Planning a road trip to Ladakh? Here are the most Commonly Asked Questions about the most uncommon experience you will ever have!
If you have the will to take this on and are confident about your driving skills, go for it! If you are apprehensive, then you can drive after mid August until early October when the conditions are absolutely benign.
Here, Sunil gives his expert tips on driving an SUV in Ladakh.
However, a 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 travelling on a bike takes time. If you are planning to do so 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 specialised clothing.
Not sure of what to carry? Read our guide to what to carry on a trip to Ladakh.
In May & early June, expect cold conditions with maximum temperatures in Leh being about 10 degrees and low being 3-4 deg C. There is snow on the passes especially at Khardung La, Chang La, Zojilla pass , Baralacha La and Rohtang Pass.
If you like the snow and cold then choose this weather. It is also the most challenging time to drive on these roads when there is snow. The traffic is also high during this time.
July and August are the summer months of Ladakh. While driving to Ladakh, one may encounter rain or heavy rain in Manali or Srinagar. It usually does not rain in Ladakh too much but due to the Westerlies, there are occasional showers. At times, due to changes in global weather patterns, heavy rainfall has been reported in 2015 and 2014 which disturbed the region for a week during the entire season, from May to September.
In July/August expect plenty of water crossing, its the best time for enjoying stream crossing and chances of few road blocks cannot be ruled out.
September onwards, the weather starts changing again and by October, it is cold again. But it is normally the most peaceful time to go. The showers settle and it is pleasant. Though all the snow melts, it is still pristine and beautiful.
When we travel to Ladakh, we should always be prepared for zero degree temperatures along with windy conditions. Carrying warm clothing becomes a must. Some important items to carry are :-
- Woollen Cap
- Warm & wind proof jacket
Always dress in layers, as the temperature varies as the altitude changes and we must adjust clothing accordingly. You should always be prepared for cold winds, snow or rain.
Places where you are likely to encounter cold conditions on this trip
- Sarchu ( 15,000 ft )
- Pangong Tso ( 14,500 ft )
- Tso Moriri ( 14,500 ft )
- Tso Kar ( 14,500 ft )
- 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 woollen clothing sets as you will encounter even colder conditions.
In July & August, carry mostly summer clothing. But be prepared for zero degree temperatures as well. Carry both heavy and light woollens, perhaps a set each.
In September/October, the weather starts to change again, so carry more woollen clothing
Being well stocked on the important things is the key to enjoying your road trip to Ladakh to the fullest. Be sure to carry :-
a) Personal Medicines, including 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)
- Basic First Aid Kit
b) Sun Screen, to prevent skin damage as the sun’s rays are pretty strong at high altitudes.
c) A sun hat and loads of moisturiser to prevent sunburn.
d) Sports shoes as there are plenty of nice walks in this region. Enjoy them with proper gear.
e) Water Bottle, 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 lose moisture very fast. Staying hydrated is more important than you might think.
f) Travel light but also be well equipped. Since the itineraries require moving every day to a new place, there is a lot of packing and unpacking to be done. A good idea is to carry two bags – one regular and the other for overnight needs.
The overnight bag should contain the items you need for the night like nightwear, flip flops, a small towel, phones and gadgets along with one pair of fresh clothes and items of personal hygiene and also medicines. For a one night stay, one may not need to open the regular bag at all. This can save a lot of time and effort.
g) Light cotton clothing. Remember to carry sufficient layers as temperatures could drop to zero in the night while it could be bright and warm in the day. Cotton works best as the first layer.
All visitors need Permit to go to Nubra / Pangong / Tso Moriri / Hanle / Chushul / Aryan Village which is issued by DC office. You can apply for it when you arrive in Leh or ask your travel partner.
No Permit is required on Srinagar to Leh Highway
Rohtang Permit is required to cross Rohtang from Manali Side
All visitors need to carry a Photo ID (Like a Driving License or Voter ID or Passport) as the Army can ask for it. All visitors on self drive must carry their passport and Driver’s License..
People from Sri Lanka / Bangladesh / Pakistan & China are not allowed to visit Inner Line Areas . They can still go to Leh and around . Cover Leh – Srinagar Highway or Manali – Leh highway
Bottled water is available throughout the trip even in remote locations. There are Dhabas on the way and one can easily get Tea and basic snacks and biscuits along with Egg and Maggi and some rice, dal and roti.
There are some interesting hotels serving decent food, for a complete guide visit our Food Guide on the Ladakh Circuit ( Link to Blog Post )
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 .
At all places of stay there will be an attached bathroom with running cold water. 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. Running hot water is not available at the following locations
- Tso Moriri
While driving, there are stretches where there are no restrooms for miles. No facilities are made by the govt. It is especially embarrassing because there are no bushes or trees as well in this region. Do keep this in mind before you start your journey and also when you find a restroom at any stop.
This is a challenge for female travellers ..
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 the cold. The facilities are fairly well developed to cover the basic needs.
There is luxurious camping ( Glamping ) now available in Ladakh
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 will receive 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 it.
The best option is to have a tubeless tyre and a battery operated Tyre Infiltrator. This will take care of minor punctures without the need to replace the tyres. In the unlikely event of a bigger puncture, you might have to replace the tyre. No SUVs 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 stuck somewhere. This must be carried and if you are travelling with us, then this will be provided in every SUV.
ATMs are available only in Leh, Manali and Srinagar. So plan accordingly. No fuel pumps accept cards, so you must have cash for fuel and tolls and taxes that are charged along the way
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 may be no need to carry Fuel.
Only if you are taking the wilderness route
Nubra / Pangong / Hanle / Tso Moriri / Sarchu / Manali that you need to carry fuel. For other circuits, there is no need to carry Jerry Can
Kindly study the Fuel Pump map provided in the link below.
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.
In remote locations like Pangong / Tso Moriri / Sarchu electricity is provided through solar panels ( Genset are now banned ) So basic charging of mobiles is possible.
A USB port is now standard in all new Cars so if you bring your own USB charging cable then you could use it in the car.
The mobile network is at best erratic. JIO/Airtel/BSNL/Vodafone have voice and data network in Leh / Manali / Shimla /Srinagar.
Only post paid connections work in Ladakh and Kashmir for security reasons.
Once you cross these towns, only BSNL has network in some villages.
Vodafone Netiwork is pretty poor in Ladakh so if you have Vodafone, kindly do carry Airtel / Jio post paid with you.
- Tangste which in on the way to Pangong has BSNL network.
- Nubra Valley has BSNL & Jio network.
- Kargil on the Leh – Srinagar highway has JIO / BSNL and Airtel Networks. There is more coverage on this highway so you can always find a spot every few kilometers where there is connectivity.
- Jispa on the Manali – Leh highway has BSNL network. After your cross Jispa and till you reach close to Leh there is no network. You are totally cut off on this section of the route.
- At Keylong, you will get Airtel / JIO and BSNL network
- Pangong Tso, at the beginning of the lake in Lukung has BSNL network. Satellite phone is also available for calls.
- Tso Moriri also has BSNL network. Satellite phone is also available for calls.
- Sarchu has satellite phones, which can be used to make emergency calls.
In Leh, most hotels have Wi – Fi access. Besides, there are Internet cafes in the market which also provide wi-fi.
Mobile Data network situation is improving in Leh but still cannot be relied upon. Jio/Airtel works better in Leh
It really depends what experience you seeking
For bikers looking for maximum challenge we recommend June mid to end Aug. Plenty of streams to cross for thrill and excitement
These are the conditions you can expect in July / Aug
May & June is perfect for snow experience in summers
All passes on the Ladakh circuit are covered with snow. Bear in mind that you will find maximum tourists in Leh market / Nubra & Pangong. Beginning of may is most recommended
Sept & Oct
Pristine & Peaceful. Ideal for nature lovers, no noise little tourists , slightly cold temperatures, blue skies
6 thoughts on “Ladakh Road Trip ( FAQs )”
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I am planning to Chandigarh to ladakh road trip .The trip is starting on August first week ,is that time is rain?.I want see snow is that possible?..
Aug it does rain but not in Ladakh ( in manali / Srinagar yes ) .. No snow will not be available on the road .. By Aug .. all snow melts .. If you like snow go in early June when the road opens …