Bhutan budget trip is planned by backpackers annually across the globe. Bhutan as a travel destination is not only beautiful but extremely budget friendly. Also, it is one of the most travel friendly locations in Asia.
Bhutan also known as the ‘Land of Happy People’ or the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ is a small landlocked country located between India and China. It is brimming with snow clad mountains, splendid rivers, varied of trees and genuinely warm hearted people
Bhutan is the only existing ‘Vajrayana’ Buddhist kingdom in the world. It is one of the few countries in Asia that was never colonized.The happy land is famous in the world as a ‘Carbon Negative Country.’ Also, Bhutan is known for measuring its success in terms of “Gross Happiness Index” in contrast to the “Gross Domestic Product” which is usually the norm.
Bhutan has an incredible travel policy of ‘high value, low volume.’ The number of visitors to the happy nation are limited and regulated each year. The nation firmly holds the opinion that it is better to allow less but value adding travelers each year than opening its territories for everyone. This policy helps preserve its traditions, cultural heritage and natural resources.
Bhutan Budget Trip: An Overview for First Time Visitors
|Peak season for Bhutan budget trip||August to February. It is recommended that you plan your Bhutan budget trip in the aforesaid months to make it cost friendly.|
|Backpacking in Bhutan||As strange as it may sound, Bhutan does not allow backpackers. This implies that you have to book your trip with Bhutanese travel agents before hand. The agents will help you in everything – planning, customizing itineraries, making reservations and bookings.|
|Solo travel to Bhutan||Traveling solo to Bhutan will prove more expensive than traveling in a group. If you don’t like company, try collaborating with fellow solo travelers before hand. This will help you pool and share costs during your Bhutan budget trip. Also you will have to book your trip in advance.|
|Surcharge for solo travelers||For solo travelers, there will be a surcharge of about $30 per day. This can be minimized if you travel in a group of 3 or more.|
|Planning your Bhutan budget trip via a private travel company||It is mandatory for a visitor to arrange for an private tour before landing in Bhutan. Also, the payment has to be made in advance. Only then will you be granted your visa. You should not worry about paying the advance payment because the Bhutanese government monitors each private travel company closely. Make sure the company is approved by the Government.|
|Daily expenses on your Bhutan budget trip||Daily expenses will include accommodation, food , transportation, entrance fees to various places and a private guide and driver (if you hire one). Good thing is that the cost per day will be less than you expect.|
|Cost per day||$200. This amount may seem expensive but it is not because it is covering everything – accommodation, transportation, cost of visiting various places, food, personal guide, personal driver.
The $200 cost is not applicable to citizens from India, Bangladesh and Maldives. Citizens from these nations can travel Bhutan on a cost effective budget of $25 per day.
Note: For viewing the complete list of approved private travel companies in Bhutan – click here
Before embarking on your Bhutan budget trip, you should know about the land. This becomes even more significant if you’re a first time visitor. Having knowledge about a place and its essential aspects will help you connect more with the destination.
Bhutan as a Travel Destination: Highlights
|Visa||Permit is given on arrival in Bhutan|
|Official Dress||Gho for men and Kira for women|
|Best Time to Visit||All year round|
What is Special about the Bhutan Budget Trip ?
A backpacking trip is different from a normal tourist outing.
A Backpacking trip to Bhutan is special because of the multitude of pleasure the country has to offer its visitors. It is a developing country and hence the costs are mediocre.
Bhutan budget trip is extremely safe for a solo female traveler as well, although slightly more expensive. The distances of the prominent places to visit in a Bhutanese town are less.
There is an efficient public transport available for inter town transport.
Finally, you cannot withdraw money from ATMs frequently since they aren’t many. Therefore, you set yourself on a budget automatically.
Why Should a Traveler Pursue the Bhutan Budget Trip ?
Bhutan is a country that has an easy access to most of the travelers from all countries. It is a cost effective and travel friendly country. The rich natural and cultural heritage is worth experiencing.
One of the most important reasons of travelling to Bhutan is that you can get a visa/ permit on arrival to either Phuentsholing or Paro.
How to Reach Bhutan from Any International Destination ?
Paro International Airport is connected directly with 4 major capital cities – New Delhi, Kathmandu, Singapore City and Bangkok.
|From New Delhi||Board a plane till New Delhi from your country. Reach New Delhi and head towards Paro in your connecting flight. You will be asked to pay the transit visa fee at New Delhi.|
|From Kathmandu||Board a plane till Kathmandu from your country. Reach Kathmandu and head towards Paro via Drukair.|
|From Singapore||Board a plane till Singapore from your country. Reach Singapore and head towards Paro via Drukair. Your flight will halt at Kolkata for re-fueling.|
|From Bangkok||Board a plane till Bangkok from your country. Reach Bangkok and head towards Paro via Drukair.|
How to Reach Bhutan from India ?
There are 3 major ways to reach Bhutan. One can enter Bhutan from 2 towns – Phuentsholing and Paro.
|Train||To enter from Phuentsholing, board a train from the place closest to you and reach Hasimara.
Hasimara is the closest Indian train station to India-Bhutan border.
From Hasimara, one can board a rickshaw, taxi or bus to reach Jaigaon which is the Indian town adjoining Phuentsholing.
|Flight to Bagdogra
|Take a flight to Bagdogra from the airport nearest to you.
Most of the airports have a direct flight to Bagdogra.
From Bagdogra, it is a 3 to 4-hour road journey to Phuentsholing.
|Flight to Paro||Travel directly to Paro by flight.
The permit is issued at the Phuentsholing as well as Paro immigration office.
Booking your Flights for Bhutan Budget Trip
For your Bhutan budget trip, try booking from any one of the following portals. The discounts are good and so are the deals.
|Agoda||Book flights here|
|Booking.com||Book flights here|
|Expedia||Book flights here|
Essential Things to Carry on your Bhutan Budget Trip
The following items are a ‘must have’ for your Bhutan budget trip.
|3.||Cash. There are not many ATMs in Bhutan.|
|6.||College Id (if you’re a student). It will help you avail discounts.|
Obtaining Permit and Sim Card
The first thing to do after entering Bhutan is to get a permit from the immigration office. The whole procedure takes around an hour with the help of a local agent and can take upto 2 -3 hours without an agent.
A solo traveler, or a group of travelers less than 4 need to give in writing that they will be solely responsible for any accident.
After taking the permit for your Bhutan budget trip, head to a nearby shop where you can buy a sim card of ‘Tashi’ company with a balance of 200 minutes and a sufficient data plan for 200 INR.
Major Towns to Visit During your Bhutan Budget Trip
|Town||Places to Visit|
|Phuentsholing||Zangto Pelri Lhakhang
National Museum of Bhutan
National textile Museum
Folk heritage museum
National Library of Bhutan
Phuentsholing is the second largest town of the happy kingdom of Bhutan. It is highly commercialized and serves as the leading trade center of the country. Put it on priority for your Bhutan budget trip.
It is also the entry and exit route between Bhutan and India. The travelers can receive their permits here.
The places to see in around Phuentsholing are –
Zangto Pelri Lhakhang
Zango Pelri Lhakhang is a sanctimonious place for Buddhists and others alike. The architecture of the place is spectacular. Again a must visit place on your Bhutan budget trip.
It is home to the exact replica of Guru Rinpoche, with eight life-size idols of different manifestations of the revered Guru. Statues of Bodhisattvas, paintings of Lord Buddha and statues of Avalokiteshvarais are things worth seeing.
A beautiful monastery located at a height of 400 meters. It is at a distance of 4 kms from Phuentsholing bus station. One can see the complete Phuentsholing town from Karbandi Monastery.
The prayer flags at the monastery are symbolic of positivity or chi as it is known. The prayer wheels are for the same. Do spin them around and have faith in the goodness of the place around.
It is the official gate at the international boundary between India and Bhutan. The architecture of the Bhutan Gate is very aesthetically pleasing.
The Bhutan Gate is close to the immigration office. You can even buy stuff here owing to a large variety of shops.
Paro is a charming town ( a valley in essence) that is popular for its religious sites, historic places and culturally rich vibe.
The territory of Paro extends from the confluence of the Paro Chhu and the Wang Chhu rivers at Chuzom right up till Mount Jomolhari which lies at the Tibetan border to its North.
The places to see in around Paro are –
The famous Tigers Nest monastery or Paro Taktsang as it is locally known is located in the high mountains. One needs to hike for about 1.5 hours to reach the top. Porters are also available for some cost.Start early as the counter closes as 10 am.
The climb is gentle but continuous. There is only one café on the way up at around the 50% mark. You need to climb a final of 300 steps to reach the top.
Wear full sleeves with collar and pants to be allowed to enter the monastery. Nothing except a water bottle is permitted in the Monastery.
The Main Street in Paro has beautiful traditional wooden structures along its side and hosts a variety of shops as well. You can buy a few native items from here.
Rinchen Pung Dzong or popularly known as Rinpung Dzong is a fortress. In fact the name itself means, “Fortress on a heap of jewels’ in the native language. Historically used to defend Paro Valley from foreign invasions.
Chele La Pass separates Haa from Paro valley. The pass lies at an elevation of 3810 metres and is one of the highest motor able pass in Bhutan. The drive till here is beautiful from Paro. One can see the dense green temperate forests all around.
National Museum of Bhutan
The building turned into the National Museum of Bhutan is in the form of a conch shell. The display here is impressive and is reflective of the rich cultural past o Bhutan. There also happens to be a Natural and Heritage Gallery here.
Thimphu is not only the charming capital city of Bhutan but also its largest city. It is a rich combination of a traditional and a contemporary culture.
In addition to its traditional attractions, it also hosts cafes, nightclubs and restaurants. Thimphu should certainly be on your Bhutan budget trip itinerary.
The places to see in around Thimphu are –
A place of daily worship for many, the Chorten Memorial is a large Tibetan religious structure. Its richly painted annexes face the cardinal directions. It has mandalas and statues crafted on it.
National Textile Museum
Operated officially by the National Commission for Cultural Affairs, the National Textile Museum displays and promotes the textile industry of Bhutan. The achievements in textiles are also put to the fore.
Folk Heritage Museum
The Folk Heritage Museum gives a traveler an insight into the traditional Bhutanese way of living and culture. In addition to artifacts, it also displays an wide collection of household objects, tools and equipment.
National Library of Bhutan
The National Library of Bhutan preserves the ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts. It comprises of a number of ancient books and manuscripts. The architecture of the building is appealing. The National museum of Bhutan has the world’s largest book.
In the Tashichho Dzong, the king and queen of Bhutan live. A point to note is that, it is open for visitors only after 4.30 pm for 1 hour.
Phobjikha is actually a valley. Glacial valley to be precise. It is extremely beautiful and forms a a natural habitat to Black Neck Cranes, deers, leopards, red foxes etc.
The places to see in around Phobjikha are –
Gangte Goemba is a large monastery that overlooks nature. The premises consists of a central goemba, quarters for monks, a guesthouse and meditation centres.
Nyelung Dechenling is a temple. It is one of the 8 residences of Nyingma Dzogchen master Longchen Rabjam (Longchenpa).
Recommended Food for your Bhutan Backpacking Trip
Ema Datshi – Chilly and cheese
Kewa Datshi – Potato and cheese
Phaksha Paa – Red chillies and pork
Jasha Maru – Spicy chicken
Arra and Chang – Local drinks
Cost of Eating Meals During your Bhutan Budget Trip
Most travelers have their meals covered in the pre-paid travel plan before entering Bhutan. Once you visit eating places, your guide will sign a receipt to the owner. He will be reimbursed by the Bhutanese Government later on. In case you order something lavish and alcohol, you will have to pay extra.
Good thing is that food is not quite expensive in Bhutan. You can get a decent meal even outside your travel plan for about 100-250 INR or lets say about $3-$5.
How to Minimize Cost During your Bhutan Budget Trip ?
There are various ways to cut down expenses during your Bhutan budget trip. Remember traveling is about exploration and not spending huge bucks.
|Invest a lot of time in planning your Bhutan budget trip. The more time you devote towards planing, the more clarity you’ll have regarding saving money.|
|Use public transport once in Bhutan. It will help you minimize costs effectively.|
|Try booking accommodation places that are near major towns. It will help you save both time and money.|
|Avoid traveling solo. Travel in groups of 4 or more. This will help you cut down on the surcharge on stay.|
|Save money by not consuming exotic beverages and alcohol. Go for local drinks and food items.|
|Avoid shopping too much. Travel isn’t about buying stuff. It’s about exploration.|
Bhutan Budget Trip: An Insight to My Expenses
Here’s a little break down of my expenses of my Bhutan budget trip. The figures will help you plan your trip and manage costs.
(Mumbai, Lokmanya Tilak Terminals (LTT) to Hasimara (HSA) via Kamakhya Express)
|700 INR for sleeper class to 2500 INR for 2 tier AC
|Internal transport||25 INR for public bus. 50 to 100 INR for rickshaw.|
|Accomodation per day||1000 INR|
|Public Transport from Phuentsholing to Paro||250 INR|
|Public Transport from Paro to Thimphu||50 INR|
|Public Transport from Thimphu to Phuentsholing||250 INR|
Bhutan with its rich culture and heritage along with the blend of nature and perfect people makes it a surreal and exotic country for travelling. I’ve undertook my Bhutan budget trip and explored a new place. You should visit it too.
Happy Wayfaring 🙂
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
THIS POST ENTITLED ‘A BACKPACKING TRIP TO BHUTAN: THE LAND OF HAPPY PEOPLE’ IS AN EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY OF BUDGET WAYFARERS. ANY INDIVIDUAL OR ASSOCIATION INDULGING IN PLAGIARISM WILL BE DEALT WITH STRICTLY. IF YOU WANT TO USE INFORMATION FROM THE ARTICLE ABOVE, KINDLY QUOTE THE SOURCE.