There are two easy ways of entering Bhutan from India, although there is a third entry point from Assam.One is by road from Hasimara (nearest railway station to Bhutan border) and the other is by flight from Kolkata. The flight option is not very easy on pockets although it’s a very charming way of entering Bhutan as you can get an areal view of Mt Jomolhari and the beautiful Paro river. Bhutan has only one airport at Paro and there are only three airliners which are allowed to use the Paro airport – Druk Air, Bhutan Airlines and Buddha Air. Also Paro airport is considered one of the world’s most challenging airports and only a handful number of pilots are certified to land at the airport.
|Beautiful objects at display at airport shops|
|In Bangalore Airport|
|View from train on our way to Hasimara|
Our plan of reaching Bhutan was the one easy on pockets, that is take the road. So from Bangalore we boarded our flight to Kolkata. We reached Kolkata in the after noon. I already had confirmed tickets of Kanchankanya Express from Sealdah(SDAH) to Hasimara(HSA) booked from irctc. We had our awesome lunch at Aminia (New Town). I cannot express the happiness as we dug into the soft aloo ( potato) in the mutton biriyani.
Kanchankanya Express leaves Sealdah at 8:30 PM. We reached Sealdah much early and had to wait in the waiting rooms. The condition of the retiring rooms as well as the waiting rooms at Sealdah is really pathetic. Most other railway waiting rooms that I have seen till now were much better.
As usual with Kanchankanya Express it was late by over an hour. We were supposed to reach Hasimara at 10:45 AM the next day morning, but reached around 12 noon. It is a small railway station and the one nearest to the India-Bhutan entry point. We came out of the station and took a small AC taxi and told the driver to drop us till Phuentsholing Immigration Office. He charged a very nominal fare of 400 INR( 6 USD).
A good part of the road has picturesque tea estates on either sides. Soon we reached Jaigaon which is the last village on the Indian side. We crossed the iconic Bhutan gate with mixed feelings, happy to enter our beautiful neighbor’s land but sad to leave our homeland for the next few days.
By the time we reached the permit office it was quarter to one on our watches. Bhutan is 30 minutes ahead of IST i.e, Indian Standard Time so Permit Office was closed as it was lunch time for them. The lunch time is from 1 PM to 2 PM (Bhutanese Standard Time). However the security personnel who hands out permit forms was there. He gave us three forms, one for each member. One needs to fill up individual forms for each member, attach it with a passport size photo along with xerox of photo id card. For each group a photocopy of all hotel booking receipts/confirmations and a copy of the itinerary are also required. The applications along with the attachments were submitted to the security personnel and were verified by another staff. After that we were told to wait till our names are called.
|Immigration Office at Phuentsholing|
Once we got the permits, which is basically a stamped paper with your details and photo we took a taxi from the immigration office gate till the Phuentsholing taxi stand. Taxi rates are fixed and pretty reasonable. Our plan was not to waste any day at Phuentsholing, instead straight away reach Thimpu. There are coaster buses from Phuentsholing to Thimpu and the last one is at 3:30 PM Bhutanese time.
Coaster buses in Bhutan are pretty okay and they only allow as many people as the number of seats in the bus, so standing is not allowed. Fare is also reasonable something around 250 BTM (250 INR/ $3.8) per head.
We booked a WagonR from Phuentsholing taxi stand till our hotel opposite to Clock Tower, Thimpu.
The taxi rate is fixed at 3000 INR($ 46.5) and it took 5 hours for us to reach Thimpu including a lunch break. As we started towards Thimpu, gradually the weather starts getting cooler and the greenery greener. It was night we reached our hotel. Our driver gifted me a magazine that I fondly bought back home.
|Night view from room|
|Night view from room|
Do not miss out our Bhutan vlog for this post
Reaching Bhutan on Road : Train from Sealdah (SDAH) to Hasimara(HSA)
Take a taxi from Hasimara to Phuentsholing Immigration Office ( taxi fare – 400 INR)
Permit Office is closed on Saturdays, Sundays and all National Holidays
Documents required to get permit for Indian Nationals:
a) One Passport size photo
b) Photocopy of ID proof recognized by the Govt of India. Best to have photocopy of passport/voter ID card/Driving Licence
c) Hotel booking/confirmation receipts for Thimpu and Paro
d) A copy of your itinerary
Taxi fare for reaching Phuentsholing taxi stand from Phuentsholing Immigration Office – 50 INR
Taxi fare for reaching Thimpu from Phuentsholing – 3000 INR
Coaster buses also ply between Thimpu and Phuentsholing
Hotel Ghasel : [email protected]
General hotel information : http://www.hotel.bt/
Our time of Visit : June 1st week
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