"We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us. The world has few secrets left, but Bhutan is one of them. Isolated from the outside for three centuries, this forbidden Kingdom in the Himalayas provides the setting for a bewitching adventure amongst widely varying peoples and terrain"
I am literally short of words and imaginations to describe the Amazing Bhutan so I am just writing a detailed information of our trip which might help fellow riders to explore Bhutan easily.
Total Distance covered :
2,200 kms(from Kolkata to Bhutan and back)
Kolkata-Burdwan-SH7-Moregram-Malda-Raiganj-Siliguri-Sevok Road-Malbazar-Jaigaon-Phuentsholing-Gedu-Thimphu-Dochula pass-Lobeysa-Punakha and then the same route back.
- Honda CBR 250
- Bajaj Pulsar NS 200
- Bajaj Pulsar 220
- TVS Apache RTR
- Yamaha FZ
- Royal Enfield Classic 350
Pre Ride Preparation:
- Aux Lamp(is a must)
- Hazard indication switch
- Proper rain gears( as it rains in Bhutan every now and then)
- Warm winter inner wear (specially the gloves)
- Carry extra plastic bags to wraps things in wet situations(as plastic is not easily available in Bhutan)
- Extra Spark plugs
- Some strong ropes, tapes and jumper wires
IMPORTANT NAMES :
Llakhang : Temple or place of worship.
Dzong: Fort like structures which are seat of power (Govt offices ) or monastries where children are
taught the Buddhist way of life. Festivals are held here on regular intervels.
Chorten: These are Stupas or small rectangular colorful religious structures that you find everywhere
including highways, hilltops, valleys and even remote areas. Chorten or Stupas are the oldest Buddhist
Getting the PERMITS :
At kolkata :
Bhutanese Consulate General in Kolkata, India
6, Mall Road, Dum Dum or
48, Tivoli Court
1a, Ballygunge Circular Road, Ballygunge
Kolkata 700 080, India
At Bhutan :
The immigration office is on the right side (beside the petrol pump) just after entering Phuentsholing gate.
Documents Required for Immigration Permit:
- Photocopies of Passport or Voter ID
- 2 passport size photographs
- Original of the same
No fee is required for the permit
The immigration office opens at 9 AM (Indian time is 8:30 AM) at the first counter you can request for a form and fill up the basic details like name, father’s name, passport / election ID number, purpose of visit, etc and attach your photo and submit at the first counter. (one form per person to be filled). If you are travelling in a group make sure to submit all the froms together. You will be made to wait and called later. Once you are called proceed to the second counter for biometric ( finger print) check and wait around. Make sure to check the counters time to time until your name is called because exactly at 4pm they will shut down all counters and you will loose one valuable day.The personal permit at Phuentsholing is valid for 7 days and is valid for travel to Paro and Thimphu only. If you want to extend your stay for more than 7 days or if you intend to visit other places such as Phunakha, Bhoomthang, Gangtey, Probjika or Haa Valley you need to obtain a special permit at Thimphu Immigration office ONLY. The special permit at Thimphu is no hassles and you need to attach a copy of your Phuentsholing permit and also mention where you intend to visit.
Make sure to stamp the permits at every checkpoints on the way. If you miss any checkpoint by mistake, you are supposed to be fined heavily But do not despair. Police are extremely friendly and helpful and generally allow you to pass without fine but a gentle warning not to repeat it next time(worked with us but can't guarantee for others ).
This can be applied at the RSTA (Regional Safety and Transport Authority) office(near the bus stand) only ‘after’ the Immigration permit is done
Documents Required for Motorcycle Permit:
- Registration Certificate (Original & Photocopy)
- Insurance of the motorcycle (Original & Photocopy)
- Emission Certificate (Original & Photocopy)
- Driving Licence (Original & Photocopy)
- Personal Immigration permit (Original & Photocopy)
Fees: 100 INR/BNT per motorcycle/day
You wont be issued a vehicle permit unless you have your personal permit. Prepare all the above docs and give it to Asst. RTO and they asks you to pay the challan. Rs. 100/- per bike/day in the opposite counter. once the receipt is produced your vehicle permit is given to you on the spot. Maintain Silence as they can't tolerate any "fish market". It is a no hassle easy procedure. Do not forget to take a copy of all the above mentioned documents to avoid delay.
The cash counter works from 9AM to 3 PM. so be there latest by 2:30 PM with all the above papers else you could loose a day just for this permit.
The vehicle permit at Phuentsholing is valid only upto Thimphu and Paro ( like personal permits). You need to extend your vehicle permit at Road Safety and Transport Authority Department (RSTA), Thimphu if you intend to go further to Punakha and other places. Again it is a hassle free exercise and does not take much time(only if you reach their office on time).
1. Recommend that the Immigration Permit holder and the motorcycle owner are the same (or else get a authorisation letter from the owner of the vehicle)
2. Bhutan time is 30 minutes ahead of Indian time. So reset your watch 30 minutes ahead asyou enter phuentsholing so as to keep yourself in Bhutan time.
3. Do not exchange INR to Bhutanese currency (BTN) – INR is accepted even in the remote corners of Bhutan, but the change tendered would be BTN. Even the new 500/2000 notes are accepted everywhere.
Riding in Bhutan:
Please adhere to strict road rules of Bhutan. Police are non corrupt and the fines are high. Traffic Rules are actual rules that people follow unlike in India – No cutting lanes, speed limit is 50km/hr, no jumping signals and yes always stop before the zebra crossing to let the pedestrian cross the road.
Helmet for the rider and pillion is mandatory.
A left side indicator from the vehicle ahead of you means you can overtake that vehicle. A right side indicator from the vehicle ahead of you indicates YOU SHOULD NOT Overtake the vehicle in front of you.
- Get a local SIM (TashiCell) Rs. 500 per sim with Rs 200 talktime and 1.5GB data(4G) – A copy of the Immigration permit is required to secure a local SIM card. Bhutan ISD code is +975; Bhutan mobile numbers are only 8 digits against 10 digits of India.
- Smoking is an absolute NO in the public – unless you want to visit Bhutan Jail too.
- Food: Mostly spicy foods are available (like - momo, fried rice, Thukpa, etc). Beef and pork are available in almost all food outlets so search for pur veg restaurants if you are allergic to meat. Also don't fail to try the local drink SUJA, made of Yak milk and tastes salty.
- Shopping – Always shop from the stalls/shops that located at the far end of the streets. They offer pretty good discounts.
Hotels and Stay:
- Average Cost of stay per head(in a room of three) - Rs 300-500.
- Hotels can be booked on-spot if you reach any place before evening(they will charge you more if you book after evening).
- If you are visiting Punakha then stay in Lobeysa instead of punakha (which is just 8 kms before punakha). This place is amazing with amazing views from hotels, local markets nearby, snooker and karaoke bar and lots more to spend the evening.
- Take photos of the Hotel boards and the rooms before you checkin.
Places of interest :
Tea gardens on your way from Siliguri to Jaigaon.
If you are staying for the night at Phuentsholing then ride 3kms(before the first checkpoint) up in the mountain from the main town at night to see the amazing view of the city at night.
Ride through the clouds at Gedu if you are lucky enough
Get awestruck by the amazing Buddha Statue(one of the largest) at Budha point in Thimphu.
Do Chula pass, Punakha Djong, Suspension Bridge and many more places that can't be explained in less.
We were lucky enough to experience heavy snowfall at Thimphu on the day of our return so we had to stay for one day extra.
I know I have missed many more points so will post other details and the rest photos very soon.
Till then enjoy some photos and the trailer of our Bhutan trip: