Q: I do not have experience on driving in this terrain, can I still do this trip ?
A : If you are confident about your driving then you can do this trip. If you are tentative, then you must go after mid Aug till Early Oct when the conditions are absolutely benign.
Learn more about Car Driving Tips in the link below
However, bike trip is not for everyone. You certainly need good health to endure this trip on the bike. Please also keep in mind to keep the distances short as journey in a bike takes time. If you are planning in June, ensure that you are prepared with proper clothing to protect you from extreme cold. Regular warm clothing will just not work. You need specialized clothing.
Q: How is weather different in May / June as compared to July/August or Sept/Oct ?
A : In May & June expect cold conditions with maximum in Leh around 10 degree and low being 3-4 deg C. There is more snow on the passes especially at Khardung La, Chang La, Zojilla pass , Baralacha La and Rohtang Pass
The cold conditions persist in May and June and water can freeze at Pangong and or Sarchu and Tso Moriri. Camping services are hit when it happens. If you like snow and cold then choose this weather. It is also the most challenging time as well to drive on these roads when there is snow. The traffic is also high during this time
July and August are the summer month of Ladakh while in the approach i.e. Manali or Srinagar we may encounter rain or heavy rain. It usually does not rain in Ladakh like Monsoons but yes due to westerly disturbance, there are showers. Sometimes due to changes in global weather patterns, there are heavy rainfall reported in 2015 and 2014 as well which disturbed the region for a week in the entire season from May to September. During July/August you can roam mostly in summer clothing but do remember to carry heavy woolens with you so that you are prepared even when weather changes. It is quite normal for weather to change and become cold.
Sept onward the weather starts changing again and by Oct it is cold again. But it is normally the most peaceful time to go. The rain have all settled and the approach is smooth. Though all the snow has melted but it is still pristine and peaceful.
Q: What kind of clothing is required for the trip?
A: When we travel to Ladakh, we should always be prepared for zero degree temperature along with windy conditions. So we must always carry woolen clothing with us which should include the following
- Woolen Cap
- Warm & wind proof jacket
Always wear clothing in layers, as we descend or ascend the temperature varies and we must adjust our clothing. Winter/Rain/Snow clothing should always be accessible
Places where you are likely to encounter cold conditions on this trip
- Pangong Tso
- Tso Moriri
- Tso Kar
- All high altitude passes like Khardung La / Chang La / Wari La / Tanglung La / Baralacha La / Rohtang La / Kunzum La
In May & June carry sufficient heavy & light woolen clothing sets as you will encounter colder conditions
July & August carry mostly summer clothing. But be prepared for zero degree temperatures as well. Carry both heavy and light woolens perhaps a set each.
Sept / Oct again the weather starts to change, so carry more woolen clothing
Q: What about data connectivity and mobile network ?
A : The mobile network is at best erratic. Airtel / Idea / BSNL/ Vodafone has mobile voice and data network in Leh / Manali / Shimla /Srinagar.
Only post paid mobile works in Ladakh and Kashmir for security reason.
Once you are beyond this regular towns, only BSNL has network in some villages.
Vodafone Bombay Users have experienced issues with connectivity while Delhi Vodafone works fine in Leh town
- Tangste which in on the way to Pangong has BSNL network.
- Nubra Valley has BSNL network.
- Kargil on the Leh – Srinagar highway has BSNL and Airtel Network. There is more coverage on this highway so you can always find a spot in few kilometers where there is network
- Jispa on the Manali – Leh highway has BSNL network. After your cross Jispa and till you reach close to Leh there is no network. This part of the Manali – Leh you are totally cut off.
- At Keylong, you will get Airtel and BSNL network
- Pangong Tso/Tso Moriri / Sarchu has satellite phone which can be used to make emergency calls.
In Leh, most hotels have Wi – Fi and can be used to connect and check emails/Internet. Besides, there are Internet cafe in the market which also provides wi-fi.
Mobile Data network will be poor in Leh and cannot be relied upon
Q: Can small kids come on the Road trip ?
A: Dependent kids will be a challenge as weather on high altitudes can change any time so one must be mindful of this fact. Please carry enough clothing for dependent kids. Also, one must choose itinerary from Srinagar side when coming with dependent kids and it must be a slow itinerary so that we give enough time for the body to adjust to the altitude. Independents kids will enjoy this trip and just good warm clothing is required for them.
Q: What are the important things to bring on a the Road trip ?
A: Kindly look at the list below
a) Personal Medicines, containing the following
- Diamox for dealing with AMS ( Acute Mountain Sickness )
- Avomine for motion sickness
- General Pain Killer & Crocin ( Ibuprofen & Paracetamol)
- Medicine to deal with loose motion and acidity
- Anti Allergic ( Citrizine or Allegra )
b) Sun Screen, to prevent skin damage as sun rays are pretty strong at high altitude & Sun Hat. Loads of Moisturizer
c) One must Carry sports shoes as there are plenty of nice walks in this region. Enjoy them with proper gear.
d) Water Bottles , replenish it at the hotel with filtered water and drink plenty of it along the way. As this is a cold desert area, the Air is very dry and you loose moisture very fast. Drink lots and lots of fluid
e) Please travel light but at the same time be well equipped. Since you are travelling each day, you need to continuously pack and unpack each day. I have always found the idea of keeping 2 bags, one overnight bag and the other bigger suitcase.
The overnight bag has everything that I need for the night like my night wear, flip flops, a small towel, my phones and gadgets along with one pair of fresh clothes and items of personal hygiene and my medicines. For 1 night stay, I never open my main bag and just carry my overnight bag and remaining luggage remains in the car only. It saves time and effort
f) The clothing should be light cotton clothing. Remember to have clothing in layers which means, the temperature could drop to zero in the night while when the sun is bright it will be nice & warm. So, carry winter clothing even when travelling in summers on these high altitude road trips. The winter clothing should always be handy with you in the car/bike as you may have to put on or remove clothing as the temperature varies even during your drive as you ascend to height above 12,000 ft while going from one destination to another.
Q : What documents do we need to carry ID/photographs ?
A: Indian nationals need to carry a Photo ID ( Like a Driving License or Voter ID or Passport ) as Army can ask for it. For all Self Drive Guests, must carry their passport and DL. You can easily go to Nubra / Pangong / Sham Valley / Tso Moriri with self declaration permit. No need for permission from DC Office for Indian Nationals.
From 2014 season, permits are only required for Foreign nationals. No permits are required for Indian Nationals.
Q : What will be the facility for water/ Do I need to carry Food/Water along?
A: Bottled water is available through out the trip even in remote locations. There are Dhabhas on the way and one can easily get Tea and basic snacks and biscuits along with Egg and Maggi and some rice and dal and roti.
If you cannot survive on basic food, and want to keep your taste buds alive, then do carry premix / pre cooked meals like the MTR or Haldirams Ready to Eat Mix
Q: What kind of toilet facility will be there?
A: At all places of stay there will be attached bathroom with running cold water. Running hot water is not available at the following locations while you will get running hot water at rest of the places. Please note hot water is not available 24 x 7, please check timings of hot water supply at the time of check in the hotel.
- Tso Moriri
IMP: While you are driving there are times there are no places to leak. No facilities are made by the govt. It is specially embarrassing because there are no bushes or trees as well in this region. So Do keep this in mind before you start from hotel or when you reach a dhabha on way.
Q: What kind of bedding can we expect in the camping?
A: There is proper bedding with proper beds and proper quilts to keep you warm. You need not bring any sleeping bags to protect you from th cold. The facilities are fairly well developed to cover for the basic needs of the individuals.
Q: What about availability of Laundry Services?
A: You will get laundry service in Leh only. You can get it in the market as well as in the hotel where you are staying. If the weather is clear and dry then you get the laundry the next day. If you are looking for laundry in the market which is cheaper, head to Changspa and ask for a laundry service and you will find a few shops providing this service
Q: What about availability of ATM / Cash ?
A: ATM are available only in Leh, Manali and Srinagar. So plan accordingly. No fuel pumps accepts cards, so you must have cash for fuel and tolls and taxes that are charged along the way
Q: Is there is a need to carry an extra spare tyre/tools ?
A: The best way is to have tubeless tyre and a battery operated Tyre Infiltrator. So minor punctures can be easily handled by filling the air again and starting without having to replace the tyres. In the unlikely event of a bigger puncture, you would have to replace the tyre. No SUV that are given on rent have 2 spare tyres. Unless you are doing some serious off-roading, you will not require an extra spare tyre.
The other most important tool is the tow strap which can help you pull out the SUV/Car if caught in a mess. This must be carried and if you are travelling with Unwind Outdoor Self Drive trip, then this will be provided in every SUV.
Q: What about chargers/adapters in the car ?
A: First of all at every night halt on the way there is electricity. When you reach at your destination, do take time to charge all your gadgets in the night. USB port is now standard in all new Cars so if you bring your own USB charging cable then you are all set
Q: Do we need to carry Fuel in a Jerry Can on Ladakh Road Trip ?
A: If you are going on a bike, you must carry Fuel with you in a Jerry Can. For Folks going on SUVs/MUV/Sedans there is no need to carry Fuel. Kindly study the map provided in the link below