB certified hotels. It will be applicable for entry from Paro and Phuentsholing only. You can find more details on Bhutan Online Regional Permit System -> here.
Phuentsholing/Thimphu Permit Office Timings
Immigration offices are open from Monday to Friday between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM Bhutan Standard Time (BST) which is 9:30 AM and 4:30 PM Indian Standard Time (IST). Lunch hours are from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM BST. Permit offices remain closed on Saturday, Sunday and on Bhutan Public Holidays. There is no way to get Bhutan Permit over weekend for Indian Tourists. Even travel agents can not help in this regard. So do not take chances.
Documents Needed and Process to get Bhutan Entry Permit for Indians at Phuentsholing
- Original Passport with minimum 6 months validity.
- Photo copy of Passport.
- Duly filled Immigration Form.
- A passport sized photograph.
- Copy of confirmed hotel booking for initial 1-2 days of travel. No need to book hotel for all days.
- Sometimes they may even ask for complete itinerary.
Process at Phuentsholing
Fill up the Immigration Form and attach the photograph. Staple the immigration form along with passport copy and accommodation booking copy. Reach the permit office by 8:00 AM to avoid long queues.
Important Note: Get photo copies, glue, staple everything before hand. Do not look for anything inside the office.
If you want a copy of Bhutan Immigration Form, leave your Email ID in the comments. I will mail you the copy.
Submit the documents at the first counter at entrance and answer any basic questions regarding your travel.
Go upstairs and wait in queue along the counters. Here photograph and finger-prints are captured into database. If you are traveling in a group, all the members should be present for the formalities. Within 15-30 minutes, you will get your passport stamped with a 7 day permit. This permit is valid to visit Paro and Thimphu only.
Note: The process of accepting Driving License, Aadhar Card and issuing identification slip for those who do not have Passport or Voter ID is being discontinued from 01 January, 2019. So passport and Voters ID are the only documents that are accepted to issue entry permit.
Hiring Indian Vehicle/Driver
If you have hired a Indian Vehicle/Driver to travel across Bhutan, then you need to process the permit for driver along with a signed letter from authorized travel agency of Bhutan. This has to be submitted along with Immigration forms of all individuals in the group.
Bhutanese Government encourages everyone to book their travel through authorized Bhutanese Travel Agencies. When you hire Bhutanese Vehicle, there is no need of separate permit for the vehicle or the driver. Driver will also take care of his own food and accommodation.
Note: It is not suggested to hire an Indian Vehicle/Driver as most agents from West Bengal/Siliguri cheat or cause chaos during the trip. And even getting permits and accommodation for Indian driver is a cumbersome process.
Traveling Solo or by Motorbike or Self-driven Car
Solo – Bhutanese officials usually refrain from issuing entry permits to solo travelers for safety reasons. However if you furnish a simple requisition letter and convince them that you are capable of traveling solo, you will be able to get an entry permit. Getting permits to travel beyond Thimphu becomes difficult if the weather during your visit is harsh.
By Car – Self driven cars and Indian plate vehicles need a separate permit. After getting traveler permits from Phuentsholing Immigration Office, you will have to obtain the route permit for your car. Documents required are: Original RC, DL, PUC, Insurance, Entry Permit and 2 copies of each document. Take all the documents to RTO office located 500 meter away from the Immigration Office, pay nominal fees and get the permit within an hour. If you are visiting any other places apart from Paro and Thimphu, you will have to repeat the same process in Thimphu.
By Bike – Getting route permits for bike is similar to that of obtaining permits for a car. If your itinerary involves high-altitude passes and restricted areas, permit might be denied due to increased number of accidents involving motorbikes. The highways beyond Dochula Pass are under expansion, the weather is harsh at times, and the roads are extremely slippery during winter.
Documents Needed and Process to extend Bhutan Permit for Indians at Thimphu
If you are planning to stay for more than 7 days in Bhutan or if you are planning to visit places other than Paro and Thimphu, you need to apply for permit extension at Thimphu Immigration Office. Note that you cannot get permit extension at Paro Immigration Office.
- Duly filled Permit Extension Application form (mention all the places you are planning to visit – Haa, Punakha, Bumthang etc).
- Xerox copy of original Bhutan Entry Permit stamped in your passport.
- A passport sized photograph.
Submit all the documents in the Thimphu Immigration Office and collect the extended permit after 2-4 hours.
Immigration check posts
The first immigration check-post is 5 km away from Phuentsholing Immigration Office. Every tourist has to stop and get their permit stamped during their entry to Bhutan and also during their exit from Bhutan. It is responsibility of every traveler to stop by immigration check posts before entering or exiting any restricted areas. Even the public transports and shared taxis stop at these designated check-posts.
Do not forget to get a stamp during your entry. If you are caught in further check-posts, you are subjected to hefty penalty and sometimes even arrest.
If you forget to get a stamp during your exit from Bhutan, you are subjected to penalty on daily basis. For example, consider that you forgot to get a exit stamp on 20-Dec-2018. You visit Bhutan again on 20-Sep-2019. You will have to pay penalty for approximately 270 days, which will be super-hefty amount.
The extension permit has to be submitted at the last check-post during your exit from Bhutan and you will get an exit stamp in your passport. If you want a memorabilia of all the stamps, then take a picture.
If you have further queries regarding Bhutan Permits, post your question. I will be happy to answer.
Accommodation in case Permit is delayed
If you reach permit office little late by 12 PM, you will be stuck in long queue. As officials take lunch break between 1 and 2 PM, you will get permit only by 3:30 or 4 PM. Shared taxis will be available to Thimphu and charge around 600 – 700 BTN per person.
Sometimes if its late, there won’t be any bus or taxis available. In such scenario one can stay at Jaigaon, Indian side of the border or at Phuentsholing, Bhutan side of the border. Both places have budget accommodations as well as luxury accommodations.