BHUTAN – The Trip

Arranging and then paying for the trip to Bhutan was a definite challenge. A real pain in the ass. A trip to Bhutan is expensive and the money must be wired to the travel company well in advance and be forwarded to the Bhutan government for them to issue a visa (refer to my detailed explanation in the previous post). It is impossible to wire money from a business or personal bank account to a foreign business from outside of your branch in your home town. I was in India and Sri Lanka when this was required. You are not allowed to set up a bank account in a foreign country if you are not a resident or have some sort of permanent residency. The only credit card the travel company would not accept was a Mastercard, the only one I have. They would also not accept Paypal. Western Union will not wire money from a personal bank account. I was blocked on every front. My only option has been to withdraw money in whatever currency of the country I was in, go to a money changer (foreign banks will not change their currency to US$ for a nonresident), pay their fees and get US$, then land in the Paro Bhutan airport with enough money to pay for the entire trip including the airfare which only the travel company could book. The entire bill for 7 days in Bhutan was US$2685 (250/day + 40/day single supplement + about $700 for the flight that included my onward flight from Bhutan to Bangkok). As I have a $500/day withdrawal limit on my bank account (a wise idea if traveling in case of identity theft – I had almost $2000 withdrawn from my bank account in Brazil after using an ATM), this entailed many withdrawals. I also needed over $1000 for my Maldives trip as I had the same issues with wiring money there. So I arrived in the Maldives with US$3700 cash on me. The Bhutan travel company was kind enough to put up the entire price of my trip with no guarantee that I would come.

I still have a few hurdles to overcome before I get there. My India Visa expired on March 26 and I have two stops in India on my way to Bhutan. Supposedly one needs an Indian Transit Visa to do this but it is impossible to figure out how to get one, they are only valid for 15 days after issued, take several days to get, and you have to surrender your passport. I have absolutely no desire to spend more than a few hours in Colombo or Male in order to do that as they are both shit holes. All the foreign consulates say that one is necessary. However, Thorntree, the online Lonely Planet discussion forum, the only source of information on the matter, says that one is not necessary, if you do not have to spend more than 12 hours in one airport, and you have ongoing flights and the Bhutan Visa. One has to spend the layovers in a transit lounge in the respective airports. It is not an uncommon problem. India has so much bureaucratic red tape. Another minor problem is that my third leg of the four flights to get from Male, Maldives to Bhutan was cancelled (Chennai to Kolkata). There was absolutely only one flight that would work and I obtained it. I have now had 8 phone calls to Expedia in Canada to get a refund for the flight as they were unable to book that leg as it is a charter airline which they don’t deal with. I have had no luck dealing with them and have resigned myself to having to eat the new flight costs. The joy of travel.

The end result of all this is the India Transit Visa got in the way of my going at all. They originally stated that it would take 4-5 days. That would have allowed me to get to Bangkok the day before my flight home left. After doing all the incredible red tape of the Indian Visa System, I was told that it would take 7 days to get the visa!!! As a result, I had to cancel the entire Bhutan trip, at considerable cost to me and the travel company in Bhutan.

About admin

I would like to think of myself as a full time traveler. I have been retired since 2006 and in that time have traveled every winter for four to seven months. The months that I am “home”, are often also spent on the road, hiking or kayaking.
I hope to present a website that describes my travel along with my hiking and sea kayaking experiences.

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