Bhutan the ‘Land of Thunder Dragon’ is a real paradise, where growth is judged on the basis of happiness, not money. Lots of travelers visit Bhutan every year to enjoy the serenity of nature and the rich Buddhist culture. It’s not that easy to enter Bhutan as it seems because to protect environment and culture, the government has set a limit on a number of tourists that can enter the country on yearly basis as well as you have to pay per day tax individually which makes it a quite expensive trip.
But paying these charges are worth and if you plan properly in advance while taking care of a few important points you can save a lot and enjoy the tranquillity of Bhutan in a budget.
Plan in Advance
Planning early will save you from the extra cost, the essence of planning any budget trip is planning it in advance, at least 3 to 4 months prior. The travel, accommodation charges will be low including many other things as compared to the end moment plans.
Especially, if you are planning to travel in peak season, make sure to book everything in advance, to avoid disappointment later because the colorful festivals and enthralling trekking routes attract lots of tourist from all over the world during these seasons.
Travel in Group
A solo trip is quite expensive because government charges FIT (Free Individual Traveller) surcharge in addition to the minimum daily tariff. Which is 40 USD for solo travelers, 30 for a couple per person per night, if you are three or more than you don’t have to pay surcharges.
The first thing you can include in your plan for a budget trip to Bhutan is, go in a group. Also, the government offers different discounts on daily tariff, if you have a group of 11 and above. Check out before planning and take as many people as you can.
Travel during off-season
There is a huge difference in charges/fairs during peak and non-peak seasons. Peak tourist season is between March to May and Oct to Nov. So, if you want to save extra than travel during the off-season. The daily tariff during peak season is 250 US dollars, which falls down to 200 during off-seasons.
Similarly, hotel rates, flight fares, everything falls down which will help you in planning a budget trip. Town remains less crowded during this time making your trip serene and pristine. If you are craving for some solitude amidst tranquil nature in a budget, the off-season is the best available option for you.
Avoid traveling during festivals
Bhutan is dominated by various colorful festivals depicting their culture. Especially, Paro and Thimphu Tshechu which are famous during high tourist season and usually showcase dances in colorful elaborate costumes depicting their culture, it’s a major attraction for backpackers. Not only cultural but there are lots of other festivals displaying other interests, such as Black-Necked Crane Festival, Royal Highlander Festival, Rhododendron Festival, Ura Matsusake Mushroom Festival, and Haa Summer Festival, etc.
If you will travel during famous seasonal festivals than surely it will be harsh on your pocket. Traveling during off-season doesn’t mean you won’t get the chance to explore culture or festival. Check out the festival calendar of the year you will find few in off-seasons too.
Home Stay Is A Good Option
Hotels are good but costly, on the other hand, homestays are a better option which will save your money and bring you close to the culture & locals. If you want to explore the real-life of Bhutanese, homestay is for you, you will understand how they live, what they eat, what exactly their daily life look likes. The homestays won’t be well equipped with all amenities, but it’s worth experience for a true explorer and nature lover.
Avoid Premium/Luxury Tour Packages
For a budget tour, you have to avoid premium tour packages. Premium packages include luxury and ultra-luxury hotels, private tours and activities, they are all subject to additional charges which will convert your budget tour into a highly expensive holiday. However, the minimum daily package is an all-inclusive package that includes your accommodation in 3-star hotel, 3-times meals per day, local transportation, entry fees for tourist attractions as well as a professional tour guide.
Explore Royalty Exempted Regions
There are certain regions where you don’t have to pay the sustainable development fee of USD 65 which is a part of your minimum daily tariff. Eastern region is one of them, to promote tourism and boost economic activity in the eastern region, sustainable development fee is exempted. Travelers don’t need to pay the fee to explore the eastern region which allows a lower minimum daily tariff.
The eastern region includes Mongar, Tashigang, Lhuntse, Tashi Yangtse, Pema Gatshel and Samdrup Jongkhar districts. The sites include national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, highlanders leading a nomadic culture, ancient medieval fortresses and many isolated idyllic traditional Bhutanese villages, they are all off-beat, beautiful and serene destinations. Perfect place to enjoy the tranquil nature, far from the hectic city life.
It is easy to plan a budget trip, if you plan it timely, do the booking in advance, spend some time in research and explore different sites for discount and offers. Compare the prices and then finalize the best option. If you have enough time, then you can also avoid private transportations, and use public/sharing transportation, traveling in groups also helps.
Don’t forget a few important points to optimize the fun and minimize the expense when you are in Bhutan. ATMs are available in markets, but they can go out of cash or deny your ATM or maybe allow you to withdraw small amounts, that’s why keep the cash handy.
You can easily calculate cash needed because your trip will be pre-paid, you just need cash for your own expenses such as shopping, tips, drinks, etc. However, at hotels and handicrafts, your credit card will work. With few efforts, you can easily plan a Budget trip to Bhutan and enjoy the pristine nature along with the rich culture and welcoming people.