All trips to Bhutan, including applications for visas and route permits, have to be prearranged through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) or one of their international partners. Amala Destinations is licensed under and registered with the TCB as "Amala Travel in Bhutan".
Visa & Route Permit
All visitors to Bhutan, except those of Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian citizenship, are required a visa (with a processing fee of USD 40) before entry. With a scan of your passport, Amala Destinations will be delighted to process your application. Please note that a visa clearance letter has to be presented at the airport check-in counter before your flight to Bhutan and at the point of entry.
Minimum Daily Package
The Royal Government of Bhutan requires its visitors to spend a minimum of USD 200 per person per night throughout the low seasons and USD 250 per person per night during the high seasons. The respective amounts may include your expenses for accomodation, meals, transportation, guides, tours, etc. It also includes the Sustainable Tourism Royalty (USD 65 per person per night).
Free Independent Traveller (FIT) Surcharge
Groups of less than 3 adults will be required to pay an additional surcharge levied by the Bhutanese government. The Free Independent Traveller (FIT) surcharge is USD 30 per person per night for a pair of adults and USD 40 per night for single travellers.
Vajrayana Buddhism, the kingdom's state religion, influences every aspect of Bhutanese life, its teachings form the very essence of a distinct identity that belongs to its population of 750,000, who incidentally are the surviving believers of this ancient school of Mahayana Buddhism. The heart of Mahayana is a deep compassion for all sentient beings; as a mark of respect, visitors are encouraged to practice the same mindfulness and resist every urge to swat flies or stamp on ants.
The Bhutanese love their food spicy. Chillies feature quite prominently in the local dishes and most diners are properly satisfied only if their meals pack a lot of heat. A typical meal features rice, vegetable dishes and chicken, beef or pork for protein. A favourite among the Bhutanese is Ema Datshi, a simple comforting dish involving a savoury mix of chilli and cheese.
The kingdom's traditional dress has evolved over thousands of years to establish itself as a distinguishing element of Bhutan's cultural heritage. The Gho, worn by men, is a knee-length robe similar to the Japanese kimono, and tied at the waist by traditional belt called a Kera. The women wear the Kira, an ankle-length skirt, and an inner layer called a Wonju, with a light outer jacket called a Tego.
Tsechus, or festivals, feature masked dances and musical performances and offer the perfect oppurtunity to glimpse at and discover Bhutanese traditions. Tsechus are held all over the country but the more notable ones are the Paro and the Thimphu Tsechus. Flights and hotels get filled up very quickly during these occasions, we recommend making reservations 9 months ahead to witness these events.
Spring (March to May)
Spring is clearly the season for rebirth and reawakening as apple, pear, cherry and peach trees blossom from March to April while forests of rhododendrons flower right through to May. Only the lucky ones get to witness the jacarandas bloom at Punakha Dzong because they appear only for a month. It stays rather cold in March with temperatures ranging from 0-16°C and gets warmer in April and May with temperatures as low as 6°C and as high as 26°C.
Summer (June to August)
The summer months of Bhutan see more rain than usual, though it is a common misconception that summer in Bhutan is also its "monsoon season"—it only drizzles lightly with showers not lasting longer than an hour; the rain does get slightly heavier when autumn looms. While it is easier to access the sought-after sights and spots, the summer climate allows for seasonal produce like the rare Matsutake and Chanterelle mushrooms to flourish. With bushier trees and thicker grass lushly regrown over the hills and mountains of red clay soil, green is very much the colour of the season. Temperatures range from a low of 12°C to a high of 29°C.
Autumn (September to November)
With paddy fields all golden, autumn is the time to harvest. Markets are filled with the freshest produce and the festivals are a spectacle to behold even for the Bhutanese. Temperatures stay relatively warm till October, when it gets as cold as 6°C and as warm as 20°C.
Winter (December to February)
The eastern Himalayas become outstandingly visible during the winter months of clear blue skies. While the air is crisp, dry and cold, the winter conditions invite black-necked cranes to make their seasonal pilgrimage to Phobjikha Valley. Temperatures range from below freezing to 14°C.
All trips to Bhutan, visas and route permits have to be pre-arranged and booked through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) or one of their international partners. We are licensed and registered in Bhutan under "Amala Travel in Bhutan".
With most other agencies, that usually entails selecting an existing package that does not allow for much flexibility.
At Amala Destinations, we believe in creating your ideal trip with you. After speaking with one of our knowledgeable destination planners, we take your requirements into consideration before coming up with a specially designed itinerary and handling all the necessary travel logistics.
All you need to do is pack your bags and set off on your journey.
Step 1 / Fill up online form
Please fill up our online planner form and our destination planner will be in touch within 24 hours to plan your journey.
Step 2 / Planning your journey
You may prefer to speak to one of our destination planners in person, please call us directly at our office number or via Skype.
Step 3 / Approve custom itinerary
Once you have discussed with our destination planner your journey preferences, we will be able to get back to you within 3 working days or less with your journey options. After confirming your final itinerary, we will need another 2 - 3 working days to confirm all your flight bookings and hotel reservations. When all bookings are confirmed we will then require from you a 50% deposit payment, with the balance payment due 50 days prior to your departure date. For bookings made within 50 days, full payment is required.
Step 4 / Visa application and trip coordination
As visa applications take approximately 4 weeks to process, we highly recommend all enquiries to be made at least 2 months in advance. We will then arrange a date for us to meet you in person to hand over all your travel documents once your visa is approved. During low season months, it may be possible to process your booking within 3 - 4 weeks.
Step 5 / Ready to go
After receiving all your travel documents about 2 - 3 weeks before your departure date, you are now ready for your journey to Bhutan! Do remember to follow our recommended packing list for the different seasons in Bhutan.