Travel Bhutan by own car- Immigration,Permits and Tips
The mystical land complete with Tales of Shangri-La & Dragons with an abundance of wildlife with forest cover almost everywhere; abode of peace at the ‘Lakhang’ with age-old practices of Tibetan Buddhism; curvy and picturesque mountain roads dotted with ‘Chortens’ ( You have to cross them from the left; high mountain passes with white flags against the blue mountains and snow caps; the magnificent ‘Dzong’( Monastic Forts) for administration and justice; men and women dressed in ‘Gho’ and ‘Kira’ respectively… Yes!!! That’s a small glimpse of the small Himalayan kingdom known as Bhutan.
Initially we planned to cover the country from the West (Phuntsholling/Jaigaon entry point) to East (Trashigang), but for time constraint we restricted our plan till Bumthang valley in central Bhutan.
Immigration & Car Permits
For this trip we needed two types of permits – firstly the immigration permits for people to enter and travel through Bhutan and another permit for an Indian Motor Vehicles Registration to be allowed to be driven inside Bhutan. The permits for the travelers can be arranged from Kolkata itself and is easy to obtain without any cost involved in the process. For this one has to go to the Royal Bhutan Consulate located at Mall Road.
Permit procedure for People & Vehicle From Phuentsholing
Phuentsholing to Paro/Thimpu
Note : Minimum 2 people are required to get permit, permits not easily issued for lone traveller
Time : Between 30 minute to 1 hour ( depends on crowd)
Permit office ( Immigration office as its called ) is as Tintin said around 200 mtrs or so after you enter Bhutan gate in Phuentsholing. It’s on your right side as you come from the Indian side after the Fuel pump next to Customs & clearance office.
The Office is on 1st floor above Customs & clearance office
Permit office opens at 9 am of Bhutanese time.
Duly filled permit form
Copy of your passport
Couple of Passport size photo
Go a bit early if possible but not too early as you need to get a Permit form that needs to be filled up and submitted along with copy of your Passport.
If the office is not open when you visit you may request any Bhutaneese offical you see there ,if they can provide you the form in advance.
The filled form needs to be given in the upstairs office ( ask for Tourist route permit counter)
You need to hand over the form with the passport copy duly stapled. They will review and ask to see the orginal Passport.
Once done they will they a photograph then and there itself.
Once done they will ask you to wait for half an hour to an hour depending upon the rush to issue you the permits.
Carry some passport size photo graphs with you as well as they might ask for one inaddition to the photo taken by them.
Counter Closes by 5 Pm ( not sure as we did in morning)
If you dont have Passport then you may have to get some clearance from Indian Embassy nearby ( not sure as we had our passport)
Permits can be arrnaged in advance if you are using a registered Bhutaneese tour guide during your visit ( you can send the doucments to your guide who can get the permits ready for you)
RSTA is located nearby but is not walkable
Go straight on the road from the permit office (opposite to border gate offcourse) take a left from the dead end circle
Ask for Phuentsholing main bustand , its located on the second floor of the bus stand
ask anyone where is the RSTA office once you reach the main bus stand which comes after you cross a small bridge.
A handwritten or typed letter mentioning the places you plan to visit including the vehicle number and owner information ( refer attachment)
RC book Copy
Drivers License Copy
Take the documents described above and get it endrosed by RSTA inchagre who sits in room 1 ( check with Counter 5 before you go to room 1)
Once the Senior offical reviews and sign on your application form take it to counter 5
Once the offical at counter 5 endroses your application go to counter 2 I guess to pay the nominal permit fee .
Go back to counter 5 with recipt of payment and get permit form from him
Take the form to counter\room 1 for final endorsement
Take copy of the same ( 1st floor ) and give one copy to counter 5
Your Vehicle permit is done
Approx time = 30 minutes if you are lucky and if its less crowded
Extension from Thimpu
Time : can take upto half a day or more – You will be very lucky if it gets done in 30 mins
Opposite Taj hotel if I remmber correctly
Its in the opposite direction to Clock Tower ( same road) Norzim Lam
Its around 10-15 mins walk from clock tower to this office
Opens at 9 am
Need to fill up a form given by them for stay extension. Your previous permit document
Once you provide the filled up form along with pervious permit document , they will ask you to wait.
The issue of extension can take between 30 minutes to good 2 hours
Once the extension is received you need to fill another form detailing your itenary for visiting restricted areas like Punakha and beyond with dates of travel to those regions
Once done it would take another 30 mins to 2 hours for processing the permission to rest of Bhutan Overall be prepared to spend atleast half a day for permit issue / extension provided you are there at 9 am.
Approx time : 10 minutes if you are lucky however keep a good buffer
RSTA is located near the Archery stadium forgot the name ( someone please help me)
Its located above the Bigger bus stand ( I belive the main bus stand) you need to go over the bridge that you see when you enter Thimpu and then take a left
A handwritten or typed letter mentioning the places you plan to visit including the vehicle number and owner information same as before
Previous Vehicle permit document
Extension & new permit for rest of Bhutan issued from Immigration department Thimpu
Take the documents described to RSTA offical who sits in ” Base Office/ room” if you enter from top ( that is over the bridge ) then you need to come to ground floor I guess.
Just ask at any counter ” tell them you need to revew your vehicle permit” am a bit forgetful as to if the Base office is on second or ground floor.
Show all the documents to the officer who sits in the small room, he will check and give an extension then and there.No further fee required.Your Vehicle permit is done
Note: No one keeps the original or xerox copy of permits in any check post , so just one copy of all document is good enough.
At check post they will check you permits for persons and for Vehicle they will take down the name of driver, owner of vehicle, Vehicle number and drivers license number for every vehicle
Once done they will return the document back to you.
Download : Bhutan Entry Permit Application Form
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Hi, I am Soumitra.. I am a traveler by heart. I love to travel by road. I traveled many places of India including Ladakh,Himachal,Orissa, Chattishgarh and many places of Bengal. I also traveled out side of India like Bhutan. Now i am planing to travel Kolkata to Malayasia with my car.