I know Ladakh is a dream come true for the travelers and as the summers are coming, the travelers of India and even overseas are planning for a road trip to Ladakh. I know there are several questions, fears, curiosity in the minds of the travelers regarding the place. This blog is focused on those travelers who wish to go Ladakh.
My idea of going to Ladakh was initiated in 2015 when I was working in a 9-5 job. I have curiosity to visit that place, whenever I use to open Facebook I see posts of Ladakh tourism, Packages, road trips but they were too expensive for me. The group packages usually start around 30k without rental bike and petrol (traveler has to bring his own bike). Being a budget traveler It was expensive for me. So after 2 years of extensive planning I made it to Ladakh on June 2017.
The hurdles that you face during this self-planned trip is none other than your fear and these fears are like
1 – Roads
2 - Safety
3 – Health
4 – Bike/car breakdown
5 – Food
6 – Accommodation
7 – People
8 – Petrol
9 – Srinagar route
I proud to say that I covered a circuit. My trip was started from Dehradun to Pathankot – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh – Nubra valley – Pangong Tso - Jispa – Manali – Dehradun. Total trip was around 3000Kms and 15 days. Usually people now opt for simple route i.e Manali to Leh and back and now some people are considering flight from Delhi but I will talk about this later. This post is focused on the road trip.
Like you all guys, I was scared too. Very scared because I was going with my friend and no one was willing to take a risk with me (Sabko Jaan pyari hai). I was also under the fear and myths that I listed above. What I done is I started watching youtube videos of the Ladakh roads, started reading blogs and I asked myself can I drive there. I was the only driver and my friend couldn’t drive but he trusted me so badly that he came with me :D. I been to Spiti in 2016 so I was sure that if I can drive there then these roads are piece of cake for me so I made up my mind. Next thing is to look for the safety.
Are we safe there??
“Yeah we think that. We are far away from home with no internet, telephone access and if something bad happens what we will doo???”
Keep this mentality side for some time and think in a positive way. You are not the only one alone there. Every group, couple, family, solo is alone there. All are ready for your support. If any problem happens the other traveler will help you. June to September is the best month to visit Leh and you will encounter many other tourist like you coming solo or in group. Just wave a hand to them and they will stop to help you. So keep this myth aside.
“Ladakh is on high altitude, I am scared if I fall sick”
Well yes! Usually it happens but it happens to those who are just there without any planning and with a strict mindset that nothing can happen to us. Don’t come here with this mindset. As you move ahead of the destination the altitude will rise and you will face acute mountain sickness (AMS), a negative health effect of high altitude, caused by acute exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high altitude. Just a tip whenever you are traveling to high altitude areas make sure to carry three things:
1 – Dry fruits - Best source of energy there.
2 – Water – Drink water in every 1 hour or 30 minutes.
3 – Medicine (Diamox) – should be consumed two times a day when you are going to high altitude. One in morning and one in evening. This medicine increase your heartbeat and you can breathe there easily without facing the sickness
Who will repair my car/bike if it got punctured or breakdown? :O
Pro tip – take a good condition bike or car with you. Tyres should be in good shape and bike/car should be serviced.
Coming from bike - Now we all think that bullet is necessary to ride there. No other bike can make it at so height. Well it’s not your problem that you think that, usually we see only Royal Enfield there in every video, promotion. Throw this myth. You can take any bike above 150 CC but bike should be in good condition. I have seen people coming from Manali in activa to Leh. They are unique in their own way but any bike above 150CC is fine. Basic tips you should know how to repair common things like clutch wire, puncture. It’s not a hard thing to do and if you are going to Ladakh then this small learning is not a big issue for hassle-free ride. There are also puncture repair shops around the road but sometime you may stuck in a location which is not nearby to any puncture shop. Though other traveler will help you but its wise to learn these basic things.
Coming from car – Now people has a very strict mindset that only 4*4 or SUV can survive there. It’s a big NO. People are taking there NANO, ALTO and driving without any fuss. If you know how to drive and experienced you can take any car. I have taken my I20 Elite. With such a small ground clearance and no 4*4 ability how I drove there? It's nothing to be afraid of. Whenever you see a bump, muddy road, no road. Just come out take a look and plan your driving area. Be patient and hear every sound your car make (if any while touching the ground) and you all set to go. Don’t be in rush else your trip will end there with ridiculous memory of losing your car :D. I faced many challenges while driving but I managed to pass every challenge smoothly. Patience is the key if you driving hatchback. And like I said in car make sure you have extra Tyre, Repair kit, Tyre Inflator. I carry these stuff always but luckily I survived there with no breakdown or puncture ????
I am a veggie, will I get food there!!
How can you forget that you are in India :D. In every eatery shop you can get our national food i.e Maggie, bun butter, Fruits. And not just this you can have soup, Rajma chawal in some of the small dhabas while on road. I won't talk about the route from Dehradun to Srinagar as we know there are plenty of roadside dhabas to lavish restaurants.
From Srinagar to Leh there are plenty of restaurants, dhabas to have good food.
Leh to Nubra valley and Pangong – Again plenty of restaurants to have vegetarian food.
Leh to Jispa – Limited dhabas but they serve vegetarian food.
Jispa to manali – Some lavish cafes, dhabas to restaurants.
So no problem for food and in Leh you can have any type of cuisine from Chinese to Tibetan, Indian, Punjabi. And even you can have roadside goal gappas :D.
Packages are so high I am sure the hotels are expensive there!!
No!!!. book in advance. I think March is the best for hotel bookings for June. If you book in advance you get cheap accommodations with options. The more you late more you pay. Here are my hotel bookings with price in June 2017, I booked in March 2017. Majority of properties are 3-4 stars at cheap price
The Grand Hotel, Pathankot Business Class Room 1300 3 star
Hotel The Renaissance Kashmir 4 star 1400 per day including breakfast
Hotel Zojila Residency Kargil 4 star 1800
Hotel katpa Residency leh 3 star 1000 per day
Pangong Holiday Cottages Pangong lake with breakfast 2600
Jispa – some homestay – 1200 2 star
Manali Golden Tulip Manali – 4 star – 1800 with breakfast
All of these hotels are good at their price. There are cheap options as well from homestays to guesthouses priced around 200 per person to 600. You can stay in dhabas as well. They provide a bed and charges per person and serve local food.
What kind of traveler are you? If you want to stay comfortably book in advance to get great deals. Budget traveler?? Don’t worry just plan the route and no need of bookings. You can stay anywhere. People are friendly.
Srinagar: Goes without saying, there are numerous petrol pumps in Srinagar so ensure that you start the journey from here with a full tank.
Nagbal: After you leave Srinagar, next fuel station is HP petrol pump at Nagbal.
Ganderbal: There are two petrol pumps at Ganderbal.
Kargil: HP Petrol Pump
Khalsi: Indian Oil Petrol Pumps
ATMs on Srinagar Leh Highway
Like Petrol pump, availability of cash in ATMs at some of the remote villages remains doubtful. Best thing to do is to withdraw enough cash from Srinagar that can last for next couple of days until you reach Leh.
Mobile Connectivity on Srinagar Leh Highway :
The biggest catch is that prepaid connections from outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir stop working here. Only a postpaid connection will remain connected so if you are planning a trip to Ladakh, better convert your number to postpaid.
BSNL has the largest connectivity in this region and pretty much works everywhere throughout the route. There will be stretches in between where even BSNL will stop working but it will get back on network as you get closer to a town or village.
Manali has a couple of petrol pumps where you can fill your tanks up to the brim and take a reserve of few liters. Once you are out of the this station, the next petrol pump on Manali – Leh road route is at Tandi.
Tandi Petrol Pump It is approximately 110 km from Manali. Do not forget to tank up here as you have roughly 345 km to cover without a single petrol pump.
Should we take Srinagar route? It's risky!!
Throw this myth. Route to Srinagar is safe and sound. I know there are several reports all around the news regarding terrorist activities in Srinagar and that’s why we feel unsafe to go there. In my experience I was scared too and was not willing to take that route at first but then I taken a risk and it was worth it. Kashmir is the beauty that one should not miss especially when you going to Ladakh The landscape, weather cannot be expressed in words.
Regarding the safety you will notice soldiers in every 10 meters and when you see them you automatically start feeling safe. They are the real superheroes and one should respect them. The moment I left Jammu I started noticing army vehicles in numbers and as I was heading to Kashmir the number got increased. In every 10 meters you see soldiers standing and they make sure nothing bad happens. They are there for your security. In news we see attacks in Srinagar but it happens mostly in south Kashmir not in the city. I remember my instance. When I was there in Srinagar I was roaming in the streets and I got a call from my father and he asked me if I am safe I said yeah, he said go to hotel I have seen the news that there was an attack in Srinagar. I was not aware about it nor the people. These activities happens mostly in south Srinagar not in city and army is there everywhere for your safety. Whenever you are traveling via Srinagar or Srinagar make sure you travel in the daytime. Avoid going late evening or at night.
Road from Srinagar to Leh is in good shape compared to Manali leh.
How to go Pangong Tso and Nubra?
Indian nationals need permit to go there. Ladakh Inner Line Permits (ILP) are required for Indian Tourists / Nationals (starting again in 2017) and Ladakh Protected Area Permits (PAP) are required for foreigners.
One needs to pay an environment fee of Rs 400 and inner line permit fee of Rs 20 per day per person to get these permits.
These permits are required in Ladakh in order to visit the inner line places like Nubra Valley, Khardung La, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Dah, Hanu Villages, Man, Merak, Nyoma, Loma Bend, Turtuk, Tyakshi, Chusul, Hanle, Digger La, Tangyar (for trekking only).
Inner Line Permits will be available online from the official website www.lahdclehpermit.in. All domestic tourists should go through the website to obtain the inner line permits
Now if you have Zoomcar or any other private car you won't be allowed to go these inner line places. Locals have strict rules that they restrict private vehicles to go there. Neither bike nor car. If you are planning to go to these any of the places you should have either of two:
1 – Car/bike registered at your name or father name with license.
2 – Car/bike rented from leh.
I have seen many tourists there struggling to go there and they had permit too but they were stopped at check post and asked to go back and rent a bike or hire a taxi. So make sure if you coming from private don’t take to inner line places and if you have your own car make sure it’s in your name or fathers name.
Taxis in Ladakh!!
Trust me its damn expensive. For a trip to Pangong Tso a private taxi is around 12000. This was the rate a tourist paid there when he hired the taxi. I met him in my hotel and asked about the places and stuff and he informed me the same and I was shocked. Thank god I was there with my car. Now imagine 12 k to Pangong, 11 k to Nubra. 23 K just for these two places.