How to Book a Trip to Bhutan

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How to Book a Trip to Bhutan is part of the ANA, Take Me ‘Round the World Trip Report.


Looking to travel to Bhutan? You’ll need to apply for a visa and more importantly, travel with a guide. The process is a bit sketchy. First, go to Bhutan’s official website for tourism. From there, find a licensed tour operator. There are thousands listed. I didn’t know what distinguished one from another. After that, choose the type of trip you want and the number of days. Per TPOL’s Travel Philosophy, I searched for a company offering a four-night tour. Most had itineraries that were ten days or longer. I found one that offered short, customizable itineraries and decided to go with them (see Bucketlist Bhutan Tour Guide Review).

They responded promptly to my email and suggested a 5-night itinerary. The cost was $3436 Here is the breakdown.

TPOL’S TIP: There’s a charge of $250 per day and a surcharge of $40 if you travel solo or $30 if you are two persons. The cynic in me says that’s why travel agents insist on these absurdly long itineraries. The ‘authentic travelers’ will argue that two weeks is not enough time to connect with a place. Go with your own philosophy when choosing a length.

Wiring Money

Everything was going smoothly until we were asked to wire money. Credit cards are not accepted and without the protection of Visa, I was skeptical to send a company $3436 just because they responded quickly to emails. It also wasn’t reassuring that the company’s email was @gmail.com. I wasn’t too concerned that someone in Bhutan would rob me.  However, I was more paranoid that the website for booking trips to Bhutan could be redirected to a nefarious party posing as a Bhutanese travel agent without any connections to Bhutan. “It could be a 500lb fat guy in a basement.” To be safe, I went back to the official government website and only clicked on outbound links from that site before I, once again, ended up on BucketList Bhutan’s site. Having done all I could do, I sent the wire and hoped for the best.

Flights

Flights can’t be booked using points or cash. They must be booked via the travel agent. That became problematic because while we were waiting for the money to clear, the flight we wanted was no longer available. This forced us to go to Bhutan before Nepal and required me to pay more for Ms. TPOL’s flight from Chengdu (see Buying Cheaper Tickets at the Airport).

Money Clearing

The money cleared 3 business days later, and I received an itinerary that appeared to be real.

Visas

A day later, I received an email with my visa clearance letter. This also appeared to be legitimate.

Departing Nepal

After I arrived in Kathmandu and bought my 15-day visa for Nepal, I went to the Drukair check-in counter. The first moment of truth had arrived. Would I receive a boarding pass?

Boarding pass issued!

Arriving Bhutan

The next moment of truth came when I landed in Bhutan and I had to clear immigration. That was not a problem either.

Tour Guides

Finally, I waited to see if there would be someone at the airport to pick me up. Indeed there was.

Overall

I may have been overly paranoid in booking Bhutan but that’s a lot of money to send via wire. My advice, apart from using this tour company, is to start from the official government page and go from there. Finding happiness is not easy. It took diligence and persistence and a lot of cash to begin the pursuit.

Bhutan awaits but first you must wire cash to this account.

How to Book a Trip to Bhutan is part of the ANA, Take Me ‘Round the World Trip Report.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Same process with several obscure Chinese tour operators in remote regions of Sichuan and Yunan provinces. I’ve always insisted on paying in thirds… one third deposit via wire, one third cash payment upon airport pickup, and final cash payment upon dropoff at the end of itinerary. The final portion can be paid in local currency if the exchange rates are favorable.

  2. Ah Bhutan, a with 3 embassies: India, Finland & Bangladesh. And you need to pay $250 a day minimum and have tour leader with you on your journey (excludes Indians). I guess some people will find that a good deal..

  3. Unsure why you questioned the process. The money is wired directly to the National Bank of Bhutan with the tour operator’s business as the recipient. The tour operator will not receive money until after the travelers leave the country. If there is any dispute, no money is dispersed and the government retains it in the meantime until the problem is resolved. If you question the Bhutanese or Japanese government, then there is no other government in the world that is trustworthy to deal with. I am not sure how to find legit Chinese tour operators because I have heard nothing positive. But China is not on my “bucket list” in the near future. But Bhutan is the best country that I visited, followed by Japan and Sri Lanka. They all have clean streets, hospitable people and amazing foods. We paid a little less than you paid for a seven day customized trip. I won’t recommend Nepal if you do not mind an extreme air pollution and filthy streets with power poles with unsafe wires hanging down and running in knots everywhere. Watching cremation process truly turned my stomach. It is so striking that the Nepalese do not keep their Hindu temples clean at all.

    • Read the post. I said I wasn’t scared of the actual gov. Sending cash is sending cash. And saying you paid less is misleading. The price is fixed. Maybe you went in the off season. Maybe you arranged your own hotel. Maybe your flight was less. The per diem is non negotiable. I went to Nepal after. Review will come. I don’t go or not go somewhere based on someone else’s opinion. Everyone should decide on his her own.

      • I’m not sure that going somewhere (or not) based on someone else’s opinion is a bad thing. Without seeing what somebody else thought, how would you decide whether to go? Parsing the advice and reviews is another story, but there is value to be found by listening to what somebody else said.

  4. Just happened to read your response and it sounded quite condescending. I am sure you regularly read One Mile at a Time and I got the idea from Lucky. Then I chose the Tour Company based on suggestions on his blog and Fodors.com. I traveled in the first week of November. The government imposes many but not all costs. The tour company arranged everything and we wired the $$$ to the National Bank of Bhutan. Surely nobody believes the government dictates all costs on all national tour companies as you implied. When you emphasize that you do things on your own, especially in international travels, without broadening your horizon by reading and listening to other travelers, your blog will never reach a broader audience, not just national but also global audience. Sounds like America First and Only Americans. It is educational and entertaining to read Lucky’s blog for me, more so from global audience than national commentators.

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