LOST IN BHUTAN: 6 BIKERS, 20 DAYS, 7500 KMS OF INSANITY!
Are you planning a road trip from India to Bhutan? Read the guide which we have prepared after collecting lot of details from world wide web and compiling it at one place. We rode to Bhutan in Nov’14 and added some details from our side in the below compilation along with road update as of Nov-14.
RIDE DETAILS – 20 DAYS | 7500 KMS | CROSS COUNTRY BHUTAN
- We had chosen cross country Bhutan as the final plan because mostly people cover only Western Bhutan and return. Remaining part of Bhutan is less explored and it was truly a mesmerizing ride to say the least.
- Total ride distance was close to 7500 kms and our itinerary was for maximum of 20 days.
- We entered Bhutan through Phuentsholing (Western border) and exiting Bhutan from Samdrup Jonkar (Eastern border)
- Watch out for Road widening work going on from Simtokha to Wangdue & beyond. Check the road timings before heading out.
- If someone does not have Passport or Voter’s ID, they will need to visit Indian consulate office for obtaining Bhutan entry letter before you proceed with the below steps.
IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS TO CARRY
Individual Permit (Phuentsholing to Paro / Thimpu)
- Any one of the two valid ‘Travel Documents’ are MANDATORY
- Valid Indian Passport (with 6 months minimum validity).
- Voter Identity Card.
- 6 Passport size photos
- Valid 2 wheeler license (Old booklet license is also fine)
- Duly filled permit form
- PAN card (optional)
- Aadhaar card (optional)
Location: 200 meters after you enter Bhutan gate in Phuentsholing. On your right side as you come from the Indian side after the Fuel pump next to Customs & clearance office. The office is on 1st floor above Customs & clearance office.
Timings: 9 am onwards
- Vehicle’s RC (Registration certificate)
- Valid motorcycle insurance
- Valid 2 wheeler license
- PUC (Pollution under control) certificate
- Permit from Customs department
- A handwritten or typed letter mentioning the places you plan to visit including the vehicle number and owner information, addressing Sr. Regional Transport officer, Phuentsholing, Bhutan (There is no prescribed format)
Location: RSTA is situated closeby but not walkable distance. From the permit office take a left from the circle. Ask for Phuentsholing main bus stand, it’s located on the 2nd floor of the bus stand. Ask anyone where is the RSTA office once you reach the main bus stand which comes after you cross a small bridge.
Timings: 9-11 am & 2-4 pm (As of Nov’14)
Extension from Thimpu
Individual Permit (Beyond Thimpu)
- Document: Need to fill up a form given by them for stay extension and previous permit document.
- Time: Can take up to half a day or more – Early morning it should take only max 30 minutes to get permit.
- Location: Immigration office. It’s in the opposite direction to Clock Tower (same road) Norzim Lam. It’s around 10-15 minutes walk from clock tower to this office.
- Location: RSTA office
- Document: A handwritten or typed letter mentioning the places you plan to visit including the vehicle number and owner information same as before. Previous vehicle permit document. Extension & new permit for rest of Bhutan issued from Immigration department Thimpu
- Note: No one keeps the original or Xerox copy of permits in any check post, so just one copy of all documents is good enough. At check post they will check your permits for person and for vehicle, they will take down the name of driver, owner of vehicle, Vehicle number and driver’s license number for every vehicle once done they will return the document back to you.
IMPORTANT FYI ABOUT BHUTAN
- Bhutan Currency: Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum. Its value is tied to the Indian Rupee which is also accepted as legal tender. You cannot purchase Ngultrum prior to arriving in Bhutan, but you can easily buy Ngultrum at Paro airport, at Bhutan national bank and the bank of Bhutan, and at major hotels in Thimpu and Paro, all of which accept traveler’s checks and or various other currencies. When visiting smaller towns, however you should bring Ngultrum for your purchases, as it may not be possible to exchange your currency.
- Can I use credit card in Bhutan: No, in general credit cards are not accepted in Bhutan. Credit cards are accepted only at a few high end tourist shops.
- Are there ATMs in Bhutan? There are ATMs in Bhutan but Ngultrums will be available.
- Food in Bhutan: The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chili’s are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that was not spicy. Rice forms the main body of most Bhutanese meals. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are the meats that are eaten most often. A wide selection of western and Indian food is also available in many of the restaurants around the country.
- Best time to visit Bhutan: Every season has its own charm. The most popular times to travel to Bhutan are the spring months of March, April, and May and the fall months of September, October, and November. The weather is warmer and the skies are clearer at this time, and many of the most dramatic festivals take place during these months.
- Language of Bhutan: The official language in Bhutan is Dzongkha, English is the medium of instruction in Bhutan, and it is widely spoken by those who have received education.
- Time Zone in Bhutan: Bhutan has only one time zone and it is 30 minutes ahead of India.
- Accommodations in Bhutan: Western Bhutan (Thimphu, Paro, Wangdue, and Punakha) has the best hotels. As you head in to central and eastern Bhutan the quality of the hotels goes down a little bit. Most hotels will have telephones, Wifi Connectivity & food availability.
- Petrol Pumps update: Fuel pumps are only available at Thimpu, Paro, On the way to Paro, On the way to Chele La Pass, Wangdue, Jakar, Trongsa, Mongar and Trashigang.
Distance & Travelling Time in Bhutan:
|From||To||Distance (KM)||Riding Time|
|Paro||Thimphu||65 kms||01 hour|
|Paro||Haa||65 kms||1.5 – 02 hours|
|Thimphu||Haa||115 kms||03 – 04 hours|
|Thimphu||Phuentsholing||176 kms||07 – 08 hours|
|Thimphu||Wangduephodrang||70 kms||03 hours|
|Thimphu||Punakha||77 kms||03 hours|
|Thimphu||Phobjikha (Gangtey)||135 kms||5.5 – 06 hours|
|Punakha||Wangduephodrang||13 kms||45 minutes|
|Punakha||Gangtey (Phobjikha)||78 kms||03 hours|
|Punakha||Bumthang||212 kms||08 hours|
|Bumthang||Gangtey (Phobjikha)||188 kms||05 – 06 hours|
|Gangtey (Phobjikha)||Trongsa||120 kms||4.1/2 – 05 hours|
|Gangtey||Wangduephodrang||65 kms||2.5 – 03 hours|
|Trongsa||Wangduephodrang||129 kms||4.5 – 05 hours|
|Trongsa||Punakha||142 kms||06 hours|
|Trongsa||Bumthang||68 kms||02 hours|
|Bumthang||Mongar||198 kms||07 – 08 hours|
|Mongar||Lhuentse||76 kms||03 hours|
|Mongar||Trashigang||91 kms||03 – 04 hours|
|Trashigang||Chorten Kora||52 kms||02 hours|
|Trashigang||Samdrup Jongkhar||180 kms||07 hours|
|Trashigang||Trashiyangtse||55 kms||02 hours|
|Samdrup Jongkhar||Guwahati (Assam, India)||110 kms||03 hours|
|Samdrup Jongkhar||Phuentsholing||400 kms||10 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Bagdogra (West Bengal, India)||165 kms||4.1/2 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Siliguri (West Bengal, India)||155 kms||04 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Darjeeling (West Bengal, India)||200 kms||06 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Kalimpong (West Bengal, India)||185 kms||05 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Gangtok (Sikkim, India)||220 kms||07 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Dooars (Chalsa) (West Bengal, India)||110 kms||2.1/2 hours|
Sightseeing in Bhutan:
- Tiger’s Nest: Taktshang (3100m 4-5 hours walk up & down), the famous cave temple where the legendary Guru, Padmasambhava is said to have arrived on the back of a flying white tigress to meditate on the sheer cliffs. The uphill hike takes about 3 hours through pine forest. The temple clings to a side of a granite cliff about 900m above the Paro Valley.
- Haa Valley: Start the day early for drive to Haa via Chele-la pass. 4 Km away at Bondey village the road to Haa diverts towards the right hand side and ascends towards the chele-la pass starts. After driving through blue pine and rhododendron forest for 45 km, reach Chele-la pass ( 4200 meters). From this point one can have a superb views of Mt. Chomolhari & Jichu Drakey. This is a very good place to walk around for few minutes enjoying the view. Drive on to Haa, descending all the way for another 22 km (under an hours drive), finally reaching Haa. The Haa Dzong is presently occupied by military, but the view from outside is stunning. After picnic lunch visit to the famous Monastery of Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) followed by visit to Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple). Later in the afternoon drive to Paro same way back. The drive will be under 3 hours.
- Buddha Point: Buddha Point in Thimphu is the location of the Buddha Dordenma statue. This gigantic bronze statue of Buddha overlooks the Thimphu valley in all its grace. This is a must visit place in Thimphu.
- Simtokha Dzong: Located near Thimphu was the first of its kind Dzong to be built in Bhutan. Built in 1629 it is a place with huge historic significance. The decorations just outside the monastery is beautiful with its bright colors among the Buddhist paintings.
- Tashichhodzong: Is monastery that doubles as an administrative block in north Thimphu. It is the seat of the Bhutanese government and tourists have limited access to it(1 hr in the evenings).
- Thimpu Zoo: Only if you are interested in Takin (Body of a cow and face of a Goat – The national animal of Bhutan)
- Food Joints: Thimphu is full of lovely tiny eateries that make stopping by for a cup of coffee a lovely experience. Do check out places like Ambient Cafe, Karma’s Coffee & Mojo Park.
- Dochu La Pass: Before Punakha, on the way you shall see Dochu La pass. Very good place to spend time.
- Punakha Dzong: Is easily one of the most beautiful and scenic Dzong we visited on our stay in Bhutan. Built at the confluence of Pho Chhu (Father) & Mo Chhu(Mother) rivers, the Dzong is must visit for anyone visiting Bhutan.
- While entering Punakha the river side views are awesome.
- Phobjikha Valley & Bumthang:
- Phobjikha is peaceful, quiet and colorful valley with countryside views. Also famous for Black cranes.
- Bumthang – Lot of ancient temples, monasteries & beautiful riverside locations. Lot of Valley views in and around.
ROAD UPDATE AS OF NOV, 2014 – – Mumbai – Bhutan – Mumbai: 7300 kms. 19 Days.
Day 1: Mumbai – Nasik – Dhule – Manpur – Ratlam – Neemuch – Chittorgarh
- Distance: 845 kms.
- Road Condition: Excellent 4 Lane highway from Mumbai to Manpur. From Manpur to Neemuch, good 2 lane highway. But Last 40 kms to reach Chittorgarh is extremely bad. Road construction work going on and lot of loose gravel, slush at certain places and oncoming traffic makes riding very difficult. Dust is soo much you will look like construction workers after you reach Chittorgarh.
Day 2: Chittorgarh – Kota – Jhansi – Orcha
- Distance: 532 kms
- Road Condition: Excellent 4 lane highway (concrete) from Chittorgarh to Kota. If you start the ride early you can get out of Kota city without much of traffic hassle. Post Kota till Jhansi is excellent roads again. We halted at Orcha for night halt based on HVK sir’s recommendation which is around 18 kms from Jhansi.
Day 3: Orcha – Kanpur – Lucknow – Ayodhya
- Distance: 471 kms
- Road Condition: Good 4 lane highway from Jhansi to Kanpur. From Kanpur to Lucknow is Extreme bad roads. Feels like you are riding on Moon land surface & the road is full of potholes. Extreme caution is required in this stretch. Lucknow to Ayodhya is a super fast 4 lane highway.
Day 4: Ayodhya – Gorakhpur BP – Muzaffarpur BP – Purnea BP – Dalkhola – Kishanganj – Islampur – Bagdogra – Siliguri
- Distance: 852 kms
- Road Condition: Majority of the roads have excellent 4 lane highway. Very bad roads when u enter Bihar border for 20-30 kms and while exiting bihar border bad roads for 20 kms.
Day 5: Siliguri – Sevoke – Baintgoorie – Binnaguri – Birpara – Jaigaon – Phuentsholing
- Distance: 152 kms
- Road Condition: Hill roads and full of twisties. Two lane highway. Odd bad patches at multiple places.
Day 6: Phuentsholing – Gedu – Chapcha – Chuzhom – Thimpu
- Distance: 190 kms
- Road Condition: Complete hilly ride. Occasional potholes throughout the ride. Last 45 kms before Thimpu the good roads start.
Day 7: Thimpu Sightseeing
Day 8: Thimpu to Paro
- Distance: 51 kms
- Road Condition: Fantastic roads and full of twisties. This ride can be completed in 1 hour.
Day 9: Paro – Chele La – Haa Valley – Chuzom – Paro
- Distance: 171 kms
- Road Condition: Paro – Chele La – Haa valley has moderately bad roads but manageable. Haa valley – Chuzom – Paro has good roads overall and faster but 30 kms more than Chele La route.
Day 10: Paro – Thimpu BP – Simtoka – Dochu La – Punakha – Wangdue
- Distance: 135 kms.
- Road Condtion: Excellent roads as mentioned above from Paro to Thimpu. Do not enter Thimpu and turn towards Simtoka. Check the road open & close timings as road widening work is going on after Thimpu. Decentroads from Simtoka to Dochu La. Extreme bad roads after Dochu la till Punakha.
Day 11: Wangdue – Phobjika Valley – Pele La – Trongsa – Yotong La – Jakar – Bumthang
- Distance: 220 kms
- Road conditions: This ride a mix of good roads and bad roads. If travelling in winter expect lot of wind chill and some distance of riding in clouds.
Day 12: Bumthang Sightseeing
Day 13: Bumthang – Thrumsing La – Mongar – Trashigang
- Distance: 280 kms
- Road Condition: Overall good roads. Bad roads start around 15 kms before Thrumsing La and lasts till Namaling. Post that fantastic roads all the way till Trashigang.
Day 14: Trashigang – Samdrup Jonkar – Tamulpur – Rangiya – Guwahati
- Distance: 290 kms
- Road Condition: Extremely bad roads & no roads at all for long distances for 150 kms once you start the ride from Trashigang and last 40 kms is excellent. The 150 kms of bad roads will easily eat up 7-8 hours of the day. Samdrup Jonkar to Guwahati has good roads.
Day 15: Guwahati – Boko – Goalpara – North Salimara – Ghauripur – Boxirhat – Tufanganj – Cooch Bihar – Falakata – Birpara – Chalsa – Sevoke – Siliguri
- Distance: 520 kms
- Road Condition: Overall good roads however from Bongaigaon till u cross WB border be careful of Bodoland as it is a high risk zone as of now. CRPF police everywhere in this area for support, stop wherever you are stopped by CRPF as they will be guiding you in case of any danger expected, Google for Bodoland to learn more. Extremely bad roads in border area till you reach Falakata. From Falakata to Siliguri via Birpara and Chalsa was excellent.
Day 16: Siliguri – Islampur – Purnea – Naugachia – Khagaria – Begusarai – Bihar Sharif – Rajgir
- Distance: 450 kms
- Road Condition: Excellent 4 lane highway till you reach 30 kms before Begusarai. Extremely bad roads 30 kms before Begusarai and 20 kms after that.
Day 17: Rajgir – Bodhgaya – Varanasi – Allahabad
- Distance: 440 kms; Road Condition: Excellent 4 lane highway.
Day 18: Allahabad – Kanpur – Jhansi – Lalitpur – Sagar
- Distance: 660 kms
- Road Condition: Excellent Roads. 4 Lane highway all the way till Sagar.
Day 19: Sagar – Vidisha – Bhopal – Indore – Dhule – Nashik – Mumbai
- Distance: 930 kms.
- Road Condition: Slight bad stretch on outskirts to enter Sagar and then fantastic roads all the way till Mumbai. Keep in mind to bypass Bhopal, Indore and join NH3 some 5 kms before a place called Dewas.
Here’s a shortcut to all the Chapters of the Bhutan ride: