How to Plan a Trip to Leh Ladakh – A Complete Travel Guide
You are in for some wonderful times and thrilling adventures. But before we get into the how’s and what’s and why’s, there are some very important notes need to be adhered to and it is a must for anyone who has his or her eyes set on this wonderful landscape. You may have so many questions, concerns, and issues that are related to the approach, the climate, the permits and the itineraries itself.
For all those adventurous spirits and nature lovers, Ladakh has loads to offer. It’s closely located in the Trans-Himalayan region. Tourists from all over the world prefer this landscape with the aim of exploring not just the vast expanse the place has to offer but to reclaim their inner soul. There are abundant regions that are thriving in natural treasures. And besides these Ladakh is also famously dubbed as Little Tibet for the boundary it shares with Tibet and playing host to quite a heavy population of Tibetan Buddhists.
No matter what gets written about Lada
When to go to Ladakh
This, of course, is the first question that comes to mind after you have finally decided to visit here. Ladakh remains closed and cut off from rest of the country for several months in a year. Most of the tourism here happens between the months of June and September. When should you plan will depend on a lot of factors like how you are traveling; if there is any budget restriction; what exactly do you want to see etc. Considering all these factors, take a look at the articles below which I am sure will help you finalize the month of your travel.
How to Prepare for Ladakh Trip
Once you have decided when yo go, next in line comes the question of how to prepare. Ladakh is not really a place where you can just pack your bags and go. You will have to seriously consider every aspect of the trip and pack accordingly. This will include packing the right kind of clothes, getting your vehicle ready and carrying every essential item that you will need for the trip. Below is a link to articles where I have provided this information in detail.
Bikers Accommodation (Leh – Manali, and Leh – Srinagar Highway)
leh, you are bound to come back with much more memories than what you find on the internet. The experiences are phenomenal and vivid. You will definitely need to take some safety measures since you will be mostly exploring a barren land that has low atmospheric pressures. May to August are the peak seasons to traverse Ladakh and with the aim to provide a first-hand info on this wonderful land you will need some basic and some very important tips that will help you in planning your trip well.
Getting familiar in Ladakh
Here’s how you manage at higher altitudes and get used to being in Leh Ladakh with the travel guide.
If you have been to a similar mountain range or a high altitude place then you would be well aware of the climatic conditions. For the newbies, you seriously need to plan your trip well and here’s how:
The overall idea is to not rush into anything while planning your trip. Give yourself proper time to plan for your trip. It’s highly recommended to keep the first two days, once you reach Leh, to get used to the high altitude condition. During your stay, you can explore local monasteries and palaces and other smaller detours like Thiksey, Hemis, Shey, Nimoo and Stok etc. Don’t rush into anything. Stay cool and take one thing at a time. You may have planned to go to Nubra and Pangong post reaching Leh. Don’t rush into that.
There is a very high chance that you may get acute mountain sickness or simply called Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) hence please keep these points in mind:
– You need to be physically fit whilst undertaking a trip to Ladakh
– Gradually increase your altitude and ensure to compensate your ascension with rest at various places while acclimatizing.
– After reaching Leh, It is imperative that you take between 24-36 hours of rest since it is a low atmospheric pressure zone.
– If you are someone who has heart problems, asthma, blood pressure problems then it is highly recommended to abstain from your travel to Ladakh
– Drink only as much water as your body demands. Do not overdo in terms of drinking water. Dehydration does not necessarily lead to AMS
-Keep yourself warm with clothes that are comfortable. Keep your head covered.
– Don’t overexert yourself physically at any point in time.
– Contain your excitement and do not run here and there in the passes (It is tough but yes, you have to hold on to your feelings keeping your safety in mind.)
– As you scale higher and higher the low levels of oxygen might cause nausea and shortness of breath.
– There are some medicines available like Diamox available locally. A time-tested and a natural alternative is garlic soup or any other lighter soup that has garlic in it
– In case you see any warning signs such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue, immediately take rest and descend down if you are on high altitude (Such as Khardung la Top). Do not wait
– Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol at high altitude. These are major causes of AMS
– Lastly, avoid sleeping during the daytime.
Let’s pack for the Trip
Some clothing and basic necessities
Ladakh is situated in the Greater Himalayas which is icy and at a high altitude. As soon as you cross Keylong (Leh-Manali Highway) you will see a visible change in weather conditions as well as the landscape. You will notice these apparent changes when you cross Zoji La on Leh-Srinagar Highway. Traveling at such altitude during days will provide ample warmth and ample sunshine. It rarely rains in the Ladakh region. A simple pullover or a jacket during daytime can be fine but as soon as it’s dawn the temperature can even reach zero. The evening is generally when people rest inside their accommodation. Accommodations all along the route are warm enough. You can even sleep in tents and quilts are provided by the owners.
Pack these things when you are traveling to Ladakh:
– A minimum of 2 jackets and 2-3 pullovers
– A pair of hand gloves preferably woolen
– Warm clothes/caps to basically cover your ear and necks especially if you are a rider
– Soaps and towels
– Sun caps
– Equip yourself with important medicines and first aid kits
– Medicines like Avomine, Diamox to counter AMS etc
– Few pairs of inner thermal clothes
– Minimum 4-5 pairs of socks
– Waterproof shoes for trekking and riding in case you are a biker as you may face water streams on high mountain passes like Chang La, Baralacha la etc
– A warm sleeping bag in case you want to camp somewhere on your way
– Camera, battery chargers
– Cell phone and chargers
– UV protection goggles and sunscreen lotion- SPF 30 and above
– Water bottles and lots of energy bars, chocolates, biscuits, and fruits.
Here are some packing essentials in case you are the biker (in addition to the above things):
– Have a good pair of raincoats as you may face rain after crossing Chandigarh and before you cross Rohtang La pass on the Leh-Manali highway until you reach Zoji La
– You can even use your raincoat to help keep your clothes clean from all the dirt and grime while you are on the passes and the Moore plains. The cloud of sand and dirt gets becomes a lot especially when an army convoy is passing and when you are crossing passes on which overtaking takes trucks and other vehicle takes longer due to narrow roads
– Waterproof gloves
– The medical kit is a must
– Boots to keep your feet, shoes and socks from getting wet mainly at water stream flowing on passes especially the one at Baralacha La which is one of the most vicious another tough water stream to cross is at Chang La. (Do not cross the stream from middle.Keep your bike in first gear.Use clutch to maintain traction and throttle)
– These are absolute must-haves especially if you are a biker: Spare tube, puncture kit, clutch wire, brake wire, chain lock, gear oil, engine oil, spark plugs, and a toolkit are a must pack in your bag
– Also, carry petrol jar if you are taking the Leh-Manali Highway as the last petrol pump that you’ll find is at Tandi which is around 380 Kms before you find the next at Karu. So 10-20 liters of extra petrol is recommended for you to carry. Puncture shops are also not available and even if you find one, there is no guarantee that they will have the tube hence a tube is a must-pack item even if you don’t have the puncture kit
– If possible, having a four-wheeler is always advisable but having a bike trip to Ladakh is amazing and thrilling.
A quick peek at Innerline Permit(ILP) form
Some fields are mentioned below that you may need to fill in order to obtain inner line permits at the District Collector (DC) office in Leh.
Getting Innerline Permits for Indians and Protected Area Permits for Foreign Travelers
If you have plans to visit some interior areas like Turtuk, Panamik, Khaltse, Pangong, Changthang, Hunter, TsoKar, and TsoMoriri etc. in Ladakh City even Indian residents need to obtain inner line permits.
Overseas travelers (with the exception of residents of Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan) need to obtain Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit the above places. In case of foreigners, the permit is issued only for a group with four or more foreign tourists. For foreign tourists, it is also mandatory to go through a registered travel agent in order to obtain the Permit. The travel agent will also help your group together with others in case you are traveling solo or couple so that your permit could be obtained.
For Indian nationals, inner line permits are valid for a maximum of three days and PAP is issued for a maximum of seven days. In case you are planning on a visit to more remote areas, you will have to reapply for the same.
In case of foreign tourist’s PAP, they need not travel in the same group or with their agent which is mentioned in the permit. You do not require inner line permits if you are traveling to Suru and Zanskar Valley. Foreign visitors can’t go beyond Merak Village in Pangong or Mahe Village in the Changthang.
To acquire application forms for obtaining the permit you can easily access them at the stationery shop just behind the Leh DC office. The office opens at 9:00 am and stays open until 3:00 pm only. It remains closed during Sundays and National holidays. It’s highly recommended to reach the office as early as possible. This way you can avoid the rush and have a hassle-free permit. The fee required is Rs. 200 per person and environment tax plus Rs. 20 per person per day as wildlife protection fee and Rs. 10 for donating to the Red Cross.
“Do not forget to carry your original valid identifications like Passport, UID, Voters ID, Driving license etc”.
A single person can apply for his or her entire group provided they carry the attested copies of the proffer of nationality for all the members in the group.
Anyone (like the hotel you are staying in or a travel agent) could organize for your inner line authorization and even fax or email them to you before your arrival in Leh so that you could go straight to Tso Moriri and Pangong before arriving in Leh provided you don’t mind sharing the photocopies of your citizenship proof with them either via email or fax. Keep in mind that you also need to mention the name of the hotel in Leh where you are staying.
Mention all the places that you will be traveling in the permit. After acquiring the permit make sure that you carry minimum 4-5 copies of the permits and photo id proof. You may need to submit them at various check posts by the military personnel who track entry and exit at certain points to check if a tourist has returned or not. It’s more for your own safety as one may get stranded during the trek or may get stuck due to bad weather conditions.
Your stay in Ladakh
Luxury hotels are rare in Ladakh due to the nature of the region and accommodation are generally limited to small to medium sized units. There’s only one luxury hotel in Leh town which is the Grand Dragon. There are lots of budget and deluxe facilities with some basic amnesties like hot running waters and attached western toilets.
Due to the conditions and nature of Leh Ladakh region, luxury hotel properties or accommodation are not available in the region. There’s one luxury hotel in Leh Town by the name of the Grand Dragon. At other places, you’ll find budget and deluxe or even luxury tents and camps some with basic facilities and some with running hot waters and attached western toilets.
Homestays are easily available at most of the places with some basic facilities and would cost approximately Rs. 150-200 per person for the night but these are difficult to find during the peak season. Luxury camps with attached toilets and running hot water will cost you between Rs. 3000-5000 for two persons. You can also book your accommodation in advance through the internet or by calling the hotels and camp providers or may check in upon arrival as Ladakh is not one of the places which have those ”peak seasons” when the rooms are fully booked in advance.
Bikers Accommodation (Leh – Manali, and Leh – Srinagar Highway)
If you are a biker, you are sure to get accommodations along the route of both Leh-Manali and Leh-Srinagar highway. You have to allow yourself time to acclimatize while taking the Leh-Manali highway, you will find accommodations at the Keylong, Jispa, Sarchu and Darcha areas. Most bikers have found to be staying at Sarchu camps. Avoid crossing the Baltacha La in case you have arrived at the Zingzing bar in the late afternoon. You will find strong water currents which cross the road and this could get very dangerous. You should return to Darcha or Jispa or stay at Pang. Pang and Sarcha are elevated locations (Both 14,000+ heights) so avoid yourself getting AMS. In face, Jispa or Darcha are better options with elevations up to 10,000-11,000 only.
Have a stopover at Mulkbeh instead of Kargil or Lamayuru in case you are riding from Srinagar. The prices in Kargil are very high.
Other Bike Trip packages: Ladakh Bike Trip Packages and Manali to Leh Bike Trip Packages
Also, you can check here for some of the best Manali bike rentals.
It is very important to know the petrol pumps if you are traveling by road or even biking. You need to keep reserve petrol in the can so equip yourself with them so you don’t get stranded without fuel. The final station you will find is in Tandi and the next one is in Karu which is almost 400 km away.
If you are planning Leh-Pangong-TsoMosriri-Rumtse-Leh or Leh-Nubra-Pangong-Leh which is almost 700-900 km then equip yourself with a good capacity for petrol in reserve.
You may be surprised to find fuel being available in some shops, roadside residences etc but there the costs are higher than the standard petrol pumps. Still, keep this option open when you are around these areas.
En route the Leh-Srinagar Highway, you will find enough petrol pumps and this should definitely keep your spirits higher.
ATM options in Leh Ladakh
You may find credit card facility options in a few antique shops but that’s about it. Hotels, travel agents etc do not accept credit cards at all. If you find it risky to carry cash, equip yourself with plastic money i.e debit cards. You can withdraw money from ATMs as per your requirement. Several banks like PNB, SBI, Axis, J&K bank etc have their ATMs installed in several locations in Leh town. More interior places like Pangong, Changthang etc do not have ATM facilities so carry a good amount of cash. Also while stacking up you cash in your bag or jacket, make sure to stack them in various places and know well how much you have. It is better to avoid keeping all of them in a single place as that could invite you unwanted trouble.
General travel tips
– Respect the local culture: Always show a good respect towards other cultures when you are on your travel trips. Tibetan Buddhist culture is from the ancient times. Always show utmost respect towards the local people. Dress appropriately. Cover yourself well. Before taking any photographs, seek permissions
– Communication facilities: Most markets in Ladakh have STD booths but they close down before 10:00 pm. In Kargil, you will find a global direct calling telephone facility, telegraph facility. Wireless radiophone network services of J&K tourism station with various filed stations at Leh, Padum and Kargil. During the peak season starting from May to August, J&K tourism establishes mobile wireless stations in remote areas too. Prepaid sim cards do not work here
– Avoid using plastic bags: Both locals and tourists have a responsibility towards maintaining the environment hence, do not litter around the place. Plastics are officially banned in Ladakh and hence it is better to avoid using polythene bags
– Carry proper documents: Always carry all your travel documents, permits, licenses, identity cards etc. There are lots of passes like Changla Pass, Zojila Pass, Fatula Pass and Khardungla Pass where they have a huge military presence. Make sure to make copies of all the documents and IDs and keep them safely in your bag since you may never know when you will need them
Do your research well while planning your Ladakh trip with Leh Ladakh tour guide. You will find various blogs, travel sites etc who will have loads of information. Read them well and make proper notes concerning that. You can even check Ladakh India.com for further information on local attractions and other local information.
Enjoy and equip yourself well for this amazing land.
It’s never enough when you are exploring Ladakh and we hope you find more fruitful and enjoyable experiences on your trip to Ladakh with Leh Ladakh tour guide!
Frequent questions asked by the Travellers
- Q) Any rain preparation
A) Yes. You can carry Ponchos/Rain Coat
- Q) Guide included or is the driver of the guide?
- Q) Rafting – what grade? 2-3 should be fine
- Q) Cycling – what is the gradient; cycle – road or mountain?
- Q) Trekking – distance? Hiking shoes needed?
A) Note required – 4 -5 hrs Leh to stock/ normal sports shoes will do
- Q) How is the Nubra Organic Retreat in Nubra
A) Nubra organic retreat is a very good property in Hunter- some distance from Nubra Valley
- Q) Difference bet Lha-Ri-Sa and Ladakh residency
Lharisa and Ladakh residency are good properties, but Ladakh residency is more luxurious
- Q) Luggage – will fit luggage for all 6 + driver on top?
A) Yes, we suggest packing lightly
- Q) Difference bet Lha-Ri-Sa and Ladakh residency
A) Lharisa and Ladakh residency are good properties, but Ladakh residency is more luxurious
Do let us know your questions, feedback or corrections, if any, in the comments section. We will try to address all of them