When we mentioned to people that we were going to Bhutan, we were often asked if it was difficult obtaining a visa to enter the country. Our response always was that it was easy enough to get into the country if you were prepared to pay the daily charge (see “We are on holiday!” post below).
However, we hadn’t realised just how easy it was to get physically into Bhutan, until our bus from Siliguri in West Bengal (India) arrived at the Indian border town of Jaigaon and then drove without stopping straight across the border to the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing where it terminated. And there we were, in Bhutan.
Bit of a problem though – we had neither formally emigrated from India nor immigrated into Bhutan; nor had we managed to hook up with our guide and driver for our tour of Bhutan.
This meant we had to pick up our bags and walk back about 1½ km to try and get back into India to complete the formalities. But that was easier said than done as the guards on the border this time weren’t that keen on letting us just leave Bhutan and stroll back into India without presenting documents to be stamped etc. (even though they were exactly the same guards who had waved the public bus through without a second glance). However, eventually, after quite a bit of wrangling and pleading, common sense did prevail and we managed to get safely back into India.
Our next challenge was to find the Indian border/passport control office but this was (a) nowhere near the border and (b) very well hidden back in the centre of Jaigaon so another 1 km or so walk with our bags. Given its location, it was hardly any surprise that we had missed it and not got off the bus at the correct spot.
Where to immigrate into Bhutan was far more obvious although the process far more bureaucratic, not helped by a very slow internet connection. But here a very sweet border guard asked us exactly which page in our passport he should stamp which is something I have never been asked before.
Let’s hope some of our future border crossings go a bit more smoothly!