Your passport must have at least 6 months’ validity. You will also make sure that you have an additional page for a visa for Bhutan, as well as space for the visas for any countries you are visiting en route. If you need to get a new passport please do so well before your planned trip so that there is no delay in applying for your Bhutanese visa. The visa is issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within Bhutan as Bhutan has very few embassies abroad. No foreign missions abroad grant Bhutan tourist visas. You may apply in advance through a tour operator such as ER Tours and Treks and receive confirmation that your application has been approved before you travel to Bhutan.
It is advisable to apply early for the visa because the process takes a little more time than a normal visa application. Once you send your personal information, Reality Escape “Bhutan” submits your application first to the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) and then to the Department of Immigration, Ministry of Home and Culture Affairs, both based in Thimphu. The visa is not issued until the TCB has checked that the full tour payment has been received into its bank account. The confirmation and reference number then sent to and a copy will be send to you. You have to show this at the check-in desk for Druk Air. You cannot board the Druk Air flight without this document so it is very important to have it along with your passport.
Upon your arrival in the country, either at Paro Airport or at Phuentsholing/Samdrup Jonkhar (if you are entering by road) the actual visa is stamped on the passport. At this time at the place of entry you have to present a passport photo with your passport number written on the back. Please keep in mind that the visa is issued for exactly the same number of days and dates as booked by you. If circumstances arise for a visa extension once you are in Bhutan it can be arranged. Members of groups are expected to arrive and depart together.
Visitors have to complete a passenger declaration form which will be checked by custom officials at the exit point. After collecting your baggage you must decide which channel to take – Green Channel (nothing to declare) or the Red Channel(goods to declare). As per international risk management practice, random checks on your baggage may be conducted by the Customs official even if you are proceeding through the Green Channel.
The following articles are exempt from duty:
- a) the visitor shall be allowed to import temporarily free of Customs duty his/her personal effects and articles required for the visit, provided that items imported are for personal use and that the items will be re-exported on their leaving Bhutan;
b) 1 bottle of Spirits not larger than one liter;
c) 1 carton of Cigarettes (containing 200 pieces) subject to 100 percent customs duty and 100 percent sales tax;
d) device, equipment or appliances for professional utilization;
e) photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic gadget for personal use.
The articles mentioned under (d) & (e) must be declared on the declaration form. If these items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty. Visitors are required to surrender their forms to the Customs authorities while departing.
Import/export of the following goods is prohibited:
- Arms, ammunitions and explosives
- All narcotics and drugs excluding medically prescribed drugs
- Wildlife products, especially those of endangered species
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 cannot be exported without a clearance certificate.