Planning your visit to Bhutan


Bhutan has long had a reputation as an exclusive, remote destination that only opens its doors to a lucky, well-heeled few. Its golden-roofed temples, magnificent fortress-like monasteries and timeless rural villages are as close to a Shangri-La as you can find in the modern world. Unfortunately, visiting paradise comes at a hefty price.

Bhutan’s tourism mantra has long been “high value, low impact,” and its aim is simple: to maximize the financial benefits of tourism while minimizing its environmental and cultural impact. It’s a perfect example of the country’s guiding policy of “Gross National Happiness.”

The country kept its doors locked tight during the Covid-19 pandemic and only reopened to tourism in September 2022, but with this reopening has come a major overhaul of the country’s strict tourism regulations. If you are tempted to take the plunge on a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Bhutan, here’s the lowdown on Bhutan’s new travel rules and exactly how to arrange a trip to this unique and magical Himalayan country.

Row of Smiling Monks in BhutanThe majority of Bhutan’s monasteries are open to the public © leezsnow / Getty Images / iStockphoto

What are the new tourism rules?

Until 2020, foreign tourists were charged a flat minimum fee of US$250 per person per day for a fully organized tour, of which US$65 went to the government to help fund free education and healthcare for Bhutan’s citizens.

Beginning September 2022, foreign tourists are now charged a US$200 per person per day Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) that the government says will further contribute to sustainable tourism development, tourism training and carbon offsetting. 

The other major change is that tour prices are no longer fixed, leaving tour companies free to charge what they want depending on the levels of service or…

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