Bhutan tourism & COVID-19 FAQ – constantly updated
Bhutan is closed for tourism until further notice. Only forty-seven cases of novel coronavirus were detected in Bhutan, all imported. As of now, there is no ongoing community transmission. 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 forty-seven confirmed cases of COVID-19. First case, detected on 5th March, was 76 years old American tourist. 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. Nine of them are also fully recovered by now.
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. Flights severely curtailed.
- India: Flights to India are suspended.
- Nepal: Flights to Nepal are suspended.
- Singapore: Severe regulations for tourism and transit.
- Thailand: Flights to Thailand are suspended.
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, we believe that by September onward, travel restrictions might be lifted. You can start planning tours in Autumn, although we would recommend not to pay non-refundable advances right now. This should not be a problem since advance payments for September or October dates would not be needed before July. There are some chances that Bhutan and transit countries will open earlier, maybe in July, anyway there is no guarantee. Also, you better purchase tickets which permits date changes and cancellations.
If I already booked the trip to Bhutan, should I cancel?
If your trip was supposed to start before the end of June, you should definitely reschedule or, if not possible, cancel. Although authorities did not indicate that clearly, we believe there is zero chance for borders to open that soon. If your tour is planned for July onwards, there might be slim chance of Bhutan being open, but travel restriction in the transit countries might still be a problem. You should consult your Bhutanese tour operator what cancellation conditions will apply in case your tour is cancelled in such case.
What is Firefox Tours policy towards COVID-19 cancellations?
We in Firefox Tours did refund full amount paid for tours and flight tickets to all guests who did not like to reschedule their trips. 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.
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, quarantining them, testing them repeatedly as well as giving them first-class intensive care. So in the terms of healthcare professionalism, Bhutan is comparatively more efficient in containing individual novel coronavirus cases than it’s neighbors. However, in case of massive outbreak, Bhutan would struggle with limited resources as beds, COVID-19 tests, doctors, nurses, medicines, etc.
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 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 the tourism revenue loss. In general Bhutan will get into the economic slowdown and increased foreign debt, which is already too high.
So, please, if you don’t wish to travel to Bhutan right now, we understand. But if you can come in the fall or 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 3rd June 2020