Solo In Bhutan – Know Before You Go

Travelling solo in Bhutan is a bliss! I lived and loved every second of my 2 weeks in Bhutan and can’t wait to be back anytime soon.

Now if you plan to travel to Bhutan, here are all the details! Read on…

View from Punakha Suspension Bridge

Bhutan – Happiest Country in the World

Before you know about my journey, let me tell you a bit about Bhutan and why it is called the “happiest place” on the planet.

  • Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world i.e. oxygen being three times higher than carbon. Wait, really? Yes!
  • Bhutan is the only country in the world to rank Gyalyong Gakid Palzom, or Gross National Happiness (GNH), above GDP.
  • National Day here is a clean and green day. The government gives a holiday on this day so everyone can plant trees and clean their surroundings.
  • Education and health facilities are free in Bhutan.

Road To Bhutan

As you all know I am a hardcore backpacker and I try to make things cheap and eco-friendly.

I took a 24-hour long train to New Jalpaiguri (from Delhi) and then a bus to Phunsholing, Bhutan. It was super economic, effortless and sustainable; just a little time taking.

One can also take a flight to Bagdogra and then a bus to Phunsholing from Siliguri (about an hour away from Bagdogra Airport).

Entry and Visa for Indians in Bhutan

I was lucky to find a friend from Instagram who helped me get the Immigration done in no time.

All in all, Indians need to have a valid passport or voter ID card, a passport size photograph and hotel bookings for a few days, to get the visa. It takes about 40 minutes to an hour to get the Immigration done.

Note: You only get permit for 7 days and are allowed to enter only Thimphu and Paro. If you wish to travel to other districts then you must visit the Thimphu Immigration Office.

Bhutan Govt. ends free travel for Indian passport holders adds Rs 1.200 per day to your trip July 2020

Visa and Royalty Fees in Bhutan for Other Foreign Nationals

Nationals other than Indians, Bangladeshis and Maldivians are required to opt for a minimum package per day for their entry in the country.

The minimum daily package costs $250 and covers; minimum of 3-star accommodation, all meals, a licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay, all internal transport (by car), camping equipment and haulage for trekking tours. 

Bhutan is the only country in South Asia to work on sustainable tourism and free basic facilities for its people. So yes, the money is used in the best way possible.

Places I Visited In Bhutan

I wanted to live in Bhutan for three weeks at least, but because of other plans, I had to leave in 2-weeks. Yet I did my usual slow travel and sunk all of it in. Following are the places I visited.

Thimphu

I started from Phuntsholing, Bhutan for Thimphu just after my Immigration. The shared taxi cost me INR 750. You can bargain too, I chose not to.

After reaching Thimphu, I stayed with a friend’s family for a couple of days learning and living like a local. I spent a few days walking and talking in the streets of Thimphu, trekked to Chari Monastery and Buddha point from a lesser-known route. I had an amazing time doing both!

Chari Monastery is tucked far away from the Thimphu town. It’s a 20-min drive and then about 40 min of a hike to reach the Monastery. The monastery is an old, quaint place, surrounded by nature, away from the town. One of a kind day hike!

Then the next day, Buddha Point with an amazing human @thi.nls from a back route which only quiet a few know about.

What a gorgeous day! The sun was high, the breeze blew mellow, barely anyone in sight. And as we reached the viewpoint of Buddha Statue, Tenzin told me that he has got 2 pine trees which we’ll be planting here! πŸ™‚ Well, I wonder if all of us could be this thoughtful.

Chari Monastery, Thimphu

Taktsang Gompa a.k.a Tigeress Nest Monastery, Paro

After spending about 4 days in Thimphu, I went to Paro in a shared taxi. It is an hour-long drive from the town.

I reached and found a homestay in the outskirts of Paro, then immediately left for Taktsang Gompa. Because that was one place I was determined to visit in Paro.

Taktsang Gompa aka Tigeress Nest is a prominent symbol of Bhutan, built-in the 8th century. A must-visit for its beautiful hike and history.

Punakha

I got back from Paro to Thimphu, and then took another taxi to Punakha. It took about 3 hours to reach there via Dochula Pass.

I visited the biggest nunnery of Bhutan – Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery, Fertility Temple aka Chime Lakhang and Punakha Dzong in the town.

There’s also a suspension bridge, 1-something km away from Punakha Dzong, which turned out to be my favourite spot. It is one of the longest bridge in Bhutan which connects with a village.

To visit Punakha and Pobhjikha, you’ll have to get a permit issued from Thimpu beforehand.

Phobhjikha

Pobhjikha Valley, also known as Gangteng Valley, is a 6-hour drive away from Punakha. It’s an off-beat place where you can watch black-necked cranes spread their wings in winters.

To get here, I first took a shared taxi to Bajo and then another ride till Pobhjika. This U-shaped valley also has Gangtey Gompa which is one of the important monasteries.

Accommodation in Bhutan

Bhutan has plenty of budget homestays as well as luxury hotel options, though there are no hostels in the entire country. My stay in Bhutan was managed by JDM Tours

Dewachen Hotel and Spa, Gangtey, Phobhjikha

Hotel Pema Karpo, Bajo, Punakha

Bhutan Boutique Residency, Thimphu

Pinewood Experiential stay and Hideouts, Shomo, Paro

Respect Nature At Any Cost

When you visit Bhutan, keep the following things in mind-

  • Don’t Litter – The roads of Bhutan are devoid of any litter. If you happen to be in the country, don’t throw the garbage around. Always drop it in a dustbin, it’s that simple!
  • Don’t Smoke – It’s an offence to smoke in public. Also, a cigarette butt is non-biodegradable. So, what’s the solution? Well, you can refrain from smoking in public and carry the butt back in a bag.
  • Avoid Single-Use Plastic – Though plastic is recycled in Bhutan, it’ll be better if you can refrain from using it. Let the country remain free of it.
Tiger’s Nest, Paro
Gangtey Monastery Phobjikha Valley

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