Updated in September 8, 2023
One of the most asked questions about Bhutan travel is how much it costs to visit Bhutan. To answer that question, the cost of traveling to Bhutan in 2023 ranges from US$ 250 – US$ 2,000 per night per person, depending on your tour type and services.
Anyone entering this nation must pay the government for Sustainable Development Fee-SDF US$ 200 per night. The Bhutan government overhauled the tourism system and raised the cost to US$ 200 but Bhutan government recently changed SDF fee to US$ 100 until August 31, 2027. Visitors no longer need to stick to the standard itinerary; they can customize their travel plans and pay accordingly. It means they have to pay separately for their travel expenses on accommodation, meals, entrance fees, and several other expenditures.
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is known for its monasteries, unique culture, fortresses (or dzongs), dramatic landscapes, and Gross National Happiness. Bhutan boasts some must-visit places in the world. But it draws limited tourists every year.
And there's a reason for it. This tiny Himalayan kingdom is arguably among the most expensive travel destinations in the world due to its government policy. A traveler must pay US$ 200 per night per person labeled Sustainable Development Fee, compared to the earlier US$ 65. To curb the influx of tourists into the country and offer quality service, the government of Bhutan enacted this tariff for incoming tourists in June 2022. Bhutan prides on its sustainable approach: High Volume, Low Impact.
Bhutan's travel expense is higher than its neighboring countries, India and Nepal. 30% to 40% of the sustainable Development Fee is reserved to support the health sector, education, environmental protection, and preservation of the culture. This implies that the tourism fee is crucial for the country's development and cultural preservation. Bhutan is keen to protect its culture and environment and lower the negative impact of (mass) tourism.
The main reason Bhutan is expensive is the tourism fee per night per person. Here are other reasons why Bhutan is among the most expensive countries to travel to.
Sustainable Development Fee-SDF
US$ 100 (Per Person Per Night) (until August 31, 2027)
Standard Tour Packages
US$ 350 - US$ 400 (Per Person Per Night with SDF)
Deluxe tour Packages
US$ 400 - US$ 800 (Per Person Per Night with SDF)
Luxury tour Packages
US$ 800 - US$ 2,000 (Per Person Per Night with SDF)
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The primary reason why Bhutan is so expensive is the tourism royalty fee (Sustainable Development Fee). Bhutan is not cheap unless you're from Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives. Indians, Bangladeshis, and Maldivians are among the countries that are exempt from hefty tourism fees. But they have to pay a minimum of US$ 16 to visit Bhutan. All other countries must pay US$ 200 per night per person to visit Bhutan. This new fee is applied in a bid to offset tourists' carbon impact. The government wants to offer high-quality service to a few paying tourists, emphasizing the quality of tourists over quantity.
The fee might seem absurd to budget travelers. There's no denying it. But there are certain things you need to understand. The fee will be invested to promote carbon-neutral tourism and sustainable tourism. Besides, the government will also use the money to upskill the workers in the tourism industry. The government also removed Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR), that cost around US$ 200 - US$ 250 per night per person. The fee was removed to allow tourists to have flexibility regarding tour packages.
The Bhutanese Government is thrilled to introduce new incentives and policy adjustments aimed to boost the tourism industry. Recognizing the significant contributions of tourism to job creation, foreign exchange earnings, potential ancillary industry benefits, and overall economic growth, these changes are being implemented.
Here's a breakdown of the new incentives and measures:
1. Tourists paying in US Dollars will now enjoy a fifty percent reduction on the current Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) of USD 200. This means the effective SDF will be USD 100 per person per day for these tourists.
2. Furthermore, a fifty percent reduction on the SDF will be applied for children aged between 6 to 12 years who are visiting Bhutan and paying in US Dollars.
3. The existing 24-hour SDF waiver for tourists staying in border towns will remain in place.
These incentives will be effective from September 1, 2023, and will last for four years until August 31, 2027.
Now that the Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR)- which was all-inclusive- is removed, you need to pay all internal taxes and charges. Before Covid-19, the tourism fee covered the costs of all internal taxes and charges, including a sustainable tourism royalty fee. But starting this September, travelers need to pay all internal taxes and charges while in Bhutan.
You will need to manage accommodations and meals by yourself. Or the tour operators will manage it for you. It was completely different before the Covid-19 pandemic. The US$ 250 paid to the Bhutan government included the cost of accommodations (in 3-star hotels and 3-meals every day on your trip) and meals. The fee includes three meals a day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But now, it is totally on you. You can choose to stay at 3-star or 5-star hotels, based on your budget and preference.
Let's get back to the Bhutan travel scenario back in 2019 when the government would assign a licensed guide for your trip. All you had to do was pay the Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR). A government-licensed and skilled tour guide would accompany you throughout your journey. The government would look after your travel operation for a hassle-free travel experience. Fast forward to 2022, you'll need to pay the guide for your trip by yourself.
You do need to pay for airport-to-airport service. The government won't look for your expense for internal transport service. Also, you'll need to pay for transfers between hotels and other places on your trip. Don't expect the government to look after the airport to airport service like before. Please remember you have to pay for internal flights in Bhutan. There are no discount schemes and direct flights, which also makes it expensive to travel to Bhutan.
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You need to pay a certain entrance fee, which makes Bhutan expensive to travel to. The tourist tariff you pay does not include the entrance fee to scenic spots, monasteries, and other landmarks. As a result, you'll have to bear the expense. Make sure you are aware of the entrance fees. Check with your tour operators and ensure whether the tour package includes the fee.
There are 3 tour packages for travelers visiting Bhutan. The least expensive are standard tour packages, while the most expensive ones are luxury tour packages.
The standard tour package for the Bhutan trip is arguably the cheapest tour package. The package costs range from US$ 350 to US$ 400 per night per person. This package includes a 3-star hotel and all-inclusive services with three meals daily. 3-star hotels in Bhutan are budget-friendly, offering a comfortable experience with luxurious facilities. The hotels serve Bhutanese cuisines and Chinese, Indian, and Continental cuisine.
If tourist opts for deluxe tour packages, they have to pay a sum ranging from US$ 400 to US$ 800 per night per person. This package includes a 4-star category hotel with all-inclusive service. Travelers will be accommodated at a 4-star hotel. The 4-star hotels in Bhutan offer excellent amenities for an ideal holiday experience. The hotel bestows stunning views of natural bounty and cityscape.
A luxury tour package is the most expensive, with the price tag ranging from US$ 800 to US$ 2000 per person per night. Like standard and deluxe packages, this tour package also offers all-inclusive service. Travelers get to experience superb dining and impeccable service in a 5-star hotel. One of the key features of 5-star hotels in Bhutan is the perfect location.
You can explore Bhutan with the least budget by cutting down the cost while traveling. Here are some tips for cutting down the price of a Bhutan tour.
The best option to lower the Bhutan travel budget is to travel during the low season. The months of December, January, February, June, July, and August are considered the low season for Bhutan travel. The travel expenses during a low season tend to be lower. Arguably, traveling in the lower season is ideal for budget travelers.
If you travel solo, your price becomes expensive because the logistics expenses must be borne by yourself. If you travel in a group of 2 and above, the cost is reduced.
This trick is simple-plan for a short visit to Bhutan. The fewer days your itinerary entails, the less money you'll spend. This is the most straightforward way to spend less while traveling to Bhutan. You can consult with tour operators for the shortest possible itineraries. You can explore Paro and Thimphu in just 4 days. You can spend extra days in Nepal or India if you have an extended holiday plan.
October, November, and December are the ideal time to visit Bhutan. January and February are colder months, and the monsoon starts from June to September. Generally, Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) are considered the best seasons to explore Bhutan. The clear skies reward stunning views of the mountains, while the valleys are colorful with rhododendrons blooming and greenery abound. September, October, and November are ideal for immersing in the vibrant festivals.
If you're visiting Bhutan, you have three options: standard, deluxe, and luxury tour packages. For budget travelers, a standard package is ideal. And those who wish to experience luxury travel can opt for a luxury tour package. The cost for Bhutan travel can range from US$ 350 – US$ 2,000 per night per person.