NOVEMBER 20: For Sikkimese tourists and generally, all Indian nationals planning to visit Bhutan soon, it may come as a piece of disappointing news that the Bhutanese Government may levy a certain amount of charge for a trip.

As per media reports by some leading nationals, the Bhutan Government is looking at the possibilities to levy charges on Indian tourists. According to sources, the decision was discussed by the Bhutanese Foreign Minister with the External Affairs Minister of India, in New Delhi and will be finalized by December. 

The report mentions that over the last few years, the number of tourists in Bhutan has increased exponentially, leading the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) to consider making a few changes in their tourism policy. Currently, India, Maldives and Bangladesh are enjoying exemption of such charges for visiting Bhutan and also do not need a visa to enter the country. Travellers from other countries are paying a minimum of $250 (approximately 18,000 INR) charge per day and per person, including Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) and Visa charges. If media reports are to be believed, in the new policy, Indian tourists will be charged with the SDF and some permit processing fee.

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Nepal is the other country that does not charge Indian nationals any fee or ask for a visa to enter the country, mostly for the same reason as Bhutan – proximity and shared culture.  In addition, there are also those who visit both countries regularly for religious pilgrimages. 

Sikkim’s close proximity to Bhutan, along with the sharing of similar traditions and cultural aspects, have fostered a strong bond between the people. Sikkimese citizens visit Bhutan for weekend trips, festivals and many have relatives who live there which only increases the frequency of visits. It is an understatement to say that Sikkimese citizens will be impacted by this decision. If the taxes to enter become too heavy, then it would become problematic for those who cannot afford to pay as much as international tourists and dampen their spirits, seeing as they might have to rethink the entire trip. 

The decision will benefit Bhutan but not many will be happy about having to arrange extra cash for their trip. So before you plan a visit to Bhutan, give it a second thought or prepare yourself to pay the new charges being framed by the TCB. 

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