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Is Bhutan safe for solo female travelers?

Is Bhutan safe for solo female travelers?

For solo female travelers, safety plays a pivotal role when choosing a destination for a vacation. In Asia, one can safely say that Bhutan is the safest holiday destination. Why so? The reason is that one will always have a local guide for company while traveling. Yes, in Bhutan, independent travel is not allowed. This makes it one of the safest destinations in the world for all types of travelers: solo, couples, groups, or family.

Bhutan, whose total land mass is smaller than that of the US state of Indiana, focuses on the policy of high-value and low-volume tourism. The decision to bar independent travel by tourists has been taken to preserve the unique culture and fragile ecosystem of the Himalayan kingdom.

Located in the eastern Himalayas and surrounded by India and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, Bhutan is a tiny landlocked nation. Known as the Land of the Thunder Kingdom, not much is known about this Himalayan country as it followed a policy of isolation and barred outsiders from entering the country.

The world got to know about the kingdom when the third king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, led his country on a path of modernization and development and shed the kingdom's old policy of isolation from the outside world. Through the late king's efforts, Bhutan was able to join the United Nations in 1971, and the world finally got to know about the existence of this hidden Himalayan country.

In 1974, Bhutan opened its borders to tourists, and a total of 287 tourists were welcomed in Bhutan in the first year. Even though it has been decades since tourism was introduced in the country, Bhutan still remains unknown in many parts of the world.

The mystery and mystique surrounding Bhutan make it an exotic destination for travelers on the lookout for a new destination. Moreover, in recent years, Bhutan has emerged as a champion of environmental conservation and sustainable tourism, which in turn has made it one of the hotspots for eco-tourism. The beautiful culture and abundant nature surrounding the country make Bhutan one of the ideal destinations to take a much-needed break from the chaos of modern life and restore one's balance.

How do Bhutanese people view solo female travelers?

Bhutanese people are respectful and welcoming towards all tourists, regardless of gender. Bhutan is one of the few countries in South Asia where women enjoy considerable freedom and are not openly discriminated. In rural areas as well as in the urban sector, women can be seen working alongside men and contributing to the economy.

While traveling in Bhutan, one does not have to face hassles from touts or scammers. This is also one country in Asia where the locals will respect your personal space and let you explore in peace. People over here are law-abiding and peaceful. However, tourists on their part should also be mindful of the country's traditions and customs and should respect them, especially while visiting religious shrines and monasteries.

Why should you visit Bhutan?

Bhutan is small in area, but it's a rich storehouse of Buddhist culture, Himalayan flora and fauna, and is one of the best preserved Himalayan ecosystems. It is one of those rare countries where the lives of the people and the physical structures blend harmoniously with nature.

According to Bhutanese law, 70 percent of the total land area must be covered in forests, and people are discouraged from using industrial pesticides and fertilizers. This, in turn, has kept Bhutan's air and vegetation free from chemical pollutants. While you are in Bhutan, you will be able to enjoy not only the breathtaking Himalayan landscape but also its pure air and organic food products.

Bhutan is home to sacred sites blessed by Guru Rimpoche, or Padmasambhava (also known as the Second Buddha). The landscape of Bhutan is dotted with isolated monasteries, ancient fortresses, and quaint Bhutanese traditional homes. With no skyscrapers or ugly concrete highrises defacing the natural landscape, one can enjoy pristine natural views from any spot in Bhutan.

Another reason to visit Bhutan is to witness its vibrant festivals. Bhutanese celebrate at least one festival each month. Often, these festivals are held in the courtyards of monasteries and include masked dances or chams, religious skits, and discourses by religious heads. Every city or town has its own Tshechhu, which is celebrated at the chief monastery of that area. The Tschehhu, or Buddhist festival, runs for several days and often ends with the unfurling of giant thanks or Buddhist scroll paintings. Paro Tshechu, Punakha Tshechu, and Thimphu Tshechu are some of the grandest Tshechus celebrated in the country. Jambay Lakhang Drup, Haa Summer Festival, Black-necked Crane Festival, and the Royal Highland Festival are some of the other interesting festivals that showcase Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage.

This remote Himalayan nation nestled deep in the mountains is also a must-visit destination for those seeking to heal and detox from the fast-paced modern world. Bhutan provides the ideal environment to slow down and appreciate our natural world. The country offers myriad outdoor activities that one can enjoy while visiting the country-trekking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, bird watching, etc.

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Which are the most popular tourist destinations in Bhutan?

Most tourists in Bhutan prefer to visit the three major cities of Bhutan: Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha. If people have time, they will include Phobjika or Gangtey Valley in their itinerary. For those who wish to delve deeper into the frontiers of Bhutan, they visit the Haa Valley, Trongsa, Lasa, Wangdue Phodrang, etc.

The most popular sites in Bhutan frequented by tourists are the Tiger's Nest in Paro, the Punakha Dzong in Punakha, the Buddha Dordenma statue in Thimphu, and the nesting site of the Black Necked Cranes in the Phobjika Valley.

What are the activities you can enjoy in Bhutan?

Cultural Tour

Bhutan has a rich and unique cultural heritage. Being cut off from the rest of the world has helped Bhutan preserve its culture and traditions, which are steeped in Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. The country's ancient dzongs, or traditional fortresses, monasteries, and lakhangs, or Buddhist temples, are repositories of Bhutan's rich culture.

During a cultural tour, you can sample all the cultural highlights of the country: Tiger's Nest or Taktsang Monastery, Punakha Dzong, Tashicho Dzong, Chimi Lakhang, Buddha Dordenma, Paro Dzong, Gangtey Monastery, and Changangkha Lakhang. Kyichu Lakhang, etc.

All these sites are spread over the three cultural hubs of Bhutan-Paro, Punakha, Thimphu, and Gangtey.

Himalayan Trekking

Bhutan has some of the best trekking trails in the Himalayan region. These trails traverse the foothills of the Himalayan mountains and weave across pristine alpine forests and the seasonal shelters of nomadic yak herders. Some of the best-known Himalayan treks in Bhutan include the Druk Path Trek, Laya Gasa Trek, Snowman's Trek, Jomolhari Trek, and the Dagala Thousand Lakes.

As the trails pass through uninhabited forests and hills with no villages or lodges en route, one has to camp at the stops en route. Thus, one can enjoy old-style camping while trekking in Bhutan. The trekking crew will include a trekking guide, kitchen staff to prepare food, horses or ponies that will carry the luggage, food supplies, tents, etc.

At the end of each day's trek, a spot will be chosen to set up camp by the local crew. A sleeping tent for the clients to sleep in, a dining tent, and a kitchen tent to prepare food are pitched. The crew carries foldable chairs and stools where the clients can sit, relax, and enjoy the view from the campsite. Clients are served freshly cooked and nutritious meals during the trek.

Short Hiking

About seventy-two percent of Bhutan's land is covered by forests. In each city or town in Bhutan, you will find a hiking trail that is still active and used by locals. These trails, more often than not, lead to hilltop monasteries or Buddhist shrines. Some of the best short hikes in Bhutan include the famous Tiger's Nest or Taktsang Monastery Hike, Bumdra Monastery Hike, KilaNunnery Hike, Chele La Pass Hike, Khansum Yulley Chorten Hike, etc. These hiking trails meander past picturesque pine forests, paddy fields and traditional farms.


Rafting in the Mo Chhu river by the impressive Punakha Dzong

There's no dearth of fast-flowing Himalayan rivers in Bhutan. However, only a few rivers are open for commercial whitewater rafting. One can enjoy rafting in Punakha's Mo Chhu and Po Chhu Rivers. While Mo Chhu, or the Mother River, has a gentler flow and is recommended for beginners, Po Chhu, or the Father River, on the other hand, has fast rapids and is ideal for thrillseekers.

The Drangme Chhu and Mangde Chhu rivers at Pangbang, close to Royal Manas National Park, are also open for rafting activities.


One can enjoy kayaking in these rivers-Po Chhu and Mo Chhu in Punakha, Paro Chhuin Paro, and Mangde Chhuin Trongsa. These Himalayan rivers offer kayaking opportunities for both beginners and experienced kayakers.

Mountain Biking

Bhutan has some great off-road tracks that are ideal for mountain biking. One can whizz past villages and towns via woodland paths, all the while enjoying the mesmerizing views of the snow-covered Himalayan mountains and green hills.

Motorbike Tour

Motorbike tours in Bhutan are quite popular among tourists. One can ride across the major towns and cities on tarmac or choose a more adventurous option by opting to ride on off-road trails.

Wildlife Safari

Bhutan has a rich wildlife that includes some of the most rare and endangered species of birds and animals. This Himalayan nation has ten national parks and wildlife sanctuaries that protect and preserve the rare Himalayan flora and fauna.

The most popular destination for a wildlife safari is the Royal Manas National Park, a UNESCO natural World Heritage Site. The park, which lies in the south-central part of Bhutan, is home to a wide variety of endangered animals like the Royal Bengal Tiger, rhinoceros, Asiatic water buffalo, Asian elephant, etc. The park is regarded as one of the ten global biodiversity hot spots.

Bird-watching Tour

Bhutan is home to about six hundred species of birds. Unspoiled scenery and pristine forests provide the perfect backdrop for a birding tour. Blood pheasant, Himalayan Monal, white-bellied heron, Satyr tragopan, Greater Adjutant, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Bhutan Laughing Thrush, Blue-fronted Robin, etc. are some of the winged creatures you can sight in Bhutan.

The endangered Black-necked Crane migrates from Tibet to Phbojika Valley during the winter months. November is a great time to head to the Phobjika or Gangtey Valley to witness the roosting sites of these endangered birds. November is also the month when the Black-Necked Crane Festival is held at the Gangtey Monastery to celebrate the arrival of these birds.

The black-necked cranes are considered sacred beings by Bhutanese people and their migration to Bhutan is seen as an auspicious sign. According to the locals, these birds circle the Gangtey Monastery three times upon their arrival and departure. During the festival, the monks as well as the local villagers perform songs, masked dances, and skits celebrating the arrival of the birds in their midst.

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Fishing Expedition

If you are into angling and fishing is a favorite hobby, then you will surely enjoy a fishing expedition in Bhutan's pristine rivers and mountain lakes. Bhutan is blessed with fast-flowing Himalayan rivers and mountain lakes teeming with aquatic life. These rivers and lakes are ideal sites for fishing expeditions. On the glacier-fed rivers and lakes, you will find the giant golden mahseer, Himalayan trout, coldwater brown trout, catfish, and other indigenous species of fish.

The mountain lakes of Bhutan are also great spots for fishing. Simkota Lake, Jimilang Tsho Lake, Jama Tsho, Reli Tsho, and Hen Tsho are some of the mountain lakes where you can engage in trout fishing by obtaining a fishing permit. Since these mountain lakes are located in remote mountains and can be reached only by undertaking a trek of several days, one can combine Himalayan trekking with a fishing expedition to get to these lakes.


Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Bhutanese men love being outdoors, and archery or Dhais one of the popular activities they engage in. The archery ranges are located in open village fields or large grounds. The target is usually placed at a distance of 145 meters. The traditional Bhutanese bow is made of bamboo, while reeds sourced from the jungles are used to make arrows. For more serious competitions, archers can now be seen using modern, foreign-made bows and arrows.

An archery competition is a fun event where team members of rival factions try to distract each other through shouts and songs while shooting. When the target is hit, there is dancing and singing. 

Often, women act as cheerleaders and sing and cheer for their teams. There is laughter, jokes, and lots of singing and dancing during an archery event.

Village Homestay

There's no better way of immersing oneself in Bhutan's culture than living with a local family. A village homestay will give you ample opportunity to experience Bhutanese life in close quarters. Living with a Bhutanese family on their village farm will be an excellent opportunity to learn about their age-old traditions and customs.

Yoga and Meditation

As more than seventy percent of Bhutan is covered by forests, Bhutan offers the ideal conditions for yoga and meditation retreats. Life in Bhutan flows at a slow pace, and there is zero pollution (noise or air pollution) in most places. The tranquil ambiance and abundant vegetation will offer you the best conditions to raise your inner consciousness and connect with your higher self. Some resorts offer yoga and meditation packages where the clients get to learn from experienced teachers or gurus.

Monastic Stay

 If you are interested in Buddhism and wish to increase your spiritual awareness, a retreat or a short stay at a nunnery or monastery will prove advantageous. Bhutan is a Buddhist country, and the rules of Buddhist dharma are practiced by Bhutanese people in their everyday lives. The monasteries and nunneries are sacred and venerated spaces where monks and nuns gather to enrich their lives in Buddhist spiritualism. Some of the monasteries and nunneries that welcome guests are Dodeydra Monastery, Phaojoding Monastery, and Gangtey Monastery.

Bhutan Visa

Basically, the local agency you book your tour with will arrange your Bhutan visa. However, you can also get it online by paying a fee of USD 40. One should note that one is required to pay the total amount of SDF while obtaining the visa.

  • To apply for an online visa, you will need the following:
  • A copy of your passport with six months of validity
  • A digital copy of your recent passport-size photo
  • Your arrival and departure dates and itinerary
  • Details of your travel insurance
  • SDF payment details

The nationals of Bangladesh and the Maldives have the facility of obtaining a visa on arrival, while Indian nationals are allowed entry into Bhutan without a visa by furnishing the required documents and paying the required daily fee (Bhutanese NU 1200). More information can be obtained from Bhutan's government Immigration Department's website:

What is SDF, and why should you know about it?

If you are planning to travel to Bhutan, you should certainly be informed about the daily sustainable Development Fee.

SDF, or Sustainable Development Fee, is a per-day fee that the government of Bhutan charges tourists. Yes, a tourist visiting Bhutan has to pay a daily fee of USD 100. This fee does not include the cost of hotel accommodation, guide charges, or transportation. Earlier, the SDF was fixed at USD 200, but after the pandemic lockdowns were lifted, the SDF was slashed to half in order to boost tourism in the country. The present SDF of USD 100 will be applicable only until 2027. Children from ages 6 to 12 can avail of a concession of fifty percent, while there will be no SDF charged for children below the age of 6 years.

There's an incentive (valid only until the end of 2024) for those who plan to stay longer in Bhutan. Tourists who are on a 4-day package can extend their stay up to an additional four days without the SDF being levied for the additional days. Likewise, a holiday package of 12 days will offer tourists an opportunity to extend their stay up to a month without SDF (after the twelfth day, the daily SDF won't be levied). The Sustainable Development Fee for Indians is a little lower at BhutaneseNgultrum 1200 per day.

The Sustainable Development Fee collected from tourists go to fund the country's development projects. The funds collected from SDF are invested in Bhutan's free healthcare and education schemes, infrastructural projects, skill development programs for youths, and projects to enhance tourism facilities and protect the environment.

How to enter Bhutan?

You can fly into Bhutan directly from any of these international hubs-Nepal (Kathmandu), Thailand (Bangkok), Singapore, Bangladesh (Dhaka), and India (Delhi, Bagdogra, Kolkatta, Mumbai, Gaya, and Guwahati). There are only two airlines that operate flights in Bhutan: Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. No foreign flights are allowed to land in Bhutan's airspace because of the country's extreme terrain. Bhutan has only one international airport, which is situated in Paro.

One can also enter Bhutan via the land border that Bhutan shares with India. The Jaigaon-Phuentsholing border in south-west Bhutan is the most popular land entry point. The border lies between the West Bengal state of India and Phuentsholing, a small Bhutanese town about 170 kilometers from Thimphu. The other border entry-exit points include Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar. Both of these Bhutanese border towns can be accessed from Assam, a state in the northeastern part of India.

Conclusion – Is Bhutan safe for solo female travelers?

Bhutan, as a holiday destination, ticks all the boxes for safety and security that a female traveler requires while traveling. The country has a very low crime rate and crimes against tourists are unheard of and rare. The locals are warm, polite and tend to be shy. Unlike in other parts of South Asia, they do not bother tourists and keep to themselves.

If you are a solo female traveler interested in Buddhism and Himalayan adventures, then Bhutan could be the ideal destination for you. This Himalayan country is also a great vacation spot for digital detox, meditation, and spa retreats. Covered by swathes of rich green forests, Bhutan is one destination where you will be able to breathe in clean air, reconnect with nature, and find your inner self. You will certainly love Bhutan if you are a nature lover and love being outdoors. The fascinating culture and positive nature of the people will surely enrich your holiday experience.

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