If you’re planning to travel from Nepal to Bhutan, obtaining a Bhutan visa is the first step you need to take. The journey from Nepal to Bhutan can be accomplished through various means, such as crossing the Indian State of West Bengal to reach the Bhutanese border crossing at Phuentsholing, or by taking a direct flight from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport to Bhutan’s Paro International Airport.

Although Bhutan and Nepal are separated by a mere 63 kilometers at their closest points, it is not feasible to travel such a short distance. To reach Bhutan from Nepal, you must either take a 404-kilometer flight or travel overland across the 180-kilometer gap from Siliguri to Phuentsholing.

Once you have determined your preferred mode of transportation, securing your Bhutan visa becomes crucial.

Bhutan Visa: A Mandatory Permit for Traveling from Nepal to Bhutan

Obtaining a Bhutan visa is a compulsory requirement for tourists planning to visit Bhutan from Nepal. This travel permit is essential for all nationalities, except for Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldivians. Unlike typical visa processes through embassies or online applications, the Bhutan visa has unique regulations.

Bhutan Visa

The Bhutan visa is exclusively issued through registered Bhutanese tour operators. It serves as a strict travel permit that grants entry into the last Himalayan kingdom for a specified duration, which is indicated on the visa application. It’s worth noting that individuals cannot apply for the visa independently; it must be facilitated by a recognized Bhutanese tour operator. The application process for the Bhutan visa is known for its stringent requirements, making it one of the most rigid visa procedures worldwide.

Bhutan Visa Application Procedure in Nepal: A Step-by-Step Guide

Applying for a Bhutan visa from Nepal follows a specific procedure that differs from traditional embassy applications or online processes. Here is a step-by-step guide to obtaining a Bhutan visa:

  1. Book a Tour: The only way to acquire a Bhutan visa is by booking a tour with a registered tour operator or travel agent recognized by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the Bhutan Foreign Ministry. Ensure that your chosen operator is authorized to handle visa applications on your behalf.
  2. Provide Passport Details: After booking your tour and settling the required fees, your tour operator will initiate the visa application process. You will need to provide essential passport details such as your Full Name, Permanent Address, Nationality, Occupation, Passport Number, Date of issue and expiration, and Date and Place of Birth. Additionally, you’ll need to submit an electronic copy of your passport photo and scanned copies of your passport.
  3. Visa Application Timeline: It is crucial to apply for the Bhutan visa at least 30 days before your intended travel date. The tour operator will submit your application to the Bhutan Foreign Ministry through the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
  4. Visa Clearance Number: Upon approval of your application, the Foreign Ministry will issue a visa clearance number in the form of a letter. This clearance number will be sent to your tour operator, as well as the immigration terminals at Paro International Airport and the Phuentsholing Border Checkpoint. It will also be shared with the national airlines of Bhutan, Druk Air, and Bhutan Airlines.
  5. Flight Booking: Once you receive the visa clearance number, you can proceed to book your flight to Bhutan. Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines will require the clearance number before confirming your booking. Ensure the number matches the one provided to them by the Foreign Ministry. It is advisable to wait until the visa clearance is issued before making flight arrangements.
  6. Visa Issuance: The Bhutan visa is not pre-issued but is stamped into your passport upon arrival in Bhutan. Carry two passport photos with you when entering the country.

By following these steps and working with a registered tour operator, you can successfully obtain a Bhutan visa and explore remarkable sites like the Punakha Dzong and other scenic destinations in Bhutan.

Bhutan Visa Fees in Nepal: A Breakdown

When traveling to Bhutan from Nepal, there are specific visa fees that you need to be aware of. Here is a breakdown of the Bhutan visa fees:

  1. Standard Visa Fee: The standard visa fee for travelers to Bhutan is approximately US$40 per person. This fee is payable at the time of your tour booking.
  2. Minimum Daily Package: Tours to Bhutan are charged based on the Bhutanese policy of the Minimum Daily Package. From March to May and September to November, the minimum daily package rate is set at US$250 per day. From June to August and December to February, the rate is reduced to US$200 per day. It’s important to note that the visa fee remains the same regardless of whether you are applying from Nepal or any other country unless you are an Indian citizen.
  3. Payment and Visa Application: The tour operator will not initiate the visa application process until the entire tour cost, including the visa fee, has been wired to the bank account of the Tourism Council of Bhutan or the designated account of the tour operator. These accounts are closely monitored by the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

By understanding the visa fees associated with traveling to Bhutan from Nepal and ensuring timely payment, you can smoothly proceed with your tour arrangements.

Validity, Extension, and Cancellation of Bhutan Visa Explained

Validity of Bhutan Visa:

Visas for Bhutan are typically issued for a duration of 15 days. However, if your tour extends beyond this period or is shorter, the visa will be issued for the exact duration of your tour. The specific dates of validity are included in the Visa Clearance Letter, which is issued by the Department of Immigration in the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs in Thimphu.

Visa Extension:

If you wish to extend your stay in Bhutan, it is possible to extend your visa duration at an additional cost. Your tour operator will assist you in providing the necessary details of the extended itinerary. Before approval, you will be required to make the additional daily package fee payment to the designated bank account. The fee for visa extensions in Bhutan is typically around eight US dollars per person. The tour operator will handle the application for the visa extension on your behalf once the relevant payment is made.

Cancellation of Bhutan Trip:

The cancellation policy for your Bhutan trip largely depends on the policy of the tour operator you have chosen. However, it’s important to note that since most tour bookings occur approximately 30 days before the scheduled trip, a full refund is usually not possible. Refund policies may vary, and it is advisable to review the terms and conditions set by your tour operator. Regarding the visa itself, similar to visas from other countries, there is no refund available once the visa has been approved. Once the visa is issued, it cannot be canceled.

Understanding the validity, extension, and cancellation policies associated with the Bhutan visa and tour arrangements will help you plan your trip effectively and make informed decisions.

How to get to Bhutan from Nepal?

There are two main ways to travel from Nepal to Bhutan: overland and by air.

Overland Travel:

  1. By bus: If you choose to travel overland, you can take a local bus from Kathmandu to the Nepal-India border at Kakarbhitta. From there, you can cross the border into India at Panitanki and take a local bus to Siliguri, the nearest railway station.
  2. By train: From Siliguri, you can board a direct train from New Jalpaiguri to Hasimara, which is the closest railway station to the Bhutanese border at Phuentsholing. After reaching Hasimara, take a local bus to Jaigaon, the town opposite Phuentsholing. Cross the Indo-Bhutanese border, where your tour guide and driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in Paro or Thimphu.

Air Travel:

  1. By flight: Another option is to fly directly from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport to Paro International Airport in Bhutan. Only two airlines, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines, are authorized to operate flights to Paro. Flights usually run several days a week.
    • Bhutan Airlines flights operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, departing around 3:00 pm from Tribhuvan Airport. The flight duration is approximately 75 minutes.
    • Druk Air operates flights daily, departing from Tribhuvan at 8:55 am and 1:25 pm. Flight durations may vary.
      Please note that flight prices are subject to change, and you should check with the airlines for the most up-to-date fares.

Whether you choose overland travel or air travel, both options provide access to the stunning landscapes and cultural wonders of Bhutan.

Extra visa or permit needed for the Bhutan tour

For a Nepal-Bhutan tour, additional visas or permits may be required depending on your mode of travel:

By Flight:

  1. Nepal Visa: If you are an international traveler flying from Kathmandu to Bhutan, you may need a visa for Nepal. Most nationalities can obtain a Nepal visa on arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport. The cost of the Nepal visa is approximately $30.

Overland Travel through India:

  1. India Visa: If you are traveling overland through India to reach the Bhutanese border at Phuentsholing, you will need a visa to enter and travel through India. There are two options:
    • Regular Tourist Visa: This visa allows you to travel through India for tourism purposes. The visa fees for most nationalities range from approximately $42.70 to $136.70 per person.
    • Transit Visa: A transit visa is a more cost-effective option if you plan to travel through India to reach Bhutan within a short period. The transit visa is valid for three days and is usually sufficient for the journey from Kakarbhitta to Jaigaon, which typically takes less than 6 hours. The cost of the transit visa ranges from approximately $13 to $53 per person, depending on the Mission where it is applied and your nationality.

It is essential to check the specific visa requirements and fees for your nationality and consult with the relevant embassies or consulates to ensure you have the correct visas and permits for your Nepal Bhutan tour.

Read more on Bhutan’s Official Website about Visa.

Can I Apply For a Bhutan Visa Independently?

Independent applications for a Bhutan visa are not permitted. The Bhutanese government has a policy in place to regulate tourism and protect the country’s natural environment and cultural heritage. As a result, all Bhutan visas must be obtained through a registered tour operator or travel agent.

The tour operator or travel agent will handle the visa application process on your behalf. They will liaise with the Bhutan Tourism Council and the Department of Immigration in Bhutan to obtain the necessary visa clearance for your visit. This ensures that the number of tourists entering Bhutan is regulated and managed effectively.

It is important to note that the tour operator or travel agent will also arrange your accommodations, itinerary, and other travel services during your stay in Bhutan. The tour package, including the visa fees, must be paid in full before the visa application can be processed.

By implementing this system, Bhutan aims to maintain the sustainability of its tourism industry and preserve the unique cultural and environmental aspects of the country.

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