The mountainous Kingdom of Bhutan is extremely isolated. The few embassies they have do NOT issue tourist visas.
Obtaining a Bhutan visa used to be possible only through a local licensed tour operator. They used to obtain a visa clearance letter on your behalf but this all changed in September 2023. Now, anybody can get a tourist visa for Bhutan online independently!
Bhutan’s visa policy officially states that tourism to the country should be “High Value, Low Volume”. To achieve that, there’s a mandatory Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of 100 USD (the reduced rate until 31 August 2027) per night payable by all visitors, except visa-exempt Indian nationals who pay 1,200 BTN (or 1,200 INR) per night.
In this article, you will learn up-to-date information about Bhutan’s tourist visas, the requirements, procedures, and the exceptions to the rules.
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Visa Policy and Visa Types
Indian citizens are the only visa-exempt nationality. Nationals of Bangladesh and the Maldives are eligible to obtain Visa on Arrival (VOA). All other nationalities must obtain a Bhutanese e-Visa before arrival.
Here is the summary of various visa types for Bhutan.
- Visa Free: Indian nationals (requires entry permit)
- Visa on Arrival: Bangladesh and Maldives nationals
- Visa Required: All other nationalities
As of September 2023, visitors are no longer required to book a tour package through a tour operator to get a tourist visa or to travel to Bhutan.
The requirements to enter Bhutan are:
- Passport valid for 6 months from the intended date of departure from Bhutan. Visitors from India can travel with a Voter ID card.
- Valid travel insurance. Tourists from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives can purchase domestic insurance on arrival.
Only nationals of India are visa-exempt to travel to Bhutan. However, Indian nationals require an entry permit, which can be obtained at the land border or Paro airport free of charge.
The entry permit can also be obtained online before arrival from the Bhutan Visa portal.
Documents required to obtain entry permit at the border
You would need the following documents to obtain the entry permit at the border.
- Completed Bhutan entry permit form (you can get one at the airport/border or download it here)
- Copy of Indian passport front and last page or copy of Voter ID card front and back
- One passport-size photograph
- Proof of hotel booking for the duration of stay
- Travel medical insurance valid for the duration of the stay (if you don’t have the insurance, you will have the option to purchase at the border)
Documents required to obtain entry permit online
To obtain your entry permit online, you would need the following documents.
- A scan of your passport ID page or Voter ID card
- One recent digital passport-size photo
- Valid travel medical insurance for the entire duration of the trip (you can purchase from a provider like SafeyWing or Bhutan Insurance Limited)
Visa on Arrival
Bhutan Visa on Arrival (VOA) is available to the following nationals only.
Nationals from Bangladesh and Maldives can also obtain a Bhutan eVisa online. This will save you from queueing and waiting at the land border or airport.
The Visa on Arrival (VOA) fee is 40 USD.
Documents required for VOA
The following documents are required to obtain VOA.
- Completed VOA form (get one at the airport/land border or download it here)
- Copy of your passport ID page
- One passport-size photo
- Travel medical insurance valid for the entire duration of the stay
- Cash in USD or a card to pay the visa fee and SDF
All nationalities, except for India, Bangladesh and Maldives must obtain a Bhutan e-Visa online before the trip. The maximum stay allowed on a tourist visa is 90 days.
You must pay the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) based on your intended duration of stay during your e-Visa application. Technically, your e-Visa is valid for the intended duration of your stay. If necessary, the visa can be extended online but not over the maximum allowed 90 days.
The visa fee is 40 USD payable during the e-Visa application.
The e-Visa application processing time is 5 working days.
The following documents are required for the e-Visa.
- Scan of your passport ID page
- One digital passport photo
- Your arrival and departure dates
- Valid travel insurance
- A credit or debit card to pay the visa fee and SDF
You need to create and confirm your account on the official Bhutan eVisa Portal.
After that, follow the prompts. You will need to sequentially create an application, add your information, pay, and submit.
Application through a registered tour operator
If you book an organized tour package for Bhutan, the tour operator will take care of your Bhutan visa.
It’s relatively difficult to travel independently in Bhutan. You must have a guide with you outside of Paro and Thimphu. Guides are also mandatory if you enter Bhutan via a land border and travel beyond the border towns.
Thus, even though using a tour operator is no longer mandatory, it is still the easiest way to travel to Bhutan.
Sustainable Development Fee (SDF)
All travelers to Bhutan must pay a daily levy, called Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) to support Bhutan’s development. This SDF collected is used in creating sustainable opportunities for the Bhutanese people and maintaining the infrastructure and natural resources.
The SDF was officially set at 200 USD after Bhutan’s reopening, but a special 50% discount is in place until 31 August 2027. Under this special discount, all foreign citizens pay an SDF of 100 USD per night.
Indian nationals pay a special reduced SDF of 1,200 BTN or 1,200 INR.
Here is the summary of the current SDF for various nationalities.
|SDF per person per day
|Indian Nationals (0-6 years)
|Indian Nationals (6-12 years)
|Indian Nationals (12 years and older)
|1,200 BTN (or 1,200 INR)
|All Other Nationalities (0-6 years)
|All Other Nationalities (6-12 years)
|All Other Nationalities (12 years and older)
Indians pay the SDF on arrival when they obtain their entry permit.
Nationals from Bangladesh and Maldives pay their SDF when they apply for their visa, either on arrival or through the e-Visa portal.
All other nationalities pay the SDF while applying for their e-Visa, based on the number of days they intend to spend inside Bhutan. If using a tour operator, the SDF is usually included in the tour package cost.
If you decide to leave Bhutan earlier than planned, the SDF will be refunded for any nights that are not spent in the Kingdom.
24-hour SDF border town waiver
A special provision is in force for tourists visiting the land border towns of Samtse, Phuentsholing, Gelephu, and Samdrupjongkhar towns for 24 hours or less. As per this provision, there is no SDF if visiting these border towns for 24 hours or less. This provision is valid until April 14, 2024.
If you take advantage of this waiver, you are not eligible to continue your trip further into Bhutan. You must leave the Kingdom within 24 hours.
If you plan to continue further, you must leave and obtain a visa (permit for Indians). If you begin your trip with a visa/permit, the waiver doesn’t apply.
The SDF waiver zone ends in:
- Gurung Basti in Samtse
- Rinchending Checkpost in Phuentsholing
- Aipoli Bridge in Gelephu
- Pinchinna checkpost in Samdrupjongkhar
Allowed Entry Checkpoints
Entrance into Bhutan is only allowed through Samtse, Phuentsholing, Gelephu, and Samdrupjongkhar if arriving by land and Paro International Airport if arriving by plane.
Route permits are no longer required to move around Bhutan. But local guides are mandatory for any journey beyond Paro and Thimpu.
Local guides are also mandatory if entering Bhutan via land borders and continuing the journey beyond the border town.
Special permits are required for all travelers planning to enter National Parks in Bhutan. You can apply for one online on the Department of Forests and Park Services portal.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who can visit Bhutan visa-free?
Only Indian nationals can visit Bhutan visa-free.
They must obtain an entry permit to travel beyond the border towns. A reduced SDF of 1200 BTN (roughly 1200 INR) must be paid per person per day to travel outside of the SDF-waiver border towns.
Indians can travel with a passport or a Voter ID card.
How does a US citizen get a visa for Bhutan?
Yes, US citizens can get a visa for Bhutan either online or through a registered tour operator.
Do Filipinos need a visa in Bhutan?
Yes, Filipinos need a visa to travel to Bhutan. You can obtain a Bhutan visa online or through a registered tour operator.
Is Bhutan visa-free for Indians?
Yes, Bhutan is visa-free for Indians. But you would need an entry permit to travel further than the border towns.