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ashok777 Sep 20th, 2013 13:43

Bhutan - Walking in the Air
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Greetings Fellow India Mike Travelers

I have started this new thread to record my forthcoming journey to Bhutan. It is more focused for a Indian traveler.

Any Journey needs preparation, especially so, if you are crossing the border. So let's give it a start. My entry in to Bhutan will be from the border town of Phuentsholing (Bhutan).

Basic requirements:
A valid Passport (Minimum 6 month Validity) OR
A Voter Identity Card issued by Election Commission of India.

If you don't have either of those, you have to approach the Indian Consulate in Phuentsholing and apply for an 'Identification Slip'.

You will need to carry 2 Passport size photographs.
Produce any two of the following documents
- Ration Card with Photo
- PAN Card
- Driving License
- Aadhar Card
- Photo ID from Central/State/Public Sector Undertaking/Educational Institution.

I have attached files related to Application of Identity Slip.

For those of you taking the 'Identity Slip' route, be prepared for a delay. The Indian Consulate works Monday through Friday (look out for declared holidays), application timings are 0930-1230 & delivery of documents between 1430-1630 hours. On receipt of this 'Identity Slip' one has to approach - The Regional Immigration Office, Royal Government of Bhutan'.

Source - Indian Consulate Phuentshlong.

Disclaimer - Please be aware that information provided should be used as a reference only. Rules and forms change with time - look up official sites for updated information.

sanuroxz Sep 20th, 2013 13:51

Very good start Ashok... way to go... all the very best..

mdruk Sep 20th, 2013 19:18

Nice start..and very true information. I am looking forward to read more on this

asishdas Sep 20th, 2013 19:48

A very correct, informative and useful start, Ashok! Update the thread as you go along. We are following you. Thanks for sharing.

sanuroxz Sep 20th, 2013 21:01

Ashok where are you right now exactly??? i am excited for you buddy

ashok777 Sep 23rd, 2013 13:18

I had posted this Map on Asish Da' s thread, however here i have tried to zoom and take a screen shot, dividing the Map in two four parts. You can print off the images and join it to make a decent size map.

Listed below.

ashok777 Sep 23rd, 2013 13:22

mdruk Sep 23rd, 2013 14:33

Great Job, Mr Ashok. I know you have just started with a detailed travelogue..

wanderernomad Oct 1st, 2013 22:14

Where is the rest mate? Thanks for the map pictures. Would appreciate a few more detailed posts as am in the midst of planning a Bhutan Road trip though limited to the Golden Triangle only.

ashok777 Oct 6th, 2013 01:03

Just back from Bhutan & it was a trip to cherish.
A special thanks to mdruk for his help and pointers which went a long way in making this trip more enjoyable.

I will be updating my trip report shortly.

ashok777 Oct 6th, 2013 15:21

Day 1 26SEP

The day started early with a 5.00 am wake up alarm. We reached the Mumbai domestic terminal by 7.15 for the Spice Jet Flight to Bagdogra via Calcutta.

Compare fares as they vary from day to day. Choose a same carrier if you have a connecting flight preferably. It is easy to handle onus of responsibility in the event of delay of the first leg.
Do a web check-in 24hrs prior and assign your seats.
Prebook a Meal while booking at discounted rate...believe me travel makes you hungry, especially if you have had a early morning start.

We arrived Calcutta Airport on Schedule and had around a 1 hour wait. The terminal is new and modern. If you are connecting, you have to exit the baggage claim and look for a sign for tranfer which brings you to departure & you are at the check-in areas. Get fresh airline tags, as you would be going through security check once again.
The only eating joints at the Airport are 'Subway' which charges @170 for a 6inch sub & Cafe Coffee Day beyond security point.
All the options are expensive & none that satisfy your stomach.
There is also a Priority Pass Lounge & a bar which charges a fancy price tag.

We picked up new tags from the counter and attached them to our handbags, proceeded through security and awaited for the boarding call for the connecting flight.

The flight left on time and we landed Bagdogra around 1.50pm. The bus brought us to the arrival area, which has just a single baggage belt, it is pretty basic and non-airconditioned.

We had our bags and exited the airport around 2.30 pm. Came to the car parking area, where we negotiated with a auto rickshaw for a drop at New Jalpaigiri Railway station @250.

On arriving the Railway station around 3.15pm, we enquired at the ticket counter for train options for Hasimara & were told that 'Mahananda Express' was expected around 4.00pm. We bought the tickets @55 each and the train finally arrived at 4.15pm
The railway station has two cafeterias/canteen serving meals and beverages. We decided to grab a meal during our wait (a good thing to do).
The train was pretty empty and we chose seats at random.

Our train journey to Hasimara took us close to 4.30 hrs, traveling at an average speed of 30kms/hour & halting at various points. It appears that there is a single track enroute, so trains halt and wait for an incoming train to pass through, before proceeding.

There is also signs of elephants crossing the tracks, and the train went hooting all the way along.

We finally reached Hasimara Station at 8.30pm. It gets dark by 5.30 pm and it was pretty late when we arrived. We chose to take a Car & negotiated with the driver to drop us to our hotel in Phuentsholing, if we could pass the Bhutan Gate.

It was raining heavily, by the time we left Hasimara towards Jaigaon. Luckily, the gate was still open and the guards allowed us through.

We got dropped off at Hotel Sinchula (where i had booked in advance) and paid off the driver @350 for the trip.

We got our room key, deposited our bags & came down to have our dinner. As it was still raining, we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant before they closed down.

Post dinner, we were back in our room, pretty basic, non-a/c and spent a little while browsing the television channels. Suddenly, there was a power outage and most of the area in P/ling went in the dark.

The Only saving grace was the rains, and we had our windows open and managed to pass the night.

ashok777 Oct 6th, 2013 17:07

Day 2 27Sep

Some time during the night, the power had been restored & the fan started rotating.

Had an early shower, and set out to get our bearings. A few minutes walk brought us to the junction, with Hotel Keunga around the corner, and the Petrol Pump diagonally across. The Immigration office was beyond that & we went and requested the security guard for Permit forms.

We took the forms and came over to Hotel Kuenga for the morning breakfast. While the order was processed, we filled up the forms.

Post breakfast, we proceeded to the Immigration Office and reached there by 8.50am. We were told to proceed upstairs at 9.00am and we were the first to line up at Counter Number 7 (which issues tourist permits).

In a short while, the lady immigration officer came over & We handed our documents. She checked the original passport and returned it. We were told to be seated, our photos taken and told to return in half an hour. The entire process took 5 minutes.

Documents Required
Original Passport or Voter's ID Card
One Photograph
Copy of Passport or Voter's ID Card
Application Form duly completed and signed off

P/shling Immigration Office will issue you a permit for THIMPU & PARO only with a validity of 7 DAYS.


We decided to take a walk to the bus station - a 10 minute stroll and reached there to enquire about availability. We were advised that there were plenty of seats & told to book the tickets once we had our permits.
There have been occasions, where permits have been delayed due to internet connectivity issues.

I returned to the Immigration office alone, after 40 minutes (any one of the family can pick up the permits) and they were ready for us.

Having picked up the Permits, I proceeded once again to the bus station and was told that there were last two seats on the 12.00 Noon bus. As the next bus would be an hour later, I grabbed the last two seats on the 'Coaster Bus' @210 each.

A big mistake - they turned out to be the last row, which made the ride very bumpy and uncomfortable.

Tips - Try not to get seats 13 and beyond as they are not very comfortable. Seat 13 is a single seater over a wheel, which means your legs are hunched...the same goes for 14/15 which is the two seater across..followed by 16 & 17/18 & the last row.

For those of you, who suffer motion sickness, please keep your stomach light, don't have any heavy breakfast, before you embark the journey.
Carry dry fruits, cookies, chocolate bars & water.
Please be aware that the journey takes an average of 6 hours, going through a narrow road, sharp bends and turns.

Keep a sweater or a thick jacket, as you feel a sharp fall in temperature, once the climb starts and it does get cold.

Having got our tickets, I got a copy of the Permit as I was to procure a local SIM Card.

Note - You need a copy, only if you plan to get a local SIM Card. Just one suffices & no need to make for the entire family, unless you are sourcing SIM Card for each of them.

The Tashi Cell Office is just behind Kuenga and I was asked to fill up the form, give a photo & a copy of the permit.
It costed @200 with full talk time with a validity of One Month.
I inserted the new SIM and it activated immediately.

We proceeded to the hotel, got our bags, paid our bill and took a local taxi to the bus station.

Sinchula Hotel @940 per night.
Meals were nothing to rave about. We had little choice to explore due to our late arrival and the rains.

The bus left on-time.
We came to our first immigration check after being 15min on the road. I got off with both the permits and got them stamped & we were on the way.
It is your responsibility to get the permit stamped at the two check points on the route to Thimpu. No one get's in the bus to check - just in case you doze off and miss to get your permit stamped - can land you in trouble.

The bus halted half way for a 20 minute meal break cum bathroom stop. You can buy bottled water, soft drinks, juices, chips & other packaged stuff if you desire.

The second check point came around 4 hours en-route. Once again our permit was stamped & we were off.

The bus entered Thimpu and we could see a lot of construction activity, in the outskirts of town. We reached the Thimpu Bus station at 5.30pm

Got our bags, grabbed a taxi and reached Hotel Tandin at Norzin Lam which had been booked for 3 Nights.
Norzin Lam is a one way street and the most congested in Thimpu.

We got the key to our room and were dismayed by the surrounding. It was a tiny room with two twin beds, worn our furniture & carpet, bathroom had broken tiles, loose faucet in the sink - No sign of towels or any amenities.
It one single word the place was 'dump' and fits a traveler on the low budget end.

The exterior passage was decent and had a water filter.

With no disrespect to 'Asish Da', since his visit in 2011, the years have taken a toll with what appears to be lack of maintenance & cleanliness.
I had to request the ladies at the reception to provide for towels & a bar of soap.
@1150 per night, it offered no value for money.

A Note for future travelers:
Please avoid Hotel Tandin at all costs. If you are traveling with family, do yourself a favor and pay a bit more and choose an alternate option.

It was still daylight and we stepped out to explore Thimpu & get the bearings. We took a left turn which brought us to the clock tower in 5 minutes.

We ate our evening meal at Hotel Ghaseel - (more so, since my wife is a vegeterian). It is located across the street and you have to enter the shopping complex to reach the restaurant.
The Service is great and quick, but I found the food to be quiet greasy.

We walked the street till the other end which leads to the Immigration office & headed back for the Night's rest.

mod note: Please stick with standard black font while posting. I've changed the blue, for now.

ashok777 Oct 6th, 2013 18:09

Hotel Tandin (Front View) - Shopping Complex on Ground Floor Level.

ashok777 Oct 6th, 2013 18:19

Clock Tower, Norzin Lam.

ashok777 Oct 6th, 2013 18:28

Clock Tower, Norizin Lam (Upclose)

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