How to Book

Flights

There are now two airlines that operate flights in and out of Bhutan.  Druk Air (also known as Royal Bhutan Airlines) is Bhutan’s national carrier and Tashi Air (also known as Bhutan Airlines) is a private airline which started operating in 2013 and has brought in some much needed competition. There is one international airport at Paro, about an hour’s drive from the capital, Thimphu. There are also some new domestic routes in operation with domestic airports at Batpalathang in Bumthang, Yongphula in eastern Bhutan (close to Tashigang) and future plans to open at Gelephu in the south of the country.

Druk Air and Tashi Air flights can now be booked directly yourself online, but it is usually preferable for you to ask us to make the booking for you and we don’t charge for this service. If you buy the tickets from the airline websites you have to pay for them on purchase, whereas we can hold the seats for you for a period without commitment while we discuss your itinerary with you and you take the time to finalize your travel plans. Also, if we book the seats for you we get advance notice of timing changes, we can assist you with ticketing changes and we will also reconfirm your flights for you automatically as long as we have made the booking for you. Finally we often have access to discounts which are available only to agents and not for direct bookings – we will tell you if these are on offer at the time of your trip.

You will need to arrange your own international flights to your chosen point of entry to Bhutan. You should wait until we have confirmed your reservations with Druk Air/Tashi Air before you make long haul bookings. Bear in mind also that the airline schedules for Bhutan flights are subject to frequent change, and often at very short notice, so if you can arrange flexible long haul tickets it is advisable to do so.  We advise that you leave 5 to 6 hours connection time if possible and if you can plan an overnight stay each end of your trip before and after flying to Bhutan then so much the better.

These airlines do not take any responsibility for the impact of timing changes or cancellations on any other flight reservations, and we also cannot do so, which means that you will have to bear the cost of any changes to your travel plans caused by changes to the Bhutan airline schedules.

Routings
the main international routings used to fly in to Paro are Delhi, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Singapore and Calcutta. There are also flights from Dhaka, Gaya, Bagdogra and Guwahati and Mumbai. Druk Air plans to fly to Hong Kong also in the near future, although the start date has not yet been announced.

Bangkok flights come in and out every day with both airlines (and at busy times there are two or three flights a day) but flights on the other routings are not as frequent. Delhi and Kathmandu flights tend to be 5 or 6 times a week (although they are sometimes daily or twice daily at the peak of the season). Calcutta flights run around 5 times a week with Druk Air and daily with Tashi Air and Singapore flights are twice a week with Druk Air. Flights from Dhaka, Bagdogra and Guwahati are usually twice a week in each direction.

Druk Air uses an airbus which seats 114 passengers with 20 business class seats and an ATR that seats around 40 passengers with no business class available.  Tashi Air has two airbuses with 122 seats (including 20 business class seats).

Flight timings
Timings vary depending on whether the flight is direct or have a stopover but are broadly as follows:

  • Bangkok – Paro: 3 hours 15 minutes (or 4 to 4 and a half hours with stopover)
  • Bagdogra – Paro: 30 minutes
  • Calcutta – Paro: 55 minutes
  • Delhi – Paro: 2 hours 20 minutes (or 3 hours 20 minutes with stopover)
  • Dhaka – Paro: 55 minutes
  • Guwahati – Paro: 55 minutes
  • Kathmandu – Paro: 55 minutes
  • Singapore – Paro: 5 hours 55 minutes (with stopover)

If you would like more precise information about flight timings or options please ask and we will be happy to explain further.

Prices 
The price of Druk Air and Tashi flights flights is charged on top of the tour price. Current rates for return flights with a special excursion fare are around US$415 (Kathmandu), US$660 (Delhi), US$750 (Bangkok), US$450 (Calcutta) and US$945 (Singapore). However the seats are priced in local currency but must be paid for in US$, so the price fluctuates daily and the final price can only be confirmed on issuing the tickets. As a result the initial quote we give you for the flights will always be indicative only.  Discounted fares are available at certain times of year and for children and students.

Domestic flights

There is also a fledgling domestic operation that commenced in 2012. This offers flights from Paro to Bumthang and to Yongphola in eastern Bhutan and return.

While we will be happy to consider this option for clients who request it, we are not actively promoting it for a number of reasons. In particular, there are no vehicles or guides and drivers readily available in Bumthang or the east, so all services have to be sourced from the capital, Thimphu. This presents logistical difficulties in arranging a tour which includes an internal flight and also leads to additional costs arising from the provision of duplicate services.

Note also that flights to and from Yongphula have been in suspension since November 2013 with no current end date while repairs are made to the runway, leaving domestic flights to and from central Bhutan as the only available option at present.

If you are still keen to consider including an internal flight in your itinerary please note the following points:

  • The schedule varies, but flights run only 1 to 3 days a week (depending on the time of year), so we would need to fit the itinerary to the domestic flight schedule
  • The schedule is not 100% reliable.  It is not unusual for flights to be cancelled because of weather delays or technical problems and of course we have no control over this
  • Further, if the airline has sold fewer than 6 seats on a particular flight they will just cancel the departure at short notice
  • The drive between Bumthang and Paro takes around 10 to 12 hours and if your flight is cancelled you may have no alternative but to drive this distance in one day to avoid missing your international flight (or missing out on your planned itinerary if you are flying in the opposite direction)
  • Your guide will not be able to fly back to Paro with you (unless you pay for a seat for him) and your car and driver will take time to return west, so they will not be available for you on your arrival back in Paro. This means we have to provide a substitute car, driver and guide and of course we have to make an additional charge for this.
  • The same applies if you are flying in the opposite direction, as we have to send your guide and driver a couple of days ahead so we will have to make additional arrangements for you on arrival in Paro before you depart on the domestic flight

In view of the above, the use of internal flights is not totally risk and cost free, so you should think carefully about whether you want to use this option – we will be happy to discuss this with you further to help you decide on the best option for you.

Delays

Although delays on Druk Air are not uncommon, it is quite rare for a flight to be cancelled altogether. However in extreme circumstances the flight may be delayed until the following day. In that case Druk Air will be responsible for making arrangements for board and lodging for you for that night.

If you are unfortunate enough to miss a day of your trip we will do what we can to assist by refunding you what we can from that day’s payment, based on whatever is not yet spent and what we can recover for you. For example, we would apply to the government to waive the royalty for the lost day and we would also do what we can to minimize the charges for the hotel for the lost night. Other costs such as provision of a guide, driver and vehicle will already have been incurred and it will not be possible for us to cancel these at the last minute, so we will not be able to refund your payment for that day in full, but we will do our best to return you as much as we can in the circumstances.

If your return flight is delayed then you are in a better position! Usually the airline will arrange the additional accommodation for you and if you want to keep your guide and driver for the additional time you are in Bhutan we will do our best to arrange this (if they are not already booked elsewhere) and we will make these additional arrangements at the best price we can for you, which we will discuss and agree at the time.

You will be responsible for arranging any necessary changes to your onward international flights. Please note that we cannot be liable for any additional costs or expenses you may incur in relation to your onward travel arrangements by reason of a delay with your Druk Air flights.  We can also not take responsibility for any impact on your planned schedule for your Bhutan trip as a result of any changes in the Druk Air schedules or timing changes for your Druk Air flights.

You should bear in mind that it is not at all uncommon for Druk Air to change its schedules at short notice, with a consequent impact on international connections, so it is advisable to leave plenty of time (at least three to four hours, but preferably an overnight) between your Druk Air flight and your international flight at each end of the trip.

Ticketing
the ticketing system used by the airlines allows us to hold seats for a period so you have time to decide on your dates and organize your international flights before we have to issue the tickets. For travel dates which are more than 45 days away, the ticketing date will be between 30 to 90 days from the date of booking, depending on availability. If seats are still available on the flight we can keep extending the reservation for further periods of 30 days until the flight fills up and we have to issue the tickets. For travel dates less than 45 days but more than 14 days away the ticketing date will be 7 days from the date of booking. For travel dates within 14 days, no ticketing date will be available and the flights must be paid for on booking to secure the seats.

Baggage allowance
The baggage allowance is usually 20 kg in economy class and 30 kg in business class.  However, Tashi Air offers an allowance of 30 kg in economy class and so when flying to and from Bangkok with Druk Air the allowance increases to 30 kg in economy class and 40 kg in business class.

Travelling overland
It is also possible to enter or leave Bhutan by road via Phuntsholing on the Indian border in the south-west or at Samdrup Jongkhar in the south-east. This allows you to combine a trip to Bhutan with some time in Darjeeling or Sikkim or Assam. Phuntsholing is three or four hours’ drive from the nearest Indian airport in Bagdogra in West Bengal, and about seven hours’ drive from Thimphu. From Samdrup Jongkhar it is about a three hour drive to Guwahati which has flights to and from a number of Indian cities.

Payments

Payment for your trip is made in US$ via bank transfer to Bhutan to the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s bank account at the Bhutan National Bank, with your tour operator shown as the ultimate beneficiary of the funds.

We will provide you with all the information needed to make the transfer once your choice of trip is confirmed. Please note that it is not possible to make payment by credit card as the payment has to be routed through the government account in order for your visa to be authorized and is not paid directly to Bhutan super tours and travels. We ask for payment 90 days in advance of the tour to give us plenty of time to finalize the arrangements for your booking. We don’t require payment of a deposit, but if you are visiting in peak season we may need to issue your flight tickets as much as 6 months or more beforehand (if the flight has filled up) and in that case we will ask you to send payment for the flight tickets only at an earlier stage.

Payments sent in US$ are routed through Standard Chartered Bank in New York as an intermediary bank and from there the funds are transferred on to the Bhutan National Bank. Once we receive notification from the bank that your payment has arrived we will send you a formal trip confirmation and receipt.

Payment shortfalls
If your payment is sent in sterling (or any currency other than US$) it is not uncommon for there to be a small shortfall on receipt of the funds. The reason for this may be that intermediary banks deduct charges en route, but also because your bank will work out the sterling or other currency equivalent of the dollar amount on sending, but the money is converted on arrival in Bhutan at the prevailing dollar rate, which may be different. We charge a US$30 administration fee to process your payment which helps us to cover these costs. If there is a shortfall of more than this we will confirm to you the exact amount received (and if requested send you a copy of the receipt from our bank showing the dollar amount received) and will ask you to make up the shortfall in US$ cash on arrival.

Security
your funds are held in the government account and will not be released to Bhutan Super Tours and Travels until after your tour has taken place. This provides you with the security of knowing that your money is safe until your holiday takes place. If for any reason the trip doesn’t go ahead then the government will not give your money to Bhutan Super Tours and Travels but will return it to you (subject to any cancellation charges which apply if you have cancelled the trip). So in the unlikely event that we do not run your trip for you, you would not be out of pocket.

Please note that if you decide to book with Bhutan Super Tours and Travels, you will be booking with us as a local Bhutanese tour operator, licensed and registered in Bhutan, subject to regulation by the Bhutan Ministry of Trade and Industry and a member of ABTO (the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators). Any disputes regarding your booking are to be resolved by arbitration under the laws of Bhutan.