Apart from Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian nationals, all visitors to Bhutan require a visa; all visas are issued from Thimphu; visas are only issued to tourists booked with a local licensed tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent.
Applications for tourist visas are submitted by the tour operator. Visa clearance from Thimphu must be obtained before coming to Bhutan. Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process.
Air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased without visa clearance. At your point of entry the visa will be stamped in your passport on payment of US$20; two passport photos will also be required. Visas are issued for a 15-day period; extensions can be obtained in Thimphu at a cost of Nu 510.
Tour Programs booked and subsequently cancelled shall be subject to cancellation charges as follows:
- within 30 days of start of program – no charges
- within 21 days – 10% of rate
- within 14 days – 15% of rate
- within 7 days – 30% of rate
- less than 7 days or without notice – 50% of rate
- after arrival in Bhutan – 100%
There is no charge for delays in arrival and departure because of weather conditions disrupting flights or road blocks. The tourist must however bear the cost of food, accommodation, transportation, and other services required.
The following articles are exempt from duty:
- (a) Personal effects and articles for day to day use by the visitor
- (b) 1 liter of alcohol (spirits or wine)
- (c) 800 cigarettes, on payment of import duty of 200% (if Imported from Third World countries and 100% if from India)
- (d) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use
- (e) Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.
You have to complete the passenger declaration form on your arrival before checking out. The articles mentioned under (d) & (e) must be declared on the declaration form. If any such items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty.
On departure, visitors are required to surrender their forms to the customs authorities.
Import/export restrictions of the following goods is strictly prohibited:
- (a) Arms, ammunition and explosives
- (b) All narcotics and drugs except medically prescribed drugs
- (c) Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
- (d) Antiques.
Imports of plants, soils etc. are subject to quarantine regulations. These items must be cleared on arrival. Visitors are advised to be cautious in purchasing old and used items, especially of religious or cultural significance, as such items may not be exported without a clearance certificate.