I always advise that a trip to Ladakh should always be done in a group because of several obvious advantages like assistance in case of a breakdown, better budget planning etc. However a lot of people travel to Ladakh solo as well, some by choice and others because they could not find someone to accompany them on the trip. Traveling to this part of the country requires meticulous planning which becomes even of utmost importance if you are planning a solo trip to Ladakh.
There will be several times in the trip when you will be all on your own and I mean literally on your own. Not only you would not have a friend to seek help from by your side, there would not even be a stranger for miles around. Your phones will not be working and if you land in trouble somewhere, you will have to handle the situation all by yourself. Keeping that is mind, below are a few tips; some general but important information that you should keep in mind when planning for your solo trip to Ladakh.
How to Plan a Solo Trip to Ladakh
Plan your Budget:
Of all the people that I have known to have travelled solo to Ladakh, most of them either went by public transport or on a motorcycle. I do not know of anyone who went to Ladakh alone in his car and just one person who went solo by flight. This is because when you have someone accompanying you on a journey that long, cost per person comes down marginally and then also the fact that you would not have to go through the long hours of travel in complete silence.
You need to keep in mind the fact that whatever the cost comes out to be; it will be your own expense and a solo trip to Ladakh will definitely cost you a bit. Keep a minimum cost in mind and then bump it up by a few thousands. For example, after considering everything, if your total cost is coming out to be Rs. 15,000 plan your budget according to Rs. 20,000. Wisely chose your accommodation if travelling on a budget. Plan your entire itinerary in a way that you are only stopping for the night at a place where you can find a budget hotel.
Carefully chose your mode of travel:
Even if budget is not of problem, you still need to carefully chose the way you are travelling. Keep in mind that you will be travelling through some of the most challenging roads so if your driving experience is not that much, do not risk being at the wheel on your own. It applies to both motorcycles and cars. If you have been driving or riding just for a little while, or have never been up in the hills, Ladakh is not the place where you would want to do it for the first time. In this case, you are better off using public transport services throughout your trip.
If you must however travel in your own vehicle, then take an experienced driver with you. If traveling on a budget, then you should better forget about private taxis unless you are OK spending Rs. 50,000 above just on taxis. If timings are of concern, then you should chose to travel in shared taxis because bus service in Ladakh is not that frequent.
Also read: How Safe is Ladakh for Tourists?
There are not many ATMs in Ladakh and as a matter of fact, there are no other ATMs except for the ones in the city of Leh. You need to plan your cash in hand and by that I mean do not straight away carry Rs. 20,000 from home, because if you lose your bag or wallet, then your trip is over. Carry enough that will last until the next ATM. Withdraw some from Manali that should see you in Leh comfortably, then withdraw from Leh before going to visit the nearby areas. Before starting on to visit places like Nubra or Pangong, ensure that you have cash in all denominations. Do not just carry large notes because areas over there are small villages and you may not get change after producing a large denomination note.
This specially applies if you are traveling by public transport. Throughout your trip, you will be changing your mode of transport multiple times and carrying multiple bags will become a big hassle. Carry one large backpack and try to stuff all your belongings in it.
Ensure that you are carrying all your necessary paperwork with you and by that I mean a valid identity proof, a residence proof with your complete address on it and copies of your permits. If there is a medical background involved, ensure that you are carrying all required paperwork in case you need medical assistance during your trip.
Very important. Keep an emergency contact listed in your phone, in which case you will have to keep the phone unlocked. Another way to do this is write an emergency contact name and number on a large piece of paper and put it in your bag. It would be wise to keep another such piece of paper in your wallet or in your pocket.
If you are traveling solo just because you could not get someone from your family or friends to accompany you on the trip, then you should try finding a travel partner either online or while on the trip.
As I mentioned above, a lot of people do a solo trip to Ladakh so it won’t be rare that you will find someone traveling solo like you. If you are on a motorcycle, than tag along with that person. If you do not find someone alone, you will definitely find other people traveling in a group. It would be wise that you ride either with them or closer to them so that in case there is a breakdown, they can help you.
A lot of people put up fliers at cafes, restaurants or with tour operators looking for travel partners which is a good option to look for if you are traveling by public transport. You must however practice caution while tagging alone with someone in this case. If the person seems suspicious or not trustworthy, travel alone.
Please CLICK HERE or on the link below to take you to the travel partners sections of our travel community. You can register and put up a query in case you are looking for a travel partner.
If someone is traveling solo and their dates match yours, you can communicate with them and plan together.
Stay in touch with your family:
Throughout your trip, you must stay in touch with your family and keep them apprised about your whereabouts. Call before you leave Manali because as soon as you get on the other side of Rohtang, your phone will most likely be out of network. Nubra, Pangong, Moriri too have no phone connectivity so do let your folks know about the same before you leave Leh. Handover copy of your entire travel plan to your family, detailing where you plan to be on which date.
If you have booked your stay in advnce, then provide them the phone numbers of the hotels as well. If not, then call them and update about name and numbers of the hotel you are staying in. Keep them updated about as much as you can so that in case you are in trouble somewhere and cannot get in touch with anyone, they at least they would have an idea of where you could be.
Time of Travel:
If you are planning a solo trip to Ladakh, then you must plan it in either July, August or September as these are the months of peak tourist season. All hotels/guest houses at this time are functional and you will have no trouble finding a budget hotel. Also, if you are traveling by public transport, then this is the time when you will easily find a shared cab in Ladakh. In terms of travel partners as well, your chances of finding one will be highest in these three months.
This applies no matter how you are travelling. You very carefully need to choose places that you want to visit. If traveling by public transport, you should avoid routes where frequency of bus service or shared taxis is less, like Changthang Valley (Chushul-Hanle-Nyome route). If travelling by your own vehicle (car or motorcycle both), you should avoid routes like Wari La, Agham Shyok road where roads are challenging and chances of getting stranded are higher. Keep your travel plan limited to places or routes where there is a regular tourist movement.
Also read: Top Safety Tips for Ladakh Trip
Below is example of itineraries that I would advise while on a solo trip to Ladakh.
If traveling on a motorcycle,
Day 1. Delhi to Manali
Day 2. Manali to Keylong/Jispa
Day 3. Keylong/Jispa to Pang
Day 4. Pang to Leh
Day 5. Leh
Day 6. Leh to Hunder/Diskit
Day 7. Hunder/Diskit to Leh
Day 8. Leh to Pangong Tso
Day 9. Pangong Tso to Leh
Day 10. Leh to Tso Moriri
Day 11. Tso Moriri to Leh
Day 12. Leh to Kargil
Day 13. Kargil to Srinagar
Day 14. Srinagar to Jammu
This is a 2 weeks plan keeping in mind that you do not either travel too much or too less on any given day while covering all major tourist places in Leh. If however you are short on time, you can add remove places from this itinerary.
If you are travelling by public transport, below is a sample itinerary that you can follow. This is laid out keeping in mind the availability of bus from a specific area to another. If you can match your travel with these days, you will most likely be able to board a bus. If however there is no bus available, then there is always an option of finding a public shared taxi which may cost you a bit more than the bus but will still be cost effective. Another thing I have considered while laying out the plan is that while traveling, you are never too far from an area where there is a regular tourist movement and are stopping at night at a place where you have a high chance of finding a budget accommodation.
If traveling by public transport
Monday – Manali to Keylong
Tuesday – Keylong to Leh
Wednesday – Leh
Thursday – Leh to Hunder/Diskit (there is a bus to Nubra valley from Leh every Thursday)
Friday – Hunder/Diskit to Leh (The same bus that reached Nubra on Thursday returns the next day)
Saturday – Leh to Pangong Tso (There is a bus to Pangong from Leh every Saturday)
Sunday – Pangong Tso to Leh (The bus from Saturday returns on Sunday)
Monday – Leh to Kargil
Tuesday – Kargil to Srinagar
Wednesday – Srinagar to Jammu
Above mentioned is just a sample itinerary, an example of how you can prepare your solo trip to Ladakh as per the bus schedule. Please take a look at the articles below providing details of when is a bus scheduled from Leh to other areas of Ladakh. Referencing these articles, you can prepare your own itinerary.
I hope this information was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I would be glad to answer.