All tourists must book their travel through a local licensed tour operator (or international partner). Visas are applied for online by your local tour operator and it is not required that you visit a Bhutanese Embassy or consulate. Your holiday must be paid in full, via a wire transfer, to the Tourism Council of Bhutan account before a tourist visa is issued. The money remains with the Tourism Council until your travel in-country is complete before the local tour operator is paid.
Visa clearance takes no longer than 72 hours, once full payment has been received. At your point of entry, the visa will be stamped in your passport on payment of USD40, also prepaid through your tour agent. Visa extensions can be obtained through your local tour operator at a cost of Nu.600 (1 Ngultrum = 1 Indian Rupee) and the tourist will also be subject to the daily tariff for the additional days.
As travel to Bhutan almost invariably requires at least one flight change in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Singapore or Thailand, ensure that you meet the visa requirements of those countries before transiting through. Nepal and Thailand offer visas on arrival or visa waiver for many nationalities. India generally requires visas for most nationalities, though 50 nationalities can obtain an electronic visa online without having to send their passports or visiting an embassy. Check your local Indian embassy/consulate for details.
The total cost for a Bhutanese visa is $250 a day during tourist high season, and $200 a day for low season. This includes basic accommodation, transportation, meals, plenty of bottled water and special entry fees. Discounts apply for minors and larger groups, while surcharges exist for groups smaller than 3. Surcharges also exist for upgrading hotels, transportation, and meals.
The only exceptions for having to book a tour as a condition for being allowed to visit are for those who receive a formal invitation to Bhutan from “a citizen of some standing” or a volunteer organisation, and those who come as guests of the Bhutanese government.