Bhutan Travel Updates for 2023 Trips

Andy CrisconiHimalayan Trekking Tours

Shedding some light on Bhutan’s new pricing policy

As many of you are now aware, Bhutan reopened to the outside world in September 2022. After a 2 ½ year closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tourists are now allowed back to the Dragon Kingdom with no Covid-19 restrictions. This is great news for everyone! Coinciding with the reopening, the Bhutan Government announced a restructuring of its per day pricing policy for incoming tourists. If you thought the old policy was a bit confusing, the new policy will certainly have you scratching your head. Many of you have been in touch asking for some clarity, so I decided to post this blog answering some of your most common questions.

Young monks at the Gasa Dzong

Ok, here we go…

  1. What is this new Bhutan Government fee?
    The old pricing system was based on a set per person / per day fee which included accommodation, food, guide, transportation and other services required to arrange your trip. The old pricing also included a $65.00 per person / per day Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) payable to the Bhutan government. This SDF has now been increased to $200.00 per person / per day and is in addition to the actual cost of services required to organize and run your trip. All else being equal, it now costs an additional $135.00 per person / per day to visit Bhutan.
  2. What is the increased SDF being used for?
    The SDF collected by the Bhutan government will then be directed back into the local communities to support health and education, which are free to all Bhutanese citizens. Travelers will also benefit from the increased SDF with funds going to improve the standards of hotels and restaurants, develop guide training programs, take further measures to preserve Bhutan’s pristine environment and unique culture and invest in waste management infrastructure. Bhutan’s constitution mandates that 60 percent of the country’s land must be under forest cover and maintains strict laws to protect and uphold its carbon-negative status.
  3. What other costs are involved with traveling to Bhutan?
    As in the past, in addition to the actual cost of your trip is the cost of the Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines flights to and from your originating and Paro, Bhutan. One World Trekking prefers to use the daily schedule on Druk Air originating in Bangkok, Thailand. The approximate roundtrip cost of these flights is currently $1,020.00.
  4. How is One World Trekking pricing Bhutan trips for 2023?
    On our website, you will see that each Bhutan trip will have a tiered price for 1, 2 and a 3+ person group size. We have simply taken our prices before the new policy update and have added the extra $135.00 per person / per day effective price increase. However, there are several factors to take into consideration when pricing trips in Bhutan, such as the size of the group, does anyone require a single supplement, what month you are traveling, are you on a touring trip, trekking trip or combination, level of accommodation being used…

    Given all these factors potentially impacting your final trip price, you can use our website prices as a guideline of what you can expect to pay. We will then, in conjunction with our local agent, individually quote every trip to make sure you are only paying for the exact services required for us to arrange your trip. Your final per person trip price may be more than the listed website price or it may be less, but it will be an accurate price.
  5. Is Bhutan still worth the extra cost?
    Well, that’s really up to you. The increased cost will certainly mean fewer people will be visiting Bhutan, providing you with a more secluded experience especially if you are trekking. Bhutan’s new policy will cement Bhutan as an “exclusive” destination and allow a renewed focus on sustainability and keeping carbon footprints at a minimum. Bhutan’s goal here is to create high-value experiences for visitors, and well-paying and professional jobs for its citizens.

    If traveling to Bhutan is on your bucket list and you are going for a once in a lifetime visit then, yes, it is probably worth saving up and planning your trip to this special Himalayan kingdom. Mr. Dorji Dhradhul, current director general of the Tourism Council of Bhutan, believes the extra cost paid by visitors now will ensure the country’s sustainability and safeguard it for future generations.