When you are preparing for a trip to Ladakh; there are several things that you need to prepare yourself as well as your vehicle for. From AMS to bad roads to itinerary planning; the list is endless but I believe one of the top most concerns for anyone will be the scarcity of fuel. Places where your you can hope to find a gas station in Ladakh are still just a few and depending on your itinerary; there may be instances when you will have to run a stretch for miles or days without a refill. In this article, I will provide details on where do you need to carry spare fuel for Ladakh trip and how can you manage it.
Fuel Stations in Ladakh
To bring with, let us take a look at where can you find petrol stations in Ladakh. On Manali Leh highway; the last petrol pump is at Tandi post which there is no other gas station until Karu, for a 320 odd kilometers. Coming from Srinagar, you will find a petrol pump at several places. last one being at Khaltsi post which the next fuel station is in Leh, after 90 odd kilometers.
For local sightseeing, there is one petrol pump in Padaum (Zanskar valley) and one in Diskit (Nubra valley) but functionality of both these petrol pumps is highly questionable. There is a high chance that you will reach here only to find it closed. There are no gas stations on at Pangong, Tso Moriri, or on the routes leading to these lakes. Chushul route is highly remote so do not expect to find gas anywhere here. In the end, to sum it up, the only fuel station in Ladakh is in Leh town; so before you leave here, you need to decide how much spare fuel you should be carrying.
Spare Fuel for Ladakh Trip
The first thing to do is to be sure of is your vehicle’s mileage. Whether is it a car or motorcycle; please have a close enough estimate of how long your vehicle runs on a liter of Petrol or Diesel.
For example, if your car’s mileage is 15 kms per liter, then to be on a safer side; assume then it would go down to 10 to 11 kms per liter in Ladakh. Up there, you would constantly be running in low gears so fuel consumption will be high. Second thing to consider will be the tank capacity of your vehicle; followed by the distance you will be travelling before reaching the next gas station. Put all these facts together, do a little math; and you would know how much fuel you would be required to carry to ensure an event-less trip. I will provide the information related to distance and gas stations that you can add up with your vehicle’s mileage and fuel tank capacity.
Manali Leh highway
From Manali to Leh, the last petrol pump is at Tandi. It is a reliable petrol pump and always functional so you should tank up here. After Tandi, there is no other gas station for about 320 odd kilometers until Karu. So in case of Royal Enfields for example, with a tank capacity of 12-13 liters and 25 to 30 kilometers per liter; I would carry about five liters of petrol just to be on a safer side. In case of a Pulsar with 18 liters of tank capacity, I would not carry any fuel for Manali Leh highway. Calculate the same way for any vehicle you are travelling in; be it a car or motorcycle; and decide if you should carry any spare fuel at all.
Srinagar Leh highway
Unlike Manali Leh highway, Srinagar to Leh is better connected and populated. No need to carry spare fuel on this road, no matter what your mode of commuting is. You can easily find a gas station at several places; Srinagar, Kangan, Sonamarg, Kargil, Khalsi.all of which have reliable petrol p
Now let us take a look at some of the inner roads in Ladakh. For most of the famous tourist destinations like Nubra Valley or Pangong Tso; one tank full in Leh and you can easily make a return journey. However if you are planning to commute on roads like Agham Shyok road; the Chushul route, you will have to make arrangements to carry spare fuel. Below is information on these routes in detail.
Leh – Khadrung La – Nubra Valley – Leh: If you just want to travel to Diskit / Hunder and come back to Leh while covering Panamik on the route, total distance of the journey would be about 330 – 340 kilometers in which case you do not need spare fuel. If however you want to touch Nubra Valley end to end (Turtuk on one side and Warshi on other); then the total distance of the journey will be 510 – 520 kilometers; and you will need to carry some fuel with you.
Leh – Sakti – Chang La – Pangong Tso – Leh: Last petrol pump while traveling towards Pangong Tso from Leh is at Karu from where Pangong Tso is about 190 kilometers. So 380 kilometers in total and you may or may not need fuel; depending on your vehicle’s tank capacity and fuel efficiency.
Leh – Tso Moriri – Leh via Chumathang : Last petrol pump again is at Karu from which Karzok is another 180 kilometers via Chumathang so a total of 360 kilometers for a return journey.
Leh – Tso Moriri via Chumathang – Leh via Tso Kar: Spare fuel needed. Total distance covered would be close to 500 kilometers
Sham Valley: You need not carry spare fuel for Sham Valley. Either tank up at Leh or Khaltsi and you will be Ok.
Leh – Nubra Valley – Pangong Tso via Wari La – Leh via Chang La: Depending on what all places you cover on this route, average distance covered will be close to about 600 kilometers minimum so definitely carry fuel.
Leh – Nubra Valley – Pangong Tso via Agham Shyok road – Leh via Chang La: Minimum distance covered this way would be about 550 kilometers so definitely carry fuel.
Leh – Pangong Tso – Tso Moriri via Hanle and Chushul – Leh via Chumathang: Total distance covered will be between 700 – 800 kilomteres so you will need to arrange fuel.
Leh – Nubra Valley – Pangong Tso via Shyok or Wari La – Tso Moriri via Chushul Hanle – Leh via Chumathang: Total distance would be close to 1000 kilometeres. Spare fuel required.
Leh – Nubra Valley – Pangong Tso via Shyok or Wari La – Tso Moriri via Chushul Hanle – Leh via Tso Kar: Spare fuel needed. Total distance would be close to 1200 kilometers
Leh – Nubra Valley – Pangong Tso via Shyok or Wari La – Tso Moriri via Chushul Hanle – Tso Kar – Pang – Manali: Longest stretch without a gas station, distance travelled will be over 1500 kilometers so definitely carry fuel.
Leh – Tso Moriri via Chumathang – Tso Kar – Pang – Keylong – Manali: Total distance would be about 550 kms so carry fuel.
Leh – Pangong Tso – Tso Moriri via Chushul / Hanle – Tso Kar – Pang – Keylong – Manali: Must carry fuel. Distance travelled will be about 950 kms
Karil – Rangdum – Padum – Kargil: No need to carry any additional fuel for this journey. Just tank up at Kargil and it will be sufficient for a round trip.
These are just some common routes that I picked here as an example but of course; the journey can be done in a thousand different ways. If you are thinking of a different route; ask me in the comments section below and I can let you know if you need to carry spare fuel or not.
Another important thing to keep in mind would be in regards to rented motorcycles. These motorcycles are of course not in the best condition and their fuel efficiency is always low. The agency that you will be renting it from will of course not give you the true picture so do not rely upon their word.
If you are doing the longer routes that I mentioned above; then you would of course need to make fuel arrangements; but if you are just planning to do the smaller Nubra, Pangong and Moriri circuits; there are two things that you can do after you rent the motorcycle from Leh. Either just carry spare fuel to be on the safer side or do a test run in order to get an idea about the mileage. I would advise to go a few kilometers towards Khardung La as the ascent starts right after Leh so it will give you a fair picture of how the bike is going to perform while climbing and what will be its mileage. This statement applies more to Royal Enfield than other motorcycles because their tank capacity is less than other bikes like Pulsar.
I received an email from a reader asking if we can get Petrol or Diesel in Ladakh in black; or do any of the dhabas or chadar tents on Manali Leh highway sell fuel. About a decade ago, the answer to this question would have been a no; but after the sudden rise in tourism in Ladakh, this kind of arrangements are in ample. Almost all the dhabas/chadar tents/ camping sites on the route keep spare fuel and sell it at a higher price; (expect it to be over Rs. 100 per liter of petrol). This however should be a sort of last option for you as apart from the steep price; even the quality of the fuel is questionable. However if you do run in an unforeseen situation, then yes you can ask the dhabas on the way for fuel.
The last thing I would like to discuss is about how to carry the fuel. Jerry Cans of course are the answer. If you can get your hands on one, then try to carry a metal one rather than the plastic one. If you are buying a plastic jerry can, then please ensure that it is strong enough to withstand the journey. During my last trip to Ladakh, I came across a biker on Manali Leh highway whose Jerry can had burst open due to air pressure so please ensure that you are buying a quality product. Do not fill up the can all the way to the top as it may start leaking.
Leave some space and make sure that it is sealed tight. May want to put polythene on the lid first and then put the cap on to ensure that it is sealed properly and there is no leakage. If you are roping the cans on the sides of the motorcycles; you may first want to wrap the can in maybe a piece of cloth or something a little thick to provide an extra layer of protection. This will prevent any damage to the cans from pebbles or stones while riding on the dirt tracks. If traveling by Car, you can also consider those 20 liters Mineral water bottles. They are pretty strong and will not crack or burst open.
I hope this information on spare fuel for Ladakh trip was useful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below or at our community forum and I would be glad to answer.