What is Bhutan?
I first heard of Bhutan when I was in college. I would spend precious study time becoming the Sporcle queen of the countries of the world. Bhutan. I must investigate! So I did. In a quick Google search, I learned Bhutan is a tiny landlocked country nestled between India and China, it is home to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and the most discouraging of all, they charge a daily $250 tourist tax. The last item made a visit to Bhutan seem like an impossible dream. How could people afford to pay $250 each day in addition to accommodation, meals, and activities?
Fast forward to present day… Older and wiser Cali looked into Bhutan again after meeting people who traveled there. Tiger’s Nest Monastery is still a major attraction, it is still in the same place, and there is still a tourist tax; however, the tourist tax covers almost all of your daily essentials. Let me explain. Unless you are an Indian citizen, you are required to have a tour guide and a driver to travel around Bhutan. The way to arrange for this is to book a tour. There are some extremely expensive tours floating around out there on the internet.
I then learned about Druk Asia, the agency I traveled with. The daily tourist tax varies in the low season and the high season. If you are traveling as a group of three or more people, your daily rate per person will be $200 in the low season and $250 in the high season. If you are traveling solo or as a pair, there will be a slight daily surcharge.
What is included in your “minimum daily package?”
The daily rate includes your tour guide and driver, a private vehicle, all accommodations at a 3-star hotel, 3 meals per day, drinking water, your visa, and entry to all planned activities received on your itinerary. The only money you made need is for alcoholic drinks, souvenirs, and tips for your guide and driver. Flights are not included in your daily tax; however, the agency can arrange flights for you. It is important to keep in mind that there are very few departure cities that fly to Paro, the home of the international airport.
You can work with the tour agency on a length of itinerary to fit your budget. I visited the country for six nights and toured three different cities. You can read about my time in Thimphu, Punakha, and Paro through the links. If I were to go to Bhutan again, I would have spent less time in Thimphu and more time in Punakha, or would have ventured further into the center of the country where there is more trekking. My itinerary sounded great at the time of booking, and even though I enjoyed my trip, there are some activities I would have changed, knowing what I know now. Druk Asia offers themed tours that can focus on hiking, culture, festivals, and even bird watching. I recommend having a discussion with your booking agent as they are more than happy to accommodate your needs and interests.