Travelling gives you pleasure and fulfill your mind with joy and happiness not only when you are exhausted and frustrated in your daily work schedule, but also when life is getting boring day by day and if this traveling can be explored in a foreign country that too within a low budget then your first preference should be Bhutan, “The Land of Thunder Dragon” and “The Last Shangri La”. So plan a Bhutan trip from India that will offer you a rich culture, peace and serenity. Today I am going to share with you a detail Bhutan travel guide with Bhutan itinerary for 7 days and Bhutan travel cost breakup.
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“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”- Ibn Battuta
So before going to exact budget plan details for a successful Bhutan trip let’s have an overview of which a traveler should be aware.
Specialty of Bhutan:
High gross National Happiness Index, Carbon Negative Country, One of the most Travel-Friendly Location in Asia, world-class scenic beauty.
Best Time to Visit Bhutan:
March, April, May, September, October, November but as it is all about a budget trip plan I will recommend to visit Bhutan in January or February(Though it is cold you can spend quality time with less price because of less traveler)
Official Language of Bhutan and SIM Card:
Dzongkha is the official language in Bhutan, more or less everybody can understand and speak Hindi and English. Travelers can collect a Bhutan sim card from the immigration office. B-Mobile and TashiCell are two popular Telecomm and data provider in Bhutan. We took B-Mobile SIM card for Rs. 100 with a call balance of Rs. 100(Rs.4/Min charge to call in India) and also took a data plan of 1 GB for Rs. 100 which was enough for 7 night trip in Bhutan(Most of the hotels provide free WiFi to their guests)
Currency and ATM in Bhutan:
Bhutan’s currency is Ngultrum. They also accept Indian currency(except Rs. 2000). Ngultrum and INR both are of the same value there. ATM is also available in main cities but I will recommend carrying enough cash from Jaigaon before entering Bhutan as most of the time ATM runs out of money and secondly you can withdraw Ngultrum, not INR.
Bhutan Visa for Indian:
No visa is required for Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders. As we are Indian we just had to show original Voter Id(not Aadhaar card) or Passport and a passport size photo. It is better to keep a minimum of 4 copies of Id proof and 4-5 passport size photos. These are the documents required for visa in Bhutan. Travelers from other countries(apart from India, Bangladesh, Maldives) they will get the Bhutan visa permit on arrival in Phuentsholing or Paro.
Food in Bhutan:
Bhutanese cuisine is mostly influenced by Indian, Chinese and Tibetan food. The most famous Bhutanese dish is Ema Datshi which is served with chili and cheese which is a must-try for every traveler (It was not as hot as I would imagine). However, you will find several Indian restaurants in Bhutan.
READ ALSO: 10 Best Ways to Eat Cheap While Traveling
How to Reach Bhutan:
By Air – Bhutan Airlines and DrukAir fly from Kolkata, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Singapore and Bangkok to Paro International Airport. While going to travel Bhutan from India, take a flight to Bagdogra from the airport nearest to you. You can also come by taking Delhi to Bhutan flight. I will recommend checking Skyscanner or Kayak to book a cheap flight. Jaigaon(Indo-Bhutan border) is a 3-4 hrs road journey from Bagdogra.
By Train – Hasimara is the nearby Indian Railway Station to the Indo-Bhutan border if you want to reach Bhutan by train. Board on Kanchankanya Express from Sealdah which goes directly to Hasimara. You have to take Cab or bus to reach Phuentsholing from Hasimara which charges Rs. 40-50 per person.
So we four travel freak friends started our long-awaited journey on 10th February(Sunday),’19 for Bhutan budget trip of 7 days from Sealdah Railway station at 8:30 pm. Kanchankanya Express(13149) was supposed to reach Hasimara railway station at 11:07 am on the next morning, but as usual, the train was late for 2.5 hrs.
We had already contacted a local experienced driver(Sanjeev) who is an expert to conduct a Bhutan budget tour. We hired a WagonR for our 8 days Bhutan budget tour for Rs. 2500/day basis. It was a 15 km distance from Hasimara to Jaigaon. Taxi or bus is also available to go to Jaigaon which costs Rs. 40-50 per person.
BHUTAN ITINERARY FOR 7 DAYS
Getting Permit for Bhutan:
As we were already late for that day, we did not waste not a single time and directly went to the Immigration office of Bhutan crossing the border. You have to make a permit for Bhutan from here to travel in Thimpu and Paro, but to travel in Punakha you have to make another Punakha permit from Thimpu.
Generally, Monday used to be crowded due to the backlog of 2 days as the immigration office remains closed on weekend but luckily while we went to make a permit for Bhutan there was max of 5-6 people in the queue. Hereafter filling immigration form we have submitted it along with a passport size photo and a copy of our voter id or passport and got a token number.
Next, we had to go to the verification counter to verify our documents. After getting verified all documents we went to the next counter where fingerprint and photo were taken. All the processes were completed within 1 hour and our driver collected the permit. In between, we completed our lunch from a restaurant in Jaigaon.
Completing all the process we completed the two most important things before starting our journey to Bhutan. The first one was we withdrew a good amount of money(I took 14k INR) from the ATM of Jaigaon and then we bought some dry foods like puffed rice, chanachur, chire vaja, peanut, Maggi, biscuit, cake, potato chips, etc. for the breakfast and evening snacks of our entire Bhutan trip for 7 days. It saved a good amount of money on our budget trip to Bhutan as food in Bhutan is quite costly(Later we found the Rs.5 Maggi in India was selling at Rs.15 in Bhutan).
Ultimately at around 4:30 pm we started our Bhutan budget tour towards Thimpu which is around 147 km from Phuentsholing. As soon as we crossed the border we felt the difference between two countries, there were fewer people with discipline everywhere you can literally feel the peace all around you.
We already decided previously that we won’t stay at Phuentsholing as there is nothing special to visit except Karbandi Monastery so that we can spend an extra day in Bhutan. We were dead tired when we reached our hotel “Welcome Home”(Rs.1200/Night) in Thimpu at around 9 pm. Our first day ended eating noodles at dinner from the hotel restaurant.
Best Places to Visit in Thimpu:
The next morning, we went to the immigration office to make the permit for Punakha. The weather was charming and the sky was also fully clear. While our driver was arranging this we were busy exploring the capital city of Bhutan which is not only enriched with its scenic beauty but also a combination of traditional and contemporary culture.
While roaming around to Thimpu city we found some local shops where local people were selling their traditional handmade crafts and pieces of jewelry but the price was a little bit higher. Taking some pictures of the Thimpu city and National Textile Museum(not worthy to visit, so we avoided).
National Memorial Chorten:
It is a Large white stupa with a golden spire on top which was built in memory of Third Druk Gyalpo. It is a place for daily worship of the Bhutanese. I found it better to take a snap from outside as the entry fee is a little bit high, Rs.300 is not justified.
It must be there in your ‘things to do in Thimpu’ list. The 50 meters tall Buddha Dordemna statue is one of the largest seated Buddha statues in the world. The whole statue is made of bronze and is gilded in gold that makes it more attractive on a sunny day. We got a great panoramic view of Thimpu city from here, which never fails to cease the viewer’s eyes.
The interior chamber of this statue has a painted wall that depicts Buddha’s life and a total of 125,000 miniature Buddhas are there. Though the total cost to construct this wonderful statue is more than 100 million USD still there is no entry fee for Buddha Point till now.
Folk Heritage Museum:
It is a 3-story house made with mud and timber which was built more than 150 years ago. A traveler can have a basic idea of the traditional Bhutanese culture and living. In addition, you can also have a taste of their hand made local wine and other traditional foods of Bhutan. The entry fee of the Folk Heritage Museum is Rs.50 per person.
Completing all the sightseeing we had lunch in a restaurant near Clock Tower Square. There are several restaurants of different ranges. We ordered mixed fried rice and two chicken item which total cost Rs.900 for 4 people.
You can explore the local market where from a little keyring to a big Buddha idol everything is expensive here. One thing you will surely notice that there is no rush to anyone, not even in the traffic, no horn, no chaos, everybody maintains a proper discipline here which will melt all tiredness after completing sightseeing.
We did not stay longer outside our hotel as the temperature was near around 3-degree centigrade. We ordered Roti and Paneer for dinner which costs around Rs.160 pp.
Best Places to Visit in Punakha:
Punakha is 85 km. distance from Thimpu at an altitude of 1242 m. and it is quite warmer compared to Thimpu.
On the third day of our 7 days Bhutan itinerary we went to Punakha. On the way to Punakha, you have to cross Dochula(3100 m.) which is a pass between Thimpu and Wangdue. It was the first place in Bhutan where we got the first glimpse of snow. There were 110 small stupas constructed in memory of soldiers of Bhutan popular as Druk Wangyal Chortens.
You can have a mesmerizing 360-degree view of snow-covered Himalayan mountain range if lucky(while returning from Punakha to Paro we could not see anything for the cloudy weather). No doubt it was one of the best places in Bhutan where we spent more than 2 hrs. and click some amazing photos of Dochula Pass.
READ NEXT: 12 Best and Cheap Places to Visit in India
Punakha Suspension Bridge:
On the way, we had our lunch from a roadside hotel with Rice, Daal and Egg curry which cost Rs. 160 pp. You can try some delicious authentic Bhutanese food. We reached to Suspension Bridge at around 11 am. This is the longest suspension bridge of Bhutan built on Pho Chu river. Crossing the bridge is fun and it is one of the best things to do in Punakha. We got a nice view of Pho Chu river along with the green hills from the middle of the bridge.
It is the second oldest and second-largest Dzong in Bhutan which is an Administrative building of Punakha district. For each district, there is separate dzong and everywhere the entry fee is Rs. 300(guide included). So it’s better to visit one dzong instead of visit all that will save your time and money both.
Crossing the wooden bridge we entered the Dzong which is situated on the bank of Pho Chu(male) and Mo Chu(female) river. You will surely be amazed by the great architecture and open courtyards of the inside Dzong where the life of Buddha is described in detail with great artwork. Undoubtedly, Punakha Dzong is one of the must visit places in Bhutan.
After spending almost 2-3 hrs we left the Dzong and checked in to our Hotel Kinten(Rs.1100/Night) in Wangdue 15 km away from Punakha. It may not be the best hotel in Punakha, but the location, view from the hotel, basic amenities and service was really very good on that price. We completed our dinner with chicken wai wai(Rs. 60) and momo(Rs. 60) from a nearby restaurant and the taste was just awesome and food was very cheap as compared to other restaurants.
Book Cheap Hotel for Your Budget Bhutan Trip:
Tips: I personally recommend you to stay at Wangdue instead of Punakha because fooding and lodging both are cheap here compared to Punakha. Not only you can save money but also you can explore the Bhutanese life going into depth. We did not see a single tourist while we were roaming around the streets of Wangdue. The cold breeze and the silent atmosphere will surely allow you to extract the essence of pure Bhutan.
It is a vast glacial valley at 3000 m above sea level which is 81 km from Punakha, a 2.5 hrs journey. This journey itself is very beautiful and the valley will give a breathtaking view with the black naked crane if you come in Winter.
Though this offbeat place of Bhutan was not in our 7 days Bhutan itinerary checklist at first but we were impressed when we found it in Guides by Lonely Planet app, my all-time friendly travel app.
Gangteng Monastery is a 450 years old large monastery that consists of monk’s quarter, meditation center and small guest house. While returning from Phobjikha valley we visited this place and got an amazing scenic view which was totally free.
We had our lunch and dinner from the same restaurant and here are the details:
Lunch: Fried rice and Chilli chicken(Rs. 190 pp)
Dinner: Chicken wai wai and momo(Rs. 100 pp)
As we 4 friends shared our lunch and dinner it helped us to keep our Bhutan food budget in the limit.
Best Places to Visit in Paro:
Paro(125 km from Punakha) is the most beautiful city in Bhutan at an elevation of 2200 m which is enriched with its cultural heritage, religious sites and vivid scenic beauty and hence it is often called Switzerland of Asia.
National Museum of Bhutan:
After a three and half-hour-long journey, we entered this century-old museum where you will have a chance to see ancient Bhutanese artifacts, traditional Bhutanese clothes, statues, scrolls, pottery and many more. The National Museum of Bhutan entry fee was 50 INR.
We completed our lunch with mixed fried rice, chili chicken and chili pork. The taste was good but I won’t recommend trying pork for the high altitude in Bhutan. The total cost of our lunch was Rs. 900 for 4 people.
Later at night taking a little walk through the streets of Paro city we checked in to our hotel in Paro – “Hotel Blue Poppy”(Rs.1200/Night) as the temperature was around 2-3 degrees centigrade. We ordered Mixed Veg and Roti for our dinner from our hotel which was not up to mark and costs Rs. 100 pp. Food in Bhutan is comparatively expensive than India.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery:
This was the day we were waiting for from the very first day we planned our Bhutan budget trip. Whether you plan your Bhutan itinerary for 7 days or Bhutan itinerary for 6 days or 5 days, Tiger’s Nest Monastery must be in your itinerary for Bhutan. Having a healthy breakfast we started our trek to Taktsang Monastery, better known as Tiger’s Nest Monastery at around 9 am. We trekked for almost 3.5 hrs. to reach to the top. On the way, we got snowfall also and that was totally unexpected. There is a cafeteria also on the midway of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery trek.
The trek was not so hard but the last 300 steps were really hard for us. You can also hire a horse for half of the way if you cannot hike. You will surely be mesmerized by the ambiance of the Taktsang monastery, all of your tiredness will be blown away with the surrounding calmness everywhere. Spending one hour we started our return trek and returned to the base at around 3:30 pm.
On the way, we completed our lunch with rice, daal and egg curry and that tasted like the best dish I have ever had as we were very hungry after the Taktsang Monastery trek. After that, we had no more activity and took a complete rest. We took our dinner from a restaurant in the main city with roti and shahi paneer and for the first time, we tried Bhutanese food Ema Datshi(Rs. 80) from here which is Bhutan’s national dish made with chili and cheese which total costs Rs. 180 pp. Your Bhutan budget tour will incomplete if you don’t try their signature Bhutanese dish Datshi.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery Facts and Tips:
- Tiger’s Nest Monastery trek distance covered more or less 10 km on a round trip.
- The highest elevation of Taktsang Monastery trek: 10232 feet
- Opening Hours:
October – March: 8AM- 13:00PM, and 14.00PM- 17.00PM.
April – September: 8AM -13.00PM, and 14.00PM – 18.00PM.
- You have to buy Tiger’s Nest Monastery ticket at Rs.500 from where the trek starts. Without a ticket, you can trek but cannot enter the monastery. Unfortunately, if you cannot complete your full trek money won’t be refunded.
- Carry a water bottle, biscuit, chocolate which will help you to get stamina also help you to save your budget(1 cup tea costs Rs. 120 in the cafeteria)
- Photography is strictly prohibited inside the monastery.
The next day at 9 am we started our journey to Chelela Pass(3988 m) which is the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. As it was February the road was covered with snow on both sides and our driver was driving very slowly as there was black ice which is very dangerous. We were stuck before 16 km of Chelela Pass due to road blockage, there is no sign of green rather we saw only snow-capped mountains and trees. You will be lost in the scenic beauty of Chelela with a cup of hot coffee.
While returning we stopped our car at a perfect bend from where we got a clear view of Paro International Airport. If you wish you can visit Rinpung Dzong which is quite similar to Punakha Dzong. We did not enter with an entry fee of Rs. 300, rather we captured some beautiful picture of the night view of Rinpung Dzong.
At lunch, we ordered rice, daal and gobi curry from a Bengali restaurant near Paro which costs around Rs. 160 pp. Our hotel in Paro was Blue Poppy that was 5 km away from main Paro city and the beauty of the surrounding was more spectacular than the main Paro city. With less traffic, fewer people, this picturesque location is the ideal place for a nature lover to enjoy the essence of Paro. We completed our dinner with roti and matar paneer costs around Rs. 150 pp.
Tips: Book a hotel like Blue Poppy which is not in the main Paro city, it will help you to have a better view and also reduce your Bhutan cost and as we had reserved car so we could go to the main city whenever we wanted. P.S: Paro is costlier than any other city in Bhutan.
The next day taking a light breakfast with puffed rice and namkeen we started our journey for Hasimara. On the way near Phuentsholing we had our lunch with chole bature(Rs. 80) and reached to Hasimara at 3:30 pm. This is our complete Bhutan itinerary for 7 days.
If you have 3-4 more days in hand you can explore Buxa Jayanti additionally, as it is just 74 km from Hasimara.
Our train Kanchankanya Express(13150) started its journey at 4:48 pm and we arrived at Sealdah on the next day at 8:30 am.
Bhutan Travel Tips for Budget Tour to Bhutan:
- The Bhutan immigration office closes by 4 pm and remains closed at the weekend, hence plan accordingly.
- Smoking weed in Bhutan is strictly prohibited.
- No restriction for Alcohol in Bhutan, one can openly drink, even you can find alcohol in 9 out of 10 restaurants.
- Photography is prohibited in some Dzong, Monastery, Temple, Museum. Better take permission before capturing any picture.
- Follow traffic rules and always use zebra crossing while crossing a road to avoid fine.
- All Bhutanese people have a deep respect for their King and Queen. You will see the picture frame of King, Queen and Royal family of Bhutan at each restaurant and hotel. They don’t entertain any disrespect of the Royal family of Bhutan as well as religious sentiments. So make sure not to mock them anyway.
- Travel insurance in Bhutan is not mandatory.
- Road condition is very good in Bhutan so I will recommend coming here by land.
- Bhutan monitors the export of any antique. Buy Bhutanese handicrafts but not antique to avoid punishment.
- Try to book the hotel not in the main city to save your budget, you can find several budget hotels outside the main city which are better also.
- Do thorough research on Bhutan, make a list of Do Visit and Don’t Visit. For example, we keep Motithang Takin Preserve(you will see Bhutan’s national animal Takin with an entry fee of Rs.100) and National Memorial Chorten in our Don’t Visit list.
- Try to travel Bhutan in a group of 4-7 which will minimize your Bhutan travel cost.
- Indian food in Bhutan is pretty much available but a little bit expensive than the local Bhutanese dish.
- If you are a nonvegetarian try to compromise and go for veg to reduce your Bhutan budget.
- Though this post is related to budget travel in Bhutan but do not neglect Travel Insurance in Bhutan. You can buy World Nomad Travel Insurance which is the cheapest and best value for money policy.
BHUTAN COST BREAKUP
Now coming to the most important part of this blog: Detail list of expenses of my Bhutan budget tour:
*We went in a group of 4 people.
Transport Cost in Bhutan:
Train : Kanchankanya Express(Sealdah <> Hasimara) round trip: Rs.375*2= Rs.750
Cab : WagonR(Pick up and Drop Hasimara to Hasimara): Rs.2500/day for 8 days. (2500*8)/4= Rs.5000
Hotel Cost in Bhutan:
Thimpu: Hotel Welcome Home(Rs.1200/Night for 2 nights): (1200*2)/4= Rs.600
Punakha: Hotel Kinten at Wangdue(Rs. 1100/Night for 2 nights): (1100*2)/4= Rs.550
Paro: Hotel Blue Poppy(Rs.1200/Night for 3 nights): (1200*3)/4= Rs.900
Food Cost in Bhutan Tour:
Breakfast: We bought some dry foods like puffed rice, chanachur, chire vaja, peanut, Maggi, biscuit, cake, potato chips etc. for our breakfast and evening snacks. Total costs approx. Rs.300:(300/4)= Rs.75
Lunch: Avg. Rs.200 pp: (200*8)= Rs.1600
Dinner: Avg. Rs.200 pp: (200*8)= Rs.1600
Entry Fees:(I have enlisted the major places where we visited)
Folk Heritage Museum: Rs.50
Punakha Dzong: Rs.300
National Museum of Bhutan: Rs.50
Tiger’s Nest Monastery: Rs.500
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Please note: We plan our 7 days Bhutan itinerary on 10th Feb,’19 which was offseason. The above-listed price may vary from time to time.
I hope this Bhutan travel guide will help you to plan your Bhutan itinerary on a low budget successfully.
If you have any queries or want me to cover any other places within budget then put your comment, I will try my best to do so.
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Happy Travelling… 🙂