Tourists coming to Bhutan need to take special permission from the authorities, as Bhutan wants to keep its attractions and its culture and traditions untouched and unspoiled. However, there are a large number of places to explore and spend a great vacation. If you want to know about the places to visit in Bhutan then there a lot of things written about it, you can read about them easily. The main focus is to know how to reach there and what activities a backpacker can feasibly perform and where they can stay. This Bhutan Backpacking guide will definitely serve as a quick starter guide for backpackers.
Guide to Bhutan Backpacking
This short guide will assist you in planning Bhutan backpacking trip and how you can have fun, whether you are alone or with friends. Read on carefully to know about every relevant detail:
First of all you need to take permission from the Bhutanese authorities. You shall be impressed to see how courteous are the Bhutanese immigration people. At first you need to reach the Bhutanese permit office in Phuentsholing, the staff over there is very friendly and helpful. The entire process takes around 2 hours, if one remains calm and quite.
Phuentsholing to Thimphu
To start with your Bhutan Backpacking, you need to travel from Pheuntsholing to the capital of Bhutan i.e. Thimphu. After completing the permit processes, take a coaster, which runs every half hour till 4.30 from Phuentsholing to Thimphu. Also, regular buses travel from here to Paro, you can also opt to go to Paro. Furthermore, one can take a shared taxi, which is available at a distance of 5-10 minutes walk from the bus stand. The fare of taxi depends on the type of car you chose.
Related Article: Best Places to Visit in Thimphu
Where to Stay
One of the most important concerns of every backpacker is where to stay, because they are on a limited budget and they cannot just any perfect hotel for their stay. There are many budget hotels in Thimphu, which can fit in the budget of backpackers. If you choose twin sharing, then it will be more affordable for you. Tanden and Hotel Ghasel are the perfect options for those coming for Bhutan backpacking.
Permit extension & inner line permit in Thimphu
You can get your permit extended and get an inner line permit issued in Thimphu only on weekdays, as the office is closed on weekends. You can visit the permit office between 9:30am to 6:30pm. On Mondays, the permit office is heavily crowded, try not to go on this day, only if there is an urgency. You need to go right at the time when it opens or soon after lunch break, to avoid any kind of rush.
Thimpu to Paro / Haa / Wangdue / Bhumtang
Thimpu is the capital of Bhutan and also its main town, which is further considered as the most happening place of Bhutan. If you have to explore other places, you can take bus from Thimphu. Daily buses are run from Thimphu to Paro, however, Haa, Wangdu and Bhumtang bus services run 1 to 3 times per week. At the Thimphu bus stand, you shall find a complete timetable.
Buses from Thimphu to Paro are very much luxurious coasters and the ones that take you to Central Bhutan are very basic. It is suggested to book tickets earlier, especially if you need to take a bus that runs lower in frequency. In case if you missed the bus or cannot book it ahead of time, then you can go for a shared taxi too. The shared taxis from Thimphu will take you to Paro, Haa and Wangdue.
Where to Stay in Paro
Paro is not as big as Thimphu, therefore, there are limited accommodation options. You shall find here a few budget hotels. Hotel All Seasons is comparatively much cheaper than others. However, the food and lodging over there is very basic. The in-charge over there is very friendly and makes best efforts to provide best comfort level for guests. Learn more about best places to visit in Paro.
Getting to and from Haa
Haa is relatively less touristy, so transport options are limited. Buses operate on the major routes (Paro, Thimpu and Phuentsholing), however, they operate one way thrice a week and return thrice a week (weekends there are no buses). Getting shared taxis to Haa from Paro is a bit difficult. The best thing to do is to take a shared taxi to Chhuzom, it is like a halfway point between Paro and Thimpu and means confluence. From there you should be able to get shared taxis to Haa. Infact to go anywhere from Haa the easiest option is to go to Chhuzom and wait for a shared taxi or bus from there.
Where to Stay in Haa Valley
Haa Valley is much more basic, because it’s a small village, having not more than 3 lodges or hotels. The Risum Resort is not a budget hotel, found near the army post. There are only 2 hotels that are ideal for Bhutan backpacking travelers. Tak Sing Chug Druk is one of them, offering basic food and lodging.
Day Hiking in Bhutan
If you are not interested in regular sightseeing and don’t want to go for any expensive treks, then you can go for day hiking. There are a lot of monasteries in Bhutan, and most are situated out of the way in the mountains. There are mountain trails through the forest to these monasteries, which make for great day hikes ranging from a few hours to 12-14 + hours. There are 27 day hikes across difficulty levels. Some of the ideal hiking places are Tiger’s Nest, Jela Dzong, Drukarpo, Gorena Lakhan and Jamjalo Goempa in Paro, Juney drag monastery, Puduna to Gerina village circuit and Janathanka monastery in Haa.
Bhutan backpacking is an amazing thing to do, as the country is still unexplored, so it gives you many opportunities to go off the beaten track. You just need a little time on your hands as going from one place to another can take time (on a budget). People are extremely friendly. Language is not an issue as English and / or Hindi are spoken quite widely.
If you have the time, then the Bhutanese people have the place in their hearts to welcome you and offer you their hospitality. Most of all, going to Bhutan is like stepping into a time warp. Its a blessed piece of haven, people there still care more about their well-being rather than being well-off.