Planning A Road Trip To Leh? Beware Of The Taxi Mafia! 

Tripoto
Photo of Planning A Road Trip To Leh? Beware Of The Taxi Mafia! by Adete Dahiya

Last week, as I was researching places to visit in Ladakh, I got talking to a friend who had visited the place last year in October. And what I found out was not pretty.

She had gone on a road trip with her siblings and fiancé. They were following the Leh-Nubra-Pangong-Leh circuit and had hired a rented self-drive car from Delhi. On the last leg of their trip, two days before they were to leave for home, they got into a brawl with some local goons who came up to them and started abusing out of nowhere. This happened at a popular hotel in Leh. Things got really bad. Two of the guys from their group got beat up and the goons even broke one of the windows on their car. They somehow managed to escape after another local signalled them towards a hidden exit. He then helped by hiding them in his own house and asked them to leave the next morning itself before things got worse.

They found that the men who had attacked them were goons from the local taxi union who had found out that they were travelling in a rented self-driven car.

What’s happening?

Photo of Planning A Road Trip To Leh? Beware Of The Taxi Mafia!  1/2 by Adete Dahiya

After discussions with a few other friends and some locals I know in the area, I found that there’s an unofficial ban on self-driven cars in the Ladakh region, specifically Leh, Nubra, Pangong, and Tso-Moriri. Unofficial, because it has not been imposed by the state authorities but by the local taxi union. In the past few years, there have been multiple incidents of tourists being stopped and/or attacked if they were found driving rented cars or motorbikes.

Another friend of mine, who had gone a bike tour to the region last year along with three other guys, was attacked and then chased by 30+ people into hiding. They took help from the Army in Leh to finally get out of the city and head back to Delhi.

As of now, only local taxis are allowed for sightseeing in the Ladakh region. You can take a self-driven car/private rented vehicle up to Leh, but not beyond.

Why it all began?

The issue is believed to have started in 2015 (see video), when a car and its passengers were brutally attacked by a mob. Stones were pelted at them and they were forced to abandon their vehicle to go into hiding. The reason was that the Ladakh Taxi Union had reached a resolution that the area’s tourism potential was being exploited because of hiring of private commercial vehicles from other states, self-drive vehicles and motorbikes for commercial use in Ladakh.

There have been several isolated incidents in the past few years of such cars being blocked, occupants being forced to hire local vehicles, tyres being deflated and people being attacked by a mob.

The gist is that the local taxi union considers self-driven rented cars/private taxis from outside to be a threat to employment and income generation in the region, which is heavily dependent on tourism.

How you can tackle this right now?

If you read this and felt that your dream trip to Ladakh is about to get ruined, relax, that is not the case. This union-enforced rule is solely applicable to commercial vehicles from other states. As long as you’re using the local taxis to go sightseeing in the Ladakh region, you will not face problems. If you do want to take a road trip, it would be better to take a car that belongs to you or a relative and have the required paper work ready in case you’re stopped and asked to show proof.

Photo of Planning A Road Trip To Leh? Beware Of The Taxi Mafia!  2/2 by Adete Dahiya

I have been to Ladakh several times but never personally faced this, probably because I never hired a private taxi/self-drive car from outside the region.

I understand that the locals are coming form a place of fear and insecurity about their livelihood. However, if such activities continue, it is going to impact the overall tourism of the area. A number of my friends are already re-considering their Ladakh trips.

What are your thoughts on Leh's taxi mafia? Share your experiences on Tripoto.

Get travel inspiration from us daily! Save and send a message at 9599147110 on Whatsapp to start.

4 Comment(s)
Sort by:
Ladakh is Love❤
Sun 04 14 19, 02:20 · Reply · Report
My dad has been working in leh since 10 years and every year I spent my summer breaks there. Leh is like home to home I've known this place from core.. The rumour you're spreading is baseless. There must have been another side of the story that you're unaware of. Please don't spread such rumours.
Tue 04 09 19, 15:54 · Reply · Report
well written
Tue 03 26 19, 17:35 · Reply · Report
ma'am we ladakhi's are known for peace ain't violence . I appeal Stop spreading the rumors here without any confirmation . Your idle talk are unnecessarily creating fear to the traveller who are planning to visit Ladakh this year .
Thu 02 21 19, 00:16 · Reply (3) · Report
@kabir I have faced the same issue.I think you need to check your facts.
Tue 03 26 19, 18:12 · Report
Kabir. This is not only a problem with Ladakh but this is sheer stupid Indian mentality and exists in other states as well plus Govt doesn't care about these things. You and I cannot do anything about this. The problem is such locals raise the rates so high that the tourists are forced to take alternatives.
Tue 03 26 19, 14:16 · Report
Hi Kabir. I would second you in the fact that Ladakhi's are friendly and peaceful :) As an avid lover of the himalayas, I respect the places and the people I visit. My profile would tell a little more about me. But some travellers have reported Brawl with locals while using self-drive vehicles. It was long long way back though. Would love to know what exactly happened in those cases.
Fri 03 08 19, 14:01 · Report