How to travel to Bhutan from the USA

You'll have to connect flights to get to Bhutan from the USA. If you're planning to travel to Bhutan from the USA via India, you may also enter by road. This article discusses:

  • Flights to Bhutan
  • Flight Routes to Bhutan from Different Cities in the US
  • Entering Bhutan by Road
  • Best Places to Visit in Bhutan
  • Accommodation in Bhutan
  • Making your way around Bhutan
  • Food in Bhutan
  • Languages Spoken in Bhutan
  • Currency and Credit Card
  • SIM Roaming & Guest SIM Card
  • Standard Power Plug-in Bhutan
  • Do’s and Don’t
  • Tipping Culture
  • Guest Safety
  • Bhutan Visa Requirement
  • Visa Cost
  • Applying for Visa Online
  • Popular Bhutan Tours

Flights to Bhutan

Only two airlines, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines fly in and out of Paro International Airport, Bhutan. The airlines operate direct flights to and from Bangladesh (Dhaka), India (Bagdogra, Guwahati, Kolkata, and New Delhi), Nepal (Kathmandu), Thailand (Bangkok), and Singapore.

Flights to Bhutan

From Flight Time to Paro Airport Frequency
New Delhi, India 2h 20min non-stop flight Daily
Kathmandu, Nepal 1h 05min non-stop flight Daily
Kolkata, India 1h 10min non-stop flight Daily
Dhaka, Bangladesh 1h 10min non-stop flight Daily
Bangkok, Thailand 3h 15min non-stop flight | 4h 35min one-stop flight Daily
Singapore 6h 05min one-stop flight 1-2 times/wk.

 

Flight frequencies may change depending on the industry demand, visit Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines for the latest flight schedules.

There is no direct flight from the US to Bhutan. You will need to fly into one of the countries mentioned above and catch a flight to Bhutan.

Your trip to Bhutan from the US will include a long-haul flight no matter what route you decide to take, so plan for a smooth connecting flight experience to make the journey tolerable.

If you can connect your flight to Bhutan from any of the countries above, consider the flight time, the number of stops, and airfare to select your best option. You also need to consider the frequency of flights to Bhutan from your chosen country.

For instance, Druk Air flies the Paro - Singapore – Paro route only one to two times a week which makes last-minute adjustments impossible. If you fail to make your connection from Singapore, it will be a few days until the next flight out to Paro.

So consider these factors to plan your best connecting flights from the US to Bhutan.

Flight Routes to Bhutan from Different Cities in the US

The list below shows possible flights and flight times from different cities in the US. Flights may be subject to availability and the actual flight time may vary from airline to airline.

1.     From Washington, D.C.

  • 13h 50min non-stop flight to New Delhi, India
  • 17h 40min one-stop flight to Kathmandu, Nepal
  • 17h 45min one-stop flight to Kolkata, India
  • 19h 25min one-stop flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • 20h 10min one-stop flight to Bangkok, Thailand

2.     From Chicago

  • 14h 20min non-stop flight to New Delhi, India.
  • 19h 00min one-stop flight to Kolkata, India.
  • 21h 55min one-stop flight to Bangkok, Thailand.
  • 22h 40min non-stop flight to Singapore.

3.     From New York

  • 13h 50min non-stop flight to New Delhi, India.
  • 17h 20min one-stop flight to Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • 18h 30min non-stop flight to Singapore.
  • 18h 35min one-stop flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • 19h 05min one-stop flight to Kolkata, India.
  • 19h 30min one-stop flight to Bangkok, Thailand.

4.     From Los Angeles

  • 17h 50min non-stop flight to Singapore.
  • 20h 00min one-stop flight to Bangkok, Thailand.
  • 21h 15min one-stop flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • 21h 20min one-stop flight to Kolkata, India.

5.     From San Francisco

  • 17h 15min non-stop flight to Singapore.
  • 18h 45min one-stop flight to Bangkok, Thailand.
  • 21h 10min non-stop flight to New Delhi, India.
  • 21h 20min one-stop flight to Kolkata, India.
  • 26h 00min one-stop flight to Kathmandu, Nepal.

6.     From Seattle

  • 19h 20min one-stop flight to New Delhi, India.
  • 19h 50min one-stop flight to Singapore.

7.     From Atlanta

  • 20h 45min one-stop flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • 24h 35min two-stop flight to Bangkok, Thailand.
  • 26h 15min two-stop flight to Kolkata, India.
  • 27h 00min two-stop flight to Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • 29h 00min two-stop flight to Singapore.

Entering Bhutan by road

Entering Bhutan by Road - Entry Point in Western Bhutan

If you’re visiting northeast India, you should take advantage of the easy access to Bhutan from the region. An additional four to six days will give you a proper introduction to this remote Buddhist Kingdom.

There are four official points of entry by road from India: Samtse and Phuntsholing (in western Bhutan), Gelephu (in central Bhutan), and Samdrup Jongkhar (in eastern Bhutan).

The Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal, India is approximately 105 miles away from Phuntsholing, and the Guwahati International Airport in Assam, India is roughly 93 miles away from Samdrup Jongkhar. Alternatively, you could catch a flight to Paro from the two airports.

If you prefer to visit the popular destinations, then you should enter Bhutan from the west (Phuntsholing) and if you're looking to go off the beaten track in Bhutan, enter from the east (Samdrup Jongkhar) to explore eastern Bhutan.

Best Places to Visit in Bhutan

Paro

Paro is home to the iconic Tiger's Nest. The temple complex is perched on a cliff 2952 feet above the valley.  It is the most popular hike in the country.

Take a stroll along the oldest street in Paro town. The street is lined with traditional houses renovated with western-inspired storefronts running cafes and souvenir shops.

The Tiger's Nest
The Tiger's Nest

Punakha

Enjoy the spectacular scenery on the drive from Thimphu to Punakha. A quick stop at Dochula mountain pass at 10,170 feet offers a panoramic view of the eastern Himalayan range.

At Punakha, visit the fertility temple and the majestic Punakha Dzong.

Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong

Thimphu

Discover the juxtaposition of traditional heritage and contemporary lifestyle in the capital city.

Explore Tashichho Dzong, the administrative and religious centre of Thimphu district. Drive up to Buddha point to visit a 164 feet Buddha statue overlooking the city and make your way to the centenary farmers' market to get hold of the seasonal harvest to expand your culinary horizons.

Discover the vibrant nightlife of Thimphu city. Visit a local pub and see if you can hold down a local whisky.

Thimphu Clock Tower
Thimphu Clock Tower

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Accommodation in Bhutan

While making a hotel reservation, make sure the places you book are certified by the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). The TCB assessment ensures services are delivered following hospitality standards and guests have a comfortable stay.

Bhutan offers a range of accommodation options, ranging from luxurious hotels and resorts to countryside homestays. The table lists a few options for your consideration.

 

Hotel Name

 

Destination

 

Rating

Aman Resorts

Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Gangtey & Bumthang

Luxury

Six Senses Bhutan

Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Gangtey & Bumthang

Luxury

Le Meridien Thimphu

Thimphu

Luxury

Taj Tashi

Thimphu

Luxury

Terma Linca Resort & Spa

Thimphu

Mid-scale

Zhiwaling Ascent

Thimphu

Mid-scale

Norkhil Boutique Hotel & Spa

Thimphu

Mid-scale

City Hotel

Thimphu

Standard

Hotel Bhutan

Thimphu

Standard

Wangchuk Hotel

Thimphu

Standard

Le Meridien Paro

Paro

Luxury

Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary

Paro

Luxury

Zhiwaling Hotel

Paro

Mid-scale

Gangtey Palace Hotel

Paro

Standard

Tashi Namgay Resort

Paro

Standard

COMO Uma

Paro & Punakha

Luxury

Dhensa Resort

Punakha

Mid-scale

Zhingkham Resort

Punakha

Standard

Kunzang Zhing Resort

Punakha

Standard

Drubchhu Resort

Punakha

Standard

Gangtey Lodge

Gangtey

Luxury

Dewachen Hotel

Gangtey

Standard

Making your way around Bhutan

Hire a Vehicle

Hiring a vehicle and a driver is the most convenient and reliable way to explore the country. Local tour operators can arrange a private vehicle and a professional driver for the duration of your trip.

All tour operators, professional drivers, and tour guides are vetted by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, a regulatory government agency to ensure high-quality service and safety of tourists visiting the country.

We recommend an SUV for a solo traveller or a couple, a van for a group of up to 8 people, and a bus for a group of more than 8 people. Vendors mostly operate Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia vehicles.

Domestic Flight

Druk Air operates domestic flights from the international airport to central (Bumthang), eastern (Tashigang), and southern regions (Gelephu). However, flights are sporadically delayed or cancelled due to unpredictable weather, especially during the summer months.

Helicopter Service

Helicopter services are also available for private hire. Heli-hiking services enable you to access secluded scenic locations in the country for a day excursion while offering an aerial view of the country.

Distance and drive time

From

To Distance

Drive Time

Paro Thimphu

34 mi

2 Hrs

Phuntsholing Thimphu

111 mi

6 Hrs

Thimphu Punakha

43 mi

3 Hrs

Punakha Gangtey

43 mi

3 Hrs

Gangtey Bumthang

120 mi

7 Hrs

Food in Bhutan

Hotels tailor their menu to cater to international visitors. You should inform your hotels about your dietary needs beforehand. The breakfast buffet at most local hotels serves American/Continental breakfast.

Burgers, Pizza, and fried chicken are popular among locals. While there are no global fast-food chains in Bhutan, passionate restauranteurs operate local burger joints and pizzerias that serve the classics as well as their twists using local ingredients.

Traditionally a tea country, there is an emerging coffee culture in places like Thimphu and Paro. You'll find cafés buzzing with locals, expatriates, and visitors getting their morning fixes. Unlike in some western countries, cafés in Bhutan do not close early, so you will always find a place for a decent cup of coffee.

With booming tourism and growing local demand, pan-Asian kitchens have also become popular in the city centres. You'll find Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants in Thimphu and Paro.

Finally, you shouldn’t miss out on discovering the local cuisine. When you're in town, have your hotel chef cook a few classic Bhutanese dishes, or better yet, dine in at a heritage house turned into a restaurant for an immersive experience.

Bhutanese Cuisine
BHUTAN/ Thimpu 5/ 2006
Rabten Restaurant serving traditional Bhutanese dishes. Red rice, buckwheat noodles, mushroom-cheese Datsi, potato Datsi, dried beef with string beans and Vermicelli with mushrooms and some arra (spirit distilled from rice ).
©Josef Polleross

Languages Spoken

The state language is Dzongkha and there are regional dialects. While your tour guide will help you navigate local customs and language barriers, English is widely used and understood.

Currency & Credit Card

The Ngultrum (Nu.) is Bhutan's currency. A dollar is worth Nu. 82 at the time of this writing. Refer Bank of Bhutan for the current rate of exchange. There are currency exchange services available at Paro International Airport, local banks, and hotels.

At the time of this writing, only the Bank of Bhutan has a partnership with American Express. AmEx card is only accepted on the Bank of Bhutan POS terminal whereas Visa and MasterCard are accepted by all local banks. While the Bank of Bhutan is the largest bank with a branch across the country, you’ll be better off carrying either a Visa or Mastercard as a backup.

If you’re planning to bring in cash, please note, you may only bring cash equivalent to US$10,000 into the country.

SIM Roaming / Guest SIM card

Unfortunately, T-Mobile customers cannot use their international pass in Bhutan while Verizon offers the Pay as You Go option only for Bhutan.

Alternatively, you could get a guest SIM card to access data and have a reliable internet connection. Furthermore, most hotels offer good free Wi-Fi connections.

Standard Power Plug in Bhutan

Three electrical plugs are used in Bhutan.

  • The British plug (compatible with type G socket)
  • The European plug (compatible with type C socket)
  • The Indian plug (compatible with type D socket)

Do’s and Don’t

  • When you're visiting a place of religious significance, respectful smart casual clothing that covers your body from shoulder to knees is appropriate and appreciated.
  • Keeping antiques or artifacts of national importance in Bhutan is an important part of cultural preservation. Therefore, to ensure any item you acquire complies with the law, you will need to apply for an Export Permit for Non-Antique artifacts.
  • If you wish to use a drone for leisure or commercial purpose, you must apply for a permit in advance. We can help you with applying for drone permits.
  • You must be accompanied by a local tour guide on hikes, and treks, while visiting national monuments and traveling to destinations beyond Thimphu and Paro.

Tipping Culture

It is not mandatory, and there is no set amount, but it is common for guests to tip their tour guide and driver at the end of the trip.

Guest Safety

Bhutan is a safe place to visit, nonetheless, these guidelines will help you stay safe while in Bhutan.

  • Don’t leave your belongings unattended.
  • You’ll find stray dogs in most places, be cautious as they are not domesticated.
  • Tourism Council of Bhutan has dedicated visitor centres at the airport and at entry points via road to assist visitors.
  • If you encounter any issues during your stay, you’re encouraged to contact the Tourism Council of Bhutan for assistance. You can reach them via Facebook, Instagram, or call 2300 (within Bhutan).
  • In the event of an emergency, contact 110 for fire, 112 for an ambulance, or 113 for police.

Bhutan Visa Requirement

Visitors from the US will need a visa to enter Bhutan and it must be processed and approved beforehand. There is no visa-on-arrival option.

All visitors must pay a Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) as part of their visa application process. The SDF is a daily levy paid by visitors to support Bhutan’s development.

Visa Cost

  • A one-off visa processing fee of US$40 per person.
  • A Sustainable Development Fee of US$200 per day per person for an adult.
  • Children aged 6 to 12 at the time of travel receive a 50% discount on their SDF.
  • Children below 6 are exempt from paying any SDF.

For example, the total SDF payable for a couple with a six-year-old visiting Bhutan for 4 nights would be:

(2 adults * US$200 * 4) + (1 child * US$100 * 4) = US$2000

*This does not cover any of your travel expenses (accommodation, transport & meals, etc)

Why are visitors charged a Sustainable Development Fee?

The fee is collected by the national exchequer and the fund supports natural environment conservation and preservation of cultural heritage. It also funds the development of tourism activities and infrastructure in rural communities to build a thriving local economy for its people.

Bhutan is a carbon-negative country. Its natural environment absorbs 9.4 million tons of carbon against its emission capacity of 3.8 million tons. Funds raised will be allocated to boost Bhutan's hydropower capacity and electrification of its transport sector to minimize reliance on fossil fuels.

Applying for a Tourist Visa

You can apply for a visa online. It can take up to five business days to process.

To apply for a visa online, you will need:

  • A digital copy of a valid passport
  • A recent digital passport photo
  • Arrival and departure dates
  • Valid travel insurance for the duration of your travel
  • Payment details

With the documents ready, you will then need to create an account using the visa portal, add your travel information, pay your visa application fee and the SDF, and apply.

Should you cancel your trip or shorten the duration of your stay, the Department of Immigration will refund your SDF minus the bank charges. A request for a refund can be submitted using the visa portal.

Alternatively, you may contact us for an all-inclusive quote (visa, flight, accommodation, transport, and guide) for one of our thoughtfully curated Bhutan tour packages for a hassle-free booking experience and a memorable vacation in Bhutan.

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Popular Bhutan Tours

Bhutan Festival Tours (Date-Specific Tour)

The sacred festivals (Tsechus) capture the essence of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. People rush their way to the Dzong at the crack of dawn to secure the best seat.

Monks take the centre stage wearing colourful silk costumes and masks depicting deities, demons, and animals from Buddhist mythology. They perform a series of dances and recreate Buddhist legends to bless the congregation.

Of the many such festivals, there are three major ones you should consider:

Festival dates may vary each year, check out our event calendar for exact dates. Festival season is the busiest traveling period in Bhutan, you must book your trip months in advance.

Bhutan Trekking Tours (Sept – Nov & Mar-May)

The fall season (September – November) brings cool and dry days with clear skies and has the best weather conditions for trekking in Bhutan. Bhutan's mountainous landscape and well-preserved ancient routes and trails offer trekkers many options for everyone.

Trekking tours can also be organized during the spring season (March-May). Days start getting warmer, and the trekking routes come to life with the colours of spring.

The Jomolhari Trek

A moderate trek to the base of Mount Jomolhari (Mountain of Goddess).  It is the most picturesque trek in Bhutan.

The 25 days of Snowman Trek

Regarded as one of the most difficult treks in the world guaranteed to give you a run for your money. This trek begins from north-western Bhutan navigating the towering Himalayan landscape and exits at central Bhutan.

Bhutan Cultural Tours (Year-Round)

These tours are designed to introduce visitors to the Kingdom of Bhutan and its unique culture and tradition. Ranging from 4 – 8 Nights, the tours will include popular destinations and attractions mostly in western Bhutan while venturing further east considered off the beaten track will require longer duration trips.

4 Nights the Bhutanese West

5 Nights Escape to Serenity 

8 Nights Cultural Safari

Company Bio

Book My Tour and Travel is a local travel company based in Bhutan. We’ve been helping international visitors plan their best trips to Bhutan since 2012.

 

Post updated on November 12, 2022 to reflect changes in the tourism policy and fees of Bhutan

3 comments
  • sudhanshu singh (4 years ago)
    hi choi,
    loved to read about your Bhutan trip.Hope you enjoyed your trip to Bhutan a lot.
    God Speed....
    regards
    Sudhanshu
  • Den (4 years ago)
    Yeah, Great post, keep up the good work, thanks for sharing.
  • J (3 years ago)
    Very Old post! Flights from Bangkok to Paro are $950. Flights from mid-America to Bangkok are $2000 range.
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