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Bhutan – The Last Shangrila

The mystical Land of Thunder Dragon is one of the happiest countries in Asia

Bhutan is a unique blend of the old and new. Here is a country that is slowly opening up to the modern world in a fine balance with its ancient traditions. The Last Shangrila, is the name bestowed on the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan for years due to its pristine environment and harmonious society. It is the only Tantric Buddhist nation in the world. Besides the stunning natural scenery, the enduring image of the country for most visitors is the strong sense of culture and tradition that binds the kingdom and clearly distinguishes it from its larger neighbors.

In 2006, a business magazine rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the eighth-happiest in the world, based on a global survey.

Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is no ordinary place. It is a country where buying cigarettes is illegal, where the rice is red and where chilies aren’t just a seasoning but a delicacy relished by the locals. Filmmakers while shooting in this little wonderland will not only have picturesque locations to explore but also a serene setting to shoot their films. Bhutan’s pristine ecology is home to rare and endangered flora and fauna. With 72 percent of the country covered with forest, it’s known for its unique, deeply spiritual and mystical experience.

Although the country expanse is quite small, Bhutanese weather varies from location to location mainly depending upon the elevation. The north of Bhutan on the borders with Tibet is perennially covered with snow. In the western, central and eastern Bhutan, the climate is mostly cold European-like weather. Winter lasts here from November to March and is pleasant, while summer is pretty hot. Southern Bhutan bordering with India is hot and humid with a sub-tropical climate. The monsoon is the determining factor for rain here. Spring and autumn are the best season to visit Bhutan.
Regulation Governing Filming In Bhutan

Legal Basis

This Regulation is issued pursuance to the Bhutan Information, Communications and Media Act. This is to ensure that international filming activities within Bhutan conforms to the laws and regulations of the country and the local sensitivities, and to avoid negative impacts on the society.

Requirement Of Film Permit                       

i.Any activities related to films, documentaries and advertisements shall be allowed in Bhutan only after obtaining a permit from the authority. Applications must include details of all sequences to be filmed in Bhutan.

ii. Shooting on restricted locations shall be subject to permission being granted by relevant authorities, wherein the foreign companies or individuals should obtain a written permission from individual organisations, after obtaining a filming permit from the authority.

iii. The permit shall not be transferable.

Fees, Security Deposit And Exemption For Filming


The filming fee as stated above shall apply to all filming activities irrespective of whether they are non-profit, project related, developmental, promotional and educational films made by a development partner with the Government, Bhutanese NGOs and other licensed organisations.

There shall be no exemption of the fee, except if there are bilateral/multi-lateral agreements with the Government of Bhutan or through special directives issued by the Government of Bhutan stating that the applicant is entitled to permits free of charge.

Security Deposit

The security deposit shall be applicable to all types of filming activities carried out in Bhutan irrespective of whether any filming royalty fee has been waived off or not. However, the authority shall not be liable for the payment of any direct or indirect interests on the security amount deposited with it as per this provision.

Conditions for Filming

i. The film company shall apply for and obtain the permit before filming in Bhutan.

ii. The film company shall appoint a registered or licensed local counterpart to handle its travel arrangements.

iii. Visa formalities shall be based on the filming permit issued by the authority, and it shall be the responsibility of the local counterpart to complete visa formalities (No visa is required for Indians).

iv. The local counterpart involved in handling arrangements or sponsoring the film shall be responsible for ensuring full compliance to various provisions of this Regulation, the Act, or any other laws of Bhutan, by the members of the crew. The local counterpart shall also be responsible for briefing and ensuring that the international film crew understand local sensitivities and observe existing cultural norms

v. The film company shall not deviate from the subject and locations originally proposed in the application. Prior written permission of the authority shall be obtained in case of any deviation from the original script and location

vi. Filming permits shall not in any way entitle the members of the crew to any right of access to restricted areas or establishments, nor shall it entitle them to any privileges with regard to space or special arrangements in festival premises;               

vii. The filming team must ensure that their activities do not in any way cause undue disturbances or inconvenience to the public. The team shall strictly abide by the code of conduct and other rules as stipulated by the local authorities;

viii. In the case of special official media visits from other countries, the relevant government organisation shall depute a liaison officer to accompany the visiting film team;

ix. The producer shall observe all rules and regulations relating to import/export, customs and excise duties, relevant taxes, and foreign exchange, in connection with filming activities in Bhutan;

x. Every film company or individuals shall be required to have insurance before beginning work in Bhutan to cover all the liabilities. The local counterparts and government shall not be liable for any mishap that may occur during filming. Further, no film permit shall be granted without a valid insurance policy;

xi. If the team abandons its plan of filming after obtaining the permit or decides to discontinue filming for any reasons, the processing fee paid shall not be refundable. The security deposit, however, shall be refunded provided the authority is satisfied with the reasons and/or circumstances put forward by the company as the cause(s) leading to discontinuation of the filming program, and that no filming activity has taken place. The permit shall stand cancelled thereby

xii. The authority reserves the right to revoke a permit issued without assigning any reasons. In such cases the royalty paid and the security deposit made shall be refunded without any interest

xiii. After completion of the film, the authority shall require selected sequences of the film to be screened before the departure of the film crew. It reserves the right to require the company to edit or remove any particular scene in the film, which does not comply with existing rules and regulations.

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