For a budget trip to Ladakh, using public transport services is the best way to go. Any other way will cost you way more than what you will pay while traveling to Ladakh by Bus and shared taxis. You cannot rely completely on either a bus or a shared cab and will have to mix and match a bit of both. But with proper information and careful planning, it can easily be done.
This way, your total cost of the Ladakh trip will reduce significantly. You will not just save the fuel expense but also the cost that you will incur to either getting your vehicle ready before the trip or on any repairs after the trip.
But when it comes to public transport, the frequency is the biggest issue. There is a regular bus service within Ladakh but it is not on daily basis. For most of the nearby places, the bus runs either once or twice a week or a few times in the month.
However when and where there is no bus, the option of boarding a shared taxi is always open. If you are planning a budget trip to Ladakh, below is how you can do so by using both buses and shared cabs.
Budget Trip to Ladakh by Bus & Shared Taxis
The way I am going to explain this is that I will follow a most common itinerary as an example. This should tell you how to travel from one place to another and also give you an estimated cost of the trip.
For the sake of this article, I will plan the itinerary from Manali and end it at Jammu. This way, you will be able to complete the entire circuit. Depending on which part of the country you are traveling from, any cost incurred in reaching both these places will be in addition to what I will mention below.
I will break the cost information into segments that you can put together to form your own itinerary. I will mention the minimum charge that you will incur while traveling to that place and how much you may end up spending on accommodation and food.
Depending on the number of days you have in hand and places you wish to cover, you can put together these segments to form your own itinerary.
You will stay at Manali for the night before starting the next morning towards Leh. Manali is a famous tourist destination and there are numerous hotels here fitting in every budget.
You can easily find a place to stay for the night for as little as Rs. 500. The same goes for places to eat as well. You can have a good enough meal without shooting it over Rs. 100.
Your total cost until Manali will be whatever you spent reaching there and your stay at Manali.
Manali to Leh
There is a regular HRTC bus that available on this route. This is a 2 days journey with a night halt at Keylong. The fare of this bus is Rs. 500 per person approximately which will fit well for a budget trip to Ladakh.
Keylong has multiple hotels and you will have no trouble finding one in a price range of Rs. 500-700. If you are traveling by this bus, then your total expenditure would be Rs. 500 for bus fare plus Rs. 600 (approx.) for accommodation + meals.
A second way to do this journey is to catch the Delhi to Leh bus which starts from ISBT Delhi and goes all the way to Leh. The fare for this bus is Rs. 1365 per person. This bus does not halt at Manali but will halt at Keylong.
If you are traveling by this bus, then your total expense would be Rs. 1365 + Rs 600 for accommodation + meal charges. However, this 1365 would save your travel charges from Delhi to Manali and your hotel rent for a night stay in Manali. For more details about this bus, please take a look at Delhi to Leh Bus Service: Fare, Schedule & How to Book.
After reaching Leh, you may want to stay within the town for a day or more. This will help rest your body and give time to acclimatize properly and arrange permits.
For moving around within the town, you will have no other choice but to rent a motorcycle. If you are low on budget, get an automated bike like Activa or Scooty, rent of which is Rs. 800 for a full day and Rs. 500 for half day. Take a look at Ladakh Motorcycle Rental Rates for more details on this.
For accommodation in Leh, you do not have to worry about finding a moderately priced hotel. Like Manali, in Leh also you can get a hotel for a fare between Rs. 800 – Rs. 1000.
Finding a place to eat as well will be no problem. There are several places here where you will not spend more than Rs. 100 for one person’s meal.
For any day that you stay in Leh, your total cost incurred will be Rs. 800 for Scooty (if you rent one) + fuel charges + Rs. 800 for hotel + meal charges.
For traveling to Nubra Valley, you have three options available. In my opinion, Nubra Valley is the best place to spend some time if you are planning a budget trip to Ladakh.
The first one is to travel by bus. This will entirely depend on whether a bus is available on your day of travel or not. The same applies to your day of return as well. Bus service in Ladakh is not regular and it is usually once or twice a week.
Nonetheless, if you are able to plan your journey as per the schedule of bus service, then a ticket to Hunder or Diskit in Nubra valley would cost you about Rs. 350 per person. So traveling in a bus, a round trip to Nubra valley from Leh would be approximately Rs. 700 – Rs.800
This bus leaves from Leh main bus stand to Diskit at 8 am every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The same bus returns from Diskit to Leh the next day morning. So for a return journey, it will be Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at 7 AM.
There is also a bus to Sumur every Thursday and Saturday that leaves at 6 am from the main bus stand and comes back to Leh the next day.
The second cost-effective way of traveling to Nubra valley is in a public shared taxi. Yes, this is the taxi that locals here use. It is a great, and more regular way to travel but if you are not able to find a bus.
You can always board one of these shared taxis from either near Polo ground in Leh or from near Leh bus stand. The fare per person is Rs. 400 – Rs. 500. So if you travel this way, then a round trip to Nubra would cost about Rs. 800 to Rs.1000.
Tourist Shared Taxis
The third way to go to the valley is using Tourist shared taxis. These are usually run by the local tour operators. If you can afford a bit more, then this will be your best bet.
A round trip using this service would cost you anywhere between Rs. 1500 to Rs. 2000, Leh to Nubra and back. To avail of this option, you will have to contact any of the numerous tour agents in Leh and they will book you a seat in their next taxi going towards Nubra valley.
Meals & Lodging
For accommodation, you can easily find a hotel or guesthouse in Nubra valley ranging from Rs. 800 – Rs. 1000.
Meals however can be a little costly if you eat at the hotel. In order to save money, your best choice would be to take a walk in the town and eat at any local restaurant/Dhaba.
Like Nubra valley, there are three options to travel to Pangong Tso from Leh, and the cost also is pretty much the same.
The bus to Pangong leaves Leh every Saturday and Sunday at 6.30 AM. Another bus to Tangtse leaves at the same time on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday but doesn’t go all the way till Pangong. The fare of this bus is Rs. 250 per person.
Both these buses take the return journey to Leh the next day. So using this bus, you can go to Leh on Wednesday (till Tangste), Saturday and Sunday. For the return journey, you can choose Thursday (from Tangste), Sunday or Monday.
A few other buses that you can board to reach Pangong Tso are the ones that travel towards Changthang valley. These buses take the same route that passes via Spangmik (Pangong Tso). Details of these buses are further in the article.
A bus ticket would cost you about Rs. 600 for a round trip.
Public shared taxi would cost about Rs. 1000 and Tourist shared taxi about Rs. 1500 – Rs.200 (both ways).
Meals & Lodging
Accommodation at Pangong is tricky when it comes to a budget trip to Ladakh. Campsites would cost anywhere between Rs. 2500 to Rs.5000 per person so that is not an option when on budget.
The best choice however is the Chadar tent. It is a dormitory type accommodation, huge tents with beds lined up one after another. Here, you can easily find a bed to crash on for the night for as little as Rs.200 to Rs. 400. The best part is that these Chadar tents are also Dhabas that will serve decent enough but reasonably priced food.
If you want to stay at a cemented hotel, you will have to look for a guesthouse in either Spangmik, Man, or Merak Villages. That will cost about Rs. 1500 per day with meals. For more details, please take a look at Accommodation at Pangong Tso: Hotels & Camp Sites.
Traveling to Tso Moriri is the trickiest of all. You do not really have many options except for Tourist shared taxis.
The bus from Leh to Tso Moriri is only 3 times a month, on the 10th, 20th, and 30th of each month. Fare is Rs. 370 and it also takes the return journey the next day, which means on 11th, 21st, and 31st (or 1st of the following month).
It leaves Leh at 6.30 am. So if you travel on this Bus, a return from Leh to Tso Moriri and back would cost you about Rs. 740 (could be slightly higher as well). It is a great option if your travel date is around the schedule of the bus. The only catch however is that it doesn’t give you much time to spend at the lake.
Public shared taxis are not really that regular to Tso Moriri but if you are able to find one, it would cost you anywhere between Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1500 for a round trip.
Coming to the best available option, a tourist shared taxi. The same logic applies that I mentioned above. Contact a tour operator and they can arrange a seat for you. The cost would be about Rs. 2000 to Rs.2200 for a round trip.
Meals & Lodging
For accommodation, you can easily find a hotel at Karzok (Tso Moriri) for charges ranging between Rs. 1000 to Rs.1200. There are several restaurants / dhabas here where you can find food decent enough food without shedding too much money. For names and numbers of some recommended hotels, please take a look at Guest Houses, Camp Sites, and Hotels At Tso Moriri.
Chushul & Hanle Circuit
There are really two aspects of the journey towards Chushul. Either you just want to visit Chushul or Hanle or you want to travel from Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri directly. For visiting Chushul or Hanle there are several buses you can board.
Two buses from Leh to Chushul travel every week. One starts at 6.30 AM every Wednesday, the fare of which is Rs. 345 per person, and reaches Chushul via Tangste, Chilam, and Harong. Another bus starts from Leh every Sunday morning at 6.30 AM and reaches Chushul via Man and Merak. The fare of this bus is Rs. 356 per person.
There is a direct bus from Leh to Hanle every Saturday, the fare is Rs. 492 / person. It leaves at 6.30 am from Leh.
Apart from Hanle, there is another small village in Changthang valley called Koyul. A small road bifurcates at Loma check post towards Koyul, close to the point where you take the turn towards Hanle.
A weekly bus to Koyul starts from Leh at 6.30 in the morning every Tuesday, the fare of which is Rs. 415 per person. This is another bus you can take to reach Chushul but if Hanle is the desired destination, you will have to find another mode of transport from Loma to Hanle.
Another bus from Nyoma leaves at 9 AM every Monday and Thursday. This is good too if you want to go to Man, Merak, or Chusul but for Hanle, the problem will again be of finding transport from Loma to Hanle.
There is another bus for Loma which actually goes to a small village called Mood. The location of this village is pretty much the same as Loma and the bus will pass through the check post where you take the turn towards Hanle. This bus starts every Wednesday morning from Leh at 9 AM and the fare is Rs. 260 per person.
A bus from Leh to Tsagha leaves at 9 am every Friday, Fare is Rs. 312 per person.
Pangong to Tso Moriri Direct Route
However if Pangong to Tso Moriri direct is the idea, then it would be extremely difficult to do so by using public transport. There is no bus that goes from either Chushul or Hanle to Tso Moriri.
There are no public shared taxis available as well on this route, and the ones that do run are extremely rare.
Your best option to travel on the Hanle circuit is to contact a tour operator and inquire if they have a cab scheduled on this route that they can put you on. But they may charge you a little extra for this route that may not fit in your budget trip to Ladakh.
Meals & Lodging
Your only choice of option at Chushul is of paying guests. You will need to talk to the villagers asking if they can let you stay, charges will be nominal at around Rs. 500 per person including meals.
There is a guest house at Hanle where you can stay for the night. For more details, please take a look at How to Plan a Trip to Hanle.
Finding accommodation at Loma, Nyoma, Mahe or Sumo will be extremely difficult so do not plan on staying at either of these places.
Zanskar Valley – Kargil to Padum
Public transport services in Zanskar valley are difficult to find. To clarify, we are now talking about the route from Kargil to Padum via Suru Valley and Rangdum.
There is only one bus that starts from Leh, halts at Kargil, and goes to Padum the next day. This is available just once a week.
There is no direct bus from Kargil to Padum however there is a regular bus from Kargil to Parakchik, Panikhar, and Sankoo. From all these three places, in order to get to Padum, you will have to board a public shared taxi.
Visiting Zanskar using Public transport would be tricky. If you are however able to manage your timings as per the bus from Leh, then a trip from Kargil to Padum and back would cost you about Rs. 700 – Rs.800.
Using public shared taxis, this cost would go a bit higher to Rs. 1000. In towns of Sankoo, Panikhar, and Parakchik, locals have a few Sumo cabs that they use to commute to either Kargil to Padum but these are very few in numbers.
The best way to cover Zanskar Valley is to try and match your dates with the bus schedule. That way you can reach Padum by bus. For the return journey, you can either come back the next day using the same bus or you can board a shared taxi to Panikahar and take the bus to Kargil from there.
If you use a tourist shared taxi, the estimated cost would be around Rs. 2000.
Meals & Lodging
There are several hotels that you can find at Padum between the price ranges of Rs. 1000 – Rs.1200. On the route, you can find accommodation at Sankoo, Parkachik, and Rangdum. For names and the numbers of some recommended hotels, please take a look at Accommodation in Zanskar Valley.
Leh to Srinagar
This will be the last leg of the trip, returning to Srinagar and returning home from there. Multiple options are available to complete this journey.
You can either catch a normal bus, a deluxe bus, a semi-deluxe bus, or a shared taxi. Like Manali to Leh, this too will be a 2 days journey with a night halt at Kargil.
Using a normal bus, the fare per person would be Rs. 450. A semi-deluxe bus would cost about Rs. 650 and a deluxe bus charge would be Rs. 1050. Private buses also operate on this route and their fare is Rs. 1000 – Rs. 1300 for Srinagar to Leh to Srinagar.
A shared taxi for Leh to Srinagar would cost about Rs. 800 – Rs. 1000 per person. You can easily find one at the Leh Bus stand. In fact, you can also find a cab that completes their run on Srinagar Leh Highway in a single day.
Meals & Lodging
For accommodation at Kargil and Srinagar both, you will have to hotel hunt a bit but should be able to find a hotel or guesthouse in price ranges of Rs. 600 – Rs. 1000. At Srinagar, I would suggest staying somewhere close to Dal lake.
Srinagar to Jammu
You will of course have to return to Jammu for your return journey so I will also include this in the article. There are regular and frequent buses running from Srinagar to Jammu, the fare of which is approximately Rs. 500 per person. You can also travel in a shared taxi for Rs. 800 per person.
If you are staying in Jammu for the night, you will easily find several hotels near the bus stand itself, prices ranging between Rs. 600 – Rs.1000.
Budget Trip to Ladakh – Conclusion
Depending on the time you have and places you wish to visit, you can plan your budget trip to Ladakh with the cost estimates I mentioned above.
So how much it will cost to visit Ladakh by Public transport? Overall, reaching Leh from Manali, visiting Nubra, Pangong, and Tso Moriri, and returning via Srinagar in a 2 weeks trip would cost you somewhere close to Rs. 15000 including your travel, accommodation, and meal expenses.
I have not really stressed much about meals in the article because I believe that is highly dependent on an individual, like what you like to eat, where you like to eat and of course, how much do you like to eat.
For a piece of first-hand information by someone who completed this journey by Bus and shared cabs, take a look at this travelogue How I Traveled to Ladakh by Public Transport Services.
I hope this information regarding a budget trip to Ladakh was 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 happy to answer.