Nestled between India and China, the stunning, peace-seeking nation of Bhutan is full of surprises. A country with no traffic lights and only slightly more people than the US city of Seattle, a trip to Bhutan should be high on the priority list of those hoping to see a country like no other on earth.
Bhutan’s serenity can only be experienced by some, as the country has strict restrictions on how many people can visit each year and how much they have to spend. This post is intended to share some vital information with you if you’re planning a trip to Bhutan from the USA, so read on to find out how to plan your trip.
How to travel to Bhutan from the USA
There are currently no direct flights from the USA to Bhutan, but you can enter the landlocked country via many routes. Perhaps the most popular and most convenient option for US citizens is to fly to Bangkok, where you can hop on a flight to Paro International Airport.
Another option is to fly into Kathmandu, Nepal, and connect via a short flight to Paro. A significant benefit of flying from Nepal to Bhutan is that you fly over the Himalayas, and if visibility is good, you will see Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain.
Other popular transfer airports include Delhi and Singapore, so depending on where in the US you are flying from, you can plan your trip accordingly.
In order to travel to Bhutan from the US, you will need the following:
- A passport valid for at least six months
- A tourist visa clearance letter that has been issued after your booking has been confirmed through a Bhutanese tour operator
You must book your trip via a reputable and registered Bhutanese tour operator, and you cannot plan your trip independently.
Costs associated with traveling to Bhutan
One of the most significant costs associated with traveling to Bhutan is your flight. Depending upon which city in the US you depart and which city in Asia you transit through, the flight’s cost can vary significantly.
You can find round-trip flights from many US cities direct to Bangkok for between 500 – 800 USD. Flights to Kathmandu tend to be slightly more expensive, although you can still find return flights for under 1000 USD.
Once you have found your flights to the transit city of your choice, you then need to look for flights into Bhutan. Be aware that only two airlines operate flights into Bhutan, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines, and flights don’t necessarily operate daily.
You may be surprised to find that your short trip from Kathmandu, Bangkok, or Singapore may cost you the same or even more than your first flight from the US to Asia, with most connecting flights to Bhutan costing somewhere in the region of 400 – 1000 USD.
When preparing for your trip to Bhutan, if you are happy to fly economy, it’s a good idea to budget approximately 2000 USD for your round trip flights. Having said that, depending on which route you take, and what time of the year you travel, you could find cheaper flights.
In terms of the trip itself, the minimum cost of your trip to Bhutan is 200 USD for regular months and 250 USD during peak season, per person, per night spent in the country. This fee includes a tourism tariff that is imposed by the Bhutanese government and contributes to providing education and medical services to the people of Bhutan.
The daily fee also includes accommodation, meals, transport, fuel, guides, entry fees, and taxes. The fee is paid to the tour company in advance of your trip, so you only need money for incidentals during your trip.
If you consider the cost of your flights, the daily fee, and also your 40 USD visa fee, if you plan to travel to Bhutan from the US for one week during peak season, you should expect to pay somewhere in the region of 3,790 USD, excluding incidentals.
Tips for traveling in Bhutan
The best time of the year to visit Bhutan is during the spring season, between the months of March and May. Equally, the autumn season between September and November is also pleasant. Be mindful that flights are weather-dependent and can often be delayed for several days if the weather is bad.
When you arrive in Bhutan, you can connect to one of two mobile networks. You should make sure your phone is unlocked to buy a local sim and be prepared for the fact that connectivity is limited in many places!
Regarding cash, you should take USD with you when you travel to Bhutan. The local currency is the Ngultrum, but USD are also widely accepted.
If you wish to exchange your dollars for the local currency, you will get a better rate if you have bigger bills. You can also access your money from ATMs in major towns across the country, but make sure you let your bank know that you’re traveling to Bhutan in advance, or they may block your card.
Know that you cannot travel around Bhutan independently. A local guide will accompany you throughout your whole time in the country. This is actually a great thing, as you don’t need to worry about the language barrier, and your guide will provide you with lots of interesting facts about the country and the sites you visit.
Bhutanese cuisine is unique, but it’s also delicious. Expect delicious, spicy flavors with meats, cheese, and vegetables. The signature Bhutanese dish is ema, which is rice and spicy chilies topped off with a delightful cheese sauce.
Bhutanese people are incredibly hospitable, polite, and friendly. Should you decide to book a trip to Bhutan, you will not be disappointed, and you will be able to explore a country that is awash with exciting places and beautiful scenery.