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BHUTAN
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VISITING BHUTAN: Formalities

Tourism has been strictly limited in Bhutan so that traditional culture can be preserved and nurtured. The Bhutanese are highly religious people and therefore it is important to show respect and understanding for local customs and way of life, especially while visiting places of religious significance.

The tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable, and also economically viable. For these reasons, tourism is carefully monitored and the number of tourists visiting Bhutan is kept to an environmentally manageable level.

Visitors may experience Bhutan only on all-inclusive package tours for which a fixed tariff is set by the Royal Government of Bhutan. This tariff covers the following services: accommodation & all meals, transport, guide, entrances fees to museums, monuments and cultural sites, and additionally a cultural program for visitors traveling in a group of three or above.

Tours Reservation
* All tours must be booked through a recognized Bhutanese Tour Operator with entire land arrangements provided by one and the same operator.

* For Cultural Tours, booking arrangements must be completed 4 weeks in advance, but for Cultural Tours during festivals, arrangements must be completed 6 weeks in advance. The spring and autumn festivals are our peak times for tourism, and without early reservations it can be difficult to confirm flights and hotels.

* For Trekking groups, booking arrangements should be completed at least 8 weeks in advance, as this activity requires detailed forward planning. Our associate in Bhutan has built up impressive resources over the last 20 years, and can offer your clients a choice of the finest and best organized trekking experiences in the entire Himalayas.

Visa
* Visas are required for traveling to Bhutan, and applications are processed through our associate in conjunction with tour booking. The visa fee is US$20 for unlimited duration of stay, paid on arrival. No foreign mission abroad grants Bhutan tourist visas.

* All information as mentioned on the visa application form must be forwarded to us for processing with the concerned authorities at least three weeks prior to date of travel, but note that for all FITS / GITs traveling during festivals, details should be sent at least 6 weeks prior to date of travel, as this is the peak time for tourism.

Please submit the required information by fax or email. We do not require any additional photos or visa forms in advance.

* Whether entering Bhutan by land or by air, each client should bring two passport size photographs with name/ passport number printed clearly on the back, and US$20 (in cash) for the visa fee. Visa applications are cleared in advance, and visa clearance numbers issued, and clients' passports are stamped on arrival at the port of entry.

* For travelers entering Bhutan by Druk Air, visa clearance is required for the issuing of Druk Air tickets. The visa clearance number is forwarded to the Druk Air station at which the flight originates. Travelers without a visa clearance number on record will not be permitted to board their flights.

* For travelers entering the country by land from India, through the southern border town of Phuentsholing, the visa is stamped on arrival, as per visa clearance number. Travelers without a visa clearance number on record will not be permitted to enter the country.

Tariff
The INTERNATIONAL TOURIST TARIFF is set by the Royal Government of Bhutan and is valid for all-inclusive packages.

Tour Payment
Advance payment in full for the entire tour must be sent to Etho Metho by Bank transfer, within the specified time frame. Services are confirmed subject to advance payment only. See under Department of Tourism Regulations for full information on remittance of tour payment.

For high seasons (March, April, May, Sept, Oct, Nov), it is advisable to remit payment for Druk Air flights 3 months in advance. This will help us to obtain confirmed seats on the requested flights.

Accessibility
The most convenient way of entering Bhutan is by Druk Air, the country's national (and so far only) carrier. As flights can be delayed due to weather conditions (particularly during the summer months), it is advisable to allow 24 hours before any onward connection. As flights can be delayed due to weather conditions (particularly during the summer months), it is advisable to allow 24 hours before any onward connection.

Druk Air flies regularly between Bhutan and the following countries:

Bangladesh (Dhaka); India (Calcutta, Delhi); Nepal (Kathmandu); Thailand (Bangkok)

Arrival/departure by land is also possible, through the southern border town of Phuentsholing. The nearest airport is at Bagdogra, West Bengal, about 4 hours drive away. Phuentsholing is a convenient entry/exit point for travelers wishing to visit the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal along with Bhutan.

Flight Frequency & Airfares
Druk Air flies several times a week between all destinations except Bangladesh, for which the service is more infrequent. The timetable varies according to season, so please check with us for the current schedule when making your tour arrangements.

Airfares given below are current at time of printing, but subject to change without notice. Prices are in US dollars, for a round trip journey. One way travel is half the cost of the round trip fare. Please check with us for latest rates when making your tour arrangements.

Delhi / Paro: $760 / $630 (J class / Y class)
Bangkok / Paro: $880 / $720 (J class / Y class)
Calcutta / Paro: $460 / $380 (J class / Y class)
Dacca / Paro: $460 / $380 (J class / Y class)
Kathmandu / Paro: $460 / $380 (J class / Y class)

The spectacular mountain scenery en route is seen at its best in the winter months, when skies are generally very clear. The flight between Kathmandu and Paro gives the most extended view of the Himalayan massif, including the Everest region. Given suitable weather conditions, Mt. Kanchenjunga will be visible for some time on all routes. Flying in and out of Bhutan is an unforgettable experience, whatever route you take!

Customs
Visitors are required to complete a passenger declaration form for checking by concerned officers on arrival. The following articles are exempt from duty: -

(a) Personal affects and articles for day to day use by the visitor;
(b) 2 liters of alcohol (spirits or wine);
(c) 400 cigarettes, 150 gms of pipe tobacco, 2 boxes of cigars (or 50 pieces);
(d) Instruments, apparatus or appliances for professional use;
(e) Photographic equipment, video cameras and other electronic goods for personal use.

The articles mentioned under (d) & (e) must be declared on the declaration form. If any such items are disposed of in Bhutan by sale or gift, they are liable for customs duty. On departure, visitors are required to surrender their forms to the Customs authorities.

Money: Bhutan's currency is the Ngultrum (Nu.), with 100 Chetrum = 1 Ngultrum. The Ngultrum is fixed to the value of Indian rupee. Tourists are advised to carry their money in the form of traveler's checks (preferably American Express) with some cash (US dollars would be best) which might be used for incidental purchases/expenses. There are bank branches in all major towns.

Accommodation: There are comfortable hotels, lodges and guesthouses at our tourist destinations. Generally speaking, hotels in western Bhutan are better appointed, while accommodation establishments in the central and eastern part of the country are more modest, with fewer amenities. There is no star categorization of hotels and five star luxuries are not available.

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