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Bhutan

If you’re travelling to Bhutan, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Security Status

  • Normal precautions
  • High degree of caution
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Do not travel
  • Overview
  • Safety and Security
  • Local Laws and Customs
  • Natural Disasters and Climate
  • Additional Information
  • Embassy Contact

Overview

General COVID-19 Travel Advisory in Operation

General advice to avoid non-essential travel and ‘Normal Precautions’ list of exemptions:

In accordance with Government policy, which is based on official public health advice, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship.

Travel to a very limited set of locations is exempted from this advice. Individuals arriving into Ireland from these locations will not be required to restrict their movements upon entry. These locations currently have a ‘normal precautions’ (“green”) security status rating. As of 4 August 2020, these locations are:

  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Norway
  • Slovakia

Inclusion on the list is based on the current epidemiological situation and related public health information in each location. The list and related travel advice will be reviewed on a fortnightly basis, based on advice from officials, including public health experts. Any updates or changes will be based on Government decisions. The latest updates will always be uploaded first to this General COVID-19 Travel Advisory. Country-specific tabs will be updated subsequently, and as quickly as possible, but this advisory is the primary source of information for the latest version of the list. The above list was updated on 4 August following the latest review.

If you are considering travelling outside of Ireland:

Irish citizens travelling to locations with a ‘normal precautions’ (“green”) rating are advised to follow the public health guidelines of the local health authorities and to continue to practice physical distancing measures, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette etc. The security rating for all other locations remains unchanged at either to ‘avoid non-essential travel’ (“orange”) or to ‘do not travel’ (“red”).

The purpose of the Department’s Travel Advice is to provide information to the general public so that individuals can make informed decisions for themselves.  The COVID19 pandemic continues to accelerate internationally, and there are significant risks associated with international travel. Citizens should be aware of the possible limitations to any consular assistance that could be provided. Any citizens who are considering travel abroad are advised to monitor closely our travel advice and we recommend that citizens download our TravelWise App and follow us on Twitter. Citizens travelling abroad should also register with their local Irish Embassy or Consulate and regularly check their website and Twitter accounts for details of any local public health measures and travel restrictions.

Should you need to travel for essential reasons, you should inform yourself about any requirements in place in the destination to which you are travelling.  Flight restrictions and route cancellations are happening on a daily basis worldwide and there is no guarantee that air routes will continue to operate as scheduled. Testing and restrictions may be imposed or may already be in place in other countries. It is important to check with your insurance provider on coverage at this time.

What to do on entering Ireland from abroad:

The Irish Authorities advise anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland and individuals arriving in Ireland from locations with a security rating of ‘normal precautions’ (“green”), to restrict their movements for 14 days, and this includes citizens and residents returning to Ireland. Restricting your movements means staying indoors in one location and avoiding contact with other people and social situations as much as possible. To ensure that this is being observed all passengers arriving to Ireland from overseas are obliged to complete a mandatory Public Health Passenger Locator Form and to submit it to the relevant authority at their port of entry. For further details please see the Irish Government Advice Page. Exemptions are also in place for providers of essential supply chain services such as hauliers, pilots and maritime staff. Check the Irish Government Advice Page for full information on these requirements and further advice on returning from abroad.

Where to go for more information:

We continue to make updates to our online travel advice for over 200 countries and recommend that you download our TravelWise App and follow us on Twitter. If abroad you should register with your local Irish Embassy or Consulate and regularly check their website and Twitter accounts for details of any local public health measures and travel restrictions.

Overview

Security status

Avoid non-essential travel

Security Status Last Updated: 17 March 2020

Latest Travel Advice

As a result of a confirmed case of COVID-19, the government of Bhutan has currently imposed restrictions on all incoming tourists for two weeks, applicable from 6 March 2020. Foreign nationals will not be allowed to enter the country at this time. Further information can be found on the website of Bhutan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: https://www.mfa.gov.bt/?p=7435

Novel Coronavirus

Cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in Bhutan.

See links below for details.

Bhutan Ministry of Heath

WHO

If you are in Bhutan, you should monitor developments regularly and follow the advice of local authorities.

Be alert to common signs of infection: respiratory problems, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Seek medical advice if you experience these symptoms.

HSE medical advice to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 is below.
Do:
• wash your hands properly and regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
• put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands
Don’t:
• touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
Additional information on COVID-19 can be found via the following links:

HSE

HPSC

ECDC

World Health Organisation

Travel Advice

Bhutan has banned the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products. Offenders will be charged with smuggling and can expect to be heavily fined. Visitors who enter Bhutan with tobacco products for personal use will be liable to pay tax and duty charges

Emergency Assistance

Because there is no Irish Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan, we’re limited in the help we can offer you in an emergency. However, if you need assistance, you can contact Consular Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin.

EU Directive on Consular Protection

Under the EU Consular Protection Directive, Irish nationals may seek assistance from the Embassy or Consulate of any other EU member state in a country where there is no Irish Embassy or permanent representation.

Our tips for safe travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

Safety and Security

Safety and security

Terrorism

Although the threat from terrorism in Bhutan is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates. 

Crime

Crime remains relatively low in Bhutan but you should take sensible precautions: 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place. 
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • Be careful on a night out and exercise caution.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Bhutan, report it to the local police immediately.

Driving

Bhutan has no rail system and few main roads. If you’re planning to drive, be aware that traffic drives on the left, as in Ireland. Driving conditions can be dangerous, particularly in the mountains, where there are sharp curves, limited visibility and narrow roads.

However, tourists rarely drive in Bhutan as their visits must be arranged through tour operators traveling in groups with experienced coach drivers. If you want to drive, bring your international driving permit, request temporary authorisation to drive through your tour agency and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance

Hiring a vehicle

If you do hire a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local Laws and Customs

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal. To avoid offence in Bhutan it is advisable to dress conservatively and to respect religious and social traditions. 

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms. 

Local culture

You need special written permission from Bhutanese immigration authorities before visiting certain government buildings, state institutions and some sites of cultural and religious importance.

LGBT

Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Bhutan. Caution and discretion are advised at all times.

Forbidden products

Bhutan has banned the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products. Offenders will be charged with smuggling and can expect to be heavily fined. Visitors who enter Bhutan with tobacco products for personal use will be liable to pay tax and duty charges

Natural Disasters and Climate

Natural disasters and climate

Earthquake

Bhutan is in an active earthquake zone. If you’re travelling to or living in Bhutan, make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake.

Flooding

The annual monsoon season runs from early May to October. There are frequent landslides and mountain roads can be hazardous, even in good weather. Monitor local weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

Additional Information

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

Bhutan’s tourism industry is small and strictly regulated. It’s not possible for a western tourist or business traveller to enter Bhutan as an independent traveller. If you want to visit Bhutan, you must first register and confirm an itinerary with a specialist Bhutanese travel agent or group tour operator. The tour operator will process all visa and immigration requirements, issue an entry visa and make flight and accommodation reservations as appropriate.

The cost for such services can be high. A minimum daily rate of approximately US$200 per person is charged which also covers meals, guided excursions, cultural programmes and domestic transport. Failure to re-confirm travel plans with the tour operator and pay for the itinerary in full before travelling will result in travellers being refused entry.

On arrival, you must also pay a further US$20 visa fee and provide two passport-sized photos.

You must obtain a special permit from the Bhutanese Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs to travel to beyond Thimphu and Paro, but this can normally be done through your tour operator.

You can get more information (in English) on entry requirements from the Bhutanese Ministry of Tourism.

Health

Check with your doctor well in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Bhutan.

There are restrictions on the import of medicines into Bhutan which means that you may only bring in medicines that are clearly for your own personal use, and with a prescription where possible. 

Medical facilities

Hospitals, medical facilities and health care services in Bhutan are generally of a very poor standard, particularly outside of Thimphu. Visitors may have to travel for several hours in order to get adequate medical services for serious illness and may have to be evacuated to India for further treatment. Medical treatment can be expensive and payment in advance may be required.

Acute Mountain Sickness

There are no particular health concerns but trekkers may experience Acute Mountain Sickness at high altitudes and should be well informed about possible hazards in high mountains.

Money

Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum and Indian Rupees are also widely accepted. There are no ATMs in the country and it’s not possible to use credit cards. We strongly recommend you purchase travellers’ cheques in US Dollar denominations before leaving Ireland, which can be exchanged at any Bank of Bhutan branch or most major hotels in Thimphu.

Electronic equipment

Personal computers, mobile telephones, cameras and all other personal electronic devices must be examined and registered by customs authorities upon arrival at a port of entry and checked again at time of departure.

More travel advice

As we do not have an Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan, travel advice may be updated with delays. 

But you can visit these foreign ministries for more detailed information: 

 

Embassy contact

Embassy Contact

Please contact our Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin if you need guidance on the nearest assistance and we will help you as best we can.

Our number is: +353 1 408 2000.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Iveagh House
80 St Stephen’s Green
Dublin 2
D02 VY53

Tel: + 353 (0) 1 408 2000

24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Contact us