The best way to reach Bhutan is by air. The only international airport in Bhutan is in Paro and it is called Paro International Airport. It is around 7 kms from the city. It has connecting flights from various cities such as Mumbai and Guwahati. Direct flights to Bhutan can be found from Kolkata, Bagdogra International Airport and Delhi.
You can also take a direct flight from Nepal to Bhutan. In fact, this journey is quite exciting by air as you can see four of the highest mountains in the world (Mt. Everest, Makalu, Lhotse, and Kangchenjunga) from the airplane. It takes an hour to reach Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, from Paro. Paro itself is surrounded by mountains and it is at a height of 7300 feet above sea level. Descending into Paro to land can be quite a spectacular and unforgettable experience as mountain tops are so close by.
Of late however, Yonphulla and Bathpalanthag have stopped operations. Bhutan’s national carrier is Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. Druk Air operates regular flights from Paro to Kolkata, Delhi, Dhaka, Kathmandu and Bangkok.
Indians do not need a visa to travel to Bhutan although they do require a valid Indian passport or a Voter Identity Card and an Entry Permit from Immigration Office of Royal Government of Bhutan at Phuentsholing. This is located on the Indo-Bhutan border opposite Jaigaon, West Bengal. However, travellers can visit only Paro and Thimphu using this entry permit. If you wish to visit other places, then you have to get a special area permit from the Royal Government of Bhutan Immigration Office in Thimphu.
Travelling to Bhutan by car is a popular way to reach Bhutan especially for those people who love going on road trips. India has three border points - Jaigaon – Phuentsholing Border, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar. Phuentsholing is the more preferred option for those trying to reach Bhutan by road. It is around 170 kms from Bagdogra in West Bengal. It is easily accessible and you can even halt here before you head on towards Bhutan.
You can hire private taxis from various places such as Bagdogra Airport or Siliguri stand and the fares can be between 2000 to 3000 INR. Phuentsholing is on the Bhutan side of the border and once you reach there, the journey to Thimpu can be around 5 to 6 hours. The journey is rather scenic as you cross various sub-tropical areas or even the alpine zones. For those who love the idea of the journey being as vital as the destination, a road trip can be quite an exhilarating way to reach Bhutan.
You can travel to Bhutan from Kolkata by bus. There are direct buses from Esplanade Station in Kolkata which will take you directly to Phuentsholing. Do be warned though, the bus journey is around 18 hours from Kolkata but around 4 hours only, from Siliguri. The trip is quite comfortable as the buses are maintained in good condition as they are run by the Royal Bhutanese Government.
It is not possible to reach Bhutan by train but visitors can reach stations like Siliguri, Hasimara, New Alipurduar etc. and then take a taxi or bus to reach Bhutan. Hasimara is only 17 kms away from Phuentsholing.
There aren’t many domestic air travel options in Bhutan. While Druk Air has scheduled domestic flights from Paro to Bathpalathang, air travel is not one of the main options for travelling locally. There are chartered helicopter flights for sightseeing which are operated by Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service.
Taxis are the best way to get around Bhutan as you can find them easily enough in Phuentsholing, Thimphu, Paro etc. While taxis do have meters, drivers don’t use them often enough. There’s usually a flat rate for long distance trips and they’re not open to negotiation. Also, taxi drivers do tend to overcharge, so do try and find out how much to negotiate. You can hire a taxi for a full day to travel around cities like Thimphu or Paro.
Bhutan’s local buses are also used for local transport but they’re not ideally the best way to travel in Bhutan. Minibuses are cheaper but are not maintained well and with winding roads, it can be quite problematic for anyone suffering from motion sickness. There are private operators too which use better and more comfortable buses which of course, cost a little more. There is at least one bus daily from Thimphu to Phuentsholing, Paro etc.
Driving in your own car is not recommended in Bhutan because the roads are narrow, winding and have hairpin bends which can be quite scary, no matter how experienced a driver you are. However, if you are coming in your own car, you have to get a 14-day permit at Phuentsholing border. If all your papers such as registration, insurance policies, emission certificates etc are in order, then you can drive your own car in Bhutan easily. Do ensure you follow the traffic regulations as they are enforced quite strictly.
If you’re a keen biker, then you might enjoy doing a bit of mountain biking in Bhutan.
The best way of exploring the cities in Bhutan is by walking. Since some of the nearby villages don’t even have roads, you will have to go on foot to reach them.