- Normal precautions
- High degree of caution
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Do not travel
- Safety and Security
- Local Laws and Customs
- Natural Disasters and Climate
- Additional Information
- Embassy Contact
General Travel Advice
Bhutan’s tourism industry is small and strictly regulated.
Irish citizens require a visa to enter Bhutan and the visa must be applied for and approved in advance of travel. A daily Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) is also payable by tourists. For the latest information on the visa process, application fees and the SDF, please consult the Bhutan Ministry of Tourism Website.
Business or other non-tourist visitors to Bhutan must arrange a visa through their sponsoring organisations.
It is mandatory to be accompanied by a guide for any journey or any trek beyond Thimphu and Paro. Guides are also mandatory for visitors who enter Bhutan via its land borders and plan to travel beyond the border towns. Visitors no longer require a permit to travel around the country, as long as they are accompanied by a guide certified by the Department of Tourism. Please note that the Department of Tourism has an approved list of tourism services and accommodation providers in Bhutan, which visitors must adhere to.
All visitors must have full, valid travel insurance for the duration of their visit.
Visitors can find more information (in English) on entry requirements from the Bhutanese Ministry of Tourism.
If you have a problem related to your visit, you can phone the Department of Tourism directly on +975 1712 2257 (or 2300 within Bhutan).
The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.
You can contact the emergency services in Bhutan at the numbers below:
- Police: 113
- Fire brigade: 110
- Ambulance: 112
Our tips for Safe Travels:
- Get comprehensive travel insurance that covers all your planned activities.
- Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
- Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
- Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.
Irish citizens in Bhutan should monitor developments regularly and follow the advice of local authorities.
As there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan, we’re limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency. However, if you need assistance, you can contact Consular Division, Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin on +353 1 408 2000.
Safety and Security
Safety and Security
Safety and security
Although the threat from terrorism in Bhutan is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates.
Crime remains relatively low in Bhutan but you should take sensible precautions:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
- Be careful on a night out and exercise caution.
If you’re a victim of a crime while in Bhutan, report it to the local police immediately.
Bhutan has no rail system and few main roads. If you’re planning to drive, be aware that traffic drives on the left, as in Ireland. Driving conditions can be dangerous, particularly in the mountains, where there are sharp curves, limited visibility and narrow roads.
However, tourists rarely drive in Bhutan as their visits must be arranged through tour operators traveling in groups with experienced coach drivers. If you want to drive, bring your international driving permit, request temporary authorisation to drive through your tour agency and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
Hiring a vehicle
If you do hire a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
Local Laws and Customs
Local Laws and Customs
Local laws and customs
Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal. To avoid offence in Bhutan it is advisable to dress conservatively and to respect religious and social traditions.
Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.
You need special written permission from Bhutanese immigration authorities before visiting certain government buildings, state institutions and some sites of cultural and religious importance.
Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Bhutan. Caution and discretion are advised at all times.
Bhutan has banned the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products. Offenders will be charged with smuggling and can expect to be heavily fined. Visitors who enter Bhutan with tobacco products for personal use will be liable to pay tax and duty charges
Natural Disasters and Climate
Natural Disasters and Climate
Natural disasters and climate
Bhutan is in an active earthquake zone. If you’re travelling to or living in Bhutan, make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake.
The annual monsoon season runs from early May to October. There are frequent landslides and mountain roads can be hazardous, even in good weather. Monitor local weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Bhutan.
There are restrictions on the import of medicines into Bhutan which means that you may only bring in medicines that are clearly for your own personal use, and with a prescription where possible.
Hospitals, medical facilities and health care services in Bhutan are generally of a very poor standard, particularly outside of Thimphu. Visitors may have to travel for several hours in order to get adequate medical services for serious illness and may have to be evacuated to India for further treatment. Medical treatment can be expensive and payment in advance may be required.
Acute Mountain Sickness
There are no particular health concerns but trekkers may experience Acute Mountain Sickness at high altitudes and should be well informed about possible hazards in high mountains.
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum and Indian Rupees are also widely accepted. There are no ATMs in the country and it’s not possible to use credit cards. We strongly recommend you purchase travellers’ cheques in US Dollar denominations before leaving Ireland, which can be exchanged at any Bank of Bhutan branch or most major hotels in Thimphu.
Personal computers, mobile telephones, cameras and all other personal electronic devices must be examined and registered by customs authorities upon arrival at a port of entry and checked again at time of departure.
Please contact our Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin if you need guidance on the nearest assistance and we will help you as best we can.
Our number is: +353 1 408 2000.
Department of Foreign Affairs
80 St Stephen’s Green
Tel: + 353 (0) 1 408 2000
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Get travel and medical insurance
Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
As there is no resident Irish Embassy in this country, if there is an emergency, you can contact our Consular Assistance Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin on +353 1 408 2000.