On September 23, 2022, the Kingdom of Bhutan reopened its borders to tourism. You no longer need to book a minimum spend tour, and the government is raising its sustainability fee to $200 a night. Luxury travelers can now build their dream Bhutan vacation, staying at boutique hotels such as Gangtey Lodge.
Changes in Tourism Management in Bhutan
The eastern Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan – also known as Druk Yul or the Land of the Thunder Dragon – has always taken a different approach to travel than most destinations. Leisure travel has been banned in Bhutan for most of the Covid-19 pandemic, and from 23 September 2022, Bhutan will once again welcome tourists. While Bhutan’s travel rules still aim to ensure that tourism is environmentally, economically and culturally sustainable, there is a new level of flexibility.
Dr Tandi Dorji, Bhutan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Bhutan Tourism Council, said in a statement: “Covid-19 has allowed us to rethink how best to structure and operate the industry so that it not only benefits Bhutan economically, But socially as well, while maintaining a low carbon footprint. In the long term, our goal is to create high-value experiences for tourists and high-paying and professional jobs for our citizens.”
Changes to Fees and Booking Rules
Previously, the minimum daily consumption per capita in Bhutan was US$250 (US$200 in the off-season). Travelers must choose from a range of tours, with minimum fees including hotel, meals, driver and ground transportation, licensed guides, venue admission and taxes, and a $65 sustainability fee to the government. Higher quality There is an additional fee for accommodation or private tours.
When the country reopens on September 23rd, pre-order packages will no longer be required (though you’ll still need a licensed guide). Instead, you can design the tour of your choice and book accommodation, meals and tours independently. The $65 per night Sustainability Fee increases to $200 per night. The fees will be used for economic, environmental and cultural sustainability projects in Bhutan, with a focus on community-led projects.
International travelers need to obtain a visa in advance for $40 (for example, passport holders from only a few countries can obtain a visa on arrival, such as India, Bangladesh and Maldives). You can fly to Bhutan from a number of destinations including Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi and Mumbai. 24-hour quarantine for vaccinated travelers lifted on September 23; decision pending on Covid-19 testing requirements.
Happy and high-value, low-traffic travel
The goal is a society of happiness and harmony with nature, which is always important in Bhutan. The area was unified by Ngawang Nangye in the early 17th century (many dzongs he built still dot the spectacular landscape). A Bhutan code of 1629 states that “if the government cannot create happiness for the people, then the government has no purpose.” Bhutan’s 2008 constitution states that “the state shall endeavour to promote conditions that enable the achievement of gross national happiness.”
Shortly before Bhutan first opened up to tourism, in 1974, the country’s fourth king, King Jigme Sinye Wangchuck coined the term “Gross National Happiness” and declared that GNH was larger than a country’s domestic production Gross value (GDP) is more important. Bhutan has developed a National Happiness Index to guide economic, social and environmental policies. Its 33 indicators across nine dimensions of well-being include biodiversity and resilience, good governance, time use and community vitality.
Bhutan’s ‘high value, low volume’ approach to tourism contributes to GNH as funding from minimum spending requirements and environmental charges helps protect Bhutan’s fragile environment, moving the country out of carbon neutrality , became carbon negative, funding its free education and healthcare. citizens, and protect the nation’s culture and values.
While some in Bhutan’s tourism industry are concerned that the change in tourism policy will mean fewer tourists visiting the country, tours from companies such as G Adventures are still available. The need to cancel bookings on designated tours may make Bhutan more attractive to luxury travelers.
where to live in bhutan
Boutique luxury hotels are the top choice in Bhutan, but there are not many to choose from. One of the best is Gangtey Lodge, a 12-suite member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. It is located in the Phobjikha (Gangtey) valley, a protected nature reserve home to 300 endangered black-necked cranes from October to March, near a 17th-century monastery.
The remote hostel is a four-hour drive from Paro, a small town west of the capital Thimphu, home to Bhutan’s only international airport. Those looking to maximize their time at Gangtey Lodge may prefer the 25-minute helicopter tour.
Gangtey Lodge offers guests in-suite massage and bath services upon arrival so they can prepare for adventures such as biking to traditional villages and monasteries, hiking through blue pine forests, and learning Bhutan’s national sport, Dha (archery). After all the high-altitude exercise, you may want to book a hot stone bath for later use—the water in the pine tub is heated with boulders from a nearby river, and forest herbs are added, all of which are believed to have medicinal properties.
An ideal trip to Bhutan takes at least 10 to 12 nights and you visit at least three valleys, which gradually increase in elevation as you become more accustomed. Gangtey Lodge is about 10,000 feet above sea level, so it shouldn’t be your first stop if you’re coming from a low altitude destination.
October and November are festival season and are ideal times to visit Bhutan. The chances of seeing black-necked cranes in the Gangtey Valley are good, sometimes longer, between late October and mid-February. Rhododendrons bloom in late spring in Bhutan. The monsoon season is from June to September, although it rains frequently at night without affecting your daytime sightseeing.