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Bhutan

If you’re travelling to Bhutan, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

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.

Overview

Security status

We advise you to take normal precautions.

Latest Travel Advice

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

Emergency Assistance

Because 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 and Trade in Dublin.

We suggest you learn as much as you can about Bhutan before your trip from travel agents, tour operators and guide books. The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems when you’re in Bhutan, try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

Our tips for safe travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • 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.

Safety and security

Terrorism

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

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.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Bhutan, report it to the local police immediately.

Driving

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 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

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.

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms. 

Local culture

You need special written permission from Bhutanese immigration authorities before visiting certain government buildings, state institutions and some sites of cultural and religious importance.

LGBT

Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Bhutan. Caution and discretion are advised at all times.

Forbidden products

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

Earthquake

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.

Flooding

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.

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

Bhutan’s tourism industry is small and strictly regulated. It’s not possible for a western tourist or business traveller to enter Bhutan as an independent traveller. If you want to visit Bhutan, you must first register and confirm an itinerary with a specialist Bhutanese travel agent or group tour operator. The tour operator will process all visa and immigration requirements, issue an entry visa and make flight and accommodation reservations as appropriate.

The cost for such services can be high. A minimum daily rate of approximately US$200 per person is charged which also covers meals, guided excursions, cultural programmes and domestic transport. Failure to re-confirm travel plans with the tour operator and pay for the itinerary in full before travelling will result in travellers being refused entry.

On arrival, you must also pay a further US$20 visa fee and provide two passport-sized photos.

You can get more information (in English) on entry requirements from the Bhutanese Ministry of Tourism.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Bhutan.

Medical facilities

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.

Money

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.

Electronic equipment

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.

More travel advice

Because we don’t have an Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan, we can’t give you up-to-date travel advice.

But you can visit these foreign ministries for more detailed information: