Yes, you read it right! Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragons is set to get its first ever rail route!  And not just any rail route, it will be an international rail route connecting Bhutan to India. Did you know? Currently, there are no commercial railway lines in Bhutan. After years of careful planning and several negotiations, the dream of an India Bhutan railway link is finally becoming a reality!

Bhutan is a beautiful country blessed with some of the most surreal sights in the world that you can enjoy even from the comforts of your room in any hotel in Bhutan. It is also visa-free for Indians i.e. there is no Bhutan visa for Indians! And when the India-Bhutan train service starts, thanks to the India Bhutan rail link, more and more tourists will be able to plan a trip to Bhutan – a very much underrated and unexplored country.

Want to know more about the India Bhutan railway link?

● What is the India Bhutan Railway Link?

The iconic Taktshang Goemba, Tiger Nest Monastery, Bhutan
The iconic Taktshang Goemba, Tiger Nest Monastery, Bhutan
Image Credit: Khanthachai C

In order to strengthen their ties, the neighboring countries of India and Bhutan plan to start the first international train service between India-Bhutan! This ambitious project, known as the India Bhutan rail link, aims to connect Kokrajhar in Assam, India to Gelephu in Bhutan, making a significant milestone.

● History

Buddha Dordenma Statue in Thimphu, Bhutan
Buddha Dordenma Statue in Thimphu, Bhutan
Image Credit: Framalicious

The commitment to this project dates back to 2005 when Bhutan and India signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This MoU solidified their vision to establish a railway network connecting the bordering towns of both the countries. As the Gelephu-Kokrajhar rail link construction begins, it is expected to pave the way for additional railway projects in the southern and eastern regions of Bhutan and India respectively. These projects would cover top inclusions in our Bhutan tour packages like Samtse, Phuentsholing, Nganglam, and Samdrup Jongkhar, further improving connectivity and aiding tourists travelling in Bhutan.

Moreover, this project aligns with India’s “neighbourhood first” policy, emphasizing rail, road, border assistance, electricity transmission, and fuel supply with neighboring countries.

● Budget

Punakha Dzong Monastery, one of the largest monestary in Asia, Punakha, Bhutan
Punakha Dzong Monastery, one of the largest monestary in Asia, Punakha, Bhutan
Image Credit: Khanthachai C

India’s commitment to enhancing rail connectivity in the northeastern region has led to the much-awaited Bhutan-India railway link. With a budget of INR 120 billion for the modernisation of railway infrastructure, this fully-funded project, estimated at INR 10 billion, covers a distance of 57.5 kilometers and is expected to be completed by 2026.

● Objectives

Iron Chain Bridge of Tamchog Lhakhang Monastery, Paro River, Bhutan
Iron Chain Bridge of Tamchog Lhakhang Monastery, Paro River, Bhutan
Image Credit: Sabine Hortebusch

As India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, said, “Bhutan is very keen to open more points for tourists, and it is very good for Assam”. He also highlighted how the India Bhutan railway link project opens up paths for not just tourism but also has the promise of facilitating the export of goods, fostering cultural exchange, and enhancing connectivity while strengthening bilateral ties.

One of the primary objectives of the first India-Bhutan train service is to boost tourism. Known for its breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, and unique way of life, Bhutan has long been a destination of interest for travellers from around the world. However, reaching this hidden Himalayan gem has not always been easy. With no rail transport system of its own, Bhutan’s accessibility has been somewhat limited.


Devotees at the very famous Memorial Chorten in Thimphu
Devotees at the very famous Memorial Chorten in Thimphu
Image Credit: Pravine

– Earlier Indian tourists visiting Bhutan from India would either go via road or book cheap flights to Bhutan from India to explore this underrated Himalayan Kingdom. However, the new railway link is set to change that, as the introduction of the first India-Bhutan train service will add a new mode of transport to visit Bhutan from India.

– The new railway connection may bring about changes in Bhutan travel restrictions, potentially making travel to Bhutan more accessible. It will allow a smooth movement of tourists providing them with a more accessible and efficient way to explore this beautiful kingdom.

– With the train service, the journey will itself become an integral part of the Bhutan itinerary, offering scenic views of the Himalayas and lush valleys. Moreover, the cost of the journey is also expected to reduce the average Bhutan trip cost significantly, making a holiday in Bhutan affordable for all.

Overall, the first India-Bhutan railway link will not only bring the two nations closer but will also open up doors for travellers and traders, offering an opportunity to explore Bhutan like never before.

It is set to make your journey to the Land of the Thunder Dragon unforgettable by providing a hassle-free and exciting journey into the heart of this enchanting country.

Stay tuned for updates on this groundbreaking project as we eagerly await the day when the first train between India and Bhutan crosses the border, and brings the neighbours even closer!

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