Presently, for citizens of India, Bangladesh & Maldives, there’s no need of any Visa to visit Bhutan, but different Permits are required to enter various zones. And with the present trend of visiting Bhutan amongst tourists raising higher daily, I notice that there are lots of confusions and various queries coming up with the Bhutan’s Permit System. I hope this article will answer all their queries in simplified manner covering each and every minute details.
First of all, there are two kinds of Permits
- Entry Permit
- Inner Line Permit (ILP)
Entry Permit : This is issued while entering Bhutan and is only valid for travelling upto or within Thimphu and Paro. Entry Permit can be obtained in 4 ways.
Bhutan Consulate, Kolkata : If you are from Kolkata, you may apply for Entry Permit at Kolkata Bhutan Consulate around 3 months in advance to get the permit in advance.Kolkata Immigration Office have stopped issuing permits. This option is no more valid.
- Border Immigration Office : Doesn’t matter whichever border you use to enter Bhutan, you need to reach to Immigration Office in the bordering town to get Entry Permit. The time required depends on the number of persons in queue. Please note that Border Immigration Office is closed on Weekends and on Bhutan Govt. Holidays.
- Paro Airport : If you are flying to Paro, you can get the permit on spot irrespective of any day you arrive.
- Online Permit : E-Permit is not accessible to public and you must reach out to local Authorized Bhutanese Tour Operators to get it arranged for you in advance. But if you are opting for Online Permit, you must mandatorily hire a Tour Guide from them.
NOTE : Irrespective of whichever way you opt for getting the permit, you must show hotel booking receipt, which must be in the official letter head of hotel, as a proof while applying for Entry Permit. But it has been noticed that depending on the Immigration Officer you are facing and you luck, you might just get away with only first night’s hotel booking reciept (except Bordering Town).
Documents (For Entry Permit) : Only Voter ID Card OR Passport is accepted and you must provide both Original and Photocopy along with Passport Size Photo while applying for Entry Permit. For kids below 18 Years, Birth Certificate and School ID Card (if applicable) would suffice.
Identification Slip : If you do not have either of Passport / Voter ID Card and you are above 18 years, then you must first visit Indian Consulate, P/Soling to get an Identification Slip with whatever documents you have (Aadhaar Card / Pan Card / Driving License / Ration Card) along with Passport Size Photo to prove your nationality and then visit Immigration Office to get Entry Permit with the Identification Slip provided by Indian Consulate.
ILP (Inner Line Permit) : If you want to travel anywhere beyond Thimphu and Paro Dzongkhag (district), you must apply for ILP at Thimphu Immigration Office (if entering from P/Soling). One needs to provide Original and Photocopy of Entry Permit and Passport Size Photos.
Timings : All the Immigration Offices works from 9AM – 5PM on Weekdays (except Paro Airport). They are closed on Weekends and Bhutan Govt. Holidays. If you are arriving by flight to Paro, you can get the permit any time including weekends and holidays. Immigration Office at Paro Airport works 24 x 7 x 365.
Extension Permit : If the number of days allowed by Immigration Officer, initially, on your Entry Permit is not sufficient, you need to get an Extension Permit (for required number of days) from Thimphu Immigration Office.
NOTE : If you are not a citizen of India / Bangladesh / Maldives then you cannot visit Bhutan on your own and you must plan your whole trip through an authorized Bhutanese Tour Operator. Please note that, even if you are a NRI and do not hold Indian Passport OR Voter ID Card, then also this rule is applicable for you and you cannot visit Bhutan on your own.
Solo Travellers : Although Bhutan is safe for both Solo Male and Female travellers, however Bhutan really discourages Solo Travel. However based on your luck, you might not have any issues, if you have proper documentations mentioned above. It’s best to know that though there’s no such theoritical rules, but Solo Travelers are prone to more stricter verification based on his/her luck. Also you should know that, Immigration Officer might ask for authorization letter in writing stating that, in case something happens, Bhutan Govt. won’t be responsible.
In case you’d like to go through every minute details and get an idea of various costs associated with a Trip To Bhutan, you may please go through my Trip Reports.
Trip Reports :
Entering Bhutan – The Land of Thunder Dragon