A trip through the south Asian country of Bhutan is nothing short of spectacular. Between its vibrant culture, picturesque mountains and valleys, lip-smacking cuisine, gorgeous temples and monasteries, and its incredibly kind people, Bhutan is truly a dream. There’s a reason why it’s often referred to a “The Last Shangri-La.” Each day in the country brings about new adventures and possibilities that many could never imagine in their wildest daydreams. But each day also brings about heavy fees, which brings up the question, why does it cost $280 per day to visit Bhutan?
Another question that gets asked in conjuction with that is, is the cost ultimately worth traveling to Bhutan? While what’s “worth it” is entirely subjective, in my personal opinion, it’s more than worth it if you can afford it. If you love experiencing beautiful and unique places, it doesn’t get more beautiful or more unique than this stunning mountain nation.
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Exploring The Last Shangri-La
Bhutan has never been colonized in its history. Because of that, its culture has remained intact for centuries without being changed or watered-down by outsiders. Where else can you visit cliffside monasteries, colorful fortresses, and villages that paint phalluses on every building? What you get in Bhutan is local culture in its purest, most authentic form. I have always believed that travel is the one thing we pay for that makes us richer, and Bhutan is the perfect example of that.
I spent eight days traveling around the western reaches of Bhutan in early 2020. My mind was constantly blown by nearly everything I came across. From the richness and diversity of its cuisine to the warm hospitality to the spectacular hikes I went on, I found myself wishing I could have stayed longer. Seriously, Bhutan offers some of the best hikes in the world, and there’s often a mind-blowing monastery waiting for you at the end of them. It’s something I feel everyone should experience.
I can honestly go on and on about how wonderful Bhutan is. But now, let’s get into the question at hand: why does it cost $280 per day to visit Bhutan?
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Why does it cost $280 per day to visit Bhutan?
First, let’s break down the daily fee, which differs slightly depending on which time of year you choose to visit.
The Sustainable Development Fee (Tourism Fee)
- PEAK SEASON (March-May, September-November): $250 USD per day
- LOW SEASON (December-February, June-August): $200 USD per day
This fee is imposed to cover internal charges and taxes and ensure that Bhutan remains a beautiful and sustainable place for people to live and visit. It also goes toward preserving Bhutan’s culture during an age of rapid development and modernization. The fee tends to limit the number of tourists who visit the country while making sure that tourism revenue benefits the country’s people.
Of the tariff listed above, $65 USD is collected by the Bhutanese government as a sustainable development fee, which covers the nation’s free healthcare, free education, infrastructure, and poverty relief.
What Else it Covers
The remainder of the tariff ($185 during peak season, $135 during low) covers your necessary expenses during your time in Bhutan, which include the following:
- The cost of your visa.
- Your tour guide. Having a licensed guide from one of Bhutan’s official tour operators will be of great help to you as you travel around the country. Tsheten, my guide from MyBhutan, was the best! He was super friendly and incredibly knowledgeable about every city, village, and site we visited.
- Your accommodations. which includes hotels and homestays. They’re all well-kept and clean and offer fantastic service. There are several I recommend, including the Pedling Hotel & Spa in Thimphu, the Drubchhu Resort and Happiness Field Village Homestay in Punakha, and the Risum Resort in Haa.
- Whether you choose to eat your meals at your accommodation or would rather venture out and check out the local restaurants, the cost of your food will be covered. Keep in mind, you will still have to pay for alcoholic beverages.
- Internal Transportation. This includes a driver, a car (or tour bus), and the cost of fuel. However, if you take a flight within the country, that will not be covered. Flights to and from Bhutan are also not covered.
- Attractions. The tourist fee also covers the entrance fees to attractions and tourist sites around the country.
Remember, the fee does NOT cover things like your flights to and from Bhutan, or any alcoholic beverages or souvenirs you buy in the country. It also doesn’t cover the tips for your guide and driver. At the end of your trip, it’s customary to tip your guide and driver roughly 10% of the total cost of your trip.
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In addition to the tourism fee, solo travelers must pay a surcharge of $40 per day. Those traveling in a small group of only two people will pay $30. Discounts are available for students and children between the ages of 5 and 12.
While Bhutan’s standard accommodations are included in the tourism fee detailed above, keep in mind that you’ll have to shell out much more per day if you’re looking to stay at Bhutan’s most luxurious hotels and resorts.
Those who wish to camp in Bhutan or go on mountain treks will also pay more for the required gear and equipment.
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Indian, Bangladeshi, and Maldivian Travelers
Nationals from India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives were exempt from Bhutan’s daily fees until July of 2020. From that point forward, tourists from those countries will be charged around 1,200 rupees per day, or about $16 USD. Tourists from these nations are also not required to go on a tour.
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The Bottom Line
I hope I answered the question of why does it cost $280 per day to visit Bhutan. All in all, yes, it is very expensive to visit Bhutan. It is a cost that deters many travelers from ever setting foot in the country. But, in my opinion, the fees are worth it to explore the land known as The Last Shangri-La. This peaceful Himalayan country is unlike any other place I’ve ever visited.
You often hear stories about how happy and kind the people there are, and you might assume that they’re exaggerations. But it’s absolutely true. The spirit of Buddhism permeates every part of daily life there, which makes for one of the most serene experiences you can have on Earth. Whether you go to Bhutan to tantalize your taste buds with yak cheese and fiery chili dishes, attend cultural festivals, or climb to the famous Tiger’s Nest, it is an experience you won’t forget. Book a trip to Bhutan today to experience its magic for yourself!
Huge thanks to my friends Tsheten and Nidup from MyBhutan for showing me around their beautiful country!
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