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How To Reach Bhutan
Travelling to Bhutan was not as easy earlier as it is today. The Kingdom of Bhutan was only accessible by foot through only two entry points, one in the north, another in the south. The northern route was through Tibet, marked by high passes and humongous mountains, and would be rendered useless during the winters due to snow. The southern route led through thick forests of the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. Today, however, Bhutan is well connected and easily accessible by road and air.
The main roads to the country are through Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar in the south connecting it with the Indian plains in West Bengal and Assam. There are several domestic airports in the country alongside an International airport that has flights to all major countries in the world. It is important to note that entering Bhutan would require a visa. Indians, Bangladeshis and Maldivian nationals can receive a visa on entry although they need to carry a passport or voter's id card. So how to reach Bhutan? Read on to know in detail.
The road routes to Bhutan via India are very cheap but take a considerable amount of time to reach. There are three routes to Bhutan, one in the Indian State of West Bengal and the other two in Assam. The Jaigaon/Phuentsholing is the most preferred route as it easily accessible. There are multiple stay options on this route making it a popular choice. It's also easier to get a permit for those heading to Bhutan from this route. But the Bongaigaon/Gelephu and the Darangamela/Samdrup Jongkhar routes through Assam are also preferred by many.
Travellers can get to the Jaigaon/Phuentsholing border either via Hasimara or New Jalpaiguri. The small town of Hasimara is only 16 kilometers from the border and there are autos, shared jeeps, and taxi services from here that will take you to the border. There are several trains to Hasimara from around India. Most major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kanpur, and Ranchi have direct trains to Hasimara but you are sure to find connecting trains from around the country as well. Travelling via New Jalpaiguri will take you about 3-4 hours to reach the border as it is around 150 kilometers away from the Jaigaon/Phuentsholing border. There are several trains that terminate at New Jalpaiguri and quite a few with stops at New Jalpaiguri from almost all major cities in India. From New Jalpaiguri, one can either opt for the taxi service or the cheaper bus service.
There are also buses to the border that operate out of Kolkata. The journey might be somewhere around 18-20 hours and might cost you somewhere near 1000 Indian rupees. Tourists can also take cars into Bhutan but a separate permit for the vehicle is required.
The journey to the Bongaigaon/Gelephu border in itself can be very exciting. While the gigantic Brahmaputra will leave you speechless, the pleasant and soothing environment of Assam will add to the experience. Tourists can take trains to get to New Bongaigaon and take a taxi from here to get to the border which is about 60 kilometers away. The journey to the border might be around 2-3 hours depending on weather conditions and traffic.
Darangamela/Samdrup Jongkhar Route:
The Old railway station situated in Rangiya is the closest railway station to the Darangamela/Samdrup Jongkhar border. There are direct trains that terminate in Rangiya from Delhi and Kolkata while tourists can always take connecting trains from Guwahati, the state capital of Assam. The border is only an hour away from Rangiya and cutting across the green landscapes and water bodies of Assam make the journey a memorable one. There are taxi services that one can avail from Rangiya to get to the border.
The only International airport in Bhutan is situated in Paro. While another international airport in Gelephu is being constructed, the Paro airport is the only functional airport in Bhutan. There are two carriers that operate here, Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. There are several flights to major cities and places around the globe. Flights to India include destinations like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Guwahati, and Bagdogra while there are flights to Bangkok, Kathmandu, Singapore, etc. Travelling to Bhutan via air makes for a unique experience. With clear weather, one can see tall mountains and the beautiful landscape of Bhutan and while descending into the Paro valley, flights are the closest they get to mountain tops.
There are several domestic airports in Bhutan namely, Yonphula, Bumthang, and Gelephu that make travel inside Bhutan very easy and efficient.