COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bhutan is a small, land-locked Himalayan country which completed its transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in 2008. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Bhutan and there is no U.S. diplomatic presence there. Consular issues relating to Bhutan, including assistance to U.S. citizens, are handled by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Bhutan for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Bhutan, please take the time to tell our Embassy in New Delhi about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan. Although no formal diplomatic relations exist between the United States and
Bhutan, engagement is maintained through the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India. Updated information on travel and security in Bhutan may be obtained at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi is located on Shanti Path, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi 110 021, India, telephone (91)(11) 2419-8000, fax (91)(11) 2419-8407.
In the case of an emergency involving a U.S. citizen, please call the 24-hour operator at (91)(11) 2419-8000 and ask for American
A consular officer from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi periodically visits Bhutan to renew passports, provide notarial services, and take applications for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi informs U.S. citizens enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program in advance regarding dates for these visits.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: You will need a passport valid for at least six months following the date of your arrival to Bhutan and a visa to enter and exit Bhutan. All visas are approved from Thimphu and are only issued to tourists booked with a local licensed tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent. Applications for tourist visas are submitted by the tour operator (See the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators website for further information). All visitors, including those on official U.S. government business, must obtain visa clearance from Thimphu before coming to Bhutan. Visa clearance takes at least 10 days to process and air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased without visa clearance. At your point of entry into Bhutan, immigration authorities will stamp a visa into your passport upon payment of USD 20. You will also need to provide two passport photos. Tourist visas are usually granted for the scheduled travel period. More information, including a list of authorized tour operators in Bhutan, may be obtained from the Tourism Council of Bhutan, PO Box 126, Thimphu, Bhutan, telephone 975-2-323251, 2-323252, fax 975-2-323695.
The Tourism Council of Bhutan sets a non-negotiable minimum daily tariff for all visitors to Bhutan. The rate includes all accommodations, all meals, transportation, services of licensed guides and porters, and cultural programs where and when available. The rate is the same for both cultural tours and treks. Travelers should contact the Tourism Council for the latest daily tariff.
At this time only Drukair, the Bhutanese government airline, services Bhutan. Entry by air is available only via India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, and Singapore. The border with China is closed. Drukair will board only travelers with visa clearance from the Tourism Authority of Bhutan.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Bhutan. There are no disclosure regulations or restrictions for HIV/AIDS patients who enter Bhutan on a tourist visa for a maximum two-week visit. For longer stays, however, applicants must present the results of an HIV/AIDS test completed within the six months prior to their visit. The test can also be administered by Bhutanese officials upon arrival. Travelers should verify this information with the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Bhutan to the United Nations before they travel.
For the most current information on entry and exit requirements, please contact the Bhutan Mission to the United Nations (Consulate General), 343 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 682-2268, fax (212) 661-0551. Outside the United States, inquiries should be made at the nearest Bhutanese embassy or consulate.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: In May and October 2011 small improvised explosive devices were detonated in the southern border towns of Phuentsholing and Gelephu. These were the first such reported incidents of these types for several years. Except for one bombing that took place in the capital, Thimphu, most of the other incidents occurred in areas near the border, far from tourist destinations and resulted in little damage. The government has blamed various groups for these bombings. Groups demanding the repatriation of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees currently living in camps in Nepal have in the past resorted to protests and small-scale violence.
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CRIME: There is relatively little crime in Bhutan. Petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and purse snatching, is occasionally reported. While generally safe, the capital Thimphu has begun to see burglaries, street fights and an increasing, although still small, number of drug abusers. Reasonable precautions should be taken when visiting the town and, in particular, when going out at night.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line for Bhutan police in Bhutan is 113. The emergency number for ambulance service is 112.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Bhutan, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Bhutan, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas. Although no formal diplomatic relations exist between the United States and Bhutan, engagement is maintained through the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Visitors are advised to carry cash or travelers checks, since credit cards are not widely accepted in Bhutan, particularly outside the cities. Indian rupees up to the 100 rupee denomination are accepted for purchases in Bhutan. The Bhutan Royal Monetary Authority has instructed shopkeepers and businesses not to accept Indian rupees in denominations above 100. Such money can be confiscated if found. International ATMs are not available in Bhutan.
Flights into and out of Paro Airport are restricted to daylight hours and are dependent on weather conditions. Flights can be delayed or cancelled due to weather conditions, particularly during the monsoon season between May and September. Passengers are advised to allow at least 24 hours' transit time for connecting flights to and from Paro Airport and to travel on non-restricted air tickets so that they can be rebooked on the first available air carrier if a connecting flight is missed. Passengers transiting through India will need a transit visa if they intend to leave the airport or spend a night in India.
Drukair has rigid restrictions on the amount and size of luggage passengers may carry into the country. Passengers are advised to send bulky items ahead as unaccompanied baggage, since the aircraft servicing Bhutan have limited space available for large bags, and airline employees may not load large pieces of luggage.
Bhutanese customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Bhutan of items such as firearms, ammunition, explosives and military supplies; narcotics and drugs (except medically prescribed drugs); tobacco products; wildlife products, especially those of endangered species; and antiques. It is advisable to contact the Bhutan Mission to the United Nations (Consulate General), 343 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 682-2268, fax (212) 661-0551, for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our Customs Information page.
LGBT Travelers: Although there are no laws that explicitly prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity, laws against “sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature” exist. Under the penal code, a person can be imprisoned for as long as one year for engaging in such acts. One government official noted that prosecution under this law is rare, as criminal intent must be proven by the prosecution. There have been no reported cases of such charges. For further information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
Accessibility: While in Bhutan, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Persons with physical disabilities living in or traveling to the country may find that Bhutan lacks the necessary infrastructure to accommodate their disability.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in the populated areas in Bhutan such as Thimphu and Paro are available but may be limited or unavailable in rural areas. U.S. citizens in need of urgent medical care should try to get to the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in the capital city, Thimphu. For emergency services in Thimphu, dial 113 for police or 112 for ambulance. Medical services may not meet Western standards, and some medicines are in short supply. Certain emergency medical services are provided free of charge to all tourists. Visitors planning to trek in Bhutan should pay special attention to the risk of altitude illness. Altitude sickness is a risk above 8,000 feet and travelers to that altitude should consult an appropriate health care provider 4 to 6 weeks before their trip. Treks in Bhutan can take visitors days or weeks away from the nearest medical facility. Helicopter evacuation from remote areas in Bhutan is available through the registered tour operators at the U.S. citizen’s expense. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi can also help arrange evacuations through private companies at the U.S. citizen’s expense. We strongly urge you to ensure that your medical insurance covers such evacuations, which can be extremely expensive.
The Government of Bhutan recommends that visitors obtain tetanus, typhoid, and hepatitis A inoculations before traveling to Bhutan. Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, and rabies vaccines are recommended for prolonged stays for people at risk. The influenza vaccine is also recommended.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Bhutan. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of malaria exists in rural areas below 1,700m (5,577ft) in the southern belt districts of Bhutan (Chirang, Geylegphug, Samchi, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Shemgang) along the border with India. Dengue is also a risk; you should take measures to prevent insect/mosquito bites in the higher risk areas in the south from July to December.
Although yellow fever is not a disease risk in Bhutan, the government requires travelers arriving from countries where yellow fever is present to present proof of yellow fever vaccination.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has initiated a travel and medical plan solely for visitors to Bhutan. When booking your trip, you should get detailed information about the insurance plan from your travel agents in Bhutan. You may also visit their web site at www.ricb.com.bt.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Bhutan, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Bhutan is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
General road conditions outside urban areas are poor, and emergency services generally are not available. Because of the mountainous terrain, roads tend to have steep drop-offs and blind curves. During heavy rains there is a risk of falling rocks and landslides which can block roads. However, because Bhutan requires tourists to arrange their trips through registered tour operators and travel in groups with experienced drivers, most tourists will not drive themselves.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Bhutan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Bhutan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Bhutan dated July 19, 2012, to update the section on Special Circumstances.