Do you need any permits for Spiti valley?
As compared to Ladakh, visiting Spiti valley is considerably easy. You are less likely to get hit by AMS in Spiti, your phone will work for most of the trip, area is better connected and the part where you may get stranded is quite limited. However, considering all the fuss related to the Rohtang permits, a lot of people recently have been asking me if they need any kind of permits for Spiti valley or if there is any place in the valley that is “off-limits” for tourists, either Indian or foreigner. The answer to that question is different for Indian nationals and foreign tourists and it also depends on how you are travelling and what your itinerary is.
If you are an Indian citizen and planning to complete the Spiti circuit in what I call as traditional manner, starting from Shimla and ending at Manali that is, than you do not need any permits for spiti valley at all, not even for Rohtang pass. You can just start your journey from Shimla; complete the circuit, cross Kunzum La and Rohtang La on your way and end at Manali. Just carry a valid identity proof, documents of your motorcycle or car if you are travelling in your own vehicle and your driving license if you are the one driving and that would suffice. There is absolutely no need to obtain any other permit for Indian nationals.
However, if you are a foreign tourist and coming from Shimla, then you would need to obtain an Inner line permit from either the District Collectors office in Shimla or at the Reckong Peo border post. Without permit, you will only be allowed to travel as far as Reckong Peo and will be stopped at the next check post if you do not have an Inner line permit. Once you have obtained the permit, please carry several photocopies of it as you may have to submit one at the check posts. It is wise to also carry photocopies of your passport and spare passport-size photos.
Coming from Manali side gets a little more complicated and this is when the word “permit” comes into picture however the only permit you would need is to cross Rohtang Pass. There is no permit that you need to take to enter Spiti valley or to visit any specific areas in the valley. Please take a look at the following post for more details on what the current restrictions applicable to Rohtang Pass are.
For foreign tourists, it is wise to enter the valley from Manali side because then you do not need to obtain an inner line permit. The border police will register your passport number at the entrance to the valley and it will rarely take longer than 5 minutes.
The only place in the valley that is not open for tourists, both Indian and foreign, is the Shipki La pass. It is too close to the border for anyone except for ITBP and Army guys to be allowed to visit. If you want to visit this pass, you really need to have contacts at the top level so that you can obtain the permit. Otherwise you can just forget this pass and enjoy rest of the valley.
I hope this information was helpful and it clarified any confusion related to permits for spiti valley. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment and ask and I would be glad to answer.