Bhutan, the "last Shangrila", is a mysterious landlocked country in South Asia. The name Bhutan is believed to be derived from the Sanskrit Bhotant, meaning "the end of Tibet" or from Bhu-uttan meaning "high land". Historically, the Bhutanese have referred to their country as Druk Yul, "land of thunder dragon". Bhutanese refer to themselves as Drukpa people.
=Getting in and out=
1. Land: Only via 2 towns bordering India: Phuensholing to the west and Samdrup Jonkhar (often pronounced Samjonkhar) in the east. Phuensholing is easily reachable via the town of Silguri in India, from where its a 4-5 hour bus journey to the Bhutanese border. Samdrup Jonkhar is often used as an exit rather than entry. You can reach Samdrup Jonkhar from Guwahati in India,a 2-3 hour bus journey.
From whats known currently, you cannot enter Bhutan via Nepal or Tibet (through land).
2. Air: Only one airline - the Druk Air - the national airline of Bhutan - flies in and out of the country. You can catch Druk Air from Bangkok, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Delhi, Kolkata, Gaya, Guwahati, Bagdogra and then fly in to Paro, which is the only airport in Bhutan.
Though the actual visa is cheap, all foreign travellers are required to pre-book their entire journey with an official tour operator in Bhutan. This will cost US$200 per day, but will include room, board, guide and transportation charges in Bhutan. There are additional surcharges depending on your requirements (want to travel solo? do you want to do any trekks?). For a very detailed explanation of entry formalities, refer the section "Get-In" in the Bhutan Wikitravel link. An official version can be found at this link from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
All citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives are exempted from the visa and pre-booking fees. They will still be required to have a permit, which can obtained at Phuentsholing or Samdrup Jonkhar.
For all other travellers, the only other way of getting into the country without a pre-booking fee, would be to be invited by someone within Bhutan. You could also be part of volunteering activities to see the country without the fee. Please check some of the flagged posts at the top to see tips from other travellers.
If you want to visit Bhutan formally by paying all the fees etc, a good place to start would be the list of all governement recognised tour operators in the country. See the formal list from Tourism Council of Bhutan. TripAdvisor has this good thread where people have posted their experiences with different tour operators in Bhutan. Worth checking out if you want some personal recommendations.
Once you are inside Bhutan, you can use cabs or buses for domestic journey. No standing passengers are allowed in any of Bhutan's buses and they dont travel in the night. Have a look at their Transport Ministry site for latest information. They used to give a very useful list of Bus Timings throughout the country, but that link goes missing every couple of months. Your best bet would be to browse the Transport Ministry site for more information.
If you want to be kept uptodate on the daily events in Bhutan, the best place to look would be online newspapers, blogs and radio. Here are a few links that could be of help:
IPA Journal Blog
Bhutan Broadcasting Service
=Couchsurfing in Bhutan=
Bhutan has been traditionally very careful in opening up to the outside world. Internet and hence Couch Surfing is not yet popular in Bhutan, but we are getting there! Have a look at a few of the flagged posts and you could spot some locals and contact them for more information or requests.
The Indian Subcontinent forum of Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree is another excellent resource for questions related to Bhutan. Go to the following link and select "Bhutan" from the country list:
Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum
TripAdvisor has a forum on Bhutan as well. Very useful conversations / details come up here every now and then.
TripAdvisor Bhutan Forum
Created: Aug 15, 2004
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