If you love driving, there is no better destination than Ladakh for a Self Drive SUV trip. The raw wilderness, breathtaking landscape and the crisp mountain air will leave you rejuvenated.
For an overland journey enthusiast, the condition of the SUV is paramount because the entire holiday experience is dependent on it.
Hows the pick up, whats the condition of the brakes, ride quality , condition of tyres, cleanliness , quality of music system are all pertinent questions before we embark on a Self Drive Trip.
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Choosing a Rental Car Operator
Most Self Drive Rental companies, as a standard practice, only follow manufacturers’ guidance for service. But in the case of Ladakh, this is grossly inadequate.Why ? Because, it is almost impossible to recover from a vehicle failure in the remote regions of Ladakh
The vehicle must be checked thoroughly and strict preventive maintenance should be carried out to avoid a breakdown.
SUV Options available on Rent
- Toyota Fortuner AT 4×4 or Manual Transmission
- Toyota Innova – Old Model Innova ( Not recommended due to low ground clearance ) – The New Innova Crysta has higher ground clearance and is highly recommended as well for comfort and power both ( It comes with 2.4 L Diesel Engine which produces 150 PS power and give you a torque of 343 Nm @ 1400 – 2800 rpm which is better then XUV 500 )
- Ford Endeavor
- XUV 500
- 4×4 Scorpio or 2 Wheel Drive Scorpio ( New generation also available )
- Hyundai Creta
- Tata Hexa / Harrier
- Kia Seltos
Only the following Manufacturers have their Service Station in Leh, so its prudent to pick a vehicle from following manufacturers only
- Tata ( Reliability is improving )
Though SUV like Duster / Terrano / Ecosport / Seltos are perfectly fine to drive in Ladakh but neither manufacturer has any presence in the region so a minor fault can also leave you stranded
Unwind Outdoor specialises in Self Drive Road Trips to Ladakh
If you want to plan a trip with a Self Drive SUV to Ladakh on your own, then check out the following resources
Resources for DIY Trip
Self Drive Road Trip Packages
Ladakh Taxi Union
Over the years, Ladakh has seen a spurt of tourism. People with little knowledge of the dynamics of the region have created an atmosphere of turmoil. The locals rely on tourism for their livelihood and self driven vehicles pose a threat to their income. This has resulted in the formation of Taxi Unions that have banned the entry of self-driven vehicles in and around some sites in Leh.
The Nubra Valley and Pangong are now out of bounds for Rented Self Driven Vehicles. You may still drive your own vehicle and visit these places but not using rented Self Driven Vehicles.
Ladakhis will not cause any damage to you or to the SUV. There is no cause of any apprehensions as long as you do not pick a fight for no reason.
Is 4 Wheel Drive A Must
90% of the time you wont need to engage 4 wheel drive. By and large you can do this trip by following simple principles of hill driving. Only in case of unexpected scenario will 4 Wheel drive be engaged and will be useful. For example, while crossing a stream if you are stuck and your main wheel has no traction then by using the 4 wheel option you will be able to recover.
In the same scenario, if you have tow strap and D- Shackles, you can ask for help and the cars/pick up truck on the other side can provide a little pull and you will be out as well. Or you can try doing the reverse and trace back the route and then try again but this time inspect the stream again and try a different path
In our experience
A tow strap and D-shackle is a must for your Ladakh trip
To know more about SUV driving tips check the blog.
Can I Drive my own Sedan
Yes, you can. If you have a Sedan with lower ground clearance and are waiting for SUV then don’t wait .. Just go but go in Aug and Sept. This is because most of the Ladakh region is dry by this time. The snow around the high passes has mostly melted, the streams have less water and chances of slush are also low.
What we mean is that the chances are less but they are not zero. Weather is unpredictable and you can encounter unpredictable scenario but the chances are less. in Sept, the chances to encounter unexpected scenario are even lesser. But bear in mind that any rain/snow during your trip and your skills will be tested. So a stronger vehicle comes handy. If weather holds out and there is no rain/snow then you will have a perfectly smooth trip
Plan a trip in Sedan after mid Aug and Sept only. Definitely not in June or July
Thank you very much to you and your team for arranging this fantastic tour. One of the best pick from this tour was your meticulous planning and promptness of service. All arrangements were fantastic, be it a delivery of vehicle at Chandigarh airport, hotels particularly at Chandigarh, Leh, Nubra, Pangong. However the best was at Jispa, Kargil and Srinagar for different reasons. Jispa was simple but authentic with very tasty food.
Rajesh & Gauri Natu
Graphic Designer, Apple
Sunil, after I ran 21k Marathon I bragged about it for years. The same is being repeated again, with my ambition to drive across the Himalayas, which was almost faded with Srinagar under curfew. You and Chetan were the spark to our fire that we could do this drive and without a single trouble. Driving is a passion but driving thru places where there are no roads is trouble, but your breakup of program and awesome car condition helped us actually sail thru. Three cheers and five stars.
Absolute Networks, Mumbai
Wow. wow, wow. What a experience! We took the route of Delhi - Jammu - Srinagar - Leh - Sarchu - Manali - Delhi. Sunil Kapoor gave us excellent service which includes his next to new 4WD in immaculate condition and all hotels were top class. Coming from Australia, we were bit nervous in start but when we met Sunil, we had full trust and all went very positive. Sunil gave us perfect instructions and everything was according to plan. Thank you Sunil and your team for our one of the best experience in life you have provided us.
Director, Webential, Australia
Eight of us from Sri Lanka got Sunil to arrange a self driven tour to Leh and we are very happy with our decision. He was punctual, trustworthy and met our expectations. The service provided was very professional. As foreigners it’s hard to arrange such a tour by ourselves and Unwind outdoor filled in the gap perfectly. All places we stayed were nice and decent. Should specifically mention about the two Scorpios which we instantly fell in love with. They were very well maintained ...
Friends from SriLanka
After days of research, we finally came across a facebook page called ‘Unwind Outdoors’. It seemed like our dream was going to be finally true. Very reasonably priced and Sunil from Unwind was like a know-it-all person.
The itinerary was so crisp and so very well laid out that there was no reason for us to worry other than coping up with nature’s fury.
Clifford Chance, Delhi
We did a SUV self drive trip from Chandigarh to Ladakh and back organized by Unwind Outdoor.
Highly recommend Unwind Outdoor as Sunil and Manpreet took care of everything we needed (car, hotel bookings, sightseeing and food recommendations, permits) and everything was organized seamlessly. Sunil was very patient with all our queries, giving suggestions and options to suit our preferences.
Ashish & Neha Thadani
Great to see the know-how of the Unwind Outdoor team regarding every aspect of the Srinagar - Leh - Chandigarh self drive trip. From weather conditions, to road conditions, to health/clothing requirements, and also driving instructions - Sunil and Manpreet are warm, meticulous and knowledgable. Villa Himalaya in Sonamarg surpassed all our expectations and ensured that our expected standards for the rest of the trip were extremely high.
Symbiosis Law School, Mumbai
Thanks Sunil for arranging a wonderful trip. Everything went well and we were in good hands with friendly and competent drivers. Accommodation was good and tents were comfortable beyond our expectations. We didn't have problem with food choices. It was a totally rejuvenating vacation and experience for us. Thanks from us in Singapore!
We had an amazing 9-day from Manali to Leh. Serene, breathless and picturesque. High altitude sickness was a big issue for us but we were in good hands.
Unwind Outdoor was superb in arranging and coordinating the trip. Taking care of all arrangements and checking-in on us. Kudos to Sunil and his team.
Assistant Director, Jurong Town Corporation, Singapore
We travelled as a couple & completed a self drive trip from Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh-Nubra-Pangong-Tso Moriri-Sarchu-Manali-Delhi. Itinerary was meticulously designed to be a mix of adventure and comfort. Hotel choices were best. Support was available at all points in case of emergency.Vehicle provided was top notch. Thanks to Mr. Sunil Kapoor for personally putting in efforts to maintain such high standards.
Nikhil & Neha Mazumdar
Manager L&T, Mumbai
Six of us (two families) travelled to Leh in Jul / Aug 2015 and we had an excellent experience with Unwind Outdoor. From the very beginning of our excited planning phase, Sunil has been willingly suggesting us options, number of days, places to visit etc. He has all the knowledge of the terrain, passionate about trekking and traveling himself, so he understands travel-crazy people such as me and my quirks.
We landed in Leh in time for cloudbursts and flashfloods and landslides (along with mud and rocks sliding too). Despite Nature's fury, Sunil and Skarma made sure we were utmost safe and comfortable. These guys are just not into travel business, they help people fulfil their travel dreams. Truly! Go guys!!
Barclays Bank, Bangalore