Recently in July 2019, I had the chance to visit the Happy Place called Bhutan. Me and my uncle thought to do this trip on motorcycles. So without much thinking, we agreed to do that and in July, my uncle, his son and myself took off.
We were 3 people on 2 motorcycles, I had my Royal Enfield Classic 350 and he had his Triumph Bonneville. Early morning on 4th July, we were out from our home in Guwahati to a place called Phuentsholing. It took us around 6 hours to reach the place. On arriving we did the permits there and we were in.
In this blog, I would like to address the Motorcyclists of India more – although all others can also find it useful because it has fewer steps to get the permit. So hold onto it tight. Every question will be answered *wink*
How to reach?
As you are a motorcyclist, you have to reach the place called Phuentsholing. Same goes for other travellers as well. It is a border town of Bhutan where you will have to reach to do all the permits. You can use the GMaps to reach there. Quite an easy road actually. We were doing like 100-120 kmph on the highways and it was a fine ride except Alipurduar where the roads were really bad. Our speed reduced to like 10-20 kmph in that stretch.
To enter Phuentsholing, you do not need any permits and no vehicle checks were done. It is like a busy business place with loads and loads of people. So it is best to arrive at the place sooner to avoid too much of traffic or hassle.
Note: The Bhutanese Currency has the same value as in India. And you can use Indian currency everywhere in Bhutan. So that is a good thing. My atm cards somehow didn’t work (I have a prepaid International Card that I used in Vietnam and also a Global Debit Card) and so it is best to keep some cash in hand for unfortunate situations.
We reached Bhutan at 12 PM IST. Please do note that Bhutan is 30mins ahead of us and so we reached at 12:30 PM Bhutan Time. The offices are closed from 1-2 PM for lunch break – so keep that in mind. Also all the offices are closed on weekends. Remember that as well.
You will have two options here – depending on the queue in the Immigration Office – If you reached by noon and see that there is not much of a queue, all your processes will be done in an hour. If you see a huge queue, it is best to stay in Phuentsholing for the night and get to the office early the next day and stand in the queue. Office opens at 9 AM Bhutan Time. We were lucky enough not to have much of a queue and so we thought of doing the process then and there itself.
For motorcyclists, we have to take two permits – one for yourself and one for your motorcycle. Every detail is given below.
If you want to take an easy route, there will be a lot of people, dressed in Bhutanese dress called Gho asking if you need them to do the process for you. You can ask them for help. They will do everything for you – like helping you fill up the form, doing all the paperworks themselves and guide you through all the steps. After all the process, he charged us 1500 INR for which we gave 1000 INR after negotiation. If you want to save those few bucks, you can do the steps yourself but might take a little bit more time. We wanted to do it quick because we were tired and so that would be an excuse I would give. hehe 😀
So coming back to the main topic, if you get a guy to help you with the process or you go to the Immigration Office to do the process yourself, you will be given a form where you will be asked to fill up details like – name, father’s name, passport / election ID number, purpose of visit, etc and attach your photo and submit at the first counter outside the main office. One form is to be filled per person.
To get an individual permit, you will need the following documents –
- Passport Copy/Voter ID with 2 Photographs. You should carry the original documents for verification. As far as I know, Aadhar Cards are not accepted for entry permit to Bhutan
- Confirmed Hotel Ticket
The officer at the counter will check the details and will grant you access into the main office where the next step will be done.
After you are in, depending on the crowd inside, you will either be given a token or you just wait until one of the officers is free to do your process. Lucky for us, there were just a few people inside and so we just waited for our turn.
We took our turns in sitting infront of the officers and she did all the processes, took a picture and put a visa stamp on our passports and you are done.
In this office, you will be given access to only Paro and Thimphu for 7 days. It is a free process and so you need not worry about anything – except the fee you will give to the person who will help you with the process. If you want to visit the other places of Bhutan, you will have to get that permit from Thimphu Immigration Office. Again, these offices stay closed on weekends – so keep that in mind. We forgot that and we reached Thimphu on Saturday – so we had to cancel the other trips to Haa Valley, Punakha, etc. Next time we are doing that for sure.
When you are applying for the permit to the other places, it is best to include every place because it is free and so it is best to have the options than to regret it later.
You will need the Individual permit to apply for the vehicle permit – if you are driving an Indian vehicle. It can be obtained at RSTA (Road security and Transport Authority) offices at Phuentsholing and Thimphu. We were lucky to have the guy with us because he did all the process in the other office although it was almost about to close.
To get a vehicle permit, you will need the following documents –
- Fill a form that you will get near the RSTA office. It is a very basic form.
- Vehicle RC Copy
- Emission Certificate Copy (Pollution Certificate)
- Insurance Certificate Copy. It is best to have a policy that is valid in Bhutan. We didn’t have it but still it was okay.
- Driving License Copy
- Your Individual Permit copy.
There will be a challan of about 70-100 rupees per vehicle that will be collected at the RSTA.
- You won’t be issued a vehicle permit unless you have your Individual permit. So please get the Individual permit first before going to RSTA.
- Saddle Bags are not allowed in Thimphu. We were told by some friends that it is not allowed and so we didn’t risk it. We had our rucksacks which we tied to the motorbike
- No campings are allowed. You need to have proper hotel bookings to enter Bhutan.
That is all there is to know about permits in Bhutan. If there is any query, drop a comment below.
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