Before 1960 it was very difficult to enter Bhutan. The dense jungles within the South and high frozen passes within the North created the entry very troublesome. However, currently, it’s far more accessible through several international and multiple domestic airports because of planned economic development. Here I have tried to illaborate How to Reach Bhutan easily.
How to Reach Bhutan
Bhutan is simply reached by air, train, and road from various countries. Many countries have direct flights to Bhutan. By land, there are three points where you can cross over the Indian border and reach Bhutan. These are Gelephu, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Phuentsholing. The first two are connected to the Assam and the third one connected with West Bengal.
Paro International airport is the one and only international airport to enter into Bhutan by air. Paro is surrounded by mountains and is situated at a height of 7332 ft above sea level. Other domestic airports include Gelephu airport in south-central Bhutan, Yonphulla in eastern Bhutan and Bathpalanthag Airport in central Bhutan. However, Gelephu and Yongphulla airports have closed their operations.
It takes about 1 hour 15 minutes to reach Thimphu from Paro airport. March, April, October, and November months are peak periods for traveling Bhutan. If you are thinking of visiting Thimphu and nearby places in these months, you should book your air tickets and hotels at least four months before your trip in order to avail a better discount on flight tickets and hotels.
The National Air Carriers of Bhutan are Bhutan Airlines (http://www.bhutanairlines.bt/ )
and Druk Air ( https://www.drukair.com.bt/ )
As of February 2019, Bhutan Airlines serves the following destinations:
Drukair operates scheduled flights to the following destinations
Bagdogra airport receives several flights from major cities within India. Flights from Bagdogra to Paro take 40 minutes directly. From Kolkata to Paro, it takes 1hr 40minutes directly and from New Delhi to Paro, it takes 2hr 20minutes directly. As I already mentioned about two operating airlines are Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. Connecting flight services provided by different airlines like Jet Airways and Spice Jet also are available.
Bhutan’s Paro International Airport brings an exciting experience while traveling by plane. An outstanding scene of Paro valley will certainly cause you to astound because the mountain tops are nearer than most different flights within the world. By Road
Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Gelephu are the only land borders open to world tourists as I already mentioned. Tourists could choose the bus, private taxi or any other local transportation to reach Bhutan. Phuentsholing is located in the south-west which is around 170 km from the Indian national airport at Bagdogra, West Bengal (India). It is the nearest airport which takes about 4 hours 30 mins drive from Phuentsholing.
Gelephu is another entry point to Bhutan situated in south-central Bhutan. It is just about 250 kilometre from the capital town Thimphu. The journey to reach Thimphu is quite interesting. Roughly 240 kilometre from Guwahati, 50 km from Bongaigaon, and 340 km from Siliguri, this border crossing is relatively remote and is mostly used for shipping and business between Bhutan and India. From Bongaigaon it takes 3 hours. Only suggested for individuals with lots of time in their hands and having adventure mindset.
Samdrup Jongkhar is situated in south-east Bhutan and 150 km away from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. It borders the Indian district of Darranga, Assam. The journey from Guwahati to Samdrup Jongkhar is about 3 hours. The entering route, Samdrup Jongkhar takes travelers through Trashigang, Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa, Wangdue Phodrang and then capital Thimphu.
Indian tourists could take a bus journey from Kolkata. One can take a direct bus from Esplanade Bus Terminal, Kolkata to Phuentsholing. The bus journey takes concerning 18 hours to reach Phuentsholing from Kolkata and it’s comfortable. The buses are run by the Royal Bhutanese Government.
Siliguri has the frequent bus service to Phuentsholing/Jaigaon. It takes less than six-hour journey. The average distance between New Delhi – Paro – Thimphu is 1740 kilometers, Bagdogra – Thimphu is 315 kilometers and Kolkata – Paro- Thimphu is 860 kilometers.
These buses depart from Kolkata’s esplanade bus terminus at 7 PM on Tues, Thursday, and Saturday for Rs. 660/-(non AC), Rs.1005(AC) and return from the Phuntsholing Bhutan Post office at 3 PM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The bus journey from Kolkata esplanade bus terminus takes about 22hrs 30min to reach Phuntsholing. For Bus Tickets and other information, you can call:
00975 17677538 (Thimphu GPO) opened weekday – Sunday from 06:30 AM – 07:00 PM
00975 05 253350/17615974 (Phuntsholing GPO) opened weekday – Sunday from 06:30 AM – 07:00 PM
0091 3322487734/9830723944/9831720574 (Kolkata Bus Terminal)
Open-Monday – Sunday from 09:30AM – 06:00PM (IST)
You can additionally get buses from Siliguri Tenzing Norgay Central bus depot on Hill Cart Road to Jaigaon / Phuentsholing. There are two buses, operated by the Royal Bhutanese Government, plying through this route daily at 7:30 and 13:30. The bus journey takes around 4.5 hours to reach Phuentsholing. Tickets are purchased in the bus terminus, but the bus departs from the other side of Hill Cart Road. NB: Before coming into Bhutan, non-Indians are needed to receive an exit stamp in their passports at the Indian immigration office. Therefore, once passengers set down at the main stop in Jaigaon, move your bags from the roof to within the bus and request the driver to allow you to off at the Indian immigration office. It is a brief walk from there to Bhutan gate. From Phuentsholing you’ll be able to take another bus to Thimphu.
From Bhutan Post office at Phuentsholing, the journey to Thimphu takes about 5 hrs by bus. Usually, 20 or 30-seaters buses operate in this section. The bus service runs once daily for Rs. 230/-. The total time taken throughout the bus journey from Kolkata is about 30hrs as well as 1hour of transfer. As you enter the valley, you drive on Bhutan’s first four-lane expressway, which takes you right into the heart of town, over two dramatic fly-overs and bridges.
Also consult Bhutan Government Bus Service
There is no direct train route in Bhutan. Tourists have to reach the defined station and then take a cab or local transport to reach Phuentsholing, Bhutan. Convenient and best options from India are New Alipurduar, New Jalpaiguri Station and Hasimara. Hasimara settled in West Bengal is simply 17 kilometer faraway from Phuentsholing. Indian Railway operates the train from here.
‘New Alipurduar’ railway station is 60 km away from Jaigaon. Bus and taxi services are available from New Alipurduar to Jaigaon. The trains going towards Guwahati stop at this railway station. Tourists will get down here and catch the bus or taxi to reach Bhutan.
One of the convenient options for travelers heading to Bhutan by land is New Jalpaiguri Station in Siliguri. Direct shared taxis and buses from Siliguri to Jaigaon are available. If you wish to travel by train, you have to travel to Kolkata or NJP (New Jalpaiguri) first as there is no direct connectivity of trains from any major cities like Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai to Bhutan.
Many day-trains as well as over-night trains run from Kolkata to NJP and also further ahead to Falakata (both in West Bengal). The total rail distance from Kolkata to NJP is 565 kilometers and Kolkata to Hasimara is 688 kilometers.
After reaching NJP or Falakata, you can hire a private taxi to Jaigaon which is the Indian border town to cross over to Bhutan’s Pheuntsholing. The road trip from Siliguri(NJP) to Pheuntsholing takes nearly 4hours and the distance is 150 kilometers and a small cab will take Rs. 2,500- 3000), and from Hasimara to Pheuntsholing, it takes about 1 hour and the distance is 20 kilometers.
You can additionally prefer to travel by Train to Hasimara and then by car, Shared Jeep or Taxi to Jaigaon/ Phuentsholing Border, then a taxi or bus to Thimphu – This is the simplest and most convenient method of reaching the border from Kolkata and your route would be as Kolkata – Train to Hasimara – car rickshaw to Jaigaon/ Phuentsholing Border- Bus/taxi to Thimphu. This route is cost effective also.
• Kanchankanya Express Train No. 13149 Depart Sealdah at 20:30 and reach Hasimara at 11.05 the next day. Running status- daily
• Karmabhoomi Express Train No. 22511 Depart Howrah Junction at 22:00 and reaches Hasimara at 12:40. Running status. Running status-Thursday only.
Another option (particularly for people who aren’t coming from Kolkata or West Bengal) is to take a train to New Jalpaiguri, and then a Taxi or Bus (from Siliguri bus terminus) to Jaigaon/Phuentsholing Border and from there either takes a shared jeep or a bus or a cab to reach Thimphu. There are several direct Trains plying from Kolkata and alternative cities to New Jalpaiguri (NJP). Visit below link to know about trains to NJP.
Also consult https://www.irctc.co.in/nget/
The permit is required for the travelers driving inside Bhutan which can be arranged from Kolkata itself from the Royal Bhutan Consulate Office. All you would like is a passport sized photograph and either a voter ID card or passport photocopy as your Indian citizenship proof. It is usually better to use well before (at least 8-10 days earlier). Office timings are nine to five however documents are solely accepted till twelve. Address details of the 2 places are given below for your reference –
Bhutan House, 6, Mall Rd, K.B.Sarani, Golpark, South Dum Dum, Kolkata, West Bengal 700080.Phone- 033 4012 3999
48, Tivoli Court, 1A Ballygunge Circular Road, Ballygunge, Kolkata-80.
(+91) 33-2560 0756
For online permit click here
This post will let you know how to reach Bhutan. Also, I have added some recommendations and suggestions which you can consider during your trip. You can also add on if any better suggestion available with you. So, go through the pointers and let me know your concerns or questions in the comments section.
LAST UPDATED ON 06.01.20