There has been a lot of confusion regarding permits for solo travellers for Bhutan. Several questions on quora, several alleged cases of rejected applications for solo travellers and after a ton of ambiguity I finally burst the myth.
I got permits as a solo traveler for Bhutan without engaging an agent or clubbing with other applicants.
No Rule To Reject Solo Travel Permits for Bhutan
There is no rule to reject solo traveler applications. I can confirm this as I was granted permits even though I was traveling by myself.
I went through a short screening process after which my application was approved.
The required documents which consist of : A photograph, photocopy of passport/voter ID, hotel booking voucher (Goibibo/Airbnb/email confirmations are accepted), if a child is under 18 then his birth certificate and finally the application form (which can be procured only from the immigration office desk placed outside adjacent to the main building).
Driving license could be given as an ID but only after a letter of approval from the Indian Consulate in Bhutan which is located at a walking distance from the immigration office but opens only at 10am.
It is recommended that you procure the form beforehand from travel agents and fill it in advance.
The Procedure for Solo Traveler Permit
I was the first one to reach the office; at 6am. Agents, individual applicants and applicants for labour permits are required to form separate queues. I was the first one in individual applicants queue. Had I reached by 7am, I would have still been first in the queue. Had I reached by 8am I would have been around 10th and by 8:30am I would have been the 50th applicant. Gates to the immigration office premise opens at 8:30am and applications are accepted by 9am. (Bhutan time is 30 minutes ahead of India)
If you do not have the form, approach the desk placed outside and look for forms under it. If it does not have forms you’d have to wait till the officials bring the forms.
I submitted my form. It was verified by an official while I waited outside of the queue. Within 10 minutes I was called and asked to report to a certain officer Jimmy on the first floor. Group applicants were also sent to the first floor but they could proceed with their biometrics while I had to go through an interview of sorts.
It is this screening process which would decide whether you’d get permits. I was asked why I was traveling alone, what my purpose of travel is, have I travelled by myself before. I was asked about my family background; where I live, what my parents do. I was warned that if I am found engaging in employment or any illegal activity I would be prosecuted. The officer was polite and sweet but wanted every bit of information I could provide him with. After a good ten minutes of questioning and advising me to be safe and cautious he agreed to grant me my permit.
I did not mention I was traveling on my motorcycle and you don’t need to either.
He granted me the permits without even noticing that I had also attached an undertaking waiving Bhutanese Government of any responsibility for my actions. Hence this letter of undertaking is wholly optional and not essential as is claimed by several websites.
You have to be convincing and confident in front of the officer. Lie about traveling solo in the past if you have to in order to get the permits. I had evidence to back my claims with but I wasn’t asked to adduce any.
So that’s it. Solo permits are granted and it’s a hassle free process. Stop spreading the misinformation that permits are not granted to solo travellers.
Motorcycle Permits for Bhutan
Motorcycle Permits are granted only after you have been granted permits for yourself. You’d need a copy of the pollution certificate, copy of insurance, copy of RC, copy of Indian Driving License and a copy of your Bhutanese permit.
Reach the bus terminal. Head to the first floor and find room number 6. Get the application form for Rs 10 (pretty sure that’s a scam), fill it, staple documents with it and head to room number 9. An officer will check your permits and then send you to the second floor for payment of the fee required for your motorcycle. It’s Rs 100 for everyday. Since individual permits are granted only 7 days you can choose how many days you wish to pay the fee for your motorcycle. I paid 400 for 4 days as I did not intend to stay longer. You can always extend the motorcycle permit in Thimphu near the bus terminal. A fine of Rs 1760 per day would levied for keeping your motorcycle in Bhutan beyond the permitted days.
Other Bhutan Permit Myths Busted
Permits are individual in nature. You could ask an agent to club you with a group and you would not have to stick with the group after entering Bhutan. After entering Bhutan you need to pretend as if you were given permits as a solo. Nobody knows what happened and nobody needs to know.
An agent is not necessary. Agents usually charge around Rs 1000 and besides filling up your form and standing in queue for you they have practically no role. Most agents are not even allowed inside the biometrics room. But if you are in a big group, filling up forms after reaching the immigration office can be a time wasting task and for that you can engage an agent. There aren’t many agents I trust but I did find a really helpful lady from Darjeeling who is agent and was very helpful to me. You can contact her (Chitra) on +919547505710 or message her on WhatsApp on +9751793 31 01. She was at the immigration office for her clients at 6am. Much before any other agent.
P.S. I am not affiliated with any agent mentioned. I only wish to make the process easier for those who wish to engage an agent.
Feel free to comment below for further clarifications.