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India–Bhutan Border Crossing At Gelephu: A Guide


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Blondie Giffin



Welcome to the beautiful and diverse region of India-Bhutan border crossing at Gelephu. Located in the south-central part of Bhutan, Gelephu serves as an important entry point for travelers and a gateway to exploring the fascinating country of Bhutan. This border crossing offers a convenient and scenic route for those looking to experience the rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality that Bhutan has to offer.


Gelephu, nestled in the lush green foothills of the Himalayas, is a vibrant town known for its idyllic surroundings and peaceful atmosphere. The border crossing at Gelephu is an alternative to the more popular border crossing at Phuentsholing, offering an off-the-beaten-path experience for those seeking a unique adventure. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history enthusiast, or simply eager to immerse yourself in a different culture, Gelephu and its surrounding areas have something for everyone.


As you cross the India-Bhutan border at Gelephu, you’ll be greeted by the scenic beauty of the landscape, with rolling hills, dense forests, and pristine rivers. The region is also home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.


One of the highlights of visiting Gelephu is the opportunity to explore Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage. The region is dotted with ancient monasteries, temples, and traditional Bhutanese villages, where you can witness the unique blend of Buddhism and Bhutanese traditions. The locals are known for their warm hospitality and welcoming nature, ensuring that your experience in Gelephu is not only memorable but also enriching.


Gelephu also offers a range of outdoor activities for adventure seekers. You can engage in thrilling hikes, trekking expeditions, or even try your hand at fishing in the crystal-clear rivers. The region is also known for its hot springs, where you can relax and rejuvenate amidst the natural splendor.


In this guide, we will provide you with all the essential information you need to know about crossing the India-Bhutan border at Gelephu. From visa requirements to transportation options and local customs, we have got you covered. So, pack your bags and get ready for a memorable journey to Gelephu, where adventure and serenity await!


Location of Gelephu Border Crossing

The Gelephu border crossing is situated in the southern part of Bhutan, near the town of Gelephu. Gelephu is located in the Sarpang district and is approximately 250 kilometers away from the capital city of Thimphu. It is the second-largest border crossing between India and Bhutan, providing access to the central and eastern regions of Bhutan.


To reach Gelephu, you can travel by road from major cities in India such as Kolkata, Siliguri, and Guwahati. The journey to Gelephu from these cities takes about 12 to 14 hours, depending on the road conditions and traffic. The border crossing is open all year round, allowing travelers to access Bhutan at their convenience.


Gelephu is nestled in a picturesque valley, surrounded by lush green hills and the peaceful Sarpang river. The region is known for its natural beauty and serene atmosphere, making it a perfect destination for those seeking tranquility and relaxation. The border crossing itself is located near the town of Gelephu, where you can find various amenities such as accommodations, restaurants, and shops.


From Gelephu, you can easily explore the nearby attractions and regions of Bhutan. The popular tourist destinations of Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, and Trongsa are all within a few hours’ drive from Gelephu. These places offer a wealth of cultural and natural attractions, including ancient monasteries, majestic fortresses, and stunning landscapes.


The Gelephu border crossing is known for its scenic beauty, as it presents travelers with breathtaking views of the Bhutanese countryside. The region is rich in biodiversity and boasts a diverse range of flora and fauna. It is not uncommon to spot various species of birds, deer, and even occasional glimpses of elephants and tigers during your journey.


It is important to note that the Gelephu border crossing is relatively less crowded than the Phuentsholing border crossing, making it a preferred choice for those seeking a more peaceful and off-the-beaten-path experience. So, if you’re looking to explore the lesser-explored regions of Bhutan and enjoy the tranquility of nature, the Gelephu border crossing is the perfect starting point for your Bhutanese adventure.


Visa Requirements

If you plan to cross the India-Bhutan border at Gelephu, it is essential to have the appropriate visa and travel documents to enter Bhutan. Here are the visa requirements for visiting Bhutan through Gelephu:

  • All foreign nationals, except citizens of India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, are required to obtain a visa to enter Bhutan. The visa must be obtained in advance from the Royal Bhutanese Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
  • For Indian citizens, a valid passport or voter identity card is sufficient for entry into Bhutan. No visa is required.
  • For citizens of Bangladesh and the Maldives, a permit is required to enter Bhutan. This permit can be obtained at the border crossing point of Gelephu, and it is advisable to complete the necessary formalities in advance to avoid any delays.
  • When applying for a Bhutanese visa, you will need to provide a clear copy of your passport, a recent passport-size photograph, and a completed visa application form.
  • Your visa will be issued for a specific duration, typically for the duration of your stay in Bhutan. It is important to ensure that your visa is valid for the entire duration of your planned visit.

It is important to note that Bhutan has a regulated tourism policy in place, which requires visitors to book their travel through authorized Bhutanese tour operators. You must have a pre-arranged tour itinerary and a confirmed booking with a licensed tour operator before you can apply for a Bhutanese visa.


While the Bhutanese visa can be obtained in advance, there is also an option to obtain a visa on arrival at Paro International Airport. However, this facility is not available at the Gelephu border crossing, so it is crucial to ensure you have the necessary visa before you arrive at the border.


It is advisable to check with the Royal Bhutanese Embassy or Consulate in your country for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding visa requirements and application procedures. They will be able to provide you with the necessary guidance and assistance to ensure a smooth entry into Bhutan through the Gelephu border crossing.


Entry and Exit Procedures

Entering and exiting Bhutan through the Gelephu border crossing involves several procedures that you need to follow. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you understand the entry and exit procedures at Gelephu:

  1. Arriving at the border: When you reach the Gelephu border crossing, you will need to present your valid passport, visa, and other required travel documents to the Bhutanese immigration officials. They will verify your documents and complete the necessary immigration procedures.
  2. Immigration formalities: You will be required to fill out an entry form, providing details such as your name, nationality, intended duration of stay, and address in Bhutan. Make sure to fill out the form accurately and legibly.
  3. Security check: As part of the entry process, your belongings may be subject to a security check. It is advisable to comply with any instructions given by the immigration and security officials.
  4. Customs declaration: If you are carrying any dutiable or restricted items, you will need to declare them to the customs officials. Familiarize yourself with the list of prohibited and restricted items to ensure compliance with Bhutanese customs regulations.
  5. Exit procedures: When departing Bhutan through Gelephu, you will need to go through the exit procedures at the immigration checkpoint. Present your valid passport and any necessary exit documents to the immigration officials for verification.
  6. Customs formalities: Before leaving Bhutan, you may be required to go through customs formalities, especially if you are carrying any goods that need to be declared or if you have made any purchases in Bhutan. Make sure to comply with the customs regulations and declare any dutiable goods.
  7. Vehicle clearance: If you are traveling by private vehicle, you may need to obtain clearance from the relevant authorities before crossing the border. Ensure that all necessary vehicle documents are in order and follow the instructions provided by the officials.

It is important to note that the entry and exit procedures may vary slightly depending on your nationality and any specific regulations in place at the time of your visit. It is advisable to check with the appropriate authorities or your tour operator for the most up-to-date information and guidance to ensure a smooth entry and exit process at the Gelephu border crossing.


By following these entry and exit procedures and cooperating with the immigration and customs officials, you can ensure a hassle-free and enjoyable experience when crossing the India-Bhutan border at Gelephu.


Transportation Options

When crossing the India-Bhutan border at Gelephu, there are several transportation options available to help you navigate within Bhutan and explore the surrounding areas. Here are some of the transportation options you can consider:

  • Taxis: Taxis are readily available in Gelephu and are a convenient way to travel within the town and to nearby attractions. You can hire a taxi for sightseeing or for transportation to other towns and cities in Bhutan. It is advisable to negotiate the fare before starting your journey.
  • Buses: Bus services operate in Bhutan, connecting major towns and cities. While the frequency of buses may vary, you can find regular bus services from Gelephu to destinations such as Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha. It is recommended to check the schedule and plan your journey accordingly.
  • Rent a Car: If you prefer to have more flexibility and independence in your travels, you can consider renting a car. Car rental services are available in Gelephu, and you can choose from a range of vehicles to suit your needs. However, it is important to note the driving conditions and requirements in Bhutan, including the need for a valid international driving license.
  • Shared Vehicles: Shared vehicles, such as minivans or shared taxis, are a cost-effective option for traveling between towns and cities in Bhutan. These vehicles operate on fixed routes and pick up and drop off passengers along the way. It is advisable to inquire about the schedule and fare beforehand.
  • Hire a Private Guide: For a more personalized and immersive experience, you can hire a private guide who can accompany you throughout your journey in Bhutan. A guide can arrange transportation, provide valuable insights about the local culture and attractions, and ensure a smoother travel experience.

It’s important to keep in mind that road conditions in Bhutan can be challenging, particularly in mountainous areas. The terrain is steep and winding, so it’s essential to have a reliable mode of transportation and be prepared for longer travel times.


When planning your transportation within Bhutan, consider the distance to your desired destinations, the duration of your stay, and your preferred mode of travel. It’s also advisable to consult with your tour operator or local travel agencies for information and assistance in arranging transportation.


By choosing the right transportation option and being mindful of the road conditions, you can comfortably explore Bhutan and make the most of your journey from the Gelephu border crossing.


Accommodation and Facilities

Gelephu, being a popular border crossing and a gateway to Bhutan, offers a range of accommodation options and essential facilities to ensure a comfortable stay for travelers. Here is a guide to the accommodation and facilities available in Gelephu:


Hotels and Guesthouses: Gelephu boasts a variety of hotels and guesthouses to suit different budgets and preferences. From luxury hotels to budget-friendly guesthouses, you can find a range of options offering comfortable rooms, amenities, and hospitality. Some of the hotels and guesthouses in Gelephu offer picturesque views of the surrounding landscape and provide a tranquil ambiance.


Restaurants and Cafes: Gelephu has a number of restaurants and cafes that offer a diverse range of cuisines, including Bhutanese, Indian, and international dishes. You can savor the local flavors, try traditional Bhutanese delicacies, or enjoy familiar dishes from your home country. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available in some restaurants.


Shopping: Gelephu has a local market where you can find a variety of goods and products. From traditional Bhutanese handicrafts, textiles, and artifacts to everyday essentials, you can explore the market for souvenirs or to fulfill your shopping needs. It is advisable to negotiate prices and check the authenticity and quality of the products before making a purchase.


Banks and ATMs: Gelephu is equipped with banking facilities, including branches of major banks and ATMs. This allows you to withdraw cash and access banking services during your stay. It is advisable to carry sufficient cash, especially when traveling to remote areas where ATM services may be limited.


Medical Facilities: Gelephu has a hospital and medical clinics that provide basic medical services. It is always recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies. If you have any specific medical needs, it is advisable to carry necessary medications and consult with a healthcare professional before your trip.


Communication: Most hotels and guesthouses in Gelephu offer Wi-Fi services, allowing you to stay connected during your stay. However, internet connectivity and mobile network coverage may vary, especially in remote areas. It is advisable to check with your accommodation regarding the availability and quality of internet services.


Overall, Gelephu offers a range of accommodation options and essential facilities to cater to the needs of travelers crossing the India-Bhutan border. Whether you are looking for a relaxing stay, delicious food, or essential services, Gelephu ensures that your stay in Bhutan starts off on the right foot.


Currency and Banking

When visiting Gelephu and traveling through Bhutan, it is important to familiarize yourself with the currency and banking system in the country. Here is an overview of the currency and banking options in Bhutan:


Currency: The official currency of Bhutan is the Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN). The currency is available in both notes and coins, with denominations ranging from 1 Ngultrum to 1,000 Ngultrum. It is advisable to carry some Bhutanese Ngultrum for small purchases and to have the local currency on hand when visiting remote areas where credit cards may not be accepted.


Exchange: Foreign currencies can be exchanged for Bhutanese Ngultrum at authorized banks and currency exchange counters. It is recommended to carry major international currencies such as US Dollars or Euros, as they are widely accepted for exchange. Ensure that you exchange money at authorized entities to ensure accurate rates and avoid counterfeit currency.


Banking: Gelephu has branches of major banks, including the Bank of Bhutan and Bhutan National Bank, which offer a range of banking services. These banks provide ATM facilities where you can withdraw cash using international debit or credit cards. It is advisable to carry multiple cards from different providers, as some cards may not be accepted by all ATMs in Bhutan.


Credit Cards: While credit cards are accepted at some establishments in Gelephu, they may not be widely accepted in remote areas and smaller establishments. It is recommended to carry sufficient cash for transactions and keep in mind that credit card usage may attract additional charges or fees.


Traveler’s Cheques: Traveler’s cheques are not widely accepted in Bhutan, and it may be challenging to find establishments that are willing to cash them. It is advisable to carry other forms of currency or use cards for transactions.


Tipping: Tipping is not a common practice in Bhutan, and it is not expected to tip service staff. However, if you receive exceptional service or wish to show appreciation, a small token of gratitude is always appreciated but not mandatory.


It is essential to plan your currency needs before traveling to Bhutan. Make sure to carry enough cash for your daily expenses, especially if you are traveling to remote areas where banking facilities may be limited. Additionally, inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid any issues with card usage and to ensure that your cards are not blocked due to suspicious activity.


By being prepared and familiarizing yourself with the currency and banking system in Bhutan, you can efficiently manage your finances during your visit to Gelephu and ensure a hassle-free travel experience.


Local Customs and Etiquette

When visiting Gelephu and exploring Bhutan, it is important to respect and adhere to the local customs and etiquette to ensure a pleasant and culturally sensitive experience. Here are some key customs and etiquette practices to keep in mind:

  • Dress Modestly: Bhutanese people take great pride in their culture and traditions, and modest dressing is highly appreciated. When visiting religious sites or attending cultural events, it is advisable to dress modestly by wearing clothes that cover your shoulders, chest, and knees. Avoid wearing revealing or provocative attire, particularly in religious spaces.
  • Respect Religious Sites: Bhutan is a deeply religious country, and you will come across numerous monasteries, temples, and sacred sites. When visiting these places, maintain a respectful demeanor, and follow the instructions given by the local guides or monks. Avoid touching or removing any religious artifacts, and refrain from taking photographs if it is considered disrespectful.
  • Remove Your Shoes: It is customary to remove your shoes before entering religious buildings, homes, or certain establishments. Look for the presence of shoes outside the entrance as an indication, and follow suit by removing your shoes and placing them neatly at the designated area. This practice shows respect for the sacredness of the place.
  • Ask for Permission: Before taking photographs of people, especially locals, it is polite to seek their consent. Bhutanese people are generally friendly and accommodating, and they are often happy to oblige. However, be respectful if someone declines to be photographed and honor their wishes.
  • Respect Local Customs: Bhutanese society follows a set of age-old customs and traditions. It is important to respect and observe these customs, such as offering a traditional greeting of “Kuzuzangpo” (hello) when meeting locals or participating in cultural activities. Avoid using disrespectful language or gestures, and be aware of local sensitivities and cultural norms.
  • Environmental Conservation: Bhutan is known for its commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable tourism. Be mindful of your waste and try to minimize your environmental impact by disposing of trash responsibly and respecting the natural surroundings. Follow designated trails and avoid littering or disturbing wildlife.
  • Be Mindful of Personal Space: Bhutanese culture places importance on personal space and respecting boundaries. It is advisable to maintain an appropriate distance from others, especially when interacting with locals or participating in religious ceremonies. Avoid touching someone’s head, as it is considered sacred.
  • Taste Local Cuisine: Bhutanese cuisine is unique and offers a variety of flavors. When invited for a meal, show appreciation for the food by trying different dishes and respecting the local customs of dining etiquette. Use your right hand when eating, and try to follow the lead of your hosts.
  • Be Mindful of Photography Restrictions: Certain areas, particularly government buildings, military installations, and airports, may have photography restrictions. Pay attention to signage and guidance provided by authorities, and ask for permission before taking photographs in such places.

By following these customs and etiquette practices, you will demonstrate your respect for the Bhutanese culture and ensure mutually positive interactions with the locals. Remember, engaging with the local customs and traditions will enrich your experience and create lasting memories of your time in Gelephu and Bhutan.


Safety and Travel Tips

When traveling to Gelephu and exploring Bhutan, it is essential to prioritize your safety and ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. Here are some important safety and travel tips to keep in mind:

  • Research and Plan: Before your trip, conduct thorough research about Bhutan, including the customs, weather conditions, and attractions. Plan your itinerary in advance, considering the duration of your stay and the specific places you wish to visit.
  • Travel with an Authorized Tour Operator: Bhutan has a policy of regulated tourism, and all visitors must travel with an authorized tour operator. Choose a reputable and licensed tour operator who will arrange your itinerary, accommodation, and transportation, ensuring a safe and reliable travel experience.
  • Get Travel Insurance: It is highly recommended to have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen circumstances. Check the coverage details and carry a copy of your insurance policy with you during your trip.
  • Stay Hydrated: Bhutan’s weather can vary, depending on the season and altitude. It is important to stay hydrated, especially when engaging in outdoor activities or trekking. Carry a reusable water bottle and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Be Prepared for Altitude: Bhutan has varying elevations, and some regions may have high altitudes. If you plan to visit higher altitude areas, allow your body time to acclimatize and be aware of altitude sickness symptoms. Carry necessary medications and consult with a doctor before your trip.
  • Respect Road Safety: Road conditions in Bhutan can be challenging, with narrow and winding mountainous roads. Follow traffic rules, drive cautiously, and be mindful of pedestrians, cyclists, and livestock on the road. If you are not comfortable driving, hire a reliable driver or use public transportation.
  • Keep Valuables Secure: While Bhutan is generally safe, it is important to keep your valuables, such as passports, money, and electronics, secure. Use hotel safes or lockboxes when available and be cautious of your surroundings, particularly in crowded areas or tourist sites.
  • Respect Nature and Wildlife: Bhutan is known for its pristine natural landscapes and diverse wildlife. Respect the environment and wildlife by not littering, sticking to designated trails, and avoiding any activities that may harm the ecosystem. Admiring wildlife from a safe distance is important for both your safety and the well-being of the animals.
  • Stay Informed: Stay updated on local news and travel advisories before and during your trip to Gelephu and Bhutan. Keep emergency contact numbers handy and register with your embassy or consulate for any travel alerts or assistance.
  • Respect the Local Culture: Bhutanese people take great pride in their cultural heritage. Respect local customs, traditions, and religious sites. Seek permission before taking photographs and follow the guidance of local guides or monks at religious sites.

By following these safety and travel tips, you can have a memorable and safe experience while exploring Gelephu and the beautiful country of Bhutan. Embrace the Bhutanese culture, immerse yourself in the natural beauty, and cherish every moment of your journey.



As you reach the end of this guide to crossing the India-Bhutan border at Gelephu, you are now equipped with valuable information to make your journey to Gelephu and Bhutan a memorable and enriching experience. Gelephu serves as a gateway to the breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality that Bhutan has to offer.


From the stunning hills and rivers surrounding Gelephu to the ancient monasteries and traditional villages, Gelephu provides a unique off-the-beaten-path adventure for travelers looking to immerse themselves in the beauty and serenity of Bhutan. Respect for local customs, etiquette, and the natural environment will further enhance your experience and ensure a harmonious interaction with the local community.


Remember to plan your trip in advance, obtain the necessary visa and travel documents, and follow the entry and exit procedures diligently at the Gelephu border crossing. Ensuring you have the appropriate currency and banking arrangements will make your travels hassle-free.


Adopting safety precautions, respecting the local culture, and being mindful of environmental conservation will contribute to a positive and responsible travel experience. Immerse yourself in Bhutanese traditions, taste the flavorful local cuisine, and enjoy the warm hospitality of the Bhutanese people.


Gelephu, with its natural beauty, cultural treasures, and friendly atmosphere, promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Bhutan. Whether you seek peaceful serenity, adventurous exploration, or a spiritual awakening, Gelephu has something to offer everyone.


So, pack your bags, prepare for a magical journey, and let Gelephu and Bhutan leave an indelible imprint on your heart and soul!