Why Bhutan Travel Packages are expensive?

Hi Travel Buddies,

Bhutan is rising up as one of the popular travel destinations in recent years for travellers in search for different and unique travel experiences.  The Bhutan royal wedding last week also attracted interest around the world and so we decided to find out more about this majestic and mystical country – the country that is well known as the happiest place in Asia, invented “Gross National Happiness Index” and deem it more important than GDP.  Bhutan is a landlocked country located in the eastern part of the Himalayas.

We saw that Bhutan tour packages do not come cheap.  Do you know why Bhutan travel packages are expensive?

To travel to Bhutan, you will need a Bhutan tourist visa and visas are only issued to tourists booked with a local licensed tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent, this makes independent travel impossible in Bhutan.  This applies to all except for Indian, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals.  Getting the visa is not the most expensive part of the tour, it costs USD 20 for a 15-day period.

The part that contributes to the expensive tour packages is because of the daily tariff rates set by the Royal Government of Bhutan.

The minimum tariff for tourist visiting in a group of 3 persons or more are as follows:

High Season Tariff – US$ 200 per person per night ( February, March, April, May, August, September, October, November and December).

Low Season Tariff – US$165 per person per night (January, June, July).

The minimum price includes:

  • All internal taxes and charges (including the royalty)
  • Accommodation
  • All Meals
  • All travel with a licensed Bhutanese Tour Guide
  • All Internal Transport
  • Camping Equipment and Haulage for Trekking Tours

The rates given above are applicable per tourist per night in Bhutan. On the day of departure, the ‘local agents’ host obligation shall be limited to breakfast only and any extra requirements shall be payable on actual basis.

With effect from 1st January 2012, the minimum daily tariff rate shall be raised to USD$ 250 per person per night for the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November. And USD$200 per person per night for the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December.

If you have less than 3 travellers, the following charges over and above the minimum daily rates shall apply:

Single individual US$ 40 per night
Group of 2 persons US$ 30 per person per night

So if you prefer not to travel in a group, you have to be prepared to pay more.

Until 23 August 2010 Druk Air – the national flag carrier, was the only airline flying into Bhutan.  We figured out the most direct way will be to fly to Bangkok from Singapore and then transfer to Druk Air to Paro Airport in Bhutan.  Alternatively, you can also consider transit via Kathamandu and be sure you choose your window seats early to catch a good view of the Himalaya and the mighty Mount Everest on a clear day!

So after factoring in the airfare and the daily tariff imposed, we understand why Bhutan’s travel packages are expensive now.  Below are some travel packages pricing and tour highlights that we thought can serve as a good reference point to start if you are planning to visit this exotic place soon.

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