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6 ways to explore Bhutan under 1000 rupees ($15) a day – Only for Indian, Bangladesh and Maldives Citizens

We are back from our backpacking trip to Bhutan, the country of happiness but touch is still intact and memories are fresh. We had been planning this trip for last couple of years and finally packed our bags in 2016 summers to explore Western Bhutan (Thimphu, Punakha, Haa Valley & Paro) over a 9 day trip. 

Click here to read all blogs from our Bhutan Backpacking Trip.

All this, we could achieve by spending less that 1000 rupees ($15) a day. Thankfully, Indian citizens are allowed to travel on their own which helped us to achieve this feat. Tourists from all other countries (Except Bangladesh/Maldives) have to mandatory engage with tour operators at a minimum daily budget of $250. So how did we manage such a fulfilling trip on such low a budget (including stay, travel and food)?

1. Stay at budget hotels in proximity to city center

To save costs on transport, we always look up for an affordable clean place in the city center. This also gives us a chance to feel the pulse of the place. We did the same in Bhutan and this helped us a lot in saving time and money. City centers, the Clock Tower (Norzim Lam) and Town Square in Bhutan’s major tourist cities of Thimphu & Paro respectively, provide multiple budget hotel options. Major tourist attractions can be explored at an affordable rate from these either by walking or by riding in a shared taxi. The city centers are also close to multiple eateries, taxi stands and bus stands.

For more stay options at Bhutan, please read: Bhutan Backpacking: Hotel Booking Tips

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Paro Town Square: Vibrant with activites and closer to all major city attractions

2. Explore Bhutan cities on foot!

Explore cities ringed with  mountains on foot? Yes, you read it right. Following the first tip of taking accommodation in city center makes this tip a cake walk.

Cities in Bhutan are small with major attractions located within a radius of 2 to 4 kms from the city center. The best part is that the walk through cities in Bhutan is unlike anything you would expect. We walked along the river, through the local markets, crossing home farms and filled our lungs with fresh air.  It did not seem like we are walking through a busy city. Less and disciplined traffic, clean roads and beautiful sights make the walk easy. Except Thimphu, no other Bhutan city has public transport and walking or hiring taxis are the only options. Trust us, try the walk!

Hikes around Haa Valley: Starting point for Hike to Katsho gGoemba & Jana Dingkha, Bhutan Tourism, Things to do in Haa valley
A morning walk along the river side in Haa Valley was a real delight.

3. Use public transportation: Coaster buses and shared cabs

Coaster buses and shared cabs are the best option for inter-city transport. Bus options are limited (low frequency, so book in advance) and finding exact information is difficult (as different private operators are licensed to ply on different routes). Buses are super comfortable and dot punctual (Please do not be late!). You will enjoy Bhutanese and  Bollywood music while curiously looking out at breathtaking views. In case, you want to save time, shared cabs are really good options. We opted for bus for all inter city travel and followed this itinerary. You will easily get them in most of the cities unless you are diverging from the main route. Individual cabs can be expensive if you are single or two in number. Bus rides are also accompanied with stops to eat at local family run Bhutanese food joints, something which you may miss otherwise.

Bus ride in Bhutan: love, fun and exploration, Bhutan Budget travel, Coaster buses in Bhutan, Bhutan backpacking
Bus ride in Bhutan: love, fun and exploration

4. Enjoy Bhutanese Delicacies at Local Restaurants

If you have traveled so far, you will certainly not want to miss trying the local Bhutanese dishes. There are a few restaurants which offer Bhutanese buffet but we found them to be a bit expensive. There are multiple small family run restaurants on the highways and in cities which offer homemade food at much cheaper prices. One will not find such places on Google but definitely your eyes and nose will be able to spot them! We had multiple meals of Ema/Shamu Datshi (prepared primarily in cheese and chilies) with red rice at such places.

Click here to read recipe for Ema Datshi – a popular Bhutanese dish

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Enjoy Ema Datshi and other cheese/chilies dishes at Bhutan: Local delicacies and taste

5. Go beyond the Guide Book

You are standing amidst heavenly green mountains and clear air. One will spot multiple monasteries and temples on a hill top. Places that may not even have a mention in your guide book. Should that stop you from exploring it? No! We did multiple such hikes. These trails were free of tourists, wind through the villages, across the rivers and go straight into the heaven that is the mountainous forest. We updated our guide book with the new findings!

Read more about our day hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery and hikes in Haa Valley.

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On our way to Tiger’s Nest Monastery: About to reach the mid point of our hike

6. Shop for souvenirs at Paro and Tiger’s Nest Monastery

One shopping spree can crash all your budget calculations! Since most of the things in Bhutan are imported from neighbouring countries, they come with an extra cost. So, after exploring all major cities of Western Bhutan, we realized that Paro is the best place to buy any souvenirs from Bhutan. Same souvenirs will cost you almost half in Paro of what you would be paying in Thimphu. Rates are further lower at the local market situated at the base of the Tiger’s Monastery trek. Options are limited here and you will be able to strike a deal after slight negotiation. Please do not haggle much as these will be the lowest rate that you will find all across Bhutan 🙂

Paro is the best place to shop for souvenirs in Bhutan
Paro is the best place to shop for souvenirs in Bhutan

So if you are planning a trip to Bhutan and don’t want to sign up for one of those tour packages, these tips will be helpful in keeping your budget low and happiness high. Give your legs a good shake for the best exploration of Bhutan!

Please drop us a comment if you need any more information or want to share more with fellow travellers.

Happy Exploration!!

2 thoughts to “6 ways to explore Bhutan under 1000 rupees ($15) a day – Only for Indian, Bangladesh and Maldives Citizens”

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for the report but you have neither given the itenerary, places visited nor the hotels & tariff and vehicle rates mentioned.
    The complete details will help trouvellers a lot and I am waiting for the above details as planning to visit Bhutan in the end of March or start of April.

    Once again thanking you.

    1. Dear D Chowdhury
      You can refer all details regarding our itinerary, places visited, hotels and tariff at our Bhutan page here – http://offbeatexplorers.com/bhutan-tourism/ .We think that you will be pleased to see posts on our Bhutan page as it covers exactly what you are looking for. Still, in case you require more details, please feel free to drop us a note. Will be glad to help you.

Happy to hear from you

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