Bhutan Customs & Immigration
The custom regulations in Bhutan also operates under a structured approach and there is little or no leniency shown to tourists who flout rules. Usually heavy on-spot fines are levied for loss of documents.
One of the important regulations include receiving a baggage declaration form to complete when you arrive at Bhutan Paro airport. It is mandatory not to lose the form as it is required to be returned while leaving Bhutan. The main purpose of this form is to ensure that you should take back anything that you bring into the country.
Expensive items that you may be carrying such as cameras, phones and laptops need to be declared. If you are carrying equipment for commercial filming, then that would require a permit that the tour operator will acquire for you.
Duty Free & Dutiable Imports
As you may have heard Bhutan has a strict anti-smoking policy and cigarettes are rarely available and expensive inside Bhutan. This can tempt you to bring in cartons of your favorite smokes in your luggage. However, customs regulations ensure that only two cartons of cigarettes/ 2 boxes with 50 pieces each can be brought inside Bhutan but 200% duty will be charged on arrival at Paro.
You can bring in any quantity of trekking gear and other personal items. You can bring in 2 bottles of 1Liter of liquor duty free but there is no point as Bhutan has amazing quality reasonably priced liquor (see section on what to eat and drink in Bhutan
There are restrictions on number of clothing too as only ten pieces of stitched/ unstitched garments are allowed per luggage. Only one perfume bottle of 1 ounce, I kilogram of silver and 50 grams of gold are allowed. Foreign currency equal to the value of 10,000 USD can be imported.
Currencies that are accepted at Bhutan Banks are USD, EUR, HKD, GBP, JPY, CHF, SGD and AUD
All items for gifting purposes are also included in the above limits
You cannot bring the following items inside Bhutan and if they are detected at Customs, they will be confiscated (unless you have procured prior permission from Bhutan Govt) and you might land into legal trouble including being barred from entering Bhutan.
Illegal medicines/ drugs, guns and ammunition, explosives, plant based products, meat based products, hazardous materials, pornographic content, counterfeit money, animals etc. are all prohibited.
Personal arms can be brought in only if permission is taken from Royal Bhutan Army. Any import/ export of specific plants or animals or related materials require permits granted from Ministry of Agriculture. In case you wish to carry pets and animals, a travel health certificate by a recognized health regulating authority will be required. Wireless/ remote sensor technological goods need a clearance from Ministry of Communications.
All rules applicable to duty free imports are applicable to exports. The prohibitions list is also same for import-exports. The Customs department is especially strict about the export of antiques and in case you are carrying a souvenir that looks particularly old, you need to obtain a certificate from Tourism Council of Bhutan proving that it is a non antique. Division of Cultural Properties (a part of the Department of Culture inside the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs) can help you.
Departure formalities are straightforward but require production of the form that was completed on arrival and may need to show all the items listed on it. A lost form means complications and delays.
Customs authorities pay special attention to religious statues. It would be prudent to have any such statue cleared, old or not.
For more clarifications you can contact
Tourism Authority of Bhutan (TAB) in Thimphu.
Phone: +975-2-23251/2; Fax: +975-2-23695
Just the Visa Clearance doesn’t guarantee the automatic right of entry of any tourist inside the Kingdom of Bhutan till the immigration officer puts an entry seal on the passport. The immigration officer will match visa clearance form details with passport details at the airport and if there is any discrepancy in the information then Visa seal will not be put on passport and entry will be denied.
A tourist/ foreigner who has Official visa, FG Visa, BG Visa or Official Gratis Visa will be granted entry seal with max 14 days validity from entry date. Apart from official gratis Visa holders, all others must pay 20 USD at immigration counter.
Biometric records like fingerprints and facial photographs will be obtained at Immigration counter at Paro Airport and these will be retained in Govt database. Children below 7 years will be issued entry Visa without biometric enrollment on basis of birth certificate.
In case your tour stretches to more than 14 days in Bhutan, your details shall be registered with the Foreigner Registration Desk of Royal Bhutan Police. Your tour plan will also be scrutinized by official authorities.
Contact the following for more clarifications about immigration rules
Immigration officer Paro International Airport
Fax: (975) 8 271673