Bhutan welcomes back tourists after gap of over two years: 10 things to keep in mind

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NEW DELHI: Bhutan on Friday reopened its international borders after a gap of over two years following the Covid-19 pandemic, with officials looking to tourism to help revive the local economy.
The reopening also bears greater significance for Indians as they comprise the largest number of tourists in Bhutan. In 2020 alone, out of the 29,812 tourist arrivals in Bhutan, around 22,298 were from India.

This time, however, Indians — who can otherwise enter the country without a passport, if they have a permit and voter ID — will be expected to pay a nominal ‘tourism fee’ of Rs 1,200 for every night they spend in the country.
Here are 10 things to know before you travel to Bhutan:

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  1. International tourists, excluding Indian guests, will now have to pay a Sustainable Development Fee of $200 per night — up from $65 earlier. Indian tourists will have to pay Rs 1,200 per night.
  2. The funds are expected to go towards projects that support Bhutan’s economic, social, environmental and cultural development.
  3. The previously stipulated Minimum Daily Package Rate has been removed. This gives visitors the flexibility to engage service providers directly, or book flights, hotels and tours in Bhutan themselves. Guests from India will pay a previously stipulated fee, which will be revised at a later date.
  4. A visitor (guest) must stay in accommodation certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB).
  5. The country has done away with mandatory RT-PCR tests upon arrival. However, tourists coming to Bhutan must be fully vaccinated and will be required to produce travel insurance.
  6. Indians can enter Bhutan via Assam from Samdrup Jongkhar and Gelephu borders.
  7. The country decided to reopen its borders on September 23 as it coincides with the festival, Blessed Rainy Day, which marks new beginnings.
  8. Bhutan has unveiled a new tourism strategy underpinned by transformations in three key areas: enhancements to sustainable development policies, infrastructure upgrades, and the elevation of the guest experience. “We need tourism to not only benefit Bhutan economically, but socially as well, while maintaining our low sustainable footprint,” said Dorji Dhradhul, director general, Tourism Council of Bhutan.
  9. A guide is strongly recommended for all visitors to Bhutan. It is recommended that guides accompany visitors for experiences such as visiting temples and local places of interest, and it is mandatory to have a guide for all trekking activities and for any journeys that extend beyond Thimphu and Paro. For any visitors who enter Bhutan via the land borders, guides are mandatory when the visitors leave the border towns.
  10. Bhutan will also be stepping up its efforts to maintain its status as one of only a handful of carbon-negative countries in the world – in 2021, Bhutan sequestered 9.4 million tonnes of carbon against its emission capacity of 3.8 million tonnes.

(With inputs from agencies)

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