SOME ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TIPS
Ladakh is one of the most popular tourist destinations, located in Jammu and Kashmir state of India. This popularly known “Cold Desert” attracts lots of tourists from all across the globe. It shares its boundaries with Tibet and has a huge impact of Tibetan culture on its culture and lifestyle. The major part of Ladakh is barren land with low atmospheric pressures.
Due to extremely low-pressure conditions, rigid climatic conditions and high altitude places, there are certain tips and suggestions for tourists to consider while traveling to Leh Ladakh:
1. Best time to go to Ladakh
Ladakh is known to be a summer destination and it gets completely isolated during winters because it gets covered with the several feet of snow for about half of the year and thus becomes inaccessible in its major portions. Thus the best time to visit Ladakh is from May to September. But, some tourists also travel to Ladakh in winters so as to enjoy Ladakhi festivals that take place during this time.
2. How to reach Ladakh?
a. By Air: This is the easiest mode of transport to reach Ladakh. The nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport. It is well connected with major cities like Delhi, Srinagar, Jammu, Chandigarh, etc. This airport is a military terminal so the security is a bit strangling. Hence, it is advised to carry the hard copy of your e-tickets and all the required documents with you when you enter the airport premises. You can board a taxi to reach your desired destination.
b. By Train: The nearest railway station is in Tawi, which is about 700 Km away from Ladakh. This railway station receives trains from major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, etc. From the railway station, you can reach Ladakh via taxi or cabs. This is the most inconvenient method to reach Ladakh as it will take two days to reach there from Tawi railway station via taxi.
c. By Road: There are two routes to reach Ladakh:
- Srinagar to Leh Highway: The distance between Leh and Srinagar is 434 Km. It covers Sonmarg, Zoji La Pass, Drass, Kargil, Mulbek, Lamayaru, and Saspol. This route is open from May to October.
- Manali to Leh Highway: This route is 490 Km long covering Rohtang, Gramphu, Kokshar, Darcha, Baralacha La Pass, Gata Loops, Lachulung La, Tanglang La, Gya and Karu on the way. This route is open from May to September.
You can many options for vehicles to board while traveling to Ladakh:
- By Bus: There are many government and private buses available from Srinagar and Manali to Ladakh. For buses, the Srinagar route is open from June to October and the Manali route is open from June to September.
- By Bike: Most of the tourists love to reach Ladakh via bikes. There are the world’s top three mountain passes that can be scaled via bike. If you are traveling through the bike, choose the brand that can take you through rocky mountains and are with higher displacements, like KTM Duke, Royal Enfield, Hero Impulse, Bajaj Avenger, etc.
- By Jeep: You can also book a jeep if you want to experience the adrenaline rush of a bike ride but are not comfortable for the activity. Jeep ride is much more comfortable than the bike ride.
- By taxi/ shared taxi: You can also hire a taxi from Manali to Leh but bargain before you agree upon the rates. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that if you are hiring a taxi from Manali to Leh, then a car with Manali registration or any other registration is allowed. But, if you want to do sight-seeing in Leh, then only the cars with Leh registration are allowed. Cars with other city registrations are not allowed for sight-seeing in Ladakh.
3. Permits and Passport
No permit is required for Indian tourists while traveling to Leh. But for international tourists, registration is needed and can be done at Drass, Rumtse, and Sarchu. Tourists traveling by air should get their registration done at the airport.
Tourists are required to take a Protect Area Permit through registered travel agencies to visit restricted areas like Tso Moriri, Tso Kar, Pangong Tso Lake, Dhahanu and Nubra valley. It is advisable to carry the six copies of the permit as they will be submitted at the checking points.
4. The temperature at Ladakh
The altitudes of Ladakh ranges from 9000 ft at Kargil to 25,170 ft at Saser Kangri at the Karakoram range. Summers are quite comfortable in Ladakh as compared to winters, as the temperature during winters falls below -30 degrees in Leh and Kargil and -60 degrees in Drass. During December to February, the region experiences subzero temperatures and the intensity of the sun is greater here as compared to lower altitudes due to thin air.
5. Availability of Basic Facilities in Ladakh
a. Hospitals/ Clinic: The main hospital in Ladakh is SNM Hospital, which is very well equipped to handle various emergency cases. While in other parts of Ladakh, one can find various sub-district hospitals at the district headquarters, private clinics are there in Leh and medical dispensaries in villages, attended by well-equipped doctors. In the case of undeclared emergencies, tourists can also be taken to the Army’s General Hospital at Leh.
b. Phone and Internet Services: The postpaid BSNL network is the only mobile network that works and gives full connectivity in Ladakh and its surrounding areas. If you are coming via Manali-Leh Highway, your mobile network will disappear as you start descending on the other side of Rohtang Pass.
If you are coming via Srinagar-Leh highway, your mobile connectivity will disappear the moment you leave Srinagar and will remain like this till Leh.
It is advisable to keep a list of emergency contact numbers handy with each person in your team.
c. Bank/ ATM facilities: When you are traveling to Ladakh, it is recommended to carry enough cash at hand because the last ATM that you will see in the Manali-Leh highway is in Manali only and there is no any ATM all the way to Leh. If in case you need to refuel in between, then there is no petrol pump that accepts credit/debit cards. In the Leh market, you can find some ATMs of different banks like PNB, SBI, J&K. In areas like Tso Moriri, Pangong Lake and Nubra valley, ATM facility is not available and you have to make transactions in cash only.
d. Police Stations: In case of an unexpected difficulty, you can contact the police station in Leh, that falls under the jurisdiction of J&K Police. One can also reach any one of the police stations: Nubra Police Station in Nubra and Nyoma Police Station in Nyoma.
6. Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness is one of the major problem encountered by tourists while traveling to Ladakh. The cause of altitude sickness is exposure to lower levels of oxygen at high altitudes. The symptoms of acute mountain sickness are dizziness, vomiting, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, rapid heart rate and loss of breath. Some precautions that can be taken to deal with this problem are:
- Give your body rest for a day or two after every climb of 2,000 ft above 8,000 ft. This will allow your body to acclimatize.
- There are certain medicines that can help you tackle this problem. Example: Aspirin, Disprin, Diamox, and Dexamethasone.
- You should also carry portable oxygen cylinders with you which can give you temporary relief.
- If the problem still persists, consider descending before going up again.
- Avoid smoking or drinking.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Do not use a heater while traveling by car.
- Get enough sleep.
Various hotels in Leh Ladakh are family run establishments and offer great services and hospitality. Some of the best hotels are Hotel Charu Palace Leh and Grand Dragon. Some bets deluxe hotels are Hotel Shangrila and Spik n Span that promise comfortable and luxurious stays. Standard hotels include Hotel Asia and Hotel Dreamland. If you want to experience hospitality by Ladakhi people, then opting for homestays is a good option. Best homestays are Gangba Homestay, Ladakh View Homestay, Gangs Shun Homestay, Tukchu Homestay, etc.
8. Intra-city Travel
To travel intra-city, there are options or buses and private vehicles available in Ladakh. There are buses leaving from Leh city to the major parts of Ladakh. These buses are not regular due to unpredictable weather conditions. Leh offers a fleet of tourist transport facilities with more than 2,000 vehicles- taxis, Innova, Mahindra Scorpio, Xylo, Toyota, Tata Grande, etc.
9. Carry your ID proofs
It is advised to carry multiple copies of your ID proofs like PAN card, driving license, Aadhar card, Voter ID, PUC, Insurance, Vehicle registration papers, and passport. This will make it easy to go through military checkpoints. For example, if you are traveling to Pangong lake or any other interior parts of the state, you may need to submit the copies of your ID proofs at various checkpoints.
10. Languages Spoken in Ladakh
The main language that is spoken in Ladakh is Boti. Other languages spoken in this region are Changshat, Brokshat, Shina, and Balti. The use of English and Hindi is common is schools, offices, and restaurants.