Self drive rental & Non Local Taxis Still Banned In Ladakh

by Vargis.Khan

With start of a new year, preparations for Ladakh trip this season are already on for a lot of people and one question that has been looming around last couple of years takes importance yet again. The question of self- drive rentals, of taxis rented outside Ladakh, of whether or not these can be used for a trip to Ladakh. Are non local taxis still banned in Ladakh?  Some of the questions I have received so far this year are,

  • Is Zoomcar still banned in Ladakh?
  • Can you take a self-drive taxi to Ladakh?
  • Is driving a taxi to Ladakh dangerous?
  • Can a taxi rented outside be taken to Ladakh?
  • Can a taxi rented outside Ladakh be used for visiting Pangong, Nubra, and Tso Moriri?
  • Can a taxi rented in Srinagar be used to reach Ladakh and sightseeing around?
  • Can a taxi rented outside Ladakh be used for a trip to Zanskar valley?
  • Can you rent a motorcycle outside Ladakh, Manali or Srinagar and use it for Ladakh trip?
  • Can you take a motorcycle rented outside Ladakh to visit Pangong, Tso Moriri or Nubra Valley?

These are just a few queries that I received in last month but it shows that there is a lot of confusion when it comes to renting motorcycles or taxis outside Ladakh. Just to give a little background, it all started in 2015 when Ladakh Taxi Union decided on their own that they will not allow anyone to rent a taxi or motorcycle outside Ladakh and use it for local sightseeing. I would like to stress on the phrase “on their own” here because there is no such law in place and if we actually go as per the law, any taxi that has an All India permit is free to be driven across the country, including Ladakh. So whatever Ladakh Taxi Union decided was their own self invented and implemented law. They did it in the name of “Eco system” of Ladakh which as per them was getting damaged because of people driving around on their own. Why did they do this, how could they do this and why the administration did not do anything about it is however an entirely different story.

non local taxis still banned in ladakh

Non Local Taxis Still Banned In Ladakh

We all know that Ladakh is a barren wasteland, a cold desert. Nothing really grows there and what makes it even more difficult is that this wasteland is accessible by road only for 5 months a year. People here are heavily relied on tourism as a mode of living and whatever they can earn from tourism is limited to just these 5 months. Almost everyone here is one way or another connected to making a living out of tourism and taxis are one of the most common ways to do it. I read somewhere on the web that majority of the locals here have bought cars on EMI basis and are using them for tourism purpose. They are to pay EMIs each month and save enough to support their family and all that money has to be made in just these 5 months.  Everything was OK until the concept of self-drive taxis was introduced, especially Zoomcar. People would rent these taxis from elsewhere in the country, drive it up to Ladakh, use it for local sightseeing and bring it back home. This started to hurt the locals in Ladakh because then there taxis were just sitting ducks and weren’t getting used at all. Same concept applied to motorcycles as well. People would rent a motorcycle from outside Ladakh, bring it to Leh and use the same motorcycle for visiting nearby areas as well. Slowly this trend to grow and the locals in Ladakh decided that if they did not do anything, pretty soon their taxis and motorcycles will just remain parked and the only people renting those will be the ones who reach Ladakh by Air. Hence they came up with this law for their own benefits.




How could they do this and why there was no action taken against it? It is because the local administration is run by locals after all. Everyone in government offices there have their own taxis available for rent, as a mean of extra income. What followed after this in 2015 was quite unfortunate. Ladakh taxi union put up barricades and started checking vehicles. When they found taxis rented outside Ladakh, they stopped and sent those back to Leh. A few of the tourists objected to this and some events turned violent with vehicles getting vandalized and tourists attacked. When this got circulated over social media, it created a panic due to which people even cancelled their trips to Ladakh that year.

So coming to the questions, Is this law still applicable? The answer is that yes it is. When it comes to a taxi or a motorcycle rented outside Ladakh, irrespective of whether it is self-drive or with a driver, you can only use it as far as to reach Leh. No one will bother you on Manali to Leh or Srinagar to Leh highway. However, once you reach Leh, you must leave it parked at the hotel and rent another taxi or motorcycle in Leh for visiting nearby areas like Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley or Tso Moriri. To break it all down,

  • Only taxis registered within Ladakh can be used for sightseeing in Ladakh.
  • You cannot use a taxi or motorcycle rented outside Ladakh beyond Leh.
  • Srinagar and Manali are part of it too. If you rented a taxi or motorcycle either in Manali or Srinagar, you cannot use in Ladakh.
  • It does not matter if the taxi is self-drive or with driver. If it was rented outside Ladakh, it is good enough only until Leh.
  • For visiting Zanskar, you must hire a Kargil registered taxi/motorcycle from Kargil. Even a Ladakh or Srinagar registration number would not do. For Zanskar, it has to be rented from Kargil.
  • Another confusion remains to be around vehicles belonging to friends or family. These are again a NO. Only take vehicles that are registered either in your own, or your parent’s or sibling’s name. If you are doing so, then ensure that you are also carrying some sort of identification or document that proves your relationship with the owner of the vehicle.  If the vehicle is registered in your friend’s name or even in your cousin’s name, best not to take it to Ladakh.
  • If you are bringing along a motorcycle belonging to a friend, you will again have to rent a motorcycle in Leh for local sightseeing. Last year the locals set up check posts just before Khardung La ascent and near Sakti. They were stopping and checking all non-local motorcycles going towards Nubra and Pangong. Even though your motorcycle will have a white number plate, if it is not in your name they will send you back to Leh.
  • Same law applies to large vehicles like tempo travelers or mini bus etc.
  • There are no self-drive vehicles available in Ladakh. You must hire a local taxi in Leh with driver.
  • Now the most important part, there is no restriction in place for private vehicles. As long as the vehicle is registered In your name and you have all the documents with you to prove it (RC, Insurance papers etc), you are free to bring your vehicle to Ladakh and take it anywhere you desire.
  • If you are in a non-local taxi, it is not dangerous at all as long as you only use it to reach Leh. You may get stopped somewhere once you get closer to Leh but please be patient, produce all the required documents and you will be OK.
  • Motorcycles too are subject to this entire frenzy. For local sightseeing in Ladakh, you must rent a motorcycle from Leh. For Zanskar, you would need to rent it from Kargil. If you are however on your own motorcycle, no such restriction applies.
  • On a lighter note, there is no restriction applicable to Bicycle and Horses. If you are on either of these, feel free to pedal or gallop to anywhere you like.

Please do not try to work anyway around this and follow these conditions laid by the local taxi union. Do not take any chances of any sort thinking “let us see if anyone stops us”. Several of these incidents have already turned violent. Even some private vehicles were attacked because they were part of a convoy that had self-drive taxis in it. Tires have been deflated, windshields broken and in some cases, even the body of the vehicle was pierced with metal rods.

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.

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43 comments

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karishma March 3, 2020 - 2:46 pm

Hi Vargis,

we would like to rent a car in Leh and self drive to Numbra and Pangong. Is this allowed? Also My husband will drive and he is not an indian citizen. thanks for your reply.

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Vargis.Khan March 4, 2020 - 1:07 am

Self drives are not available in Leh Karishma. You will have to rent a taxi with driver.

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Gaurav Singh June 30, 2019 - 9:22 pm

What if I rent a bike from delhi or mumbai?? What to do then?

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Vargis.Khan July 1, 2019 - 4:07 am

Same thing. Reach Leh and rent another bike there for local sigtseeing

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Julien Heng February 24, 2019 - 11:26 pm

Hello Vargis,

Thank you so much for much of your invaluable information about Ladakh. One question, while on my way leaving Leh to Manali on Leh Manali Highway. Is it okay to visit or stop, let’s say, Hemis Monastery with your self-drive car?

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Vargis.Khan February 24, 2019 - 11:37 pm

Hi Julien – Visiting Hemis Monastery is OK, you can do that.

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Vinay Panchang February 20, 2019 - 1:29 pm

Hi Vargis! You are the man! thanks a ton for this detailed writeup.

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Vargis.Khan February 20, 2019 - 7:23 pm

Thanks Vinay

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SUBHASIS December 3, 2018 - 5:04 pm

Hello vergis..you are giving such a wonderful bunch of information very much necessary to anyone keen for a trip to leh…I have to ask you one thing, if we will plan other route like from hemis to panggong and from there to nubra and back by that route without touching leh, in that case what will happen. Of there are any check post beyond leh town or near panggong tso or in nubra route …
Plz reply for the same…

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Vargis.Khan December 3, 2018 - 10:35 pm

Hi Subhasis – Yes even then there will be a problem. They will have check posts en route and someone may just stop you in Nubra or at Pangong

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Subhasis December 6, 2018 - 3:22 am

Thanks a lot Vargis bhaijaan for your sincere and prompt reply to your reader..if I will take a bike which is registered in my own younger brother then it will be ok na…what other documents they need or ask for in this case …

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Vargis.Khan December 6, 2018 - 1:23 pm

You are welcome Bhai. Yes it is OK to bring the bike registered to your brother but make sure that you are carrying all the necessary paperwork and Identify proofs that can easily proof that the owner of the bike is your brother.

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Vaibhav Hublikar September 17, 2018 - 2:11 pm

Hi vargis,
Nice information.Keep up the good work.
We are three people planning a trip from Chandigarh to Manali to Leh to Kargil to SriNagar to back to Chandigarh using a self drive rented car or zoomcar starting from 23rd sept.we just want to visit pangyong lake and nubra valley in leh.we are ready to use local taxis for Leh but we want to take our self rented car from Leh to Kargil and then to SriNagar. Would that be allowed or should we make some changes.
Any assistance would be highly appreciated.thanks

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Vargis.Khan September 17, 2018 - 5:53 pm

Hi Vaibhav – Yes you will be able to do that. You can do Chd to Manali to Leh to Kargil to Srinagar in Zoomcar. It is only the Nubra and Pangong part of the trip that you cannnot complete in self drive rental.

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Prakhar July 11, 2018 - 1:36 pm

Hi Vargis,
We have hired a self drive car for Ladakh from 10-26 aug 2018. We were initially planning to take the vehicle to all the sightseeing places. But after going through the above information we are updating our plan. We will take the vehicle to Leh; hire taxi for Nubra and Pangong. But can we take our vehicle to Hanle/Tso Moriri and then continue to Manali Leh highway via Debrung on our way back to Manali?

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Vargis.Khan July 11, 2018 - 3:15 pm

Hi Prakhar – No. For Moriri and Hanle as well, you will need to take the local taxi.

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rajnish June 9, 2018 - 4:31 am

halo vargis ji,the information you are giving are very much useful for a person prior visiting to leh.tell me a thing sir,if i am booking a taxi having personal registration no.and takes owner of that taxi as driver with my family then,can i travel in that taxi beyond leh -ladakh .please guide…rajnish singla 9810927440

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Vargis.Khan June 9, 2018 - 1:55 pm

Hello Rajnish – As long as the driver of the vehicle is present in the vehicle, it should be OK. Just do not tell anyone that it is a rented vehicle.

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Imri May 21, 2018 - 5:02 pm

Hello, i am a foreigner touritt planning to drive by van aroind ladak. I boughtb the van from second han indian citizen but since tourists cant be official owners of cars i am not registered on the car.
Will i have a problem?
Thanks

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Vargis.Khan May 21, 2018 - 6:26 pm

Ideally it should not be a problem as long as you are carrying paperwork that proves that you are the owner of the vehicle. But I am sure that the taxi union will still turn this into a problem and send you back to Leh city. It is a matter of luck really, depends on their mood. They may or may not alllow you.

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Sandip Patel April 25, 2018 - 7:38 pm

hello mr. Verghese, I am planning to visit leh by my own car ford figo. for that i have visited so many sites for the proper suggestions but i found your info are very relative.

Can you suggest what are the primary requirements and formalities i have to do before planning to leh.?
Some where i the video i have come to knows that we required to take permission to enter leh as they are allowing limited vehicles to enter the Leh.

And if permission are required then from which site or How we can get the permission for that?

kindly suggest whether our choice of our Ford figo 2014 is ok or not?
and if we plan for the next may to September 2018 then what is the best time to visit?

awaiting for your positive responce.

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Vargis.Khan April 26, 2018 - 5:15 pm

Hello Mr. Patel,

Driving in a Hatchback, I would recommend planning your trip in September. Roads at this time are in their best condition as compared to previous months. As long as the car is registered in your own name, you are free to bring it to Ladakh without any problem. There is no permission required to enter Leh but you do need a permit to travel to other areas in Ladakh from Leh. Please take a look at the link below for details. If you are planning to go via Manali then you will also need to get a permit for Rohtang which also I have explained at the link below.

https://vargiskhan.com/log/obtaining-ilp-for-ladakh/

https://vargiskhan.com/log/rohtang-pass-permits-details-charges-apply/

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Rishi Jain April 1, 2018 - 5:30 pm

Hi Vargis

We were planning to book our trip via some agents like Makemytrip or Thrillophillia given that we don’t have time to plan it day by day. Given that these tours are offering a cab right from Srinagar for the full trip, do you foresee any problem?

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Vargis.Khan April 2, 2018 - 2:26 pm

Hi Rishi – If you are booking the entire trip with them than they will manage the rest. Nothing for you to worry about. They will probably have different cabs for different routes if required.

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Khemendra Singh March 29, 2018 - 9:13 am

Hi vargis,
Thanks a million for all the information you had shared, as a beginner it’s really very helpful.
However we a group of 4adults and two children of 8 years old are planning for a road car trip from Mumbai- Srinagar-leh-manali. In the first week of may, so that we can have some family adventures, and believe it both the children are very excited for this trip .
Will definitely appreciate you if you could please let us know about the homestay as we want to travel and complete our journey by staying in homestays and on our own tents .
However, we even want to travel the remote areas/villages like turtuk etc.
And one last question, that we are going to travel by our own innova car 2007 model. Henceforth we want to know that is there any kind of rule that we can’t take vehicle older than 10 years, as I am bit getting any clear picture on this .
Hatsoff for what you are doing for yours fellow travellers .

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Vargis.Khan March 29, 2018 - 8:47 pm

Hi Khemendra,

Thank you for your kind words.

1. 10 years or older rule applies from Manali side but if you go via Sriangar and return via Manali, it won’t matter.
2. There are plenty of home stays at Nubra valley, spangmik, Changthang where you can stay. Nubra has the widest range of homestays.

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RAJESH PANICKER March 4, 2018 - 7:06 am

Hi Vargis. First of all we really appreciate all the blogs you’ve put up regarding travel to these lovely regions. Very informative and helpful.

Am planning Chandigarh – Pathankot – Killar (via Sach Pass of course) – Spiti – Jispa – Leh – Kargil – Srinagar in the first week of September. Most of us would be riding though a couple of friends plan to drive. As a background we’ve done Manali – Leh – Srinagar thrice in the past.

Question is

1. Whether you know of options for hiring a good self-drive SUV (ideally 4 x 4) in Chandigarh which can be dropped off in Srinagar.

2. Whether we can use this to drive in to Leh. We will of course hire a local taxi for sight-seeing in Leh.

Thank you in advance.

Rajesh Panicker

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Vargis.Khan March 5, 2018 - 5:47 pm

Hello Rajesh – Thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate it.

That is one great plan and I definitely envy you for being able to do that. Unfortunately I do not have any self-drive rental contact in Chandigarh so cannnot help you with that. Sorry.

To answer your second question, yes you can use your self-drive rental to arrive at Leh without any problem. You can use this within Leh city as well. Problem will only arise if you try to take this rented vehicle towards Nubra or Pangong which you anyways do not plan on doing.

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Nimagna jain June 10, 2017 - 4:42 pm

i am planning a trip to leh and so we would take a car from delhi.So Can you please tell excatly where we can not take the cars in leh.

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Vargis.Khan June 12, 2017 - 7:30 pm

By car do you mean your private vehicle or rented self drive? If private, then you can take it pretty much everywhere in Ladakh as long as you have a valid DL, RC, PUC and Insurance docs. If rented, you can only take it as far as Leh, nowhere else.

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Shi June 7, 2017 - 6:33 am

Hi Vargis, at many places i’ve read that i can take a friends or Cousins bike along with a NOC from them and then i can produce it when stopped and use it Leh. I ‘ve spoken to people who did it last year as well.
Do you have any idea on this?

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Vargis.Khan June 7, 2017 - 2:52 pm

Hello Shi – There is no definite answer to this question really. It all depends on the person standing at the barricade and how persuasive or convincing the rider can be. I know people who were let through without even producing an NOC and I also know people who were turned back to Leh even after producing an NOC.

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Shivam June 8, 2017 - 6:09 am

Thanks for your prompt reply.
Okay, then in that case only option is to go there and try our luck 🙂
one more thing we are doing a circuit from Srinagar – Sonamarg – Kargil – Leh – Khardungla – Nubra – Panamik – Diskit – Hunder – Turtuk – Khaltse – Agham – Shyok -Tangste – Spangmik – Chusul – Hanle – Manali
travel date – 10th July to 22nd July, mode – RE classic 350, no. of people – 6, no of bikes – 4(2 personal & 2 friends) I have few queries here,
1. What all places i need to mention while obtaining an ILP? it would be really helpful if can you list that down for the above circuit to avoid any disappointments later at checkposts.

2. How should i plan the Nubra to Pangong in your opinion?
Day1: Khardungla – Nubra – Panamik – Sumur – Diskit -Hunder – Turtuk(Stay)
Day2: Turtuk to Pangong
OR
Day1: Khardungla – Nubra – Panamik – Sumur – Diskit – Hunder(Stay)
Day2: Hunder – Turtuk – Hunder – Pangong
Or any better suggestion

3. How should i plan my exit from Hanle?
Hanle – Tso Morriri – Tso Kar- Pang -Sarchu OR Hanle – Tso Kar – Pang – Sarchu OR any better suggestion? We dont mind skipping Tso Morriri, if we have time or fuel constraints, if not then we would love to visit that as well. Also staying at pang wont be an issue right as far as AMS is concerned.

4.What would you suggest in terms of carrying extra fuel as we are doing an extensive circuit from with only pump at Leh & Diskit(i’ve read it is mostly out of fuel) and next pump would be at Tandi.

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Vargis.Khan June 8, 2017 - 2:37 pm

Hello Shivam,

1. You will need to get permits for Khardungla – Nubra – Panamik – Diskit – Hunder – Turtuk – Khaltse – Agham – Shyok -Tangste – Spangmik – Chusul – Hanle. Pretty much all the places after you reach Leh and until exit at Manali Leh highway.

2. Stay at Diskit or Hunder. Coming back from Turtuk and then going to Pangong will be a long journey. Take the Agham Shyok road as Wari La route will prove to be way too long.

3. From Hanle, head to Karzok (Tso Moriri) and stay there for the night. Next day, from Karzok, reach Pang or Sarchu and then continue to Manali the day after.

4. Please take a look at this post.

https://vargiskhan.com/log/spare-fuel-for-ladakh-trip-need-carry/

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Shivam June 9, 2017 - 5:36 am

1. Thanks Vargis, but what i actually wanted to know is whether i need to mention all the small small villages apart from whats mentioned above e.g.(Terith, Charasa, Tiricha, Murgi falls enroute panamik as i can see on G maps) so do i need to mention these as well or only the major stops will be fine??
Also do we require any permits to travel from Jammu-Srinagar-Leh on bikes?
2. Yeah we are going to take agham-shyok route only, but i wanted some advice on whether I should take 2 days or 3 days for doing this Leh -Nubra -Turtuk – Pangong circuit considering the fact that I would be taking Panamik Hot springs, Bacterian camel ride(also can you help me here with the charges for camel safari, just to get the basic idea so that i dont get looted there 🙂 )
3. Can we do it in 1 night stay, like skipping tso morriri and drectly reaching pang on day 1 & then Pang to Manali on day 2?
4. I hv gone through that article of yours, thanks for the tips.

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Vargis.Khan June 9, 2017 - 1:54 pm

Hi Shivam,

1. Just mention the major stop points, not all the small villages.
2. Ideally it is Leh to Nubra on day 1, Nubra to pangong on Day 2 and Pangong to Leh on Day 3. This is the minimum required.Sorry, no idea about how much they charge brother. I never went for the ride myself, just saw the camels and clicked picutres, that too the first time I went.
3. From Pangong? or from Hanle? you can do it from Pangong, coming back to Pang and not going to Hanle. If you however went to Hanle then it will become 3 days journey. Pangong to Hanle, Hanle to Karzok and Karzok to Pang or Sarchu.

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shivam soni June 13, 2017 - 1:53 pm

Okay thanks Vargis!! 🙂

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Vargis.Khan June 13, 2017 - 3:12 pm

You are welcome Shivam !!!

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Kavita April 9, 2017 - 5:42 am

Thanks for the info. My sister, me and our friends are planning Kargil, Zanskar valley till Padum, Lamayuru, Leh, Tso Moriri trip this year in our own Thar. Hope that will be not a problem. We are also want to go to Handle but not sure if we require to take inner line permit or not. Till yesterday we were under the impression that permit is required to take but yesterday In one programme on Ladakh trip heard that bow permits are not required for Indian tourists for visiting Handle via Chusul. Is it true r we are required to take permits?

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Vargis.Khan April 9, 2017 - 2:07 pm

As long as its your own Thar, privately registered with a black & white numberd plate, and you are carrying necessary documents, no problem at all. ILP is still required for some areas like Changthang. Without ILP, you can go only as far as Man or Merak. Beyond that, you will have to submit your permits at Chushul check post.

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Vargis.Khan March 10, 2017 - 5:51 pm

Yes Sir you can. Please just also carry a document that shows that the owner of the vehicle is your Son.

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Saurabh March 10, 2017 - 10:45 am

Can I take Innova owned in name of my son for sight seeing in Ladakh and also in Zanskar valley? Can a hired driver drive my Innova? My wife and I will be in Innova when ever it is driven.

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Vargis.Khan March 10, 2017 - 5:51 pm

Yes Sir you can. Please just also carry a document that shows that the owner of the vehicle is your Son.

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