Bhutan tourism & COVID-19 FAQ – constantly updated
Bhutan is closed for tourism until further notice. Only 108 cases of novel coronavirus were detected in Bhutan, all imported. As of now, there is no ongoing community transmission and no one died due to COVID-19. Tourism restrictions in transit countries are another factor blocking travelers from coming. Read more detailed info in this FAQ! You can also register to get info when Bhutan reopens.
What is current situation in Bhutan amid COVID-19 pandemic?
Bhutan had only 108 confirmed cases of COVID-19. First case, detected on 5th March, was 76 years old American tourist while second was his 59 years old travel partner. They came to Bhutan from India, where they probably contracted virus from the unknown source. All contacts of the patients were tracked and repeatedly tested with negative result. First patient got intensive care in Thimphu’s National Referral Hospital before being airlifted home in stable and improving condition. Second patient was treated in Bhutan and both first and second patients are already fully recovered. All subsequent cases were Bhutanese nationals who just returned to Bhutan from abroad and thus had been already quarantined in the time of testing. All their contacts in Bhutan were also tracked and tested negative. Most of the sick people are already recovered with only 12 active cases remaining.
Is it possible to travel to Bhutan now or in near future?
All tourism visas starting from 6th March onwards are suspended until further notice. Travel also remains subject to various restrictions imposed by the countries through which travelers are entering Bhutan. We are closely following any prospect when tourism might reopen.
What are the current travel restrictions in the transit countries?
- Bangladesh: Visa on arrival suspended. Limited international flights were resumed.
- India: Scheduled flights to India are suspended till 31st August. Limited unscheduled international flights resumed but for essential or repatriation flights only.
- Nepal: Flights to Nepal are suspended. Government decided to reopen air travel from 17th August. Details on visas and entry requirements are yet to be published.
- Singapore: Severe regulations for tourism. Airport transit possible from 2nd June.
- Thailand: Arrival to Thailand is severely restricted to business and essential travel only.
Please mind that these policies might change any time with immediate effect. For up-to-date info refer to IATA Travel Centre or each country authorities.
When it will be absolutely hassle-free to travel to Bhutan again?
While it is impossible to predict the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some chances that by September or perhaps October or November onward, travel restrictions might be lifted. On the other hand, the restrictions might very well continue till the end of 2021. You can start planning tours in Autumn tentatively, avoiding paying any non-refundable advances or other non-retractable commitments. Any flight tickets you buy should allow date changes and cancellations.
Is festival schedule affected?
Spring festivals, including Paro Tshechu, were cancelled as a result of social distancing measures. While no official decision was made on Summer and Autumn season events, festivals will probably not be held until the danger of COVID-19 outbreak ceases. Anyway in such case, Bhutan will still be closed for tourism. In case of tourism reopening, the situation will be probably considered safe enough for festivals to be held.
If I already booked the trip to Bhutan, should I cancel?
If your trip was supposed to start before the end of August, you should definitely reschedule or cancel. Although authorities did not indicate anything clearly, we believe there is zero chance for borders to open that soon. If your tour is planned for September onwards, you might still keep some hope and wait. You should consult your Bhutanese tour operator about cancellation conditions.
What is Firefox Tours policy towards COVID-19 cancellations?
We in Firefox Tours did refund the full amount paid for tours and flight tickets to all guests who didn't reschedule their trips for later. We will keep this policy towards all COVID-19 related tour cancellations until the situation gets officially back to normal. You can also register with us to get info when Bhutan reopens. You can also safely start planning your tour with, be it for this Autumn season or 2021. We will not require any financial or other commitments before the official tourism reopening is announced.
Is Bhutan prepared to contain possible COVID-19 outbreak?
As proved by cases described above, Bhutan is capable of proper epidemiological response, tracking all primary and secondary contacts of infected person, isolating them, testing them repeatedly as well as providing first-class intensive care. So in the terms of healthcare professionalism, Bhutan is comparatively more efficient in containing novel coronavirus cases than it’s neighbors. However, in case of massive outbreak, Bhutan would struggle with limited resources.
Is there a danger of massive outbreak?
Any massive outbreak is unlikely due to Bhutan's small and disciplined population and strong rule of law as well as effective government's measures to keep the virus at bay. Tourism is suspended and all other arriving travelers including Bhutanese are subject to three weeks of compulsory quarantine. Border with India was closed from 23rd March. You will probably not find any other country so much isolated from the rest of the world, now.
What are the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic to Bhutan?
About 50 thousands Bhutanese people directly rely on tourism. Some of them, especially guides, drivers and hotel staffs don’t have many savings. Failure of the spring tourism season is literally disaster for their home finances. Also, tourism is second biggest industry and revenue maker in Bhutan (first being hydro energy). Government funding for healthcare, education and social sectors will be affected by tourism revenue loss. In general, Bhutan will get into the economic slowdown and increased foreign debt, which is already too high.
So, please, plan your trip to Bhutan post-COVID in the fall or by next year. We will be keenly awaiting you! Not only you will be rewarded with great experiences but your visit will also help Bhutan to overcome harsh impact of the novel coronavirus crisis!
Last update on 9th August 2020