Bhutan – a land of magic and mystique – is full of natural wonders with so much diversity to offer in terms of experiences. Looking for a getaway? Look no further! Wanting some downtime? Bhutan has that aplenty! Needing a break? Cut off from the entire world! Wanting solo experiences? Here we are!
Bhutan might not be the friendliest when it comes to solo travel, especially for foreign nationals other than Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldives. But, that is what adds to its charm – the extreme seclusion that it offers!
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Bhutan – an unforgettable experience
It’s honestly quite funny that for a huge chunk of the 20th century, this region was all but ignored by the rest of the world. You’ll be surprised to know that television in Bhutan is quite a new phenomenon, with the country having allowed the idiot box into its setup only from 1999! While the world had a lot going on to really think too much about Bhutan – Bhutan was also quite happy in its own bubble and morals. Because of such isolation, Bhutan was able to maintain a lot of its culture, and “westernization” didn’t dilute their ethos at all!
Bhutan, at first glance, might seem underdeveloped thanks to its extreme isolation. Some might even question why the country did not embrace modern ways for the betterment of its people! But, we should appreciate that this land of a deep valley and impressive fortresses became isolated not because the world ignored it, but because it enjoyed being what it was! Its continued isolation is no longer an accident: Bhutan’s traditional culture is strictly protected, and visitors carefully regulated.
You’ll be surprised to know that Bhutan is the only country in the world where tobacco sales are banned. What’s even more surprising is that the capital city has no traffic lights. We all know that this is the country which measures happiness and not GDP and trusts me when I say this – getting to experience this country is not a vacation (it will be a lot of tough journeys!) it is truly a privilege!
Solo Travel – the costs associated
As an Indian, Bangladesh, Maldives national – there are no surcharges that you’ll need to pay. Apart from the Minimum Daily Requirement that all foreign tourists have to pay, there may be a surcharge applicable as well. Tourists traveling in a group of two or less shall be subject to a surcharge as below
- Single individual – US$ 40 per night
- Group of 2 persons only – US$ 30 per person per night
Solo Travel and Safety
Bhutan is a heaven on earth! There won’t be much to trouble you when you’re visiting. The country is a happy place to be and they provide immense request to the visitors of their land. Almost for the entire duration of the year, the weather is quite mild and pleasant. I am a firm believer of the fact that nicer weather makes people nicer! Any Himalayan city you’d visit- you’ll notice this to be true. In theory I believe a lot of our troubles stem from the frustration of not being comfortable – and weather primarily plays a huge role in that. Anyways, I digress. There are a bunch of beautiful scenic tourist spots and ancient monasteries to explore. Because the tourism infrastructure is quite intense (though not the most efficient or with complete logistical comfort), you’ll find that you can get from any city to almost any part of the country through safe public transport.
As a bonus, the travel expenses are quite cheap. I guarantee you won’t have any trouble traveling alone since people are very generous and believe that guests bring good luck in their homes. Although, as common sense would urge you, it is always prudent to be alert and vigilant of your surroundings.
Especially for Indian Nationals – Bhutan is especially tailor-made for solo travel. What makes a solo trip safe, is the local Bhutanese people are some of the friendliest, sophisticated, and calm tribes in the world. You can roam around the streets, markets, sightseeing places, without any unwanted stares.
Bhutan is one of the most beautiful and serene places to visit. Ideally, you should plan your solo excursions into the country for at least 7-8 days. That will not only give you a great opportunity to leisurely explore the place, but also interact with the locals and understand their customs as well as partake in activities.
What to pack
Bhutan is a Himalayan landlocked country. You’ll want to dress in layers, as with any Himalayan destination. It doesn’t take long for the weather to change, and you’ll want enough clothes to keep you warm, yet not tire you down. It is also an adventurous place to be – so comfy – hike-able clothes would do the trick. Especially when you’re traveling solo – you’d want to keep medicines and other first-aid with you.
How to meet others
Bhutan provides you with a ton of opportunity to interact with the locals. Whether it is through homestays, tours & travels, hitchhiking, asking for directions – the locals are friendly people who will be happy to inform you about the ways of life.
How to stay safe
It isn’t that difficult to stay safe in Bhutan. You’d want to be vigilant and alert of your surroundings, keep your documents around and ask for help if you’re lost/unsure. Don’t talk to shady looking people (though there aren’t many in the nation to be very honest!)
How to get around
While public transport will get you to major cities from the various hubs – the roads are not comfortable. You’d want to get taxis. Though, this can be an expensive proposition. I would suggest you share cabs – which you can do by talking to people also traveling to your various locations at the taxi stands/ hotels etc.
How to make the most of it?
Learn to be okay with being uncomfortable. This feeling is the biggest rule of solo travel. If this will be your first-time solo traveling, you might take a few days to warm up to the experience. But, truly, there is nothing to be shy about in enjoying your own company. Don’t be hesitant to talk to the person sitting next to you in the restaurant. First and above all else- just be curious, and you’ll be surprised how much you can open up!
Be respectful of the culture and traditions. Of course, Bhutan is proud and fiercely protective of its culture; all steps were taken by the government truly highlight how much they value the moral fiber of the nation. It will do you a world of good to be respectful of the customs. By being respectful, you’ll also learn a lot about the way things are done and take away a few Zen practices on how to appreciate happiness in your life.
Other Tips for Solo Travel
The most beautiful part of Bhutan is its people. They are generous, helpful, and talkative. Though Bhutan is said to be a developing country, you won’t feel that, not even a bit. Most of the locals can speak Hindi or English.
Bhutan’s approach to tourism is different, and it promotes high-value tourism, which is expensive for foreigners and limits the number of tourists. Since Bhutan has very cordial relationship with India, Indians can visit Bhutan without the minimum expenditure limit and the tour guide requirements. Hence, you’ll be allowed to roam and explore the country freely.
One thing you have to keep in mind is that Bhutan is not a typical backpacker’s destination. It doesn’t have any hostels. Though you could find shared cabs between major cities, you will have to reserve a taxi if you want to go to places, which might be expensive at times. Some people tend to prefer to hitchhike and inform them that they can learn more about the culture while interacting with the locals.
Bhutan is an ideal location for solo travel. There is a lot of mystery and an aura of other-worldliness to this country. Often, I feel that time has essentially stood still when thinking of Bhutan. A better way to put it would be that the concept of time has never really mattered to the nation. Solo travel is quite a thrill and an adventure in itself, and Bhutan creates the perfect environment to experience this. Whether you’re a man or a woman – Bhutan is safe and waiting for you to arrive!