Is Ladakh safe to go to? This is one of the most often thoughts pondered upon by people planning a visit here. In fact, this question will actually apply to any place that you may think about visiting. But because of the remoteness, high altitude, harsh terrain, challenging roads, close proximity to the border, incursions by China and unrest in Kashmir; people feel a little hesitant about visiting Ladakh at all. You may not worry about it as much if traveling solo or with friends; but when you have your family accompanying you on the trip; this probably will become your greatest apprehensions. Is Ladakh safe for tourists or not and what measures can you take to make it even more so is what I will provide details on in this article. If after reading the article you have any other doubts, please do comment and ask.
Your safety in Ladakh really depends on the aspect you are inquiring it in about. For example, you may be worried about the unrest in Kashmir and Chinese incursions; or you may not be confident about driving or riding your motorcycle there. The high altitude could be giving you sleepless nights because you may also have your children accompanying you on the trip. In the end however, the fact remains that thousands of people travel to Ladakh each year with both their children and elders. So to answer the question in one statement, yes Ladakh is perfectly safe to visit; provided that you do not put yourself in a risky situation.
Safety in Leh – Ladakh after Chinese Incursions
This is probably the biggest apprehension that people have while going to Ladakh. Chinese incursions in several areas here have increased in last few years and they get wide coverage in all the newspapers and channels. This creates a panic like situation among travelers. I am not saying that it is not all that serious because it indeed is; but contrary to common belief, incursions happen close to the border areas which are far away from tourist destinations. Tourists are anyways not allowed in those areas.
Some of the places where incursions happened are as a matter of fact about 2 days of travel from until where tourists are allowed. There have been several instances of Chinese crossing over to Indian territories but far from being a risk to people visiting Ladakh. In fact it will never be a situation like this unless China declares an all out war against India.
And to be honest, it is not just Ladakh. It is the case with any city that is close to border areas. Large army presence, tight security, minor disputes over the border are common in such places. Ladakh is a very well protected region and you really have nothing to worry about. Put this fear out of your mind and only focus on the natural beauty of the place.
How safe is Leh Ladakh because of Pakistani Shelling?
Like Chinese incursions, the incidents of Pakistani soldiers crossing over; or cross-border shelling too is not near tourist destinations. Places that are prone to such attacks are not open for tourists. While going to Ladakh via Srinagar, you will traveling through places that do not see any Pakistani incursions unless it is an open war; like of Kargil in 1999. If that happens than the entire region will anyways shut down for any tourism at all.
Also read: Mobile Phone Services in Ladakh
Is Ladakh safe to visit during unrest in Kashmir?
Things can change in Kashmir overnight and there is no denying this fact. The often protests, stone pelting incidents do pose a worrisome threat but in all of this, there has rarely been any incident when a tourist was hurt. People of Kashmir know of the important of tourism in the region. Their very own livelihood depends on it heavily and they will do anything to ensure that their source of income does not get disrupted. They take extra care to not cause any unrest in areas that are popular among tourists.
You will rarely hear about any such incidents at places like Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Yusmarg or Pahalgam where most of the tourism happens. But you too can take certain steps to ensure your own safety. Please take a look at the article below where I have suggested a few tips on the same.
Also read: Is Srinagar Leh Highway Safe for Tourists?
Most of the violence in the valley most of the times is centered around Srinagar; so if that worries you, than you can skip Srinagar altogether and head straight to Sonamarg which is about 2-3 hours’ drive from the city. Not traveling to a destination that is too offbeat will be another great step. Even when in Srinagar, do not wander to places where you have no business going; places like the old city. If possible than do keep a local contact; someone you can call in case you needed any immediate assistance.
Another point to consider is that Srinagar is about 450 kilometers and 2 days of journey away from Ladakh. Unrest in Kashmir rarely causes any impact in Ladakh. Even traveling on Srinagar Leh highway is quite safe as long as you do not put yourself at a wrong place at a wrong time. Also take a look at my article on How to Travel on Srinagar Leh Highway and Hotels on Srinagar to Leh Route.
Safety issues in Ladakh in terms of Bad Roads
Yes, the roads here are challenging, bad, broken and unpredictable. But I thought that is why you wanted to visit Ladakh, right? To accept the challenge? If not that you really have no business going there; better stick to other safer but crowded tourist hot spots. Roads here are bad yes but no threat as long as you have decent enough experience of driving both in plains and hills and as long as you go slow and carefully.
Just follow the basic rules of driving that you would in a city as well and you will be OK. And I am really talking about simple rules like do not drink & drive, do not over speed, do not rush, do not lose focus etc. Follow this and these rough roads will become fun to be on. If you are not confident of your own driving then better not take the risk and hire a local driver. Take a look at Driving Tips for Leh Ladakh for some tips of how to handle tough roads.
Acute Mountain Sickness
Yes it is real and yes it is serious but not applicable to just Ladakh. You will suffer from it at other high altitude places like Spiti valley as well. As a matter of fact, I have seen people suffering from altitude sickness even at Manali. Slow gain in altitude is the key to avoid suffering from its symptoms. If you are worried about it too much then just take the Srinagar Leh route to get to Ladakh and give it some time. Take the journey slow, do not exert yourself, avoid smoking and drinking and you should be OK. To read more in details about what acute mountain sickness is, what causes it, what its symptoms are and what can you do to avoid it, please read How to Handle Acute Mountain Sickness in Ladakh.
Is it safe to go to Ladakh after the Taxi Union Incident?
A couple of years ago, there were some incidents of tourists vehicles attacked by local taxi union people that also caused panic. That however was just one odd incident and to be honest, no one really knows the reality of it. No one can tell for sure what happened or the entire chain of events that eventually led to that attack. There have never been any such incidents in Ladakh except for this one time. Just follow some basic rules that taxi union here enforces.
Do not use a non-local rented vehicle for sightseeing. Which means that if you rented a car of motorcycle from Ladakh, then only use it to travel to your hotel in Leh. Do not take it to any other place in Ladakh or even use it in Leh city. If traveling by a personal car, then please make sure that it is registered in our own name and not that of a friend’s. Please read Non-Local Rented Taxi and Motorcycles Banned in Ladakh for more details on this issue.
Also read: Clothes for Ladakh Trip – What to Pack?
Is it safe to travel to Ladakh with Family?
If you are planning a trip with your family that includes either your elders or children, then the first step would be to consult a doctor and take a professional opinion. Children have the same tolerance level for mountain sickness as that of adults so the same rules will apply that I mentioned above. Keep a check on their overall behavior and for any symptoms of AMS. Kids are more active by nature which makes them prone to AMS by exerting themselves so keep their movements under control. Give plenty of water or other fluids and keep them covered from cold. If your parents have any medical conditions like Asthma, heart problems then bringing them to Ladakh without going to a doctor’s first will be a bad move.
Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Ladakh with Children?
Is Ladakh safe for foreigners?
Yes Ladakh is as safe for foreigners as it is for Indian citizens. However, as a foreign national, you need to make sure that you do your homework and gain knowledge on what areas you can visit; and which ones are off limits or best avoided. You will also need to obtain a PAP (protected area permit) that is specific for foreign tourists only. In order to visit areas like Nubra valley and Pangong, you will have to get a local registered travel agent to sponsor you; without which you will not be issued a PAP. Areas like Hanle, Changthang Valley, and Batalik are restricted for foreigners so do not go that way. As a general rule, keep yourself to major tourist spot and avoid going too remote or offbeat.
Is Ladakh safe for Heart Patients?
My knowledge in the field is next to none but as far as I know, traveling to high altitude places for people suffering with coronary Heart Diseases is not the best thing to do. Ladakh is a remote area and it is not just about the present medical condition of the person. An even serious matter is the absence of medical support anywhere in Ladakh except for Leh city. If any medical emergency arises to a heart patient, it is bound to turn into a disaster because the nearest help would be miles and hours away. Still if you want to go, then you must find a good cardiologist and get a medical opinion. Please do not go looking for this answer on the web.
Is Leh Ladakh safe to travel?
How safe is Ladakh is not really a question that only depends upon the region but also upon the traveler. Just follow the advice I provided above and you will be able to travel to Ladakh without any hassle; have lots of fun; and return home happy. I do hope the information above was of help. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.