Srinagar Leh highway has finally been declared open and it is only a matter of few weeks before Manali Leh highway opens as well. Tourist season in Ladakh has started and several people have already reached there. Pretty soon thousands of travel junkies will be taking the trip they have waited for months. However for anyone planning a visit to Ladakh this year, the most important question is what is new? Is everything the same as last year that you prepared your itinerary on basis of or has anything changed? To answer that question; mentioned below are a few tips for Ladakh trip that you must keep in mind while traveling this year. This will include anything that is different than last year and a few other important topics.
Tips for Ladakh Trip
Let me first start with what changed this year and then a few other important topics.
Inner Line Permit:
This probably is the biggest change that has been implemented this year. ILP was scrapped back in 2014 except for a few places in Changthang valley and Batalik route however it has again been bought in to effect this year; with revised fees. Please read How to Obtain Inner Line Permit for further details.
This will be the second permit you will require if you are planning to reach Leh via Manali and return via Srinagar. Please read How to obtain permit for Rohtang Pass for further details. There is news that the overall number of vehicles crossing Rohtang to reach Leh or Spiti may get restricted too so you will have to seriously plan arranging the permits. A better way however would be to reach Leh from Srinagar and return via Manali. There is no permit required if you are coming from the other side of Rohtang towards Manali.
The entire Himalayan region has experienced heavy snowfall last winter due to which even the scheduled opening of the roads too was delayed. Zojila, Baralacha La and Rohtang Pass were buried under 30-40 ft of snow while Kunzum Pass experienced 70 ft of snow. If you are traveling early in the season, expect highly damaged roads.
Non local taxis and rented motorcycles are still banned in Ladakh. You can use these to only reach as far as Leh but for local sightseeing, you must hire a taxi/motorcycle from Leh town. Please read Self drive rental & Non Local Taxis Still Banned In Ladakh for more details. This is extremely important and not to be taken lightly. There have been instanced when the non-local taxis got attacked and vandalized in Ladakh.
Acute Mountain Sickness:
If this is your first trip to Ladakh, then chances are that you will definitely suffer from acute mountain sickness. Traveling from Manali to Leh, AMS is bound to hit you at Sarchu or Pang. If you reach Leh via Srinagar; then your night at Pangong will be difficult due to altitude sickness. Read How to Deal With Acute Mountain Sickness In Ladakh for more details.
No Phone reception:
It does not matter which network you are on but once you reach Ladakh, in all probability your phone will be as good as a paperweight except for the time when you are in Leh town. On Manali Leh highway, as soon as you get to the other side of Rohtang, you will be off network and will remain so until you reach Leh. Read Mobile Phone Services in Leh & Other Areas of Ladakh for more details. You must make your folks at home aware of this and hand them over a copy of your complete itinerary so that in case something goes wrong, they would at least have an idea about your last whereabouts.
Landslides / Roadblocks:
This can happen in Ladakh anytime. The entire region is a challenging terrain where roads get built and damaged each year. There may be instances when the road ahead may get blocked temporarily for a few hours or even a day while BRO restores it. You should always keep a buffer day in your itinerary to tackle this kind of situation. If all went well and you travelled as planned, then this day can be used at any place of your choice.
You could be traveling by car or motorcycle; or you may have driven a lot in plains but Ladakh is a place that will put your skills to test. You will face every kind of challenge; broken roads, dirt trails, shooting stones, water streams, narrow roads, steep ascents, slush, Black ice; you name it and Ladakh has it. In order to ensure a safe trip, you must be confident of your driving skills and if you are not, better allow someone else at the wheel; who is a better driver.
Medical facilities are a challenge in Ladakh, not just on the highways leading to Leh but in local Ladakh areas too. The only major hospital is in Leh town but getting there in time in case of a medical emergency is not an easy task. If you have any sort of medical condition; you must consult your doctor before embarking upon the journey. Carry some basic medicines like for fever, headache, stomach ache as you may not even find a dispensary at several places.
ATMs are only available in Leh town and nowhere else in Ladakh. You must keep enough cash before you travel to any of the local places for sightseeing. Credit cards also are only accepted in Leh town, nowhere else.
I am not saying that water in Ladakh is not hygienic but it is not for people with weak stomach. If you have any such problem; then I will recommend that you carry packed water bottles and drink from those only.
With all the above being said, Ladakh is still a beautiful and majestic place that has been termed as heaven on earth. So my final suggestion is that you forget everything else and enjoy this journey to the fullest. Leave your worries behind and soak yourself in peace and tranquility of Ladakh.
I hope the above mentioned tips for Ladakh trip were 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.