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How Much Does it Really Cost to Visit Bhutan?

How much does it cost to visit Bhutan 7

When I first started talking about visiting Bhutan, and later when I began posting photos and stories from my trip there, a few of the comments I received were along the lines of, “I wish I could go there… if I had more money” or “Wow – you must be rich.” Firstly, I can assure you I am not rich, but I’m not broke either; I do have some savings and I definitely prioritise travel in my yearly budgeting plans. In my mind, my finances align with an average 30-something who works full-time (and who doesn’t have any kids or dependents to support). And while Bhutan is definitely not a budget destination, I do believe that it is affordable on a mid-range travel budget. So how much does it really cost to visit Bhutan?

Before getting into the specifics of how much you pay and where your money goes, I think it’s important to touch on Bhutan’s tourism policy. Situated in the Himalayas, it is a small, Buddhist nation of around 800,000 people. Bhutan certainly has a reputation for being difficult to get to, with a myth floating around that the government only offers a limited amount of visas to tourists each year. As I wrote about previously, that is indeed a myth; anyone can visit Bhutan as long as he or she is willing to pay a daily fee (more on that in a minute). Bhutan’s tourism policy is “High Value, Low Impact”, meaning they want tourists to have the best possible time visiting the country while still respecting its culture and its environment. The best way to ensure that? Well, make people pay.

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So exactly how much does it cost to visit Bhutan? In high-season months (March, April, May, September, October, and November), the cost of visiting Bhutan is $250 US per person per day. If you are travelling solo, you unfortunately have to pay a surplus of $40 US a day, bringing your total to $290 US a day. In the low-season months (December, January, February, June, July, and August), the cost of visiting Bhutan is $200 US per person per day (though the $40 US charge for a solo traveller still stands). There are a few discounts available for children and students that are worth looking into if you’re travelling with kids (and if you’re a full-time student under the age of 25, you get 25% off the daily fee).

And what exactly does your money get you? I totally understand that $200-$290 a day may seem excessive, especially if you’re hoping for a budget holiday. And before I went to Bhutan, I thought that price was crazy… all that money per day, and I still have to pay for hotels, food, etc? But that’s where I was totally wrong. In fact, your daily fee covers everything, and once you are in the country you do not pay a single penny. That’s right, that daily fee includes all accommodation, food (minus alcohol), ground transportation, entrance fees, and a private guide and driver (sometimes this is the same person). While I was in Bhutan for eight days last December, I only used my bank card to withdraw money once (there are now ATMs in the major cities, and I had no problem using my UK bank card at one), and that was only so that I could have cash to buy souvenirs and tip our guide at the end of the trip. Travel insurance and flights are also not included, and there is also a visa fee of $40 (which your tour company will arrange for you – more about this in the post about getting a visa to Bhutan).

Please note that you arrange your private tour before arriving in Bhutan and have to pay the company in full before being granted your visa. I know it sounds a bit sketchy, but I’ve never heard of any problems with it – the government monitors each tour company closely to ensure they follow strict guidelines on treating tourists properly. You must book your tour with an approved tour company; here is a list of all of them in Bhutan.

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Hotel room at Wangdue Eco Lodge

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Huge meal for two (vegetarian meals are available)

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Exterior of the Dewachen Hotel in the beautiful Phobijka Valley

To reiterate: the money you pay in the beginning covers absolutely everything you could possibly need while in the country, and you get your own guide who creates a custom itinerary for you and caters to everything you’ve asked for, whether that be hiking, birdwatching, a cultural trip, and so on. I can’t imagine this only costing $200 a day if I was in pretty much any developed nation in the world; imagine, for example, visiting London and getting your three-star hotel, all meals, all entrance fees to sights, all (private) transportation, and a private guide to show you around the city for under £140. Just for a comparison, I looked up what a mid-range safari through South Africa costs per day as well as what an all-inclusive trip to a resort in the Caribbean might be, and the prices were the same and/or very similar to what my trip in Bhutan cost. Again, I’m not saying that Bhutan is a budget destination – there really isn’t any way to travel through Bhutan on a budget – but I’m trying to highlight that it’s not as expensive as some people may believe it to be.

But the money you’re paying isn’t only covering your personal costs. $65 of your daily fee is actually designated as a royalty fee; this money helps Bhutan’s infrastructure, paying for the country’s education, health care, repairs, and more. By paying your daily fee, you’re also contributing to keeping the country happy, healthy, and clean. It’s pretty hard to argue with that.

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Bathroom of the beautiful Wangdue Eco Lodge

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Postal museum in Thimpu (surprisingly interesting!)

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Traditional Bhutanese meal in Thimpu

And as you can see, your money gets you some amazing perks, including beautiful hotels, filling meals, all the monasteries/nunneries/museums you’re up for, and a comfortable journey (our guide had a new Hyundai SUV). If you wanted to, you could pay even more to stay in 5-star hotels, but in my experience the 3-star hotels were more than enough (and Bhutan has impeccable service and hospitality… we were given exceptional treatment). To top it off, as we visited in December, we were often the only tourists in some of the locations we visited. Though it was chilly, the weather was terrific and sunny for our entire time in the country.

So the final question remains: was the price of visiting Bhutan worth it? A huge, resounding YES. Bhutan is a country unlike any other I’ve been to, with gorgeous scenery, fascinating history, and an overwhelming sense of spirituality and peacefulness. Bhutanese people are incredibly welcoming, and with the amenities that our daily fees covered, we stayed in lovely hotels and ate a variety of local food. We were never once uncomfortable, hungry, or put-out in any way, shape, or form. Our tour guide, Thinley from Bhutan Namdruk Adventure, made sure that we had exactly the tour we wanted, so we got to choose just how much or how little we wanted to sightsee and explore.

You can certainly find cheaper destinations in the Himalayas for hiking and cultural experiences, but if you are considering a trip to Bhutan and you have the savings to do it, I cannot recommend it enough.

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Please note: Getting to Bhutan, at least in terms of transportation, is easier than you may think; there is a direct flight from Kathmandu every day to the Paro airport, and there are also direct flights from Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Dhaka, Bangkok, and Singapore (as well as a few more smaller cities in India), all through Druk Air. Just a side note about flights: on the way to Paro from Kathmandu, try to get a seat on the left side of the airplane to see Mount Everest. And yes, the rumours are true – in order to fly into Paro the pilots must navigate quite a difficult passage through the mountains, but my journey was nothing but smooth and stress-free (they know what they’re doing, in other words). It is also possible to drive into Bhutan from India, though I am not familiar with that route.

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One last thing: you’ve probably noticed I’ve written three very practical guides to Bhutan over the past few months: this one, what to wear in Bhutan, and getting a visa to Bhutan. This is quite unlike me – I’m never this organised about writing these sorts of posts so quickly after visiting a place. The reason I’ve done this, however, is so that now I can get on with sharing all of the amazing stories and photos from my time there, knowing that if you have any questions about the practicalities of Bhutan, they’re right here on the blog.

How much does it really cost to visit Bhutan?

What do you think? Do you feel that the daily fee is worth visiting Bhutan? Would you like to visit?

 

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43 Responses to How Much Does it Really Cost to Visit Bhutan?

  1. Ann February 17, 2016 at 1:49 am #

    Thanks for clarifying the fee. I’d also assumed lodging, food, excursions, etc. were extra. That makes a huge difference!

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2016 at 10:59 am #

      I agree, it makes a huge difference! It’s still a high price, but I believe it’s a sensible one for what you’re getting.

  2. Stephanie February 17, 2016 at 8:06 am #

    Bhutan looks like such a beautiful country. I never knew that you had to pay a daily fee to visit though! I can understand why they have decided to do this though. Mass tourism can have such a negative impact on some destinations. You only need to look at Thailand to see this.

    The fee ensures that the infrastructure of the country can cope with the amount of tourists. The fee doesn`t seem too bad when it`s all inclusive with a personalised travel plan!

    how long did you spend in Bhutan?

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2016 at 11:01 am #

      I understand why they’ve done it, also. You’re right, mass tourism can have a terrible impact on some places, especially if a country isn’t ready for it. I always feel torn about this issue because I also believe that everyone should be able to visit other countries and see the world…

      I was in Bhutan for eight days! I didn’t think the fee was that high considering what I got in that time…

  3. Julie February 17, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    Makes so much more sense now! I was so curious about why anyone would way $250 per day MORE on top of everything on a holiday! Plus now I understand why most/all visitors come in with an association with a tour or a guide or something. Cheers – looks amazing!

    • Brenna Holeman February 17, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

      I’m glad I could clear things up, Julie! Hope you get to visit Bhutan soon. 🙂

  4. Sarah February 18, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    My eyebrows shot up when I first read the bit about the daily fee, but actually it sounds pretty reasonable. I might add Bhutan to my list of possible destinations for next year!

    • Brenna Holeman February 18, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

      Yeah, it’s really not so bad in the end if you have a mid-range budget! Thanks for the comment, Sarah.

  5. Michelle February 18, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

    Wait WHAT.

    This is a game changer. I had NO idea that’s how the daily fee worked.

    • Brenna Holeman February 18, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

      Neither did I! It’s really not so bad… 🙂

  6. Missy February 18, 2016 at 9:46 pm #

    Hi brenna
    When one considers the inclusivity of the daily….I think it is actually on the cheaper,inexpensive side.it covers so much and if a traveler needs to travel within a certain budget it actually helps them: it’s a t total upfront amount and nothing more needed. Love t that actually

    • Brenna Holeman February 19, 2016 at 12:05 am #

      Yes, I think it works out to be quite a good deal!

  7. Tommy February 21, 2016 at 8:52 am #

    Does one need to apply visa to visit bhutan? Or is it visa on arrival. I am interested to visit bhutan. 🙂

    Tommy.

    • Brenna Holeman February 21, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

      Hi Tommy, all of the information about visas is listed in this post. I linked to it numerous times in the article you just commented on. All the best!

  8. Katie February 24, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    Obviously I love your storytelling posts, but this one is SO useful. Until you started writing about it, I had no idea Bhutan was basically an “all inclusive” kingdom!

    • Brenna Holeman February 25, 2016 at 12:54 am #

      Yeah, I’m trying to mix it up a bit because I get so many emails about certain topics… blogging about it makes it easier and hopefully a bit more helpful than just my usual waffling on!! I’m glad that you found the post to be useful, thanks for letting me know, Katie 🙂

  9. Zalie February 27, 2016 at 6:09 am #

    I am sure that you and mom told me that the daily fee included everything but it totally slipped my mind until reading this post again! I think the money spent is so worth it( from what you have both told me) and I really like how some of the fee goes towards improving and maintaining the country 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman February 27, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

      I know, I like that, too! It really is quite a good deal. 🙂

  10. Robert Ford March 17, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    I wrote a post a couple of years ago about the cost of Bhutan to compared to other places. If you work the numbers it turns out that the price in Bhutan is in line with other places when you take a private tour and put everything in…. what makes Bhutan different is that there is no cheap way go to.

    I’m in a unique situation as my wife is Bhutanese and we spend 4-6 weeks each summer.

  11. Loredana August 18, 2016 at 10:49 pm #

    Hi Brenna,
    Thank you for the informative post. Do you know if there is any extra fee, such as tour organisation fees or something similar? Can I simply multiply the daily fee by the number of days to obtain the total cost of a trip? I have calculated the daily cost of some tours that I have found on the web and the daily cost resulted to be quite higher than the standard fee, usually above USD 400 per day.

    • Brenna Holeman August 19, 2016 at 10:14 am #

      It should be roughly the daily fee times the amount of days you’re going, yes, but those numbers are for a standard tour. I think if you have nicer hotels (4 or 5 star) or they promise better restaurants, they up the fees. The company I went with – Bhutan Namdruk Adventures – worked out to be almost exactly $200 a day per person in low season, though we did pay a bit extra for banking fees when we sent the money over. On that tour, we had 3-star hotels and fairly basic meals, but we were totally happy with the level of quality and service.

      I hope that helps!

  12. Meli September 7, 2016 at 3:13 am #

    Buthan was on my list. This made me to prioratise it among other destinations.
    Thank you for the detailed infor

  13. Nambirajan October 15, 2016 at 10:16 am #

    I too visited Bhutan recently.

  14. Meagan Brown October 23, 2016 at 6:50 am #

    Thanks for sharing this informative blog about the cost to visit Bhutan. I think it’s really important to know every traveler before traveling any country. Keep it up dear!

  15. Paul January 10, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

    There is a problem though! All this is OK if you like to go on organised tours (which I do not at all), eat what you are given, have to stay in hotels that you haven’t picked and have a tour guide stuck to your side for 12 hours a day. Not for me at all.

    I understand they are trying to protect their culture and heritage but the people who can afford these sort of tours are probably the very people who care the least. At the end of the day this daily charge is a weekly budget for many.

    Also because its a guided tour I wouldn’t pay $50 a day. In fact until they change this i’m afraid it will be off my bucket list. I still have around 80 countries I haven’t visited 🙂

    • Brenna Holeman January 10, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

      Paul, this simply isn’t true. You can have a say where you go, what you eat, where you stay, etc. My guide was lovely and kind, but he gave us plenty of time on our own. Also to imply “the people who can afford these sort of tours are probably the very people who care the least” is just close-minded and rude. To imply that you can only truly care about or see a country when you’re there on your own/on a budget is itself an elitist and holier-than-thou statement to make. I saved up for a very long time in order to visit Bhutan, and I applaud their policy and the fact that they’ve taken the initiative to keep their country clean, happy, and healthy for generations to come.

      • paul January 10, 2017 at 10:47 pm #

        “Also to imply “the people who can afford these sort of tours are probably the very people who care the least” is just close-minded and rude” – no its not!!

        “To imply that you can only truly care about or see a country when you’re there on your own/on a budget is itself an elitist and holier-than-thou statement to make” – no its not

        “I applaud their policy and the fact that they’ve taken the initiative to keep their country clean, happy, and healthy for generations to come.” – I don’t, as I would be more than willing to pay the $65 that they use to help pay for schools, education etc, perhaps even more. But the tour situation is very poor idea to preserve a country and ones cultural heritage. Its just another way to squeeze more money from a visitor.

        You do know that there is no restrictions on visitor numbers don’t you?

        I went to Myanmar recently and whilst it wasn’t an organised tour, one could not get off the beaten track and had to stay in government regulated hotels and it ruined it for me

        I suspect that you are the one who thinks they are better than other travelers because you went on a cultural visit with minimal impact on the environment etc, nonsense!

        • Brenna Holeman January 10, 2017 at 11:02 pm #

          I have written another article about Bhutan’s visas and visitor numbers, so I’m aware, thanks. You were the one who pointed fingers at me, implying that, because I could afford to go, I was part of the group “who cared the least”. You might enjoy this article: https://www.thisbatteredsuitcase.com/all-travel-is-travel/ . As I said in the first comment, I believe that judging travellers just because they choose to join a tour or pay more for their experience is indeed close-minded and holier-than-thou; to each their own, I say.

          • paul January 10, 2017 at 11:51 pm #

            No No
            Im sorry, this is a blog post on “thisbatteredsuitcase”, you really shouldn’t take comments personally. It has nothing to do with your personal experience of Bhutan. I just thought I would point out the negs.

            Playing devils advocate as it were

            I am on my way to Nepal, Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur and then on to Darjeeling in India. I will see about going on a short 3 night 2 day tour of Bhutan and report back

            It was you who called me rude and elitist after all. I was not being personally rude to you at all and certainly not trying too.

            Sorry if I offended you

          • Brenna Holeman January 10, 2017 at 11:55 pm #

            I guess you don’t realise that I am the author of This Battered Suitcase? This is my personal blog that you are commenting on, so your comment was technically directed toward me and my personal experience.

            I appreciate your apology, I just don’t like when people make assumptions about other travellers without actually knowing their motivations. Good luck in Bhutan 🙂

  16. Inês Pinto January 20, 2017 at 5:01 pm #

    Hi Brenna,

    I’m considering traveling to Bhutan but I can’t find any info on prices for flights? Can you just give me a rough estimate of how much you paid for flights? (If you don’t mind!) I’m just trying to budget my trip! Thank you!

    • Brenna Holeman February 14, 2017 at 12:17 am #

      I think we paid around $400 CAD roundtrip for our flights from Kathmandu! Definitely can be a pricey flight…

  17. Beverly April 30, 2017 at 9:56 am #

    Hi,

    Are you traveling solo? Is Bhutan safe for a female solo traveler?
    Looking forward for your inputs.
    😊

    • Brenna Holeman April 30, 2017 at 11:43 am #

      No, I was with my mum, but Bhutan is definitely one of the safest countries I’ve ever been to. The tour guide I used said he often hosts solo female travellers, and I met a few solo women while I was there. Go for it! 🙂

    • Kim August 29, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

      I am from Seoul and my daughter recently visited Bhutan with one of her friend. Since both of them were female traveller, the tour agent specifically assigned a female tour guide, which made me, as a father of a daughter, confident enough to send my 19 year old daughter for the trip. It was really assuring. And what could make me more happy than to see my daughter returning home safe after fully enjoying trip. We , as a family, are planning to take a trip to Bhutan this winter with the same tour agent.

  18. Bhutan Travel May 3, 2017 at 11:57 am #

    Hi Brenna,

    Thank you for the wonderful blog and also for stating the facts about the Tourism Policy of Bhutan.

    The minimum daily tariff that you pay for coming into Bhutan is all inclusive , like you said and also 65 $ out of this tour cost goes to the sustainable development fund earlier known as Govt Royalty, daily.

    The Tour Operators are strictly monitored and regulated by Tourism Council OF Bhutan (TCB) and ensures that all guests are treated with Minimum 3 star quality accommodation and food, all tours are guided by private guides and all surface transportation in Luxury Tourist Vehicles.

    I am a Tour Operator Myself and have given any chance to our guest to complain about anything till now.

    In Bhutan, You will not find Hawkers surrounding you, trying to sell you cheap items or cab drivers trying to snatch your luggage, the moment you exit out of the Airport. you will not find hoteliers cheating you with different rates and all sorts of things that i have personally experienced while visiting other destinations. this is an added benefit.

    I am a citizen of Bhutan and i was educated free by the govt, never paid my hospital bills because all those basic necessities of life are provided freely by the government. All this , comes from the sustainable development fees that you , our fellow visitors have contributed for. Thanks to you all and you are welcome to Bhutan anytime.

  19. Farrah June 5, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    Hello Brenna,

    Thank you for writing about your trips to Bhutan! Now it’s in my bucket list! Anyway, just want to ask what month you visited with these photos?

    • Brenna Holeman June 5, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

      I was there in December!

    • Trevor August 29, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

      Hi Farrah & Brenna,
      Apologies for stating my opinion in your post Brenna. Being been there twice, I think Bhutan can be visited any time of the year. I mean when i visited in spring season (April) with my friends, the fresh green surroundings and landscapes were amazing. And again in late September with my family, the autumn breeze, the golden yellowish harvests were just wow. But i heard it rains quite a lot in Summer and cold gets you in winter. Why don’t you enquire with a local travel agent. I used the same agent for both my visits. So you can anytime drop an email. Trust me they don’t charge you for just enquiring.

      Happy Traveling.

  20. Kristine Li September 7, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

    Thanks for writing this, Brenna! I’m considering visiting Bhutan in Dec, with elderly parents, so am pretty relieved after seeing your post! I will put up with the cold, as long as I get the sunny weather for my photos! 😉

    • Nate November 7, 2017 at 2:01 am #

      Hi there, I came across this post as I am also planning on visiting Bhutan next month (December 2017).

      Brenna, thanks for all the wonderful info! I’m just wondering if you could also let us know a couple things:

      1) The average temperature when you went last December (wondering what type of jacket/parka I’ll need to pack)

      2) In the three star accommodation you stayed at, did you encounter any issues with cockroaches or rats? They are a pet peeve of mine and I’ve heard that in general in South Asia, they are quite common in budget accommodations. I would find it impossible to get a good night’s sleep if my room had any, so wanted to hear if you came across any during your stay here.

      Kristine, if you’re still planning on visiting Bhutan in December as well, please let me know if you would consider letting a stranger join the tour with yourself and your parents. I think the bigger the group, the less each person has to pay? (up to a minimum of $200 pp during December).

      Thanks, everyone! Really looking forward to the land of the thunder dragon 🙂

      • Brenna Holeman November 7, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

        1) I wrote a post on what to wear (with average temperatures) here: https://www.thisbatteredsuitcase.com/what-to-wear-in-bhutan/

        2) Three star is considered mid-range more than budget accommodation, and everything was very clean in my personal experience. That being said, you can go anywhere in the world and experience pests; it’s just a part of travelling/living on this planet. 😉

        Finally, that is incorrect about the group payment, from what I was told. It will be the same per person no matter how many of you are in the group, unless you’re solo, in which case you have to pay a solo supplement.

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