Flying into Paro international airport is not the only way to enter Bhutan. If you want to drive into Bhutan, you can do so. There are three main entry points with the Southern town of Phuentsholing, Bhutan’s commercial capital, sharing borders with the district of Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, India, serving as the main point.
In the East, you can drive in through Samdrup Jongkhar that shares its border with the district of Daranga, Assam, India. Gelephu in central Bhutan is another entry point.
Phuentsholing is located approximately 170 km east of the Indian airport at Bagdogra, West Bengal. The journey from Phuentsholing to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital meanders northward over hills and mountains. It takes approximately five hours.
From Gelephu to Thimphu, the distance is approximately 250 km and takes travelers through sub-tropical regions before entering the alpine zone and then finally into Thimphu. The journey traverses across three districts in about 10 hours.
Samdrup Jongkhar is approximately 150 km from Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. The journey from Guwahati to Samdrup Jongkhar takes about two hours, and thereafter an additional six hours to Trashigang, Bhutan’s largest district. From Trashigang, the lateral highway takes travelers via Mongar, Bumthang, Trongsa, Wangudephodrang and then finally to Thimphu. The distance of about 700 km takes a minimum of two days.
Bhutan is now connected by air to Bangkok, Singapore, Kathmandu, New Delhi, Dhaka, Kolkatta, and Guwahati. Apart from Druk Air, the National Airlines, a new airline, Bhutan Airlines was launched in 2013. Bhutan Airlines currently flies only to Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu but has plans to operate from several other cities in the coming year.
Bhutan has only one international airport at Paro in western Bhutan, an hour’s drive from the capital city, Thimphu. The international airport at Paro is located at a height of 7300 ft above sea level and surrounded by mountains as high as 16,000 feet.
You will be endorsed by the immigration officers upon your arrival before you are issued with a permit. Make sure you go personally. You may have to carry your passport (also some passport photographs) or voter’s registration card. If you plan to travel by road, the endorsement is done at the entry points in Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, or Gelephu. If by flight, it will be done at Paro Airport.