This is an annual report produced in
conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi,
India, which oversees security for U.S. interests in Bhutan. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in
Bhutan. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Bhutan country
webpage for original OSAC reporting,
consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only
to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Bhutan at Level 1, indicating
travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review
OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety
minimal risk from crime in Thimphu. There
is relatively little crime in Bhutan. Most crime in Bhutan is in Thimphu. Take reasonable precautions
when visiting major towns and, in particular, when going out at night. There has been a stark uptick in
the number of reported rape cases, drug and alcohol abuse, and
marijuana-related arrests. Bhutan attributes its 95% national increase in crime
to the high rate of youth unemployment in population centers, and to a change in
policy in 2016 that made crime registration mandatory. The government aims to
decrease the high unemployment rate that has caused the local economy to
stagnate and crime to increase. Reports of burglaries, theft, robbery,
stolen vehicles, and assault related to skin color, ethnic origin, and religion
have also increased in recent years.
parked along roads are a major problem within Thimphu. The city has responded
by procuring CCTV cameras and investing in electric patrol cars.
Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should
Leave Behind, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs and Considerations for
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics,
Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road
has cooperated with regional partners to improve its road quality in the past
decade. However, in 2018, the country experienced its highest number of vehicle
accidents in seven years and the highest number of traffic-related deaths in 13
years. Driver error accounted for 85% of accidents. Government
statistics attribute 7% of road accidents in Bhutan to drunk driving. Road
conditions in Bhutan range between fair and poor. Roadways along mountainous
terrain, with numerous hairpin bends and steep declines pose significant
dangers to drivers. Snow and rain
during the monsoon seasons, as well as earthquakes can cause landslides.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety
Abroad, Driving Overseas:
and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read
the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
short tourist visits, Bhutan requires that visitors pay a daily fee that covers
accommodation, transport, guide,
food, and entry fees. There are no available car rental services.
A public bus service operates in most major urban centers with
routes, fare, and timetables available
online. Buses in Bhutan travel in difficult road
conditions, and are often in poor condition. Visitors should opt to use the transportation provided by their
information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered
in Bhutan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the
government of Bhutan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
Find further information on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
International Airport (PBH) is the primary point of entry into Bhutan. There
have been no reports of items stolen from checked baggage. Maintain awareness
of belongings at all times, use Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
approved locks, and retrieve checked bags as soon as possible.
There is minimal risk from terrorism in Thimphu.
Political, Economic, Religious,
and Ethnic Violence
minimal risk from political violence in Thimphu. During the 1990s, Bhutan
expelled over 100,000 Lhotshampa from the country due to demographic and
cultural grievances. While ethnic-Lhotshampas remain in Bhutan, the total
number is unknown. The majority of the expelled Lhotshampas have integrated
into the populations of neighboring countries, but several refugee camps remain
active in Nepal. There have been no reports of political violence associated
with Lhotshampas in recent years.
Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
have been border disputes in Doka La, including in 2017 when China attempted to
extend road construction onto the Doklam Plateau southward into Bhutan. Indian
troops moved into Bhutan to prevent the construction, and a standoff between
India and China ensued. The standoff resolved
peacefully, but the border dispute has not resolved.
mountainous nation, Bhutan is exposed to landslides, earthquakes, droughts, and
floods. While there was a major earthquake in 2009, Bhutan is not known for
frequent seismic activity compared to neighboring countries. Monsoon rains that
run from June through August can cause flooding and landslides on mountainous
roads, creating treacherous passes for vehicles and cutting off access to south Bhutan in many areas.
of fire safety measures are either absent or minimal. Many buildings in Bhutan
do not have fire alarms or fire suppression equipment in close proximity or at
all. Review OSAC’s Report, Fire Safety Abroad.
member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) but not the WTO,
or any organization protecting intellectual property rights. As a result, the
frequency of pirated items has not declined; stores may sell pirated copies of
movies, television shows, music, counterfeit clothing, jewelry, and other luxury goods.
networks now cover well over half of the country. Fixed broadband penetration
remains low due to the preeminence of the mobile platform.
uses the ngultrum (BTN) as its currency along with the Indian rupee. Merchants generally accept Indian rupees for
purchases in Bhutan, although
most shopkeepers and businesses do not accept Indian rupees in high denominations.
ATMs are accessible in Paro
and Thimphu, but can be unreliable. Exercise caution, as credit card
fraud and the use of card skimming devices do occur. Review
OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit,
Personal Identity Concerns
a very religious and conservative country; men and women dress modestly. When conducting business, traveling to Dzongs, and
sightseeing, semi-formal dress is preferable.
Although there are no laws that explicitly
prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity, laws against “sodomy or any other
sexual conduct that is against the order of nature” exist. Under the penal
code, a person can receive prison terms of as long as one year for engaging in
such acts. There have been no reported cases of such charges. Review the
State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
in Bhutan, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and
accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Persons
with physical disabilities living in or traveling to the country may find that
Bhutan lacks the necessary infrastructure to accommodate their disability. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
remains the most serious addiction in Bhutan. A recent government report found
that alcoholism is responsible for over 50% of patient deaths in hospitals. In
2017, police arrested around
600 people in Thimphu in connection with the abuse, possession, and illegal
transaction of controlled substances. The National Statistics Bureau of Bhutan
notes that 40% of youth-committed crimes occur under the influence of alcohol.
Tobacco sales are illegal in Bhutan and carry a
fine and possible jail time.
common illegal drugs in Bhutan are amphetamines and benzodiazepines imported
from India. Authorities strictly enforce drug-possession laws. Penalties for
possession of any amount includes fines and possible jail
OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and
Don’ts for Photography.
Bhutanese customs authorities enforce strict
regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Bhutan of
items such as firearms, ammunition, explosives and military supplies; narcotics
and drugs (except medically prescribed drugs); tobacco products; wildlife
products, especially those of endangered species; and antiques. Read
the State Department’s webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you
cannot take into or out of other countries.
The police emergency line in Bhutan is 113. The ability of local police to assist
victims of crime is limited due to lack of response vehicles, radios, and other essential equipment. For administrative
calls to local fire and police posts, dial +975 02-322347/021 in Thimphu or
+975 02-271459 in Paro.
or detained U.S. citizens should comply with police requests, and contact
American Citizen Services section in New Delhi at +91-011-2419-8000. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims
Report all incidents of crime to the local
police authorities. Remain calm and polite when interacting with the police to
avoid misunderstandings. You may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have
your passport with you or if you take pictures of certain buildings. For more
information, please review OSAC’s Report Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
medical emergency line in Bhutan is 112. Medical facilities in the populated areas in
Bhutan such as Thimphu and Paro are available but may be limited or unavailable
in rural areas. The National Referral Hospital in Thimphu offers most general medical
services and some advanced services. Find
contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance
services on the U.S. Embassy website.
adequate supplies of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of
prescriptions, the generic name of the drugs, and a supply of preferred
over-the-counter medications. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling
Bhutanese citizens receive universal healthcare by the government,
international visitors must pay for services. Doctors and hospitals expect
immediate cash payment for health services.
A medical evacuation
(medevac) can be very expensive and severely limited by the poor condition of
ambulances in Bhutan. Treks in Bhutan can take visitors days or weeks
away from the nearest medical facility. Limited helicopter evacuation from
remote areas in Bhutan is available at the traveler’s expense. The U.S. Embassy
in New Delhi can also help arrange evacuations through private companies at the
traveler’s expense. The U.S. Department of
State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before
traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage
on insurance overseas.
Visitors planning to trek in Bhutan should pay
special attention to the risk of altitude illness. Altitude sickness is a risk
above 8,000 feet; travelers to that altitude should consult an appropriate
health care provider 4-6 weeks before their trip. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling in High Altitude.
The Government of Bhutan recommends that
visitors obtain tetanus, typhoid, and hepatitis A inoculations before traveling
to Bhutan. The CDC recommends Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, and rabies
vaccines for prolonged stays for people at risk. The CDC offers additional
information on vaccines and health guidance for Bhutan.
HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign
residents of Bhutan. For stays longer than two weeks, applicants must present
the results of an HIV/AIDS test completed within the six months prior to their
visit. Bhutanese officials can also administer a test by upon arrival.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, and Health 101: How to Prepare for
OSAC Country Council Information
no OSAC Country Council in Bhutan. Contact OSAC’s South & Central Asia team with any questions.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
United States has no official diplomatic relations with Bhutan, and therefore
no diplomatic or consular presence in Thimphu. The U.S. Embassy in India is
responsible for issues involving U.S. visitors
Embassy New Delhi, Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021, India
of Operation: Monday-Friday, 0900-1700
(+91) (11) 2419-8000
you travel, consider the following resources:
OSAC Risk Matrix
OSAC Travelers Toolkit
State Department Traveler’s Checklist
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
Bhutan Country Information Sheet