What is the tourist policy of Bhutan? Essentially Bhutan maintains a policy of a quota on how many tourists enter per year, all of which must be on an official tour, with there being a minimum spending amount per day.
That is the policy in a nutshell, but we will get into more details later.
To read about the similarities between North Korea and Bhutan, check out this post.
History of Tourism in Bhutan
Following India’s partition, Bhutan, alongside Nepal (still independent) and Sikkim (now part of India), gained independence under India’s protection. Bhutan is the last of the 3 to remain a kingdom.
Until the 1960’s Bhutan remained largely closed and isolated from the rest of the world, before slowly starting a policy of opening up to foreigners visiting the country.
In 1974 the country first opened itself to tourism under the “high value, low volume” policy. There were precisely 267 tourists that year; something has been growing slowly ever since!
In 1991, following the opening up of the Indian economy, Bhutan followed suit by privatizing the Bhutan Tourism Corporation. There are now 75 local tourist agencies, as well as many more foreign agents (such as ourselves) that work with them.
Bhutan Tourism Policy in Detail
The official government policy is as follows;
“Founded on the principle of sustainability, tourism must be environmentally friendly, socially and culturally acceptable, and economically viable.”
This essentially means that Bhutan charges more in an effort to keep the environmental impact to a minimum whilst providing funds that go back into the community.
It is also based on quality over quantity. This is not only to protect the environment but also to protect the traditional way of life of the people of Bhutan. In short, Bhutan does not strive for, nor wish for mass tourism. The country is certainly an off the beaten path location.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit Bhutan?
Bhutan Fixed Daily Travel Fee:
$250 per person per night
$200 per person per night – Remaining Months.
$40 visa fee
Note this is the fixed daily tariff that goes directly to Bhutan’s government, BEFORE your arrival, and this does not mean this is what your tour will cost. Many companies, such as ourselves, also send our own guide, as well as using our trusted Bhutanese guides.
Some countries are exempt from a Bhutanese visa. You can read more about the visa policy of Bhutan here.
Can I Visit Bhutan Without Paying the Government Fees?
Yes, but there is a big caveat to this. If you know an ex-pat in Bhutan (yes, ex-pats are living in Bhutan), they can invite a certain number of people per year to visit them. I once had the opportunity to visit a friend who was a chef in Bhutan, but alas never got around to it. Yes, I am still kicking myself for missing that boat.
In more detail, to read bout Bhutan, check out our interactive guide, or better still, join one of our tours!