Once known as a Biker’s Paradise, traveling on the Manali to Leh Highway now is no longer limited to motorcycles. You can even catch a bus on this road easily these days. The rise in tourism in Ladakh has given birth to a wide variety of answers to the question of how to travel from Manali to Leh.
Traveling by your self-owned vehicle, either a car or a bike is definitely the most convenient and preferred mode of travel. If that is not an option, regular buses and shared taxis are available from Manali. If within budget, the option of a private taxi or a rented bike is also open.
Depending on your mode of travel, days in hand, and budget, you can complete the journey in 1, 2, or 3 days; or even more. In this post, I will provide further details on the topic and talk about how to travel from Manali to Leh.
Please note that this article is part of a series written by me, detailing different aspects of a journey on the Manali Leh route. If you also want to know your accommodation choices and sightseeing, please go through the links below.
- Best Time to Travel on Manali Leh Route
- Manali Leh Travel Time & an Ideal Itinerary
- Road Map With Distance
- Manali Leh Highway Travel Guide
- Accommodation on Manali Leh Highway
- Primary Attractions Of Manali Leh Highway
How to Travel from Manali to Leh?
The best way to commute on the Manali Leh highway is a self-owned vehicle. It doesn’t really matter if it is a car or a motorcycle. But if you are on the wheel yourself or hired a driver, traveling by a self-owned vehicle has several advantages.
The biggest one is that it gives you the liberty of time and comfort. You can travel at your own convenience, stop anywhere you want, or take as many breaks as you want.
By a Car
If you are taking your own car to Manali Leh highway, then you really need to be good at the wheel. You need to know your car well and must be confident in your driving skills.
The road will present you with many challenges like water crossings, slush, snow, dirt tracks and you will have to be extremely careful while driving across.
Please get your car serviced well in advance and whatever seems dicey, get it either fixed or replaced. It wouldn’t hurt to know a little bit of mechanic work yourself. For more details, please take a look at How to Prepare your Car for a Trip to Leh Ladakh.
Best Car for Manali Leh Highway
The best car for this terrain will be a 4WD SUV however even a 2 wheel drive SUV will do the job equally well. The advantage of an SUV is the ground clearance but do not let that hold you back. I have known people who have commuted on Manali Leh highway in a Maruti 800 as well.
If you are traveling in an SUV, then you can go at any time of the year when the highway is open (June to September). However, if you own a hatchback or a Sedan, then avoid traveling in late July and August because of the monsoon season. The nallahs and the water crossings are at full flow and more in numbers.
If you are taking a Sedan or a Hatchback, you would have to be extra cautious or the belly of your car will be kissing the ground at several places. Just keep yourself mentally ready for a few scratches underneath your car.
Water Crossings and Slush
While crossing a nallah in a car, please stop for a minute, step out, inspect the crossing and then take your car across very carefully. If you are still unsure then wait for a little while for another car to arrive and follow its lead. Stay in the first gear, do not half clutch, and cross over in a single go while maintaining the momentum.
If there is a slush around, then ask your fellow travelers to step out of the car so that they can help push the vehicle if you get stuck. Accelerate slowly to ensure that your car doesn’t skid. You really need to go easy on the gas to avoid your wheel spinning. Avoid any sudden movements on the steering, accelerator, or brakes as this may send your car spinning.
If you are highly doubtful of your driving skills and are not feeling too comfortable with the idea of driving on such roads, then I suggest you hire a driver who is a local from Manali.
In a Private Taxi
There are a few ways around this. You can either hire a cab from Manali with the driver or hire a self-drive cab. In both these cases, you need to keep in mind that a taxi hired from outside Ladakh will only be good only till Leh and back.
For sightseeing in Ladakh and visiting areas like Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso, you will have to book another taxi from Leh itself.
In order to book a cab, just go directly to the Manali taxi stand and stuck up a deal. On average, it will cost you anywhere around Rs. 20,000 for a private taxi from Manali to Leh. Depending on your negotiations skills, it may be a bit more or less.
The cost of the cab you will rent in Leh City for sightseeing will be over and above this. You can read Leh Ladakh Taxi Rates for more details on this.
If a private cab was not within budget, you can get a shared taxi as well from Manali. These shared taxis start from the Manali taxi stand at 12 or 1 AM, drive non-stop for 16-18 hours and reach Leh by 5 PM the next day.
It will cost you about Rs. 2,000 – 3,000 per person to get aboard a shared taxi. This also gets tricky in terms of high altitude acclimatization since you will continuously gain height within a matter of hours without any rest.
The gain in altitude will be sudden and will not allow your body a chance to acclimatize. This may trigger altitude sickness and can become a problem for the first couple of days of your trip. To know more about this, please take a look at How to Handle Acute Mountain Sickness in Ladakh.
By HRTC Bus
This is the cheapest mode of travel available to commute on the Manali Leh highway. Manali to Leh by bus is a 2 days journey with a night halt at either Keylong or Sarchu.
There are two types of bus services on this route, both operated by the Himachal government. The HRTC bus is an ordinary bus that does not stop for any sightseeing en route. This bus will only halt for only necessary food and washroom breaks. The fare of this bus is around Rs. 500 per person one way.
By HPTDC Bus
The other bus service is run by HPTDC which is a semi-deluxe non-AC bus. This service is available only from July 1st till 15th September and halts at several places for sightseeing.
Charges are Rs. 2900 per person one way inclusive of accommodation and food. This bus will depart from Manali at 9 am and will reach Keylong by evening
You will stay for the night at the hotel Chandrabhaga in Keylong. Stay, dinner, and breakfast at Chandrabhaga are included in the bus fare. The next day, the bus will start from Keylong at 6 am to arrive at Leh by evening.
You can take the same bus for the return journey from Leh to Manali. The schedule remains the same. The bus will start early from Leh, reach Keylong where you will again stay at Hotel Chandrabhaga. The next day the bus will start in the morning from Keylong and reach Manali by evening.
For more details on a journey by Bus, both HRTC and HPTDC, please take a look at Manali to Leh Bus Service – Fare, Timing & Schedule.
This is my personal favorite. There is nothing like completing the Manali Leh highway on a motorcycle, either as a single rider or with a pillion.
However, like in the case of a car, you really need to be confident in your riding skills and your motorcycle as well. It is not really necessary that you have a lot of riding experience in the hills but if you do, it will definitely make the journey easier.
Do not just buy a motorcycle and take it straight to Ladakh. If you are new to motorcycles, then please ride it around in the city for a few months at least before riding it on Manali Leh highway. Also, ensure that you get your bike serviced at least a week in advance. For more details on this, please take a look at Which is the Best Bike for Ladakh trip?
If you are riding your own motorcycle, then nothing like it. However, if you are not, then you can easily rent a motorcycle from Manali to complete the journey. For the procedure of renting a bike and the cost involved, you can read How to Rent a Motorcycle In Manali.
How to Travel from Manali to Leh – Conclusion
I hope this information on how to travel from Manali to Leh was of help. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below or at our Community Forum, and I will be happy to answer.