Dance of the Lord of Death, Paro, Bhutan
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Dance of the Lord of Death, Paro, Bhutan

© Creative Commons / jmhullot

Bhutan Travel Guide

Key Facts

38,364 per sq km (14,812 sq miles).


784,103 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

19.3 per sq km.




Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck since 2006.

Head of government

Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay since 2024.


230 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs with two or three round pins are most common.

Closed to the outside world until the seventies, Bhutan may have opened the door to tourism, but it remains something of an enigma to modern travellers.

Nestling high up in the Himalayas, Bhutan’s mysterious reputation is thanks largely to the government, which requires all visitors to join pre-planned guided tours in a bid to limit the impact of tourism on the country's culture and environment.

On one level, this is restrictive; footloose, freewheeling, make-it-up-as-you-go trips are not an option here. The trade-off, however, is that these restrictions have preserved one of the most fascinating cultures on earth, in a pristine mountain environment that has changed little over the centuries.

To visit Bhutan every visitor, whether alone or in a group, must make all their travel arrangements through a Bhutanese tour operator, or associated organisation, and pay a fixed daily fee of US$200-250. However, before you baulk, this fee includes all meals, accommodation, transport and guides.

Having made this investment, travellers are then free to explore this mesmerising mountain kingdom, known to its people as Druk Yul, or “Land of the Thunder Dragon.”

Some tour the ancient dzongs (fortress monasteries) in the valleys surrounding the capital, Thimphu. Others seek out snow leopards and yetis – known here as migyur – in remote national parks. Those with the stamina and budget take on the legendary Snowman Trek, a 24-day odyssey over high Himalayan passes.

Wherever they go, visitors will encounter exquisite scenery and the famously friendly Bhutanese people, who, though fascinated by foreigners, remain in touch with the value, and values, of their traditional way of life.

By subscribing to a “high value, low impact” brand of tourism, Bhutan has made concessions to the modern world, but on its own terms. And that seems to be working for this magical kingdom, which regularly polls as the happiest place in Asia.

Travel Advice

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Bhutan set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, see the Bhutan government’s visa entry page or contact the Bhutanese Embassy in Brussels.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Bhutan.

Passport validity requirements

Your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you plan to leave Bhutan.

Visa requirements

You must have a visa to enter and exit Bhutan.     

You must apply for your visa in advance, The authorities will pre-approve the visa and issue it when you arrive in Bhutan. 

Visas can be arranged through a Bhutanese tour operator, through a Bhutanese hotel or directly through the Department of Immigration’s website. A non-refundable, one-off visa application fee of 40 US dollars is also payable.

If you’re travelling for business or other non-tourism reasons, you must arrange your visa through your sponsoring organisation in Bhutan.


You must have permits to travel to some states in Bhutan. Your tour guide will help to get these.

If you want to extend your stay in Bhutan, go to the Department of Immigration in Thimphu to make a request.

Entry and exit points

You can enter or exit Bhutan via air through the international airport in Paro, or via the land entry point in Phuentsholing

Vaccination requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Bhutan guide.

Sustainable development fee

All visitors must pay a daily sustainable development fee (SDF) of 100 US dollars per night (per adult; concessionary rates apply for children) 

More information about the SDF can be found here.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Bhutan (PDF). You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.   

It is illegal to export antiques. Customs officials may inspect items that appear to be antiques.    

Taking tobacco into Bhutan

You can bring a small supply of tobacco for personal use. You will need to pay taxes and duties and be able to show proof of tax and duty payments if asked to when you are in possession of the products. 

Taking money into or out of Bhutan    

You can take up to 30,000 Bhutan ngultrum into or out of Bhutan. 

You must declare foreign currency worth 10,000 US dollars or more if you plan to take it into or out of Bhutan and get clearance from the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan.

Indian rupees are widely accepted in Bhutan.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Bhutan

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Bhutan, attacks cannot be ruled out.      


Crime levels are low across Bhutan, but you should take the same precautions as you would at home.

Keep a copy of your passport’s photo page and visa, and your flight ticket separate from the originals when travelling.

Laws and cultural differences

Bhutanese people take their customs and traditions very seriously. Respect them at all times to avoid giving offence, particularly avoid criticising HM The King of Bhutan. If in doubt, ask your tour guide.      

Dress code

Dress respectfully when visiting temples and fortified buildings, so that you do not cause offence. Your tour guide will be able to advise.

Alcohol laws          

Alcohol is legal in Bhutan, but there are restrictions on how much alcohol tourists can buy at one time. Check with the vendor what the limit is.

Smoking and e-cigarette bans

It was illegal to sell or buy tobacco products in Bhutan until 2020. It is currently legal, but smoking is still frowned on. Be mindful of where you smoke – for example smoking near religious locations may cause offence. 

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

There are strict penalties for possession, use and trafficking of illegal drugs. If convicted, you could get a prison sentence and heavy fine. Sentences range from a minimum of 3 years to a life sentence depending upon the type and quantity of drugs.

LGBT+ travellers  

Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalised in Bhutan in 2020, and there are no censorship laws restricting the discussion or promotion of LGBT+ topics. Same-sex marriages are not recognised. There is no legal recognition of transgender individuals.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.  

Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs 

Environmental conservation is critically important to Bhutan. You could be imprisoned for harming protected species. It is illegal to litter anywhere in Bhutan.     

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

You need to use tour guides when visiting places of interest. Otherwise, you may be refused entry.

Mountaineering and hiking

Mountaineering is banned in Bhutan, but there are trekking options across the country at a wide range of altitudes. Take advice from your tour guide.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Bhutan, see information on driving abroad.

Car rentals come with a driver. If you want to drive your own vehicle, you must hire a guide to travel with you.

Any car you bring into Bhutan must meet the requirements of the Bhutan Road Safety and Transport Authority. You must have a driving licence, insurance documents, pollution control documents and an entry permit. You will need to pay a daily charge of 4,500 ngultrum. The same fees and rules apply for a motorbikes.   

For a stay of more than 90 days, apply for a Bhutanese driving licence from the Bhutan Road Safety and Transport Authority. You must show your UK driving licence.

Driving conditions

Car and motorbike accidents are one of the biggest causes of injury and death in Bhutan. If possible, avoid travelling at night. Always travel in a well-maintained vehicle with seatbelts.

Road conditions can be dangerous, particularly in monsoon season. There are no traffic lights in Bhutan.

Air travel  

Weather conditions regularly affect domestic and international flights.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.


Monsoon rains can cause landslides that cut off some roads for days. Always check your route before setting off and take care extra care during the monsoon season.


Several parts of Bhutan lie on active fault zones. Limited emergency vehicles, equipment and medical facilities are likely to increase the impact of an earthquake. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.


There is high risk of wildfires, particularly in central and southern areas of the country. You will be fined for causing a wildfire irrespective of whether it is accidental or intentional. The level of the fine increases if the wildfire is caused intentionally.


Bhutan is exposed to monsoon flooding and glacial lake outburst floods. Both urban and rural areas are vulnerable to flooding.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 112 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

Go to TravelHealthPro to see what health risks you’ll face in Bhutan.

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Bhutan. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

If you’re carrying a large amount of medicine or medicine that’s not for your personal use, check with the Bhutanese Embassy in Brussels.

Healthcare facilities in Bhutan

Healthcare facilities vary in quality across Bhutan. One hospital in Thimphu can provide surgery and emergency treatment. Outside of Thimphu, hospitals generally provide only basic healthcare. Treatment for more complex issues is not available in Bhutan and you would need evacuation to India or Thailand for treatment.

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance that covers the cost of medical treatment abroad, emergency helicopter evacuation and repatriation.

English is widely spoken in Bhutan and doctors are likely to speak some English.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Bhutan

Ambulance: 112

Fire: 110

Police: 113

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Bhutan and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact British Deputy High Commission in Kolkata, India, who provide consular assistance to British nationals in Bhutan.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.