Is Zoomcar and other self driven taxis allowed in Ladakh?
Most people would want to drive to Ladakh on their own rather than hiring a commercial vehicle or using public transport services and in my opinion it is completely justified. Ladakh is not a place that you can enjoy to the fullest while sitting inside a bus that takes limited stops. Ladakh and both the highways leading to it are full of awe-inspiring vistas that change at every turn and would invite you to stop for a moment to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. Apart from this, there is also the feel of adventure while driving on a terrain where the word road is sometimes just a relative term. There are several other reasons as well like privacy, comfort, cost which would have you rather sit on the driving seat yourself. Off late I have received a lot of queries from people asking whether self-driven taxi services like Zoom car were allowed in Ladakh so thought to post some information on this matter.
What is a Zoom Car or a self-driven taxi? Zoom car or any other self drive taxi for the matter is a car rental service which allows you to rent cars by the hour or days. You can take the cab, drive it on your own anywhere you want to and return the car back at the end of your trip.
What to check and verify when you rent a self-driven taxi? If you planning to hire a self drive cab, then please make sure that you take the following documents along,
- Registration Card (RC)
- Insurance documents
- All India permit (National Permit DL1N Specially registered for Self Drive service)
- Rent-a-cab license
Most of the cab services have an All India Permit so that you are free to drive anywhere in the country. While booking the cab, please make sure that it has a yellow plate with black numbers. You do not need a special license to drive such vehicles and your regular driving license would do just fine. You would however be required to pay the permit charges while crossing border in to a different state.
Is Zoomcar allowed in Ladakh? Now the big question, Is Zoomcar and other self driven taxis allowed in Ladakh and the nearby areas? The answer to that question is, legally they are. As long as the vehicle is registered as a self-driven cab and has an all India permit, you are free to drive it anywhere in the country. But then there is a twist in the story as well. You can safely drive a ZoomCar to Leh, using any of the two highways but things get a little tricky when you want to take it to nearby areas like Pangong and Nubra. Ladakh is a cold desert, a barren wasteland and the livelihood of the people here depends a lot on tourism. Some of these folks are Taxi drivers so imagine if everyone started to hire a taxi elsewhere and drive it to Ladakh on their own. It is a direct hit on the income of the taxi drivers here due to which you may get into trouble with them. There have been reports of tourists in self-driven taxis being harassed by the taxi union and local taxi drivers and these are in fact true. There also have been instances where the vehicles were even attacked and damaged in stranded areas where there was no help available to the tourists.
So the bottom line is, Zoom Cars are allowed but it is a risk to drive them around in areas near Leh. No one is going to bother you until Leh, no matter which road you take. As long as you have the proper papers with you, you can conveniently drive to Leh but once you reach there, my suggestion is to hire a local taxi driver to show you around to places like Nubra Valley, Pangong and Tso Moriri. Rent a hotel for your entire stay in Ladakh and hold the room even when you are gone sight-seeing. That way you can leave your car parked at the hotel, in their care and be sure that there is no risk of it getting stolen. Hire a local taxi while you are in Ladakh and then you can drive back home in your own cab.
I hope this information was useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment and ask and I would be glad to answer.