Our Bhutan Trip – a senior citizen's effort to backpack!

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#1 Oct 11th, 2011, 16:38
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#1
Preparation : Part-I

We are a group, mostly consisting of senior citizens, from Kolkata, contemplating to visit Bhutan for past few months. We started our homework on Bhutan about 7/8 months back by scanning each and every threads/posts pertaining to Bhutan in Indiamike, notably the threads initiated by Natasha and Vinay. Besides, we have googled and had gone through whatever writeups available in web. We have also established contacts with a few actual travelers, who had recently traveled to Bhutan. They are mostly our fellow IMers and as usual they are ever willing to help with whatever resources they have. Having done preliminary homework, we planned for a 5 nights & 6 days trip with night stays at Thimphu (3 nights) and Paro (2 nights). Initially, we were 7 persons in the group. Later 2 more members joined in making it 9-members group. We planned to depart Kolkata on the night of 2nd November by Kanchan Kanya Express and to return back to Kolkata on 8th or 9th November. We chalked out our priority list, which comes as under:

1 Booking Rail Tickets
Status: Done. Sealdah to Hasimara by Kanchan Kanya Exp.

2 Obtaining Bhutan Entry Permit
Status: Process initiated at Kolkata Bhutan Consulate. Shall elaborate this point later in this post
3 Hotel Booking at Thimpu
Status: No formal booking has been done. But shortlisting of hotels had done. These shortlisted Hotels are :
1. Hotel Tandin;
2. Hotel T T;
3. Hotel Ghasel.
Of these 3 hotels, we have several feedbacks from actual users in respect of first two hotels, but we are yet to get any feedback on the third Hotel i.e. Hotel Ghasel. In anyone can give us some feedback on this Hotel, it will be of great help.
4 Hotel Booking at Paro
Status: Again, no formal booking has been done. But shortlisting of hotels had done. Shortlisted Hotels are:
1. Hotel Peljorling; &
2. Hotel Jigmelling.
Both the Hotels have reasonably good reviews from the actual travelers.
5 Transportation
Status: As we are backpack travelers, we decided not to hire any exclusive vehicle for our trip. We intend to hire cab from Hashimara Stn to Phuentsolling and then from there we intend to avail Coaster Bus Service for Thimphu. However, if the train is delayed considerably, this plan may not work. We have not drawn any Plan-B for this eventuality. We are working on the assumption that the train will not be late more than an hour or so. As regards sightseeing, we will avail whatever transportation available, but thrust will be on economy/budget.

The above is a brief description of our pre-travel preparation. I would now like to narrate our experience on point No.2 above i.e. obtaining of Bhutan Entry Permit from the Bhutan Kolkata Consulate. We had visited the Consulate office and had submitted our applications for Permit. Incidentally, it may be mentioned here that from Kolkata, one can get Permit for Thimphu and Paro only.

In past it has been reported in Inidamike that
1. Bhutan Entry Permit is now available from Kolkata itself (It is correct)
2. Permit Application Form is downloadable from web (I could not get despite several efforts)
3. It is not mandatory for all the visitors to be present at the Consulate while applying for the Permit. (True, one can sign on behalf of other members of the team)
The Consulate office is located on Mall Road, near to Dum Dum Nager Bazar. Bus Stop is "Clive House", just 2 stops after Nager Bazar towards Airport. It is adjacent to Christ Church School. We carried original Voter ID Card, Photocopies and 1 copy of Passport sized Photographs of the each traveler along with us. When we reached there, we found the main gate is closed and besides the main door there is an embedded Sign Board which reads and looks like this. Please see at the bottom of this post.


On the right hand side of the above Sign Board, there is a small Gate, which looked like a closed door, but there is a calling bell switch, which, however, did not work! Anyhow, when we pushed the small door a bit, it opened up and a Security Guard emerged. He gave us Permit Forms and asked us to fill up. He offered us seat in the adjacent Room, which looks like Visitors’ Room. The main building is away and it seems that visitors are NOT allowed to go inside the Office. The so-called Visitors’ Room is very Spartan in look with school-like Table and Bench. A Notice displayed over there on the wall gives a few tips (advisory type) meant for travelers viz.
1. Pre-requisite documents for Permit (We discussed this earlier);
2. Not to carry 500 or 1000 INR Notes to Bhutan;
3. Hire only Bhutan-registered Vehicles etc. etc.

While filling up the forms, an Officer from the Main Office came to us and exchanged a few pleasantries and also informed us that since our journey begins on 2nd November, the Permit will be made available on 25th October only. We reckoned we had no choice on this and naturally we nodded in acceptance.
As I had told earlier, I could not get the Entry Permit Application Form for Indian citizens from the web contrary to the claim made by many. What I did was I got Visa Application Form downloaded instead from the Web, got it photocopied and filled in before we reach Consulate Office assuming that this Form might be similar in nature and would be acceptable to the authority. But, it is not to be. Our earlier filled-in forms were scrapped and we had to fill in new form afresh provided by the Consulate Office (Read Security Guard). Since I have gone through this ordeal I thought that if I can submit the Permit Application Form in this thread itself, it would come handy for future travelers. I reckon downloaded Form would be accepted. So, here goes the Form: Please see at the bottom.

With these words, I conclude this part of my report. I intend to record all the stories, facts, photographs etc. pertaining to this Trip on phase wise. Obviously, the next part would contain actual trip report, which I hope to post sometime after 10th of November. Thanks.
Asish Das
Attached Images
Photo-0075.jpg bhutan.jpg 
Last edited by asishdas; Oct 11th, 2011 at 16:41.. Reason: resizing
#2 Oct 11th, 2011, 19:07
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#2
Great information Asishdas

I wish you and your companions well for the trip and look forward to reading about it here later.
#3 Oct 12th, 2011, 01:48
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#3
Thank you very much Asishdas Sir. It has been a pleasure to read the teaser of your trip. What makes it even more special is that i along with one of my friend have planned a Trip to bhutan from 28th Nov-Dec 3rd

The style and plan is exactly the same as yours (expect that we will be spening just 2 days each in Thimphu and Paro)

We really really hope that you get some time out of your busy schedule and you would be able to post your trip report by 15th november as I'm going on an all India tour on 15th from Bangalore and would most likely have no access to internet unless required( I am going to Blindly follow your trip report without a second thought)

I spend hours together on the Internet especially on IM but i still have some questions unanswered and i would be more that grateful to you if you could find out the answers to few of my questions

1) My last leg of the India tour ends in Ranchi and I would catch a train to Hasimara from Ranchi which would let me reach P'ling by 4 PM. Is there a way i can get my permit at around 5 PM or should i wait till the next day?

2) What are the present car hire charges in Thimphu and Paro? I've been speaking to a travel agent and she is quoting me 1600 per day inclusive of the driver charges

3) What are the rates of a double room in the hotels that you have mentioned?

Some tips from my research that might be useful to you. This includes tips from my college friends staying in Bhutan

1) Although we are on a budget trip, it is next to impossible to use public transport to travel within Bhutan for sightseeing. You need to hire a vehicle. I have been quoted 1600 rupees a day for a Hyundai Tucson( 8-9 seater with AC although we are just 2 of us). This would cover not more than 100 Kms a day and would opearate between 9AM-5PM

2) Another thing which completely changed my plan was the availability of buses from Paro to Phutsoling
http://www.rsta.gov.bt/public_transp...transport.htmlwould tell you that last bus from Paro to Pling is at 11 AM. So try and move to P'ling from Thimphu rather than Paro just in case the 11 AM bus is full.

Wish you all the best for the tour and please do not hesitate to ask me anything for that matter
Cheers,
Viggymallya
#4 Oct 12th, 2011, 11:27
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#4
I have just come across a News item on security condition in Bhutan which might be of some interest to Bhutan travelers. Here goes the news:



Quote:
Travellers face stringent security checks

Phuentsholing-Thimphu Sector 10 October, 2011 - Since security measures were beefed up a month ago in preparation of the royal wedding this week, more than 69 people travelling without documents have been denied entry into the country.

Of the 69, about 54 passengers were denied entry from the Rinchending checkpoint, four kms from Phuentsholing town, on the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway. The rest were found travelling without documents during highway inspection by regional immigration and police officials.
For the past few weeks, police and immigration officials have been frequently carrying out surprise checks of identity cards for customers at hotels, apart from travellers on the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway.

Hoteliers said officials mostly came after 10pm, which bothered their customers. Some hoteliers said sometimes inspection is done around midnight. The inspectors enter the hotel rooms to verify identities, be they Bhutanese or Indians. “They wouldn’t even talk properly, and some of us are just shocked,” said an Indian tourist.

Phuentsholing these days is packed with Indian tourists, who have come to visit Bhutan having cancelled their holidays to Sikkim, because of last month’s earthquake.

All vehicles bound for various destinations north from Phuentsholing are thoroughly checked at various checkpoints. Bus passengers have to give their name, age and identity card numbers to avail tickets at booking counters. Commuters said at times they were asked for their identity cards around four times during the six-hour journey.

“There should be some system in place for such important events by not necessarily harassing your own people,” a traveller said. Another commuter said, “These days, it’s very important that you carry your documents with you.”

The Phuentsholing police spokesperson said people should understand that the checking is for security. “We request the public to bear the inconvenience and kindly cooperate,” he said. He said they were following orders of the chairperson of the security sub committee and the dzongkhag security core committee.

http://www.kuenselonline.com/2010/mo...icle&sid=21065

I only hope situations would get normalised after King's marriage is over.
Last edited by theyyamdancer; Oct 12th, 2011 at 13:02.. Reason: Fixed the quotation and the link.
#5 Oct 13th, 2011, 01:40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Viggymallya View Post Thank you very much Asishdas Sir. It has been a pleasure to read the teaser of your trip. What makes it even more special is that i along with one of my friend have planned a Trip to bhutan from 28th Nov-Dec 3rd

The style and plan is exactly the same as yours (expect that we will be spening just 2 days each in Thimphu and Paro)

We really really hope that you get some time out of your busy schedule and you would be able to post your trip report by 15th november as I'm going on an all India tour on 15th from Bangalore and would most likely have no access to internet unless required( I am going to Blindly follow your trip report without a second thought)

I spend hours together on the Internet especially on IM but i still have some questions unanswered and i would be more that grateful to you if you could find out the answers to few of my questions

1) My last leg of the India tour ends in Ranchi and I would catch a train to Hasimara from Ranchi which would let me reach P'ling by 4 PM. Is there a way i can get my permit at around 5 PM or should i wait till the next day?

2) What are the present car hire charges in Thimphu and Paro? I've been speaking to a travel agent and she is quoting me 1600 per day inclusive of the driver charges

3) What are the rates of a double room in the hotels that you have mentioned?

Some tips from my research that might be useful to you. This includes tips from my college friends staying in Bhutan

1) Although we are on a budget trip, it is next to impossible to use public transport to travel within Bhutan for sightseeing. You need to hire a vehicle. I have been quoted 1600 rupees a day for a Hyundai Tucson( 8-9 seater with AC although we are just 2 of us). This would cover not more than 100 Kms a day and would opearate between 9AM-5PM

2) Another thing which completely changed my plan was the availability of buses from Paro to Phutsoling
http://www.rsta.gov.bt/public_transp...transport.htmlwould tell you that last bus from Paro to Pling is at 11 AM. So try and move to P'ling from Thimphu rather than Paro just in case the 11 AM bus is full.

Wish you all the best for the tour and please do not hesitate to ask me anything for that matter
Cheers,
Viggymallya
Honestly I do not have any "busy schedule" in the sense you meant it. I am a retired person enjoying my life at my own pace. So, time is not a constraint for me. But my enemy is my laziness! Any how, we are coming back on 10th, posting my trip report by 15th will be tough call for me. But, I will try my best to give you a first hand idea. If you so desire I can PM my phone number to you and you can contact me over phone once we come back. I have made exactly similar arrangement with one of our fellow IMers, who will be back from Bhutan trip at the end of this month. I think this will suit you well. If you desire to have my phone nu. please let me know.

Yes, for local sight seeing in Bhutan, I don't think there is any organised conducted tour type of arrangement. Hence, you will have to hire cab for that purpose. You might get some other tourists with whom you can join for such trip though. The offer seem to me quite okay. I have, in a different thread, requested you to please let me have the name, contact number, email ID etc. of the Agent who had quoted that price. If possible, please forward the same to me though this thread. This will help others also.

As regards the bus schedule. which you have referred to, have not been updated for quite some time. This is the impression I got from a few people at Phuentsolling/Jaigaon. I don't think you should act upon the those schedule. Better check this on reaching at Phuentsolling on the day of your entry to Bhutan. Paro-Thimphu travel time is only one & half hours and you can always switch over your plan.

Finally, if you reach Hashimara by 4 PM, THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN GET YOUR PERMIT ON THE SAME DAY. In fact, you will find the office closed. You will have to try next day early, by 9 AM Bhutan local time. But I think you will be able to catch 1 PM Bus on procuring your Permit.

I am sorry, I am unable to answer your other quarries as I do not have idea on those points.
#6 Oct 13th, 2011, 01:50
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#6
Thank you Asish Sir. Can i post the name and the email address of the travel agent here? Would it be against the rules of this forum by any chance. If it is okay, i will give it to you right here.

And yes you are right.Honda tucson is a SUV, bigger and comfortable than a SUMO. The seating capacity may depend on the design of the seats. It can be either 8 or 9 seater including the driver

The amount quoted is 1600 per day including the driver charges
#7 Oct 13th, 2011, 13:40
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#7
No, I don't think there will be any problem. You will find many such references in various threads/forums. Go ahead and post the details right here.
Thanks.
#8 Oct 13th, 2011, 17:51
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#8
The company that i have spoken to is called as Migae Adventure Travel. They have offered to give me a Hyundai Tucson for 1600 kms per day

You can contact them on
migae@druknet.bt and the contact person is Mindu
#9 Oct 13th, 2011, 20:06
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#9
Thanks! I have just emailed our program to them and asked them to quote. Let's see what happens.
#10 Oct 14th, 2011, 00:57
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#10
You are welcome. Please let us know the outcome.
#11 Oct 14th, 2011, 01:14
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#11
Just received their reply. Reproducing the mail below:
QUOTE
Dear sir,
Hyundai Tucson can accommodate only 4 person excluding driver.

1.No Tucson cannt accommodate 9 adult.

2.Yes I can make the arrangement to pick you up from phuntsholing on 3rd Nov.

3.Yes I can do that but you have to book Toyota hiace bus for your trip that will cost you Rs.4700 per day X 4 days will be Rs.18800.00 and drop and pick from Phuntsholing will cost you Rs.10000 extra.The vehicle will be there for you throughout your trip.

So therefore if you want to us to arrange for vehicle only the tour vehicle cost will be Rs.28800.00(8 seater bus)

Do let us know if you have any quries.

Regards,

Mindu Dorji

UNQUOTE

As you see the outcome is not on expected line. The rate is incredibly high! I have got much lower rate for P'slling to Thimphu journey. But that was way above our budget. I think we have to take recourse of bus option. For local travel, we'll see what can be done on our reaching there.
#12 Oct 14th, 2011, 01:27
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#12
1) Wow, Thats strange. 4 seater Hyundai Tucson. Never heard about it. I always thought that it was an SUV. Could someone point tell me if we have a Hyundai Tucson in a small car segment??

2)Thimphu-Phutsoling-Thimphu- 10000- Understandable
It is roughly about 360 kms(Thimphu-Phutsoling-Thimphu). And per km charge for a small car is 16 per KM
So for 360 kms, it is about 5760. So it is reasonable for a 9 seater bus. It also involves some permits as I've heard that vehicles from Paro and Thimphu zone cannot enter P'ling that easily. Almost everyone quotes this price

3)4700 for a 9 seater bus, hmmm.. I think a bit too much. Try negotiating with them. They started off my Tucson at 2900 per day and came down to 1600
#13 Oct 14th, 2011, 01:46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Viggymallya View Post 1) Wow, Thats strange. 4 seater Hyundai Tucson. Never heard about it. I always thought that it was an SUV. Could someone point tell me if we have a Hyundai Tucson in a small car segment??
In fact i was wrong. Tucson is indeed a 5 seater vehicle with very comfortable seats and big boot space. I realized it when i googled the interiors of the car.

Sorry to misguide you earlier
#14 Oct 14th, 2011, 03:07
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#14

Thank you for this thread - Please comment on the Expense Part

Dear Mr. Das,
Thank you so much for coming up with this thread about your Bhutan trip. It is very helpful to me since I had been searching for all these information for a while now, and you seem to have accumulated them in one place so very well.

Even though I will be keeping an eye for all details of this trip, but for now, would you mind commenting on your approximate budget ahead of this upcoming trip per head in Indian Rupees, including everything with a break up of expenses? I am a bit worried, thinking since it is a different country & prices would be too high compared to Indian standards. Where would you gather Bhutanese currency before you enter the country, if at all?

Lastly, do you think it visiting Bhutan in January would be possible with no road blocks and all?

Thanking you once more for coming up with this great post!
#15 Oct 14th, 2011, 03:22
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#15
@Neilangel, Bhutan is a place where you need not worry about the budget, There are comfortable rooms starting as low as 500-600 per double bed and as high as 5k-6k per night

So the total costs is upto your style of traveling and comforts

Transportation also depends on the way you want to travel. But since bhutan being a very secluded place( compared to the rest of the world), sightseeing using a public transport is next to impossible. You might waste a lot of time in that case

You can read about the car hire charges in the above posts

And about gathering Bhutanese currency, you need not do that. INR is accepted through out bhutan without any problems and the value is 1Rupee=1 Ngultrum

Hope this helps
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