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Bhutan has captivated the imagination from travellers from around the world and it has been the go-to international destination for Indians since ages. A popular honeymoon and trekking destination, Bhutan boasts of stunning landscapes, untouched natural beauties and a culture famous the world over. Traveling to Bhutan as an international destination has also been on the bucket list for budget travelers and Indian bikers!
However, things are about to change. From July 2020 onwards, the country has decided to levy a Bhutan tourism fee or Sustainable Development Fee for Indian, Maldivian and Bangladeshi nationals coming into the country. The Sustainable Development Fee will make traveling to Bhutan an expensive affair, effectively weeding out budget travellers including bikers.
The story of a biker traveling to Bhutan
In October 2019, an Indian biker cause outrage by climbing atop on top of a sacred monument in Bhutan. The photos went viral on social media and soon Bhutan was buzzing with protests across the country. A biker from Maharashtra probably thought he would get a kick out of climbing on top of the National Memorial Chorten in Dochula. But things soon back fired when his photo was shared across Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms.
The biker was soon arrested by the Bhutanese police and was released only after he apologised in writing. So, what was offensive about his act? The National Memorial Chorten in Dochula is a sacred Buddhist monument symbolising Buddha’s presence. The biker was probably ignorant of this fact while attempting the stunt. Travelers from all over India came out in protest against his act but the damage was done.
How traveling to Bhutan is set to become more expensive?
In the recent past Bhutan has seen its tourism sector boom due to the influx of tourists from Asian countries, especially India, Bangladesh and Maldives. According to 2018 reports, Bhutan got more than 200,000 tourists from these regions and the country’s people fear that Bhutan was starting to become another mass tourism destination. To add to this, Indian cricketer Virat Kohli inadvertently promoted Bhutan when he posted his trip pics online.
These along with other factors is now making traveling to Bhutan a more expensive affair. Starting July 2020, Bhutan will levy a Bhutan Tourism Fee or a Sustainable Development Fee for travellers from India, Maldives and Bangladesh. It will now levy a daily fee of INR 1,200 per person and INR 600 for children aged 6 years to 12 years. So, any person who holds a passport from the above-mentioned countries will have to pay this amount while visiting Bhutan.
The fee is still a meagre amount when compared to what other foreigners pay. Citizens of other countries pay INR 4,600 onwards per day along with a compulsory flat fee of approximately INR 18,000. For more information about requirements for traveling to Bhutan, click here.
Does this apply to every destination while traveling to Bhutan?
No. This fee is applicable only in a few districts in Bhutan, mostly in the Western region where Indians prefer to traveller. To promote tourism in Eastern Bhutan, the government has decided to drop the SDF in 11 of 20 districts open for tourism.