Bhutan’s sole airport, Paro International Airport (PBH), is situated in the southwest of the country, near the capital, Thimphu. Druk Air [www], runs two planes (two airbus) that travel to Bangkok, Thailand; Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bodh Gaya / Gaya, Bagdogra, Guwahati, India; Kathmandu, Nepal; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Singapore. Bhutan Airways started daily flights to Bangkok in October 2013, breaking Druk’s monopoly.
The Bagdogra Airport (IXB) [www], is another alternative, serving the city of Siliguri in the adjacent Indian state of West Bengal. Bagdogra is a four-hour drive from Bhutan’s border town of Phuentsholing. Druk Air flies from Bangkok on Sundays and Wednesdays, while Bagdogra gets regular flights from India’s major cities (no flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays).
Only three land border crossings with India are situated along the southern border. Phuntsholing is located in the west, Gelephu is located in the center, and Samdrup Jongkhar is located in the east. There are no open border crossings along China’s northern border. Road permits are also needed; however, they, along with your visa, are handled by your local tour operator.
- From Kolkata: The Royal Bhutanese Government operates a service to Phuentsholing from Kolkata. These buses leave at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from Kolkata’s Esplanade bus station, and at 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from the Phuentsholing Bhutan Post office. The trip will take about 18 hours and will cost 300Rps/Nu. The buses are pleasant, but don’t expect to get much sleep on the trip to Kolkata since most of the roadway is like the surface of the moon.
- From Siliguri: Siliguri to Phuentsholing / Jaigaon: There is a regular service between Siliguri and Phuentsholing / Jaigaon. It’ll take you approximately four hours to get there. Daily, buses run by the Royal Bhutan Government leave from the bus station outside the Heritage Hotel at 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. from the main route. Tickets cost Rs 62 and may be purchased at the bus’s entry.
- From Phuentsholing: Private buses and shared taxis run between Phuentsholing and Thimphu, but a more comfortable alternative is to book a Bhutan Post bus (Rs / Nu 170) that departs from the post office every morning at 7 a.m. (Bhutan time).
Bhutan is devoid of railroads. The following are the closest alternatives (both in India):
- The closest station to Phuentsholing is Hasimara, which is 17 kilometers distant on the Kolkata / Siliguri main line in Assam. The # 13149 and # 4084 Indian Rail trains stop here. Some parts of the road between New Jalpaiguri / Siliguri and Phuentsholing were in extremely poor condition in October 2010. Extending your train journey to Hasimara will allow you to conserve your energy for Bhutan.
- For tourists going to Bhutan by land, the New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP) in Siliguri is a popular option. Direct shared cabs are available from NJP to Jaigaon, or you may take the bus from the Siliguri bus station. A cab from the station to the bus terminal costs about 80 rupees at most. Alternatively, you may go to Hasimara on a local railway, which costs about Rs40 and takes around 3 hours. Because it is a popular resort among locals, NJP trains should be reserved in advance. There are no trains with a tourist quota leaving from this stop.