Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Travel Costs in Bhutan

This post is applicable primarily to Indian nationals and to citizens of Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives. Basically, these costs hold good for those who can travel independently in Bhutan. For the other countries, the government flat rate of USD 250 per day applies and they have to travel in the company of a government authorized tour operator.

Bhutan currency - the ngultrum
During my recent 3 week backpacking trip to Bhutan, I covered most of Western and Central Bhutan. As with all my other travels, I traveled independently without any prior bookings or planning. This helped me assess the various options associated with travel costs in Bhutan and the below post aims to lay it out for you in a simple manner.

Breakup of my Bhutan Expenses
In total, I spent INR 27,000 or roughly USD 440 for 20 days. This equates to a daily burn rate of INR 1350 or USD 22. This included the following:

1) Hotel accommodation (shared with another friend) – Roughly hotel prices were INR 1200 per night, though we paid lower at a couple of places. This is the Indian price and costs are known to increase during high season. These 1200 INR hotels are run of the mill decent budget hotels with basic and necessary amenities and located in the heart of the city/town. Some nicer properties and homestays are located outside the city and cost between 3500 and 8000 INR.

2) Food: Since it was cold and we walked quite a bit, we need to keep refueling ourselves with lots of food and beverages. A typical day expense would be INR 500 per person for all meals included. This would be at a decent restaurant. If you wish to eat at a fancy restaurant, the costs would go up by say another 20%.

3) Local Commute: It is here that the costs vary. If you take the slower and less frequent buses, you pay the least. The share taxis cost a bit more, while privately hired cars cost the most. I took a combination of all the 3 and it roughly worked out to INR 250 per day, though some days I paid nothing and some days I paid 4 or 5 times that amount. If you hire a vehicle you will pay roughly INR 20 per kilometer of travel. Such a car can handle 4 people. I am not sure about larger group costs.

4) Entrance Fees: Except for the Trongsa tower museum, I didn’t have to pay entrance fees anywhere.

5) Permits: Permits are free for Indians.

I shopped for about INR 11,000, but haven’t included that in the expense breakup above. You should keep some money in hand for shopping in Bhutan as there are a lot of things that you can carry back home. Silk, handicrafts, stamps, bamboo ware and more such interesting items can be shopped here.

I hope this post helps you plan the budget for your next Bhutan holiday. Do feel free to drop in your questions through the comment form below and I would be happy to address them for you.

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