Only Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian nationals are eligible for visa on arrival when travelling to Bhutan; all other nationalities have to come through a licensed and registered travel agency to visit Bhutan, particularly if on a holiday trip.
In other words it is not possible to just fly or drive into Bhutan if you are visiting from some distant shore on the other side of the planet.
This means that you will need to get in touch with a local Bhutanese tour operator. But how would you choose a Bhutan tour & travel company/agency that is credible and reliable and has a reputation for delivering high quality services?
Bhutan started tourism in the 70s as a government run enterprise and the first tourist arrived in 1974. In the early 90s, the government liberalised the industry and private operators began opening travel companies.
Today, there are several hundred travel agents handling more than 50,000 third country tourists annually and another 50,000 regional tourists.
The Tourism Council of Bhutan, an autonomous government agency, functions as a regulator to ensure that tour companies deliver the basic minimum services required of a tour operator and that tourists are not conned.
The tour operators themselves have an association known as ABTO (association of Bhutanese tour operators) that functions as a lobby group to bring changes and improvements to the industry and take up industry related issues with the government.
So make sure that the tour company you choose to come through is a registered with the Tourism Council of Bhutan as a legal and registered tour operator. Some companies that are licensed do get struck off, in rare cases, for operations that might have jeopardised the industry as a whole.
You can do this by going to the Tourism Council Bhutan Website or shooting off an email to the Council. Next, also check to see whether your chosen agent is a member of ABTO. This further authenticates the credibility of your agent as a legal entity in Bhutan.
Generally speaking most tour agents have travelling with bokar pvt. ltd. around bhutan who market Bhutan hiking & trekking packages as a destination so issues of a fake company should not arise but there is no harm in doing a basic check.
There are independent sites such as trip advisor where clients rate the agents in terms of quality of services offered. The testimonials do provide a personalised assessment in many cases. It would also make sense ensure that the agent you choose has been in the business for some years at least and have handled clients from across the globe.
But of the course the best way to choose an agent to manage your holiday is word of mouth and if you have anyone you know who has travelled to Bhutan best to get a first hand account on a Bhutan tour company.