Bhutan Visa Requirements – Who and How to apply

Bhutan is a South Asian country tucked between China and India. Until the 1970s, Bhutan was isolated from the public, shielding its citizens from foreign influence and intrusion. But, slowly, Bhutan has begun to open its doors to foreign visitors, and with time, people have become interested in Bhutan visa requirements, who can apply, and how to apply.

Except for India, Maldives, and Bangladesh, foreign nationals from all countries must obtain a visa to Bhutan. This is the country’s way of restricting a considerable influx of tourists as it tries to protect its society and environment. For that reason, Bhutan has a “High travel, Low Impact tourism” policy.

The process of obtaining a visa to Bhutan is quite different from that of other countries. Therefore, if you want to travel to Bhutan, you must understand the steps to take. Here’s an article on Bhutan Visa Requirements – Who and How to apply.

Facts about Bhutan

This may be your first time hearing about a country named Bhutan. So let’s quickly run through some things you must know about the country before visiting.

1. Bhutan is a beautiful country with snow-capped mountains.

2. Bhutan is a country with a population of about 870,000 people.

3. The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, but it is spoken less frequently than Sharcophka.

4. Bhutan primarily practices Lamaistic Buddhism, followed by Hinduism.

5. Bhutan is the largest exporter of hydropower to India as a result of its rich biodiversity

6. The country joined the United Nations in 1971

Bhutan Visa Policy

All visitors to Bhutan except India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, must obtain a visa to the country.

Technically, Bhutan signed a Freedom of Movement agreement with India, allowing citizens of both countries free movement within its borders. In 2009, it signed a Bilateral Free Trade Agreement with Bangladesh, resulting in no-visa travel between countries. Bhutan has the same freedom of movement agreement with the Maldives.

However, although all three countries do not require a visa to enter Bhutan, citizens of these countries must present any of the following sources of identification:

  • A passport valid for at least six months
  • A voter’s card with the visitor’s photograph
  • Proof of citizenship

In addition, they must pay a daily fee of about $17 during their stay in Bhutan. This is called a sustainable development fee.

Who can apply for a Bhuta Visa?

Citizens of all countries, except India, the Maldives, and Bangladesh, must obtain a visa to enter Bhutan. However, because the Royal Government of Bhutan privatizes tourism, travel to this country is only possible by obtaining a visa clearance. This clearance is obtained by one of the government-approved travel agencies in Bhutan.

Requirements for applying for an E visa to Bhutan

You are not required to go through the usual visa process or interview for your travel to Bhutan. Instead, you must obtain the following requirements and submit them on arrival at Paro International Airport in Bhutan.

1. Your passport with a validity of at least six months

2. Hotel bookings

3. Travel Itinerary

Types of Bhutan Visa and their requirements

Although everyone must obtain an e-visa to Bhutan, certain types of visitors must submit additional requirements. They are:

Ministerial Guests to Bhutan

  • Letter from the head of the visiting Ministry addressed to the Chief of Protocol
  • Letter of invitation from the host ministry in Bhutan
  • A completed visa application form filled by the guests
  • Photocopy of the visitor’s passport

Non-Governmental Organization Official

  • Letter of intent from the head of the organization
  • Letter of approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Visa application form
  • Photocopy of visitor’s passport

Official Sports Visitor to Bhutan

  • Letter of intent from the General Secretary of the Sports Association addressed to the Chief of Protocol
  • Approval letter from the President
  • Visa application form filled out
  • Photocopy of passport

Guests of Foreign Expatriates in Bhutan

  • The foreign expatriate must have resided in Bhutan for at least six months before receiving guests
  • Forwarding letter from the host’s organization addressed to the Chief of Protocol
  • Personal guest application form completed
  • Visa application form completed
  • Copy of visitor’s passport as well as the host’s
  • Dependents of the foreign national can only join them in Bhutan for the duration of their assignment
  • The duration of the visit must not exceed one month

Official Guests of Private Organizations in Bhutan

  • Forwarding letter from the Ministry of Economic Affairs
  • A completed visa application form
  • Photocopy of guests’ passport

How to apply for a Bhutan Visa

To obtain a visa to Bhutan, you must apply to the Tourism Council of Bhutan through a licensed travel operator. It is important to note here that Bhutan visas are given on arrival, but you must apply in advance and get visa clearance before your departure. Here are the steps to follow:

Step #1. Contact a licensed travel operator

You can get a list of approved travel operators on the website of the Bhutan Tourism Council, where a list of registered tour providers is there.

Step #2. Pay for your Bhuta tour

Remember that the visa fee payment must include the payment for the tour.

Step #3. Scan your passport

You must scan your passport in color and make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after you enter Bhutan. Also, confirm your name, address, and phone number.

Step #4. Attach documentation for your visa

There are discounts available to students and children. If you fall into any of these categories, you must submit proof by attaching a student ID card or birth certificate. Other requirements mentioned above should also be attached.

Step #5. Submit your Bhutan visa application and requirements

Once satisfied with the paperwork, the tour operators will submit your visa application to the BTC on your behalf.

Step #6. Review of Bhutan visa application and requirements

Your Bhutan Visa application will be reviewed by the Bhutan Tourism Council which will then issue a Visa Clearance Letter. This will be emailed back to you, and you must print and bring this letter to the airport.

Step #7. Obtain your travel medical insurance

This is not part of what the tour operators can get for you, so you must have to do this on your own.

Step #8. Travel to Bhutan

At the airport immigration office, you will present your visa clearance letter to the immigration officer. You will receive a stamp on your passport after it has been reviewed. This is the visa to Bhutan. Welcome!

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to obtain a Bhutan Visa?

A tourist vis to Bhutan costs $40 for one person. It is non-refundable. But part of the visa requirements is that you must pay for the tour too. The Bhutan Tourism Council has fixed a fee of about $200 to $250 per day to cover a daily package of boarding at a three-star hotel, three meals, transportation within the area, a tour guide who is proficient in English, tourist fees to places of attraction, trekking and camping excursions, and government fees known as sustainable development charge. The advantage of paying the tour fee is that you don’t need to carry money around, except to buy souvenirs, because everything you expect to spend in a day has been included in the tour fee.

What is the validity period of a Bhutan visa?

A visitor’s visa to Bhutan is valid for six months from entry into Bhutan. However, it is a single-entry visa, meaning that once you enter and leave Bhutan, you will not be able to return to the country without obtaining another visa, even if you only stayed for a few days.

Can I apply for an extension of my visa to Bhutan?

Applying for a visa extension is possible if you must remain in Bhutan after your visa expires. For example, suppose you overstay for more than three days. In that case, the concerned ministry or organization responsible for your stay in Bhutan must write a letter of explanation to the Chief of Protocol, mentioning the real reason for the extension. Also, a copy of the visa issued by immigration will be attached.

When is the best time to visit Bhutan?

The second half of September is fall season in Bhutan, when the country is bathed in red and golden colors, with paddies about to be harvested. At this time, farmers are very busy on their farmlands. This is also when the weather is best for trekking into the mountains. Festivals happen by the second week of October as the natives prepare for the end of the year.

When can I apply for a Bhutan Visa?

It takes about one to two weeks to process a Bhutan visa clearance, so it’s best to apply about two weeks before your proposed travel date if you want to travel to the country. But to be safe, you may apply about a month or two before traveling.

Conclusion

Everything you need to know about the Bhutan visa process is contained here. Bhutan is a beautiful country almost untouched by outside influences. Now that you know the visa requirements and how to apply for a visa to Bhutan, nothing is stopping you from visiting the country today. You’ll be amazed at not only the wonders of nature but a completely different way of life.

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