Bhutan – Tips on budget Travelling

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Bhutan, the Land of Thunder Dragon, the Kingdom of Happiness, is a tiny Buddhist country. With grand ambitions – Bhutan is recovering from years of isolation and monarchy to embrace democracy and equality. While also preserving its rich heritage, Bhutan is a place worth exploring.

With lots of commitments financially, yet having the hunger to experience the world – we bring you the supplest list of managing your expenses while experiencing true happiness in Bhutan.

Word of advice

The small, landlocked country is full of unique experiences. But, this experience is only limited to a few people, unfortunately. To protect Bhutan’s environment – the government has placed a minimum fee of $200-$250 per person per day!

This fee includes $65 of sustainable development fees, visa charges, 3-star accommodation, meals, transport, a guide, and other amenities – this makes the trip fairly expensive for foreign nationals. Yes, they use the money for the development and maintenance of the country, so you can rejoice in helping with the upliftment of a nation.

However, Indian, Bangladesh and Maldives nationals are exempted from this for now. The Bhutanese Himalayas are stunning, raw, untouched and provides a wonderful insight into the culture of the area.

Citizens from these nations can travel exceptionally cost-effectively at even $25 per day. I am a true believer in the fact that the prettier your surroundings are, the happier you are. Bhutan is a testament to my theory!

Bhutan, The land of Dragons - DoW Mega Meet 2016
Bhutan, The land of Dragons – DoW Mega Meet 2016

Why visit Bhutan

As an Indian, you will get a beautiful opportunity to not be restricted by a guide and can explore the nation at your own pace. However, other foreign nationals will not feel constricted because of this.

Getting There

Around 90% of travelers from India take the road to reach Bhutan, traversing through West Bengal. For this, fetching a train will save you a lot of money. The cheapest option to reach Bhutan from Kolkata is by train. Kanchankanya Express leaves Kolkata at 8:30 PM and arrives at Hasimara, the closest railway station to Bhutan, at around 10: 30 A.M. From here, you can fetch an auto to Phuentsoling/Jaigaon.

Both these towns are adjacent, and you should be able to get off right at the border. While taxis are available, they turn out to be fairly expensive, charging around ₹300-₹500 while the auto takes ₹25 per person.

Food Options

A majority of the travelers have their meals covered in the pre-paid travel plans. However, even for Indian travelers, the good news is that food is not very expensive in Bhutan. You can easily get a meal outside your travel plans for around INR 100-500.

Bhutan, The land of Dragons - DoW Mega Meet 2016
Bhutan, The land of Dragons – DoW Mega Meet 2016

Stay Options

Traveling on a budget, the maximum you should spend on hotels is INR 1000 per day. I prefer going out of your comfort zone and enjoy camping, homestays, and budget hotels. Also, try finding stay options near major towns as this will ensure that you’re able to travel freely without it being too expensive.

How to travel in Bhutan on a Budget

  1. Invest a ton of time in planning your trip. Traveling in general and Bhutan specifically is an experience that goes very smoothly and as per budget if you spend a decent time in planning extensively.
  2. Use public transport for as much of your travel as possible. It will be a huge factor in curtailing your costs.
  3. Avoid traveling solo. This tip is the easiest way to cut down on surcharges. If you’re traveling in groups of 4 or more, the costs come down substantially
  4. Don’t indulge in alcohol and international cuisines. This tip is a no-brainer as the local experience is so immersive and easily available that going out of your way for some home-comforts will turn out to be an expensive exercise. Go for local drinks and food items.
  5. Avoid shopping. This is a piece of difficult advice to give for me as I like collecting trinkets and souvenirs to all places I go to (my fridge is magnet heaven!) –but, the lesser you shop, the more in control your budget will be.

Bonus Tip!

Volunteer! If you’re looking for an ideal backpacking experience in Bhutan – the country sponsors trips (sometimes even fully!) for skilled volunteers. If you can contribute to nation-building and not be a freeloader, Bhutan will take care of you fully!

Programs such as the High School Summer Community Service in Thimpu looks are seven day long volunteers to work with young children. Filmmakers without borders is also a great creative experience.

Bhutan, The land of Dragons - DoW Mega Meet 2016
Bhutan, The land of Dragons – DoW Mega Meet 2016

Budget Suggestions

Accommodation per day INR 1000
Breakfast INR 150
LunchINR 250
DinnerINR 250
SnacksINR 300
Public Transport (all-inclusive)INR 550
Train journeyINR 700 (sleeper) – INR 2500 (Tier II AC) + Internal transfer of INR 25 -100
Total Budget for a 5-day trip to Bhutan – INR 5000-7000 per person

Conclusion

Truly a dichotomy in its own right, Bhutan is unlike any other place you’ll visit. The monks still meditate for years on end in caves. The teenagers are as westernized and as typical as in any other part of the world. The ruler of the country gave way to becoming a democracy.

The country values the happiness of its citizens above all else. High costs of travel for foreign nationals truly go towards the betterment of the society at large. Bhutan is a beautiful little gem waiting to be explored. With minimal costs, you can add a beautiful experience to open your horizons even more!

Have a travel question?? You can follow me on Instagram and ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram too. I also conduct a weekly Q&A session every Saturday evening on Instagram, so see you there.

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