Here are some of the questions that we hear often from visitors. If there are other questions, please send us an email, we are happy to answer.
Can I arrange a visit to Bhutan on my own?
No. The Royal Government of Bhutan allows tourism only through all-inclusive packages provided by licensed Bhutan Tour Operators. Before any visa is issued, the full tour payment must be sent to the tour operator who will then deposit the amount into a special tourism account.
Can I negotiate the price?
The minimum price is set by the Royal Government of Bhutan and is not negotiable. Your visa will not be issued unless the full payment is received and deposited into the tourism account.
What if I find a lower price elsewhere?
The laws regarding the minimum tourism price per day are very strict. We are not willing to risk our license by trying to undercut. The only legal way of reducing your price is to come with a group of more than 11 people. Please see the tariff page for details.
Why is it so expensive to visit Bhutan?
When compared to other countries in Asia, Bhutan’s per day price will seem high. Remember that the cost does include all of your accommodation, all meals, and private transportation and guides. If you try to visit most other countries purchasing a tour package with private transport, private guides, hotels, and then adding your food costs, you will find that the prices are similar. What is different in Bhutan is that you are not allowed to go on your own.
For each day that a tourist is in Bhutan, there is a $65 royalty goes directly to the government to help with the cost of health care and education within the country.
The lack of “free roaming tourists” means that the government can ensure that guides are properly trained and licensed. The high price also limits the number of visitors to Bhutan each year. This limited number of tourists has nearly completely stopped touts trying to sell you things, a common problem in all Asian countries. Try visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia and see if you actually enjoy being surrounded by 50 people for 30 minutes trying to sell you a hat before you finally get to enjoy the site.
Can I purchase your tour but be left to explore on my own?
There are many tourism enforcement officers working to ensure that we are using properly licensed guides, if they were to find a tourist wandering around on their own, they would assume that we did not hire a guide for you and we would be fined. Also even getting from one part of Bhutan to another requires going through immigration check-points with a route permit; they will be suspicious of a tourist passing through a check-point by themselves.
During the evenings, you will always be free to stroll around the towns on your own.
Can I pay by credit card?
We are not able to accept credit cards at the moment. We did inquire about opening a merchant account but this does not seem to be possible yet. The rules require that the tour payment must arrive by wire transfer in USD. Perhaps in the future this option will be available.
How do I make a “Wire Transfer”?
If you are from North America, it is likely the case that you have never used wire (sometimes called telegraphic or cable) transfers and its likely that you will not be able to perform this transfer without going into your bank. Some banks do provide this service from their on-line system. There are some foreign currency trading sites that allow you to purchase USD online (through an Interact transfer) then send the payment on through a wire transfer. One such service is www.xe.com (we don’t actually use this service, we just know of people who do).
We will send you the bank SWIFT code and account number when you are ready to make the payment. You take this information to the bank and tell them that you want to do a wire transfer and that it must arrive in USD. The bank will put in the request and take the money from your account and ask who the recipient is and why you are sending the money. The next part can be a bit frustrating if you are used to instant banking, wire transfers can take 2-3 business days to reach our bank. As soon as we receive the transfer we will let you know and apply for the visa.
How do I apply for a visa?
We are responsible for applying for the visa for Bhutan. To make the application we need a copy of the first page on your passport, your address, and your job title. Once the visa is approved (1 to 5 business days depending on how busy the immigration department is) we will send you a copy of the visa clearance by e-mail. You must carry this document with you when you check-in at the airline. Please note that the visa is linked to your passport and if you change passports after the visa clearance then you must contact us for a new visa.
When you reach the passport control counter at the airport, they will scan your passport and stamp it based on the information that is in their system. The stamps for visiting Bhutan will use up about one half of a page in your passport.
Could I be denied a visa?
The requirement for obtaining a visa is that you must have the tour booked before the visa will be approved. Generally there is no reason why a visa would be denied. The only reason for a denial would be if the full payment was not deposited or you visited before and caused some trouble. If your visa is denied, you of course will receive a full refund.
Can I book the flights myself?
Yes, you may book the DrukAir flights from their website or you may let us do the booking for you. Sometimes the website booking tool will show a flight as completely sold out but agents in Bhutan may be able to confirm a date. If we do the booking for you, we will send a copy of the e-ticket as soon as it is issued.
What is the quality of the hotels?
Hotels in Bhutan are not categorized to international standards. In comparison to hotels in other parts of the world hotels between 2 star and 4 star quality is available. We try to book our clients in the nicest possible hotels that we are familiar with. During festival times when hotels are fully booked we might have to use lower quality hotels.
What if you go out of business after I’ve sent the money?
We certainly do not plan on going out of business, but this is a legitimate concern when doing business with somebody on the Internet. In Bhutan, the money that is sent to the agent cannot be used directly by the agent but instead is transferred to a special government account and held there until the travel is completed (the visa can only be applied for when the money is deposited). Only after your trip is finished will the money released to the agent who will then pay the hotels, restaurants, and guests. So even if the agent where you send the money goes away, the government has the money and your trip would be taken care of by another agent.