We strongly advise all Irish citizens travelling to or residing in Bhutan to register their details with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
It is imperative that all intending travellers to Bhutan purchase comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to leaving Ireland. Travellers should ensure that the insurance policy includes the costs of medical evacuation by air. If you intend to go trekking then you should ensure that your travel insurance covers emergency helicopter evacuation to India. You should check for exclusions and ensure that your policy covers you for all specialised activities you wish to undertake. Travellers should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
The threat from international terrorism is low in Bhutan. Incidents of tourist crime and threats to personal safety are also low. However, travellers should exercise caution with personal belongings and passports as you would expect to do everywhere else.
Bhutan’s tourism industry is small and strictly regulated. It is not possible for western tourists or business travellers to enter Bhutan as an independent traveller. Intending travellers must first register and confirm an itinerary with a specialist Bhutanese travel agent or group tour operator. The tour operator will process all visa and immigration requirements, issue an entry visa and make flight and accommodation reservations as appropriate. The cost for such services can be high. A minimum daily rate of approximately US$200 per person is charged which also covers meals, guided excursions, cultural programmes and domestic transport. Failure to re-confirm travel plans with the tour operator and pay for the itinerary in full before travelling will result in travellers being refused entry.
On arrival, visitors must also pay a further US$20 visa fee and provide two passport-sized photos.
Further information (in English) is available on the website of the Bhutanese Ministry of Tourism at www.tourism.gov.bt
Special written permission from Bhutanese immigration authorities is required prior to visiting certain government buildings, state institutions and some sites of cultural and religious importance.
Personal computers, mobile telephones, cameras and all other personal electronic devices must be examined and registered by customs authorities upon arrival at a port of entry and checked again at time of departure.
Hospitals, medical facilities and health care services in Bhutan are generally of a very poor standard, particularly outside of Thimphu. Visitors may have to travel for several hours in order to obtain adequate medical services for serious illness and may have to be evacuated to India for further treatment. There are no particular health concerns but trekkers may experience Acute Mountain Sickness at high altitudes and should be well informed about possible hazards in high mountains. Medical treatment can be expensive and payment in advance may be required.
Bhutan is located in an active seismic zone. In addition, the annual monsoon season runs from early-May to October with landslides frequently occurring. Mountain roads can be hazardous even in good weather. Travelers should ensure that they monitor local weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum. Indian Rupees are also widely accepted. There are no ATMs in the country and it is not possible to use credit cards. Intending travelers are strongly advised to purchase travellers cheques in US Dollar denominations before leaving Ireland which can be exchanged at any Bank of Bhutan branch or most major hotels in Thimphu.
Intending travellers should be aware that penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are very strict in Bhutan. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and long custodial sentences. Intending travellers should also be aware that homosexual conduct is considered a criminal offence in Bhutan.
As in Ireland, Traffic drives on the
left. There is no rail system and few main roads. In the
mountains, sharp curves, limited visibility and narrow make driving
conditions highly dangerous. However, tourists rarely drive in
Bhutan as their visits must be arranged through tour operators
traveling in groups with experienced coach drivers.
Bhutan is the only country in the world to have banned the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products. Offenders will be charged with smuggling and can expect to be heavily fined. Visitors who enter Bhutan with tobacco products for personal use will be liable to pay tax and duty charges.
Emergency Assistance for Irish Citizens in Bhutan
Ireland does not any representative in Bhutan and the two countries do not share any formal diplomatic relations. As such, the assistance which we can provide in times of emergency is more limited than other countries. Irish citizens may wish to bear this in mind before making plans to visit Bhutan. In countries where Ireland does not have any representation, emergency assistance can be requested through resident offices of other EU member states. Both Denmark and The Netherlands operate Consulates in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. The closest Irish Embassy is in New Delhi and is not formally responsible for providing support to Irish citizens in Bhutan.
Irish citizens requiring emergency assistance in Bhutan should first approach their tour operator representative, local tour guide or insurance provider. You can also contact the Consular Assistance Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin on +353 1 408 2000 (24/7).