Bhutan Risk Report
Security travel advice for Bhutan
Threat level: Low
The current safety travel advice is to remain cautious when visiting the country. Almost all visits to Bhutan are trouble free, 2015 saw no foreign nationals require consular assistance during their stay. You should however exercise normal safety precautions throughout your stay.
Any visits you plan to make in Bhutan must be booked in advance and through an authorised travel agent. The tourism industry in Bhutan is small and strictly regulated – you will not be able to enter the country as an independent traveller. This is mainly so tourists can have someone with local knowledge to help them explore Bhutan. You will need to contact operators to book your tour.
Recent Security Risk Events
In 2012 there was a minor incident in which two small bombs were detonated on the southern border, however this caused little damage and no injuries. The location of the incidents were near the Bhutan-Indian border far from tourist locations and should not be cause for concern.
The Global Peace Index ranked Bhutan as 13th out of 163 countries and shows why there are very few recent security events. Bhutan has also begun contributing to United Nations peacekeeping projects, deploying 27 Bhutanese nationals to help.
Petty crime is the most common occurrence in Bhutan, with pick pocketing on transport the main issue. As such, you should remain vigilant to these activities and ensure that your personal belongings remain close to you at all times.
There are strict regulations on the selling of alcohol or tobacco in Bhutan, and travellers should not attempt to sell either product or they could face severe fines and punishment. Smoking in public is illegal. Imported tobacco for personal consumption is subject to 200% tax. You must keep your customs receipt for the duration of your stay or you could be accused of smuggling in restricted goods and charged accordingly.
Bhutanese culture is different to typical western beliefs. Homosexuality is considered illegal in Bhutan and although it is rare for this to be punished, visitors are advised to remain discreet during their visit.
Electronic devices such as personal telephones, computers and cameras should be registered with Bhutanese customs upon your arrival to the country. They will be checked again upon your departure.
Bhutan is a member of the United Nations which it joined in 1971. It further joined the International Monetary Fund, WHO and the World Bank which are just a few of the 45 organisations it is a member of.
Bhutan maintains good relations with both India who was the first country to recognise its independence and Bangladesh which is one of two countries to have an established embassy in the country’s capital. It also has diplomatic relations with 52 states as well as the European Union.
Road conditions in urban areas are of an average standard however anything outside of this tends to be poor conditions and are not maintained. The mountainous terrain of Bhutan leaves roads with blind curves and steep drop offs, so you must remain alert and concentrate if you are operating a vehicle. As most of your trip will be arranged with tour operators, tourists will rarely drive in Bhutan.
Religion: Vajrayana Buddhism
Currency: Bhutanese ngultrum (BTN) and Indian Rupee (INR) (in denominations below 100 rupees)
Time now in Thimphu:
Most foreign nationals will require a visa to enter Bhutan and they may only enter or leave the country through certain towns. These are: Phuntsoling, Samdrup Jongkhar and Gelephug if you are travelling overland or entering via air through Paro. This does not apply to Indian nationals.
Applications for visa will be submitted by your tour operator once you have booked a tour through them or a foreign travel agent. Both the tour and transport must be paid before your visa can be submitted and approved by Bhutanese authorities. It is recommended that your passport has at least 6 months of validity beyond the length of your stay.
On arrival to the country you must also pay a further US$20 visa fee and provide two passport-sized photos.
It is advised that visitors to Bhutan are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is further recommended that most travellers also get Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations.
Although there is no risk of Yellow Fever in Bhutan, if you are coming from a country where there is a risk of the disease you will be required to provide a vaccination certificate. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
There is one hospital in the capital of Bhutan which is well equipped with doctors and medical facilities. Outside of Thimphu, medical facilities and services may be basic and limited so only seek medical help if absolutely necessary.
It is highly recommended full travel and medical insurance is checked for coverage prior to travel as the medical facilities in the country can vary. Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided and bottled water inspected prior to consumption.
Trekkers should be aware of the possibility of altitude sickness which becomes a risk in travel above 8000 feet. Bhutanese treks can leave you far from adequate health services so remain cautious at all times. Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover any potential costs and you must make sure that trekking is specifically included in the policy.Extreme weather and natural disasters
Bhutan lies in a seismically active zone, as such earthquakes can occur. The last recorded earthquake was in 2011 however there were no reported casualties. Visitors should remain aware of any precautions, warning or advice offered from Bhutanese local authorities.
Monsoon season is between May and October which can lead to landslides in Bhutan. If you are travelling on roads close to the mountains, be alert to any hazards that appear.
British Embassy Status
There is no British embassy in Bhutan, the nearest consular office is the High Commission in Kolkata, India and this should be your first point of contact.
British Deputy High Commission Kolkata
1A Ho Chi Minh Sarani,
Telephone: +91 228 851 72
Telephone: +91 228 851 73-76
U.S. Embassy Status
There is no US embassy in Bhutan. You should contact the US embassy in New Delhi, India, for any assistance.
U.S. Embassy New Delhi
New Delhi - 110021
Telephone: +91 112 419 8000
Other useful info
Fire emergency: 110
Medical emergency: 112