Is it hard to plan a trip to Bhutan (impromptu, while being in Nepal)?

The country of gross national happiness and Buddhism was not on our immediate bucket list. It was there in our imagination – because our favorite travel books told us how magical it is. But we knew it’s quite expensive to get there and be there, we knew that maybe someday, the time will come. The time has come without a warning or prior notice. Read to below to find out how we conceived the idea, how we managed to plan a trip to Bhutan and organize it for less than 10 hours while riding a bus in Nepal.

How to plan a trip to Bhutan from Nepal

Why don’t we jump over to Bhutan from Nepal?

I was waiting for Nace to arrive in Kathmandu so we can start exploring Nepal together, after my month-long yoga teacher training. I was browsing the streets of busy Thamel in search of a travel agency where I can buy bus tickets to Pokhara. Then I saw two or three signs saying “Trips to Bhutan from Kathmandu”. I believe this was the moment of inception.

We were riding the notoriously time-consuming distance between Kathmandu and Pokhara by bus. We were enjoying Nepal, but it was a bit too overwhelming as well. This is how it all began. I decided to use my data from the local SIM card and check out what those tours are and what they offered.

I emailed a couple of tourist agents (those who appeared first on my Google search). It was holiday time in Nepal so my hopes were not high. However, 20 minutes later, I received an answer from Kesh from Himalayan Mentor. We started the conversation over email, then we had a phone call and exchanged WhatsApp names.

When is the right time to visit Bhutan

High season in Bhutan is during the spring and fall months (March, April, May, September, October, and November). They have less rainfall and therefore it’s easier to explore outdoors. The price per person per day for the high season starts from 250 USD. It was October – so we would expect nice clear weather, but also a higher price per day.

So when is the right time to visit Bhutan? For us it started to look like this – we were very close to it geographically, which would imply lower-priced airfare. We could skip a day or two (or three) of our Nepal itinerary. We had a very responsive tourist agent that was ready to issue a visa and arrange flights and tour guides in Bhutan. It would cost the same money if we decided to do this a year from this moment, but coming from Bulgaria we would pay few times more for flights.

That was the right time to visit Bhutan for us – from Nepal, for just few days to get a proper introduction, very impromptu but so exciting to organize on the go!

How to plan a trip to Bhutan from Nepal

Can we plan a trip to Bhutan and get ready in less than 36 hours?

The real question here was if we could book flights, arrange the visa and tour agency in Bhutan in less than 36 hours.

We were discussing the possible dates for travel with Kesh. Turn after turn on the scenic road to Pokhara, we were eliminating options, leaving us not many of those. A lot of flights were fully booked, but it seemed we found an option – fly out of Kathmandu on Wednesday and go back on Friday. It was almost a 3-day tour of Bhutan, and we even got a small discount for missing some essential part of the third day. Airfare was not so cheap, but we were so limited in time.

Kesh applied for our visas (you need the visa arranged before you enter the country). He was waiting for confirmation from the airline, the local tour agency to take us around didn’t seem much of an issue. It looks easy, but we were actually organizing the trip on Monday afternoon, during public holidays in Nepal. So the plan was to get the flight tickets and the visa on Tuesday, so we can print them after sightseeing Pokhara the whole day and fly from Pokhara to Kathmandu on Wednesday morning, then leave our backpacks (with unnecessary clothes and the drone) with a friend somewhere in Kathmandu, then catch the afternoon flight to Paro in Bhutan. Easy peasy, right!

How to plan a trip to Bhutan from Nepal
How to plan a trip to Bhutan from Nepal: Pokhara drone

Rearranging Nepal plans

There is something magical with the impromptu trip planning (e.g. our road trip through poppy and cherry fields) but it could also be so stressful. By stressful I mean you don’t know if you’re going to one of the most closed and at the same time fascinating countries in the world tomorrow!

We changed our flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu with Buddha Air for free (Namaste!), shortening our stay in Pokhara. Inserting a new trip within the trip made us cancel our whole stay in Panauti (next time in Nepal, the first stop will be there). We booked one more night in Bhaktapur and that was all about re-arranging our time and activities in Nepal. We paid via an online web platform (drawing such amount of money would be close to impossible). It is remarkable that Kesh had to trust us that we send the money because he managed to receive it after we had gotten back home from the trip.

What do you need to travel to Bhutan

  • Your passport (send a copy of the photo page to apply for the visa) and to enter and leave the country.
  • 200/250 USD per day per person – if you travel solo, or in a couple, there is even an additional supplement. That money covers the whole package tour: a tour guide and transportation between places of interest and hotel, hotel accommodation, three meals a day, all the activities. Some of the money goes to support free education in Bhutan.
  • If you are a national of India, Maldives, Bangladesh – there is no daily rate for you, no need for a visa, and you can also try to sightsee relatively independently. We met plenty of Indian people who were particularly overwhelming on our hike up to the Tiger’s Nest.
  • Pocket money, if you want to get a drink (e.g. Bhutan beer of peach wine) and for tips and shopping. We brought some USD with us. The exchange rate at shops and bars was not so favorable, but we didn’t have any other choice. The Indian rupee is also a good option to bring as a currency in Bhutan – 1 ngultrum equals 1 Indian rupiah.
How to plan a trip to Bhutan from Nepal, Tiger's Nest

What to bring for your trip to Bhutan

  • If you suffer from high-altitude sickness, you’d want to bring some medicines to help you with that – the lowest place we were at in Bhutan was at more than 2300meters above sea level. And yes, the plane had to land at Paro in between 5- and 6-thousand meters high peaks. The glass of white wine, offered by the nice flight attendants on our Bhutan Airlines flight, didn’t act as a mild sedative, unfortunately.
  • Warm clothes – days could be sunny, but you’ll be situated at a high altitude – we were happy we brought our jackets, hoodies, and polar jumpers because evenings could be quite chilly, even during “sunny high-season” October.
  • Good walking shoes/sneakers – if you decide to take one of the many hikes, you’ll need a good shoe.
  • Camera, tripod, GoPro, smartphone – there is plenty to capture in Bhutan. We didn’t bring the drone – arranging permissions seemed to be quite long and complicated, and as you already know, we had less than 36 hours to plan and organize the whole trip to Bhutan.
How to plan a trip to Bhutan from Nepal: Landing in Paro airport

So after that super quick and effective trip planning to Bhutan, we had a blast in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon! We got to know the Bhutanese people, their culture and their land. Our almost 3-day-itinerary in Bhutan was full of interesting places and experiences in Bhutan. We will sure come back (as soon as we refill our emptied bank accounts) for more! We feel so blessed to have had the opportunity for an impromptu short trip to Bhutan!

Impromptu trip planning to Bhutan Pinterest

Would you do such a thing, if you had the chance? How do you imagine the trip to Bhutan? Do you feel attracted to that hidden treasure of Asia?

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