Our Bhutan Trip – a senior citizen’s effort to backpack!

Preparation : Part-I

We are a group, mostly consisting of senior citizens, from Kolkata, contemplating to visit Bhutan for past few months. We started our homework on Bhutan about 7/8 months back by scanning each and every threads/posts pertaining to Bhutan in Indiamike, notably the threads initiated by Natasha and Vinay. Besides, we have googled and had gone through whatever writeups available in web. We have also established contacts with a few actual travelers, who had recently traveled to Bhutan. They are mostly our fellow IMers and as usual they are ever willing to help with whatever resources they have. Having done preliminary homework, we planned for a 5 nights & 6 days trip with night stays at Thimphu (3 nights) and Paro (2 nights). Initially, we were 7 persons in the group. Later 2 more members joined in making it 9-members group. We planned to depart Kolkata on the night of 2nd November by Kanchan Kanya Express and to return back to Kolkata on 8th or 9th November. We chalked out our priority list, which comes as under:

1 Booking Rail Tickets
Status: Done. Sealdah to Hasimara by Kanchan Kanya Exp.

2 Obtaining Bhutan Entry Permit
Status: Process initiated at Kolkata Bhutan Consulate. Shall elaborate this point later in this post
3 Hotel Booking at Thimpu
Status: No formal booking has been done. But shortlisting of hotels had done. These shortlisted Hotels are :
1. Hotel Tandin;
2. Hotel T T;
3. Hotel Ghasel.
Of these 3 hotels, we have several feedbacks from actual users in respect of first two hotels, but we are yet to get any feedback on the third Hotel i.e. Hotel Ghasel. In anyone can give us some feedback on this Hotel, it will be of great help.
4 Hotel Booking at Paro
Status: Again, no formal booking has been done. But shortlisting of hotels had done. Shortlisted Hotels are:
1. Hotel Peljorling; &
2. Hotel Jigmelling.
Both the Hotels have reasonably good reviews from the actual travelers.
5 Transportation
Status: As we are backpack travelers, we decided not to hire any exclusive vehicle for our trip. We intend to hire cab from Hashimara Stn to Phuentsolling and then from there we intend to avail Coaster Bus Service for Thimphu. However, if the train is delayed considerably, this plan may not work. We have not drawn any Plan-B for this eventuality. We are working on the assumption that the train will not be late more than an hour or so. As regards sightseeing, we will avail whatever transportation available, but thrust will be on economy/budget.

The above is a brief description of our pre-travel preparation. I would now like to narrate our experience on point No.2 above i.e. obtaining of Bhutan Entry Permit from the Bhutan Kolkata Consulate. We had visited the Consulate office and had submitted our applications for Permit. Incidentally, it may be mentioned here that from Kolkata, one can get Permit for Thimphu and Paro only.

In past it has been reported in Inidamike that
1. Bhutan Entry Permit is now available from Kolkata itself (It is correct)
2. Permit Application Form is downloadable from web (I could not get despite several efforts)
3. It is not mandatory for all the visitors to be present at the Consulate while applying for the Permit. (True, one can sign on behalf of other members of the team)
The Consulate office is located on Mall Road, near to Dum Dum Nager Bazar. Bus Stop is “Clive House”, just 2 stops after Nager Bazar towards Airport. It is adjacent to Christ Church School. We carried original Voter ID Card, Photocopies and 1 copy of Passport sized Photographs of the each traveler along with us. When we reached there, we found the main gate is closed and besides the main door there is an embedded Sign Board which reads and looks like this. Please see at the bottom of this post.

On the right hand side of the above Sign Board, there is a small Gate, which looked like a closed door, but there is a calling bell switch, which, however, did not work! Anyhow, when we pushed the small door a bit, it opened up and a Security Guard emerged. He gave us Permit Forms and asked us to fill up. He offered us seat in the adjacent Room, which looks like Visitors’ Room. The main building is away and it seems that visitors are NOT allowed to go inside the Office. The so-called Visitors’ Room is very Spartan in look with school-like Table and Bench. A Notice displayed over there on the wall gives a few tips (advisory type) meant for travelers viz.
1. Pre-requisite documents for Permit (We discussed this earlier);
2. Not to carry 500 or 1000 INR Notes to Bhutan;
3. Hire only Bhutan-registered Vehicles etc. etc.

While filling up the forms, an Officer from the Main Office came to us and exchanged a few pleasantries and also informed us that since our journey begins on 2nd November, the Permit will be made available on 25th October only. We reckoned we had no choice on this and naturally we nodded in acceptance.
As I had told earlier, I could not get the Entry Permit Application Form for Indian citizens from the web contrary to the claim made by many. What I did was I got Visa Application Form downloaded instead from the Web, got it photocopied and filled in before we reach Consulate Office assuming that this Form might be similar in nature and would be acceptable to the authority. But, it is not to be. Our earlier filled-in forms were scrapped and we had to fill in new form afresh provided by the Consulate Office (Read Security Guard). Since I have gone through this ordeal I thought that if I can submit the Permit Application Form in this thread itself, it would come handy for future travelers. I reckon downloaded Form would be accepted. So, here goes the Form: Please see at the bottom.

With these words, I conclude this part of my report. I intend to record all the stories, facts, photographs etc. pertaining to this Trip on phase wise. Obviously, the next part would contain actual trip report, which I hope to post sometime after 10th of November. Thanks.