There are only two of ways to enter Bhutan. One is by taking a flight directly to Paro, which is what all the international tourists do. And the other is by road through the border town of Phuntsholing. Independant travel is discouraged in Bhutan and traveling inside the country is expensive for most tourists. They have to cough up close to 250$ per day for the pleasure of visiting the country, so you dont Â get to see independant backpackers there.Â
This article is mostly intended for the tourists from the Indian sub-continent for whom the above restrictions don't apply. There are however a few permits to be obtained after which they are free to travel on their own within thisÂ magnificentÂ country.
One of the things that i wish the Bhutanese had'nt borrowed from their Indian brethren is bureaucracy.. lots and lots of it.
Inorder to travel inside Bhutan, you need to get a grand total of 5 different permits. The first two permits you get in Phuntsholing, a Tourist permit and a Vehicle permit (required if u are driving ur own vehicle), which are good for traveling to Thimphu and Paro.. and no further.
Once you get to Thimphu you have get your Tourist permit and Vehicle permit updated, so that you can travel deeper into the country towards Bumthang, Mongar, Trashigang and beyond. Even if you are not planning on traveling deeper into the country you need to get a cultural permit done from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in Thimphu. This permit is required to visit the different Lakhangs (temples) and Dzongs (forts) in the country. Be sure to list each and every place that you are remotely interested in, coz later you dont want to be stuck in a situation where you feel like visiting a place but dont have the permit for it.
Getting all these permits require a lot of running around to the different ministries and a lot of patience. I found that the officials at the border town were very irritable and unfriendly while the officials in Thimphu were very warm and friendly. So dont let one bad experience turn you off.