The Scoops On Bhutan And Nepal

I’ve returned from traveling through Nepal and Bhutan last month just in time to file my U.S. and Hawaii taxes. Do you wish you could find a tax haven? Sorry, not by moving to those two tiny nations perched in the Himalayas.

Nepal has value-added taxes plus excise taxes, and income tax on personal and business income. Local development taxes, and license and registration fees for houses, land and vehicles.


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Only eight pilots are certified to fly into Paro’s moutainous airport. Bob Jones photo

Bhutan has an income tax; property-transfer tax; rural taxes on land, houses and cattle; motor vehicle taxes; a foreign travel tax; royalties, business and professional licenses taxes; health contribution taxes; and municipal taxes. Plus corporate taxes of 30 percent on net profits and a business income tax of 30 percent.

Yes, also sales and excise taxes.

A fellow traveler in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, observed: “The main streets are very dirty/dusty. There was road resurfacing work going on. Things were a mess. Work crews with little hand picks chipping at the edges; no jackhammers. Then the tar seal came through, with cars weaving in and out, driving on the freshly laid road bed. No dry time!”

Nepal has many airline connections, Bhutan only one international carrier, Drukair, and eight pilots qualified to make the hairy landings at Paro. You can watch this at

Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, is dirty, crowded and constantly hit with stop-everything strikes. But the rest of that country – Chitwan, Nagorkat and the Annapurna approaches from Pokhara – have enough beauty to make you weep.

Should you want to abandon U.S. residency for one of these two countries, definitely pick Bhutan. It is orderly, bucolic, has a traveler-friendly airport, some decent roads and light traffic. Nepal is chaotic, dust-choked, horrible traffic and the worst international airport and immigrations system I’ve ever encountered.

Bhutan has dependable hydroelectric power. In Nepal, electricity can be off about half of every day. Bhutan’s metro areas are garbage-free, Nepal’s the opposite. Bhutan doesn’t have legal gambling, Nepal has casinos with a twist – locals are not allowed to use them.

Bhutan has a constitutional monarchy that works. Nepal has an elected leftist government that is totally dysfunctional with no constitution.

Bhutan has no billboards or fast-food outlets. Nepal has all that in spades.

That said, Bhutan is stone steps up to everything, no access for the disabled and an elevator is a very rare piece of equipment. Also, its food tends to be boring and repetitive. Nepal’s is not.

I did a 22-course meal at Kathmandu’s Dwarika’s Hotel. It began with roasted mushrooms in fresh cream and ended with something called samulino pudding and homemade hug-plum (spondias mombin) pickle.

My best remembrance is a sign at Nepal’s Kopan monastery: “Please refrain while here from stealing and killing.”