Bhutan is Fully Reopening in September

Quarantine-free entry will be allowed, but travelers must fork out an extra US$135 per day for a tourist fee.

Drukgyel Dzong, a fortress-monastery in Bhutan’s Paro District. (Photo: Ugyen Tenzin/Unsplash)

Long a bucket-list destination for luxury travelers, the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is set to reopen to the world on September 23. While it is not yet clear if pre-departure testing will still be required, officials there are doubling down on a “high value, low volume” approach to tourism, with controversial new regulations that aim to overhaul the sector and bring a renewed focus on sustainability.

One of the biggest changes to Bhutan’s tourism policy is a hike in the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), a mandatory tourist tax, to US$200 per person per night. This represents a threefold increase from the previous rate of US$65 — an amount that hadn’t changed since the levy was introduced back in 1991. According to a government statement, the money will be used to offset travelers’ carbon emissions and bring more social benefits to Bhutan by training locals to take up well-paid professional jobs.

At the same time, Bhutan will abolish the Minimum Daily Package Rate, which applies to visitors coming from all countries except for Bangladesh, India, and the Maldives. This all-inclusive fee covered accommodation, meals, transport, admission fees, and the services of a local guide, and was fixed at US$250 per person per day during high season (from March–May and September–November), and US$200 at other times of the year. The SDF was once embedded in the rate but it is not known how the surcharge will be packaged from now on.

The absence of a minimum daily rate allows independent travelers to book directly with hotels, giving them more choice when it comes to accommodation. Tourists will also have the freedom to plan customized itineraries tailored to their interests; a guide and vehicle are only required when sightseeing.

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