Q&A with Aahuti Mohanty on travelling with dogs to Bhutan
India shares her borders with many beautiful countries, one of them being Bhutan. Known for lush, green mountains and beautiful monasteries, it is among many Indian travellers’ lists for its easy access and abundant beauty. However, did you know you can traverse these breathtaking landscapes with your doggo by your side?
Aahuti Mohanty, part of the Pressure Kukur community on Instagram, did precisely that! When she told me she travelled to Bhutan with her gorgeous Golden Retriever boy Coco, I was surprised. The idea of making an international trip with my dog seemed quite alluring — I was sure many of you would be interested too. So I requested Aahuti for some time to understand the details of her trip and share them with you! Here’s how our conversation went:
- What was your trip like — where in Bhutan did you visit, and how long did you travel?
It was just awesome! We travelled to Phuentsholing, Thimphu and Paro. The entire trip was of 10 days.
- When was this trip, and how did you travel to Bhutan?
This was in 2017 - pre-Covid times. We travelled by road to and around Bhutan.
Paperwork and testing:
- What paperwork was required for Coco?
His vaccinations details, fit-to-travel certificate, deworming details and a full photo. Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) had an online pet import permit form that had to be downloaded, filled and carried along with all the documents to the nearest BAFRA office in Phuentsholing (which is the entry point of Bhutan via road from India). Coco accompanied us. They saw all the documents, and his pass was generated in just 10 mins. Ours, by the way, took 3 hours!
Below are the latest rules which I found from Google.
All pets must have an import permit issued by the local BAFRA Office. A licensed veterinarian in the originating country must complete the Health certificate within 48 hours of entry to Bhutan. Internal and External Parasite treatment must be done prior to travel. Pets can enter Bhutan via Paro Airport.
- Is there a fee for taking dogs into Bhutan or returning to India?
I believe it was INR300 in total.
- Do you need to file papers in advance? How difficult/easy was the process?
No, everything has to be done once you reach. The process was Extremely easy.
- Did you need to file something for Coco’s entry back into India?
No, they just put an exit stamp on all the passes.
- Is testing required by Bhutan or India before the entry of the dog? If yes, do they test the dogs again upon entry into Bhutan or India?
When we travelled, no such tests were required by either of the countries.
- How dog-friendly was the country?
Bhutan is extremely dog-friendly. Most cafes and restaurants allow dogs too.
- Are people welcoming of dogs into their hotels/ AirBnBs?
- Is there anywhere you could not take Coco?
He visited most of the places except for the religious ones, the reason being that there were a lot of local dogs who were extremely unhappy with Coco’s presence. So we took the call to not take him with us. He stayed back with my parents in the car.
- Were you able to leave him off-leash anywhere?
Yes, in a lot of places.
- How did you manage Coco’s food? Were you able to get fresh food for him there?
I always carry an electric kettle and go to the nearest local market to buy protein for Coco. Fish is always a challenge. However, one or two protein options are readily available.
- Did you use your own car everywhere? Do you happen to know if taxis in Bhutan carry dogs? How did you plan your road travel with Coco, especially for poop and pee?
Yes, we reserved a car as my elderly parents also accompanied us. Since we had a car, we didn’t explore the taxi option. However, given how much people in Bhutan love dogs, I’m sure that arranging a taxi shouldn’t be a problem. We made regular 10-minute stops every 3 hours for him to relieve himself and stretch his legs a bit.
- Is there any other advice you’d like to give pet parents planning to travel with their dogs to Bhutan?
Bhutan is a lovely place. It always helps to learn a bit about the local culture and practices before travel. And always, always clean after the dog does their business.
Bhutan isn’t really a hop, skip and jump away from everywhere in India. However, with some planning (and some time off from work — we all need it!), you can check the international traveller box for your dog! Phuentsholing is about 4 hours away from the New Jalpaiguri Station in Siliguri, which is connected well with the Indian Railway network. You can travel there by train (shamelessly plugging my train travel guide here) and onwards by road to a beautiful, international adventure with your dog in Bhutan!
Aahuti is mom to Coco and a beautiful baby girl, a fierce advocate for species-appropriate dog food and care, and the one-woman team at Coco’s — her species-appropriate dog food service. She lived for a while in Siliguri, from where she made the trip discussed in this post. She currently resides in Kolkata, where she runs Coco’s to provide fresh and wholesome meals to the city’s pet felines and canines.