Bhutan is the only country with a Happiness Index! Tourists from all over the globe visit Bhutan for either cultural trips or trekking expeditions. Our trip was more of a cultural excursion. We visited Monasteries and Dzongs which are spread throughout the country. The experience of visiting these peaceful structures made our stay in Bhutan a spiritual sojourn.
This post will let you know how to reach Bhutan. Also, I have appended some recommendations and suggestions which you can consider during your trip.
1) Reach Kolkata
You will have to reach Kolkata in order to embark a train which will take you further towards Bhutan. If you are traveling from North India, you can consider reaching Delhi, Kanpur or Ranchi. In addition, there are direct flights from Kolkata to Paro (Bhutan). Hence, you will have more options from Kolkata to reach Bhutan.
2) Reach Hasimara by Train
Hasimara is a small town in the Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal. The town is situated at a distance of 17 KM from the Indo-Bhutan Border. In order to reach Hasimara, you will have to board a train from Kolkata. For North Indians, you can take a train from Delhi, Kanpur or Ranchi as mentioned earlier.
You can visit the Indian railway website to know about the timing, duration & timetable of the trains. We had boarded the Kanchankanya Express from Kolkata which reached Hasimara at 10:30 AM in the morning.
3) Reach Jaigaon By Taxi/Bus
Jaigaon is the Indian town touching Indo-Bhutan Border. All the formalities to acquire permission, in order to enter Bhutan, will be carried out here at the immigration office. Every individual will have to acquire permission to enter Bhutan. You can take an Indian car in Bhutan, but you need a separate permit for the car.
When you get a permit for Bhutan, it will only cover Thimpu & Paro. In case you want to go to Bumthang or any other distant destinations, you need a separate permit.
You can take help of local tour operators or do it yourself. Kindly note, you will have to provide a pre-decided itinerary to acquire the permit. In our case, we had taken help of a local tour operator and he got all the essential permits quickly.
Documents you need to carry
To get your permit, you require either a Passport or Voter’s ID. Because of the friendly relations between India and Bhutan, you would not require Visa. In case you do not have a passport or Voter’s ID, please carry any other identity proof like driver’s license or Pan Card. You will have to visit the Indian immigration office and ask for the further procedure to acquire a permit. They will provide you the assistance required.
Once you have executed the required formalities, you can enter Bhutan and proceed according to the itinerary. In our case, by the time we got permits, it was quite late. Hence, we had to stay in Jaigaon for a night.
Things to do in Jaigaon
Jaigaon is like an average Indian town with average infrastructure. In case you need to stay here for a day, I have added some recommendations which you can consider.
1) Have a scrumptious thali at Barsana Restaurant
Before you enter Bhutan, you can savor Indian food in Barsana Restaurant. The restaurant is clean and well maintained. You can choose from a variety of Indian dishes. The price range is not very high.
I would recommend the Veg Thali available here. It will provide you a sumptuous meal which you would not get in Bhutan.
2) Savour lip-smacking sweets at Sheetal Sweets & Snacks
Sheetal Sweets & Snacks can offer you a wide variety of delicious snacks and lip-smacking sweets. You can have Samosas, Pani Puri, Dhoklas etc in snacks. In sweets, you can taste Rasgullahs, Gulab Jamun, Ras – Malai and much more.
I would highly recommend this place as I simply loved the taste here.
3) Get a taste of Bhutan by visiting Phuntsholing
At night, you can visit the border town, Phuntsholing, in Bhutan. Simply walk through the streets and lookout for shops where you can purchase anything local. You do not need a permit to enter Phuntsholing. Just cross the gate and explore the Bhutanese town. However, the gates close at 9:30 PM. So, it is advisable to return before that. Apart from these, there is nothing in Jaigao worth recommending. Just stay in your room and get ready to battle the temperature difference you will face in Bhutan.