Bhutan Visa and entry permit.

The Bhutanese visa process may appear complicated, but is actually quite straight forward once you understand it. Most countries issue visas from their embassies abroad and stamp it in your passport, but not Bhutan. Bhutanese embassies abroad cannot issue Visas for travel to Bhutan. You must apply in advance through a tour operator such as Book Bhutan Tour and receive approval before you travel to Bhutan. Visas are approved by the Immigration Department in Thimphu, with which you allowed to enter Bhutan or board the Druk Air flight and Bhutan Airlines.

The actual visa is stamped on the passport upon arrival in the country, either at Paro airport or (if entering by road) at Phuentsholing. You just need to provide us details as per your passport that should include your name, permanent address, occupation, nationality, date and place of birth, passport number, more than six months valid and its date and place of issue and date of expiration. There is no need to send the pictures or sign the visa application at this time. Double-check that the information you send is correct; if there are any discrepancies when you arrive in Bhutan, there’ll be further delays and complications.

All applications for tourist visas must be initialised by a Bhutanese tour operator such as Book Bhutan Tour. The operator submits the visa application to Department of Tourism (DOT) in Thimphu. It, in turn, checks that you have completely paid for the trip and then issues an approval letter to the tour operator. With this approval in hand, the tour operator then makes a final application to the Department of Immigration, which then takes about a week to process the Visa. In emergencies we are able to make special request for expedited process.

When the visa clearance is issued by the Department of Immigration, it sends a visa copy to the tour operator and to Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. Druk Air and Bhutan airlines will want to see the copy of the visa, at the time of Check-in. Book Bhutan Tour will ensure that you receive a copy by email or mail as the case may be. You bring the copy with you. The actual visa endorsement is stamped in your passport when you arrive at one of the ports of entry for tourists. The fees of US$40 are collected with your tour payment in advance. The requirements to bring passport size pictures are waived. You will then receive a visa for the exact period you have arranged to be in Bhutan. If some unusual event requires that you obtain a visa extension, Book Bhutan Tour will arrange it.

It’s an amazingly efficient system considering all the time, distance and various levels of bureaucracy involved. When you arrive in Bhutan, the visa officer will invariably be able to produce your approval form from the file and the visa will be issued on the spot. It’s helpful, however, to have the copy a copy of the visa clearance available to aid the immigration officials, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines to find your information quickly. Book Bhutan Tour does not charge any fees for Visa processing.

Restricted Area Permits

All of Bhutan outside of the Paro and Thimphu valleys is classified as a restricted area. Book Bhutan tour or your operators obtain a permit for the places on your itinerary, and this permit is checked and endorsed by the police at immigration checkpoints strategically located at important road junctions.

Permits to enter Temples

After 2001 the rules were changed to allow tourists to visit the courtyards of Dzongs and, where feasible, one designated lhakhang (temple) in each Dzong but only when accompanied by a licensed Bhutanese guide. This provision is subject to certain restrictions, including visiting hours, dress standards and other rules that vary by district. Because Dzongs are open to all during the time of a Tsechu, you may visit the courtyard, but not the lhakhangs, if your trip coincides with a festival.

If you are a practising Buddhist, you may apply for a permit to visit specific Dzongs and religious institutions. This is issued by the National Commission for Cultural Affairs, and application should be made in advance through Book Bhutan Tour. The credibility of your application will be enhanced if you include a letter of reference from a recognised Buddhist organisation in your home country.

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