When you go to a place like Ladakh, you know that your packing cannot be the same that it would be in case of a short trip to any other hill station. You know that you will be gone for several days to an area known for its harsh weather and challenging terrain; a place where even some of the basic facilities like ATM, mobile connectivity, mechanics, fuel stations, eateries and accommodation can still be scarce. A trip to Ladakh means that your packing has to be comprehensive and concise; so that you do not miss an essential item but also not burden yourself with way too many bags. In short; what you bring should really be all and only essential things to carry for Ladakh trip.
There is no doubt that not everyone would need or pack in the same manner. For example, what a lady would pack would be way different than what a guy would. Your necessary items in case of a family trip would not be the same as on a solo trip. What you will pack for a bike trip will be different than if you were flying to Leh. With that being said; there are still a few things that remain applicable in all cases; some general items that will be required in every case. In this article, I will try to list down some of these items; more of a checklist that you can refer to; irrespective of your mode of travel.
Ladakh Checklist: Things to Carry for Ladakh Trip
I will list down items in categories and then name a few in each category.
What kind of clothes to wear in Ladakh is probably one of the foremost questions asked so I will start with this. Your clothing for Ladakh has to be in carried in layers. What it necessarily means is that you will be wearing one cloth over another; so it is important that you do not pack all heavy and woolens or clothes that are way too tight. In Ladakh, weather is highly unpredictable. Standing in the shade will make you feel cold but you will be warm the moment you step in the sun. Temperature can change rapidly depending on time of the day or the place. So your clothes has to be in a way that you can put one over another if cold; and can take off layers if feeling warm.
Pack plenty of your regular cottons like T-Shirts and Jeans. Carry a couple of pair of thermals, some light woolens followed by a heavy wind and waterproof jacket. If traveling in winter, you will of course have to carry all of your heavy woolens.
After clothes come some necessary accessories that you must be carrying with you. Below is a list.
Sunscreen Lotion: Sun is quite harsh in Ladakh, so much that it will not just tan you but may even burn your skin. Carry a good sunscreen lotion with highest SPF that you can find. Lotus is considered among the best brands when it comes to sunblock lotions.
Sunglasses: It is not just your skin that you need to protect against the sun but also your eyes which will get stressed easily due to Ultra violet rays at such high altitude. Carry a good pair of sunglasses which you can put on for longer duration without starting to hurt your face or ears.
Gloves: Woolens gloves are a good idea but if you can, then try to find a waterproof one. If you are into a bit of photography, then you will need to carry two pairs; a thick one and another one that sticks to your skin and would not have to be taken off every time you need to operate your camera.
Cap: Carry a regular cap that you can put on while walking around order to protect your face from the sun. This can be used during day time but for nights, evenings and mornings, find a good monkey cap or Balcalava. It will protect your head, face, ears and neck as well. A muffler would be a good idea as well. If you would however not prefer a monkey cap then ensure that your jacket has a hoodie that you can pull over your head.
After clothing and accessories, listed below are a few daily use items that you must pack.
Cold Cream / Lip Balm / Moisturizer: I guess this one goes without saying. You are visiting one of the coldest regions in the country where the dry weather will cause your skin and lips to crack. Carry a good cold cream and lip balm and apply it on regular basis.
Mustard Oil: This falls under the category of one of the best things to carry for Ladakh trip and can be put to multiple use. Apply it to your hair and scalp of course but apart from that, use it for your hands, arms and face as well. It works as a natural moisturizer and will help protect your skin. As a practice, after you apply oil to your hair, just rub it on your hands, arms, face and a little on the inside of your ears and nostrils.
- Tooth Brush
- Tooth Paste
- Soap (Paper soap if possible)
- Toilet Paper (Don’t ask me where or why you will need it but you may :-))
- Face Wash
- Deodorant, if you use it.
Carry a little bit of dry fruits from home; some almonds, raisins and cashews. Things like chips and biscuits are these days available of most routes in Ladakh so it is not really a mandate to pack these but if you can, add a few chocolates to your packing. Dry fruits and chocolates can work as an instant energy giving snack.
If you are a strict vegetarian and cannot even eat in utensils that may have been used to cool non-vegetarian, then you should pack at least one pan and some disposable plates and spoons.
Water in Ladakh can be a little hard on stomach for some people and if that is the case, then ensure that you are carrying packed mineral water with you throughout the travel. Drinking water at regular intervals can also be helpful with AMS so irrespective of how you are traveling; ensure that you are carrying a couple of liters of water and in-taking it regularly.
Diamox works as a precautionary measure (not a cure) for acute mountain sickness but please ensure that you are not allergic to sulfur medicines. Best would be to consult a doctor if you are unsure. Apart from Diamox, carry some other basic medicines for headache, upset stomach, fever, cold and cough.
If possible, I will also recommend carrying a small pack of glucose. If the high altitude, long hours of travel and mountain sickness start to take a toll, it can work miracles to keep you going; providing instant energy. In all probability, AMS is bound to kill your appetite as well and some glucose will definitely come to rescue in such a situation.
- Chargers of all your electronic devices
- Spare Battery for your camera if you are into photography
- Power Bank if you plan to use your phone camera a lot. Batteries die faster than regular rate in cold environment.
- Car Charger will be a good idea if you are traveling by your own car or renting a private taxi
- Spare memory cards if you are a trigger happy person clicking pictures at every turn
At least one government issued identity card like driver’s license, voter ID, Passport or Aadhar Card. Please ensure that you are carrying both the original and a few photocopies of it.
- Print out of your itinerary
- Copies of your flight tickets if traveling by air
- Hotel reservation slips if booked in advance
- Write down some of your emergency contacts (name and phone numbers) on a piece of paper and keep it in your wallet. I am not talking about saving it as emergency contact in your phone; but to actually write on a paper.
- Medical insurance if any
- Multiple copies of your Inner line permit once you have procured it in Leh
- Passport size photographs
ATM in Ladakh is still a rare thing. There is one in the town of Leh and that is about it. From Manali side, there is no ATM after Manali and on Srinagar route, the only one available is at Kargil. Sometimes functionality of the ATM and availability of cash too is questionable here. So as a practice, make sure that you are carrying enough cash that can last until you reach the next ATM. There are no ATMs anywhere in Ladakh except for the ones in Leh.
Please also do not rely on credit cards. They may or may not be accepted in Leh but for rest of Ladakh, they will pretty much be just plastic without money.
Only postpaid mobile connections work in Ladakh. You will get reception for almost all networks in Leh city but for rest of Ladakh, only postpaid BSNL connections work. If you cannot stay off the grid and do not mind getting a new connection for the trip, you will have to get a BSNL / MTNL one.
A few other items that can be extremely helpful.
- Rechargeable Torch
- Extension cord can be helpful if are in a group; or have multiple electronics to recharge; and end up at a place with just one power socket; or a power socked at an odd place.
- Spare key for your vehicle. Please also make sure that you do not pack it in your bags because if you get locked out of the car, then the spare key too would be useless.
- Nylon rope and bungee cords if you are traveling by a motorcycle.
- A notepad and Pen
- A few safety pins
- A lighter or matchbox
- Pain balm or spray like Iodex, Moov or Volini.
- Few strips of Band Aid
- A bottle of Dettol
- An antiseptic cream
- A crepe bandage
- Nasal drops can be extremely helpful if end up with a blocked nose after catching cold
- Sugar free if you do not take regular sugar
- Tea bags
- Coffee pouches
- Fresh Fruit or packed fruit juice or both
- A few packets of Maggie or Cup Noodles
If you are a photographer then do not forget to pack your
- Memory cards
- Rain cover
Things to Carry for your Car or Motorcycle
If you are traveling by your own motorcycle or car, then you will need to get it prepare for the tough trip ahead. You will also need to carry some essential tools and spares to ensure a hassle free trip. I have covered these two aspects in two different articles that provide information on how you can prepare your motorcycles and some tools / spares that you must carry. Please take a look at the articles at the link below. Items mentioned in these two articles will be in addition to the list I provided above.
I am sure there are other items as well that will be among things to carry for Ladakh trip that I may have missed here. Please do mention it in comments if anything crosses your mind.
I hope the information above was helpful. 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.