Bhutan opened to foreign tourism in 1974. Foreign travelers going to Bhutan must be on a fully organized tour that includes a private vehicle, a driver and a tour guide. The journey must be pre-planned, pre-paid and can only be arranged through a travel agency. There is no independent travel allowed in Bhutan (some exceptions apply for citizens from India, Bangladesh and Maldives as well as foreign travelers visiting Bhutan on an official government invitation). Contrary to popular belief, there is no limit on the amount of travelers permitted to enter Bhutan each year. In addition, group tours in Bhutan are not required. However the government-set daily tourism tariff is regulated under a policy of “High Value, Low Impact Tourism”.
The tour guides in Bhutan must meet a very high standard and pass difficult tests before earning their tour guide license. In addition to English, you can request guides who can speak French, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish.
The cost of the daily tourism tariff, explained below, is out of the price range for many budget travelers causing the total tourist numbers in Bhutan to remain relatively small. Foreign tourism in Bhutan has been increasing steadily over the past 15 years. According to the Bhutan Tourism Monitor, in 2014 there were 64,164 foreign tourists along with a further 65,399 regional tourists from India, Bangladesh and Maldives.
The cost includes: