Getting to Bhutan
The way to Bhutan
Bhutan remained in isolation until a planned economic development started in the early 1960s. Before 1960, the country was accessible only by foot andonly two main points of entry existed. The entry from the north was from Tibet and it was possible crossing the high passes while the entry from the South was through the plains of Assam and West Bengal. With the planned economic development, allparts of the country was connected bymotorable roads and accessibility became easy.
Today the main points of entry are through Phuentsholing in the south that links Bhutan with the Indian plains of West Bengal, through Gelephu and SamdrupJongkhar that links with the Indian state of Assam and through Paro, where the entry is through Druk Air, the National airline of Bhutan.
Travel by Air
The country has only one international airport at Paro. The airport is located at a height of 7300 ft above sea level and surrounded by mountains and hills as high as 16,000 feet. Druk Air operates with two A319. It flies to destinations that include Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Bodh Gaya, Dacca, Kathmandu and Guwahati in Assam and Plans are also underway to invite other private airliners.However, the recently completed international airportatGelephu will operate soon and will eventually provide passengers with a choice of their entry to Bhutan.
The flight between Paro and Kathmandu is one of the most exciting ones as the aircraft passes over four of the five highest mountains in the world. In fine weather, as you soar higher up, you can enjoy the spectacular display of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu und Kangchenjunga at their best.
Travel by Land
Bhutan has three main places in the south open for international tourists. They arePhuntsholing, Gelephu and SamdrupJongkhar. The town of Phuntsholing is located approximately 170 km east of the Indian national airport Bagdogra. After crossing Phuntsholing, your journey then begins its mountainous climb through endless turns and hair-pin bends till you enter Thimphu, the capital city. The travel time for the 176 km stretch can be more than 6 hours.
Another pointof entry to BhutanisGelephu in South-Central Bhutan. It is approximately 250 kms from Thimphu and the journey will take you through the sub-tropical areas of Bhutan before entering the alpine zone and then finally into
Thimphu. One will have to traverse across three Districts and the travel time will be about ten hours.
The only point of entry in eastern BhutanisSamdrupJongkhar. The town borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam and is approximately 150 kms away from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The journey from Guwahati is about three hours. Tourists entering Bhutan through SamdrupJongkhar will take you to Trashigang, the largest District in the country, and from there over the lateral route to Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa, WangdePhodrang and then finally into capital, Thimphu. The distance is about 700 kms and will take you a minimum of three days to reach Thimphu.
Only two different airlines fly in and out of Bhutan. They are Druk Air and Buddha Airline of Nepal. The contact addresses of the Druk Air offices are as follows:
New Delhi Tel: 91-11-335-7703
Kolkata Tel: 91-33-240-2419
Paro International Airport Tel: +975-8-271856/271857
Visit: www.drukair.com.bt for more information
You can choose any of the three entry pointsto enter into Bhutan: SamdrupJongkhar (southeast Bhutan), Gelephu (south Bhutan), and Phuntsholing (southwest Bhutan)
You will be endorsed by the immigration officers upon your arrival before you are issued with a permit. Make sure you go personally. You may have to carry your passport (also some passport photographs) or voter’s registration card. If you plan to travel by road, the endorsement is done at the entry points in Phuentsholing, SamdrupJongkhar, and Gelephu. If by flight, you will enter from the Paro Airport.