Phuentsholing (also sometimes spelled Phuntsholing), the second largest town in Bhutan (population around 30,000), is on the Indian border, next to the town of Jaigaon.
Phuentsholing is the point of entry for travelers arriving by bus from Kolkata and Siliguri and the town functions primarily as a place where Bhutanese and Indians do business. With a population approaching 30k, it is the second largest city in Bhutan, after Thimphu. The town itself is actually nothing more than a jumble of concrete, non-descript buildings squashed in a small area between mountains and the border; it also lacks a dzong, famous monastery, or in fact anything of particular interest to tourists. However, like all of Bhutan, it does offer a clean and safe environment in which to go about your business. Indian nationals require a travel permit to enter Bhutan proper, but can visit Phuentsholing without any documentation.
The tourist information office is located in the Bhutan Post Building. Tel: +975 5 251–393.
The information below is relevant only to guests, foreign nationals with visa clearance documents, or those with a work permit. Bhutan does not operate a visa on arrival system, and visitors without correct documentation will be denied entry. The border immigration is open twenty-four hours.
- Receive exit stamp from Indian immigration office (see 'Cope' on Jaigaon page)
- Inside the Bhutanese immigration complex, travellers are directed to a tourist area where there is an information desk, immigration officials, a currency exchange and waiting area. There is a fee of 10 ngultrum to enter the facility.
- Present your visa authorisation document.
- Travellers are not be permitted to leave the immigration complex building without a guide
Indian nationals do not require a visa to enter Phuentsholing, but they do require proof of citizenship, such as a voter card or passport, to travel beyond the town. In Phuentsholing, they will be issued a permit to visit other parts of the country. There is a Nu1,200 per day fee to go beyond Phuentsholing and a guide (Nu2,000 per day) is a requirement. (a list of guides is available at the immigration office)
Before entering Bhutan, non-Indians are required to receive an exit stamp in their passports at the Indian immigration office. Therefore, when getting on the bus, inform the driver that you'll be getting off in Jaigaon, and so your luggage should be placed in an area from where it can be removed easily - certainly not under piles of luggage of passengers going to the final destination. Request the driver to let you off near the Indian immigration office (next to the movie theater). It is a five-minute walk from there to Bhutan gate.
- From Kolkata. The Bhutan Government runs a direct service from Kolkata to Phuentsholing, with buses departing Esplanade Bus Station at 7PM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with the return journey starting from the Phuentsholing office of Bhutan Post at 3PM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The journey takes around 18-25 hours (depending on road work) and costs 350Rps/Nu. The buses are comfortable, but because much of the highway through West Bengal is like the surface of the moon, don't bank on getting much sleep on the way.
- From Siliguri. Buses depart at 7:30AM and 2PM every day from opposite Golden Plaza on Burdwan Road (behind Air View More). Tickets are sold at a counter near the bus. It is roughly a four-hour journey. See 'Go next' on Siliguri page for more information.
The nearest railway station to Phuentsholing is at Hasimara, which is approximately a 30 minutes bus/auto ride. See Jaigaon page for more information.
There are around 50 trains each week departing from Siliguri Junction or New Jalpaiguri station (also in Siliguri) which stop at Hasimara. The journey takes between 3 to 4 hours.
The town center can easily be covered on foot, but there are an abundance of taxis for journeys out of town. Reserve cars are also available from Kings Travels, dial-098304-28401/093319-39486.
- Amo Chuu - a Crocodile Breeding Centre on the banks of the river behind the bus station. The crocodiles are bred in order to be released in a nature reserve.
- 1 Bhutan Gate. A traditional-style Bhutanese gate, used as a gateway between India and Bhutan.
- Chukha Hydrothermal Project.
- Karbandi Monastery. After an Indian pilgrim became pregnant after praying at this monastery to conceive, the temple has become a regular port of call for couples wishing for children. For those who do not have parental ambitions, the view from the monastery over Phuentsholing and the Bengal Plain is still worth making the trip. The monastery is located a short distance above the town. Take a cab up and walk back.
- Zangthopelri Lhakhang This town centre temple represents the heaven of Guru Rinpoche. On the ground floor there are statues of eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche and paintings on Buddha's life while the next floor contains eight bodhisattavas and statues of Avalokiteshvara and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. On the top floor, there is a statue of Amitabha.
- Wander round the town and plan your journey in or out of the country.
- Phuentsholing does not have any handicraft gift shops, and so do not leave your souvenir shopping until your departure from here.
- The town has a good selection of supermarkets, electrical and computer shops, and a fresh vegetable market.
Being on the Indian border, the town has a great selection of Indian restaurants.
- Pastry Shop, ☏ +975 5 252246. Located in the Tashi Commercial Complex, this bakery offers a good selection of cakes and pastries.
- Hotel Galing, ☏ +975 5 252-387. Located across from Hotel Bhutan, Galing offers excellent Indian vegetarian cuisine at reasonable prices.
- Times Kitchen, Tharpai Lam (rear of Zangthopelri Park), ☏ +975 17117373. chic restaurant with views over Zangthopelri Temple. Excellent Indian and Chinese cuisine. Polite and efficient service
- Kizom Cafe, Main Town (Directly in front of the Zangtopelri Complex), ☏ + 77141616. 8AM-10PM. A standard variety of espresso-based coffees, pastries, and pizza. Pleasant environment. Free wifi.
The Bhutanese are generally very liberal consumers of alcohol, and so the town has a high number of bars. One can choose from a range of Bhutanese brands of whiskeys, rums, brandies, gins, and a peculiar green concoction called sonfy which one would be wise to avoid. Two whiskey brands, Special Courier, and CSJ, made with Scottish malt, are actually quite pleasant. More internationally recognized brands of alcohol are also available at some of the more reputed watering holes, such as the bars at Hotel Kuenga and at Hotel Druk-Bhutan.
- Central Hotel, PO Box 248, ☏ +975 5 252-172, email@example.com. as the name suggests, this older hotel is smack in the center of town - popular with business types. Single without TV:325Nu, single deluxe: 450Nu. Standard double: 550Nu, Deluxe double: 650Nu.
- KC Hotel, Main town. Basic but clean rooms. Restaurant serves Bhutanese style meals and breakfast. Nu800-Nu1,000.
- Hotel Peljorling, PO Box 149 (near Bhutan Gate), ☏ +975 5 252-833. . Single:450Nu, Double:550Nu.
- Hotel Bhutan, Goeden Lam, ☏ +975 5 252-576. A modern hotel. Nu1,200 per night.
- Hotel Kuenga, PO Box 62 (in the center of town), ☏ +975 5 252-293. One of the original hotels in town. Drab and badly in need a of lick of paint, but offering basic facilities - hot water and TV. 300Nu for a single, 450Nu for double.
- Hotel Bhutan Residence, ☏ +975 5 253688, +975 5 253689, fax: +975 5 253690, firstname.lastname@example.org. This new hotel has contemporary interiors, modern amenities and business facilities. The rooms are fully furnished with stylish modern fittings and A/C. Room Rate 10 minutes' walk from border gate. Nu.850-2000.
- Midpoint Hotel, Tel:+975-5-254903 - Mobile:17616379 - In Dhamdara away from the hustle and bustle of the town - with a swimming pool, a restaurant and a bar. Rooms range from Nu.770/- to Nu.2000/-
- Hotel Druk-Bhutan, PO Box 385 - Tel:+975 5254451/254496/251163 - Mobile:17110318/17110140 - Pleasant, in Dhamidhara, away from the hub of town - overlooking the Toorsa river - with garden and mini-pool.
- Hotel Druk. The town's largest and one of the main tourist hotels - patio for sitting out - near Bhutan Gate (on the right when entering the town from Jaigaon).
- Hotel Namgay, ☏ +975 5 252-374, email@example.com. A pleasant hotel. Deluxe:2,000Nu & 2,500Nu. Standard:1,100Nu & 1,300Nu.
- Lhaki Hotel, PO Box 187 (just above the downtown area), ☏ +975 5 257-111, firstname.lastname@example.org. A spacious tourist hotel. 1,800Nu for single.
- The area code for Phuentsholing is 05. When calling from overseas, dial +975 5 XXXXXX
- E-mail: Connections in Phuentsholing are not fast, but one of the better places is Phajoding, located on the second floor on the main street leading from Bhutan Gate, across from the entrance to Hotel Druk. NB: International phone calls and internet service are much cheaper in India, so you might consider crossing over into Jaigaon to message your contacts.
- Paro - sacred sites, handicraft stores, international airport - bus and shared taxi options
- Thimphu - the bustling capital city, shopping, dzongs, - buses every thirty minutes (Nu400), shared taxis (Nu1,000) (Update March 2023)
- Siliguri - a cosmopolitan city, large shopping malls, Buddhist monasteries, international airport - buses at 7:30AM, 8AM and 3PM (Nu300) - a four-hour journey