For the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, the India-Bhutan border gates at Samdrup Jhongkhar and Gelephu along the Assam border will reopen to tourists from September 23.
Tashi Penjore, the Himalayan kingdom’s Director (law and order) of the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, led a Bhutanese delegation that met with Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) officials here on Wednesday and announced that the gates would be reopened after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.
As the COVID-19 scenario has improved, the Bhutan government has announced that its borders will reopen for trade, commerce, and official transit on September 23, assuming the pandemic situation does not worsen, according to Penjore.
“Over the last two-and-half years, many officials on both sides have changed and we were not able to meet and establish friendship and person-to-person contacts which are essential for people residing along the border areas of the two countries. We look forward to more such visits,” he said.
He urged Indian tourists to visit various places in Bhutan after entering through the Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar gates.
“Earlier, we only issued entry permits through Phuentsholing and Paro but now we have added three additional entry gates for tourists,” he said.
He stated that a Substantial Development Fund (SDF) will be charged for improving services and infrastructure, as well as environmental conservation.
Bhutan’s government has planned eco-tourism, bird-watching, and other visitor packages. A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been developed to ensure the smooth movement of travellers.
Visitors who wish to spend the night and travel beyond the designated points will be charged Rs 1,200, according to him. The official urged tourists to bring voter ID cards and other necessary documents when visiting the Himalayan country.
The meeting was attended by the deputy commissioners and superintendents of police from Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa, and Udalguri districts, in addition to BTC officials.