We took a lot of pride in feeling that as Indians, one of our ‘happiest’ neighbours was treating us well, giving us the preferential treatment. But that might change soon.
Currently, Bhutan levies a hefty minimum $250/day charge for all foreigners but Indians, Nepalis and Bangladeshi’s are exempt. This $250/day charge includes visa charges, hotel accommodation that is 3-star or above, meals, transport within Bhutan, camping equipment, the services of a guide and a sustainable development fee of $65. We also do not require a visa.
The idea was that Bhutan did not want make itself into another Nepal where all the riffraff from around the world comes in with drugs taking predominance too. The proliferation of foreigners is so high in Nepal that the youth there is slowly becoming more western, leaving behind its own culture. Over-tourism is impacting Nepal is many ways. Thus Bhutan always remained a country which attracted high-value tourists.
Now news is that this exemption given to us, Nepalis and Bangladeshis might soon be taken away; we too might be required to cough up $250/day. This works out to Rs.17,000 per day and if a family of four goes, for say, four days only, the expense is a staggering Rs.2,84,000, without including airfare.
Last year, in 2018, 74% of the total 2,74,000 tourists who visited Bhutan were from the regional countries. Bhutan did not earn as much as expected and it wants to change this low-yield tourism to high-yield and also put a curb on this over-tourism.
So if you have been putting off that trip to Bhutan, do it soon before the new rule kicks in.