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Bhutan

If you’re travelling to Bhutan, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Security Status

  • Normal precautions
  • High degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Do not travel
  • Overview
  • Safety and Security
  • Local Laws and Customs
  • Natural Disasters and Climate
  • Additional Information
  • Embassy Contact

Overview

General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation

Ireland is implementing the new EU ‘traffic lights’ approach to travel, which applies to countries in the EU / EEA. Our current advice for travel to these countries is ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. Our general advice for any other overseas travel remains ‘avoid non-essential travel’ or in some cases, ‘do not travel’.

Our TravelWise app has been suspended while we move to implement the new EU system. We apologise for this inconvenience. Updated information will continue to be provided on this website.

On 13 October, Member States adopted the EU Recommendation on a coordinated approach to travel restrictions in the context of COVID-19. This ‘traffic lights’ approach provides for regions across the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) to be categorised as green, orange, red or grey, on the basis of the risk levels associated with COVID-19. A combined indicator map will be published each week by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), based on agreed criteria, including the 14-day cumulative incidence rate, testing rate and testing positivity rates.

In line with the EU Recommendation, there will be no entry restrictions on passengers travelling from green regions. Each Member State will decide what entry restrictions it will apply to passengers travelling from red, orange and grey regions.

Information about what to do on entering Ireland from abroad:

All passengers arriving into Ireland from overseas are obliged to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form before entry. For further details please see the Irish Government Advice Page. Further information about current requirements for entry to Ireland is available on the Irish Government website and the HSE website.

In accordance with Government policy, which is based on official public health advice, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas, other than to countries that are part of the EU ‘traffic lights’ approach, where the advice is to exercise a high degree of caution. Everyone is asked to comply with restrictions within Ireland, including those under the National Framework for Living with COVID-19. These are listed on the Official website of the Irish Government. The situation in relation to COVID-19 continues to evolve quickly around the world. Citizens who are considering any overseas travel are advised to carefully monitor the official advice and information from the public authorities in their destination.

If you are considering travelling outside of Ireland:

Should you decide that you need to travel, you should inform yourself about any requirements in the destination to which you are travelling. Information about entry restrictions currently applied by other countries is available on the country-specific travel advice pages. Additional restrictions may be imposed, including during the duration of your visit. Flight restrictions and route cancellations continue to occur worldwide and there is no guarantee that air routes will operate as scheduled. It is important to check with your insurance provider on coverage at this time. Any Irish citizen considering any overseas travel should monitor news and information from the public authorities in their country or region of destination. Citizens are advised to follow the public health guidelines of the local health authorities and to continue to practice physical distancing measures, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette etc.

The purpose of the Department’s Travel Advice is to provide information to the general public so that individuals can make informed decisions for themselves. There are significant risks associated with international travel in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future. Citizens should be aware of the possible limitations to any consular assistance that could be provided. Any citizens who are considering travel abroad, or those already abroad, are advised to monitor our travel advice, and follow us on Twitter. They are also advised to register with their local Irish Embassy or Consulate and regularly check their website and Twitter accounts for details of any local public health measures and travel restrictions.

Where to go for further travel information:

Overview

Security status

Avoid non-essential travel

Security Status Last Updated: 17 March 2020

Latest Travel Advice

As a result of a confirmed case of COVID-19, the government of Bhutan has currently imposed restrictions on all incoming tourists for two weeks, applicable from 6 March 2020. Foreign nationals will not be allowed to enter the country at this time. Further information can be found on the website of Bhutan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: https://www.mfa.gov.bt/?p=7435

Novel Coronavirus

Cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in Bhutan.

See links below for details.

Bhutan Ministry of Heath

WHO

If you are in Bhutan, you should monitor developments regularly and follow the advice of local authorities.

Be alert to common signs of infection: respiratory problems, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Seek medical advice if you experience these symptoms.

HSE medical advice to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 is below.
Do:
• wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
• put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands
Don’t:
• touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
Additional information on COVID-19 can be found via the following links:

HSE

HPSC

ECDC

World Health Organisation

Travel Advice

Bhutan has banned the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products. Offenders will be charged with smuggling and can expect to be heavily fined. Visitors who enter Bhutan with tobacco products for personal use will be liable to pay tax and duty charges

Emergency Assistance

Because there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan, we’re limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency. However, if you need assistance, you can contact Consular Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin.

EU Directive on Consular Protection

Under the EU Consular Protection Directive, Irish nationals may seek assistance from the Embassy or Consulate of any other EU member state in a country where there is no Irish Embassy or permanent representation.

Our tips for safe travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and Security

Safety and security

Terrorism

Although the threat from terrorism in Bhutan is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates. 

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in Bhutan but you should take sensible precautions: 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place. 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Be careful on a night out and exercise caution.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Bhutan, report it to the local police immediately.

Driving

Bhutan has no rail system and few main roads. If you’re planning to drive, be aware that traffic drives on the left, as in Ireland. Driving conditions can be dangerous, particularly in the mountains, where there are sharp curves, limited visibility and narrow roads.

However, tourists rarely drive in Bhutan as their visits must be arranged through tour operators traveling in groups with experienced coach drivers. If you want to drive, bring your international driving permit, request temporary authorisation to drive through your tour agency and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance

Hiring a vehicle

If you do hire a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local Laws and Customs

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal. To avoid offence in Bhutan it is advisable to dress conservatively and to respect religious and social traditions. 

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms. 

Local culture

You need special written permission from Bhutanese immigration authorities before visiting certain government buildings, state institutions and some sites of cultural and religious importance.

LGBT

Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Bhutan. Caution and discretion are advised at all times.

Forbidden products

Bhutan has banned the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products. Offenders will be charged with smuggling and can expect to be heavily fined. Visitors who enter Bhutan with tobacco products for personal use will be liable to pay tax and duty charges

Natural Disasters and Climate

Natural disasters and climate

Earthquake

Bhutan is in an active earthquake zone. If you’re travelling to or living in Bhutan, make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake.

Flooding

The annual monsoon season runs from early May to October. There are frequent landslides and mountain roads can be hazardous, even in good weather. Monitor local weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

Additional Information

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

Bhutan’s tourism industry is small and strictly regulated. It’s not possible for a western tourist or business traveller to enter Bhutan as an independent traveller. If you want to visit Bhutan, you must first register and confirm an itinerary with a specialist Bhutanese travel agent or group tour operator. The tour operator will process all visa and immigration requirements, issue an entry visa and make flight and accommodation reservations as appropriate.

The cost for such services can be high. A minimum daily rate of approximately US$200 per person is charged which also covers meals, guided excursions, cultural programmes and domestic transport. Failure to re-confirm travel plans with the tour operator and pay for the itinerary in full before travelling will result in travellers being refused entry.

On arrival, you must also pay a further US$20 visa fee and provide two passport-sized photos.

You must obtain a special permit from the Bhutanese Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs to travel to beyond Thimphu and Paro, but this can normally be done through your tour operator.

You can get more information (in English) on entry requirements from the Bhutanese Ministry of Tourism.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Bhutan.

There are restrictions on the import of medicines into Bhutan which means that you may only bring in medicines that are clearly for your own personal use, and with a prescription where possible. 

Medical facilities

Hospitals, medical facilities and health care services in Bhutan are generally of a very poor standard, particularly outside of Thimphu. Visitors may have to travel for several hours in order to get adequate medical services for serious illness and may have to be evacuated to India for further treatment. Medical treatment can be expensive and payment in advance may be required.

Acute Mountain Sickness

There are no particular health concerns but trekkers may experience Acute Mountain Sickness at high altitudes and should be well informed about possible hazards in high mountains.

Money

Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum and Indian Rupees are also widely accepted. There are no ATMs in the country and it’s not possible to use credit cards. We strongly recommend you purchase travellers’ cheques in US Dollar denominations before leaving Ireland, which can be exchanged at any Bank of Bhutan branch or most major hotels in Thimphu.

Electronic equipment

Personal computers, mobile telephones, cameras and all other personal electronic devices must be examined and registered by customs authorities upon arrival at a port of entry and checked again at time of departure.

More travel advice

As we do not have an Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan, travel advice may be updated with delays. 

But you can visit these foreign ministries for more detailed information: 

 

Embassy contact

Embassy Contact

Please contact our Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin if you need guidance on the nearest assistance and we will help you as best we can.

Our number is: +353 1 408 2000.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Iveagh House
80 St Stephen’s Green
Dublin 2
D02 VY53

Tel: + 353 (0) 1 408 2000

24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Contact us