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Dos and Donts for Ladakh Road Trip

Leh – Ladakh the crown of India or the Land of high passes is the dream land of every adventurist. It boasts to be the land where the valleys extend in several kilometers, where mountains are dotted with innumerable ancient Buddhist Monasteries, where the sky is cobalt blue during day and fill with infinity stars at night, where you can see shooting star every moment, where there is a desert on one end and high Rocky Mountains on others. But do you know to see all this, one needs to cross the most Treacherous Roads, with poor connectivity and sometime huge traffic jams. Yes! You read it right. Here the quote “Difficult roads often lead you to beautiful destinations” perfectly fits in. So, in this post we have compiled up certain pointers which you must keep in mind before heading for Ladakh road trip.

Dos and Donts for Ladakh Road Trip

Do make sure you know how to Drive in the mountains

Whether you enter from Manali and take exit via Srinagar or vice –versa, roads are narrow and serpentine with lots of mud, gravel and pot holes. So, take a decision to drive to Leh Ladakh only if you are confident with your driving skills. Otherwise hire a cab or take a flight to Leh.

Also read: 13 days itinerary for Leh Ladakh Road Trip here

Don’t Rush

Leh Ladakh road trip is one of the most scenic road trips of India. Indeed, there are unlimited panoramas on the way. So be slow, make unsolicited stops to capture gushing rivers, glaciers, pitch blue skies and locals.

Near KhardungLa, Ladakh Road TripWe reached Leh from Delhi on fourth Day, making multiple stops. And maximum of these were on the Srinagar  Leh Highway. But have No regrets as every stoppage left a unique impression on heart.

Do Rest and Acclimatize, before heading to the next stop

While road tripping to Leh Ladakh one should gain altitude slowly and gradually. This will give body enough time to adapt to the low oxygen levels with every increasing altitude. Indeed it will help to beat or avoid Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) / Altitude Sickness. In case, you still suffer from it, then take Diamox.

We also suggest you to consult your doctor prior to your Leh Ladakh road trip, if you have any breathing issues.

Don’t refer to Google Maps for time frame

We all rely on Google Maps for getting time estimate to reach a particular destination but at the same time we suggest you not to rely on Google Maps when in the land of High passes. Here, the map may show you just a distance of 100 kilometers which can be covered in 3 hours, but in actual it takes around 6-7 hours to cover it. So, the only advice is to start your journey early and retire for the day too timely.

Trecheraous Roads in Ladakh which will definitely longer

Do make sure your documents are complete

Ladakh lies in a sensitive zone as it shares its border with neighboring countries like China and Pakistan. So, everyone needs special permits to enter and roam in this zone. Indians need Inner Line Permit and foreign Nationals need Protected Area Permit to visit them. You can read all about the Inner Line Permit here, before taking a Ladakh road trip.

Tso Moriri
Tso Moriri

Don’t attempt to take Shortcuts

Shortcuts are alluring. They might take you through the most adventurous routes but can be equally dangerous, especially in Leh Ladakh. So we advise you not to follow GPS in Leh Ladakh and stay on the highways only. Locals can give you best, recent updates on the routes. Talk to them before leaving.

Do make a visit to the Leh Ladakh Palaces before they Disappear

Leh Ladakh castles are architectural marvels on the hilltop hidden from the rest of the world. They might have been majestic during their eras but today only their ruins and rubble exist. So we advise you to take little detours where ever required and visit these palaces before they completely disappear.

Stok Palace - Ladakh Road Trip

We explored 6 Leh Ladakh Palaces during our Leh Ladakh Road trip and each one was completely unique in its own way.

Don’t depend on Phone and Internet Connectivity

Phone and Internet connectivity is extremely sparse in Ladakh, especially after crossing Sonamarg. Airtel postpaid and BSNL works well in Leh and other tourist towns like Kargil on the way,  whereas in Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and Tso Kar only BSNL works. The Leh Ladakh road trip was a perfect way to digital detox but  we think it won’t be in the coming years as we saw the phone connection lines getting spread on most of the routes.

During our trip to Leh Ladakh most of the guest houses were offering net connectivity but the speed was really slow because of multiple users.

Do carry some Food Supplies and Medicines

Ladakh is considered as one of the remotest areas, after Spiti Valley. Getting medical supplies and eateries while road tripping can be really tough here. So, we suggest you to always carry some eateries and medicine with you in the car. Also, if  there is an emergency do take help from the locals. They are for sure one of the happiest people to help.

Views of Keylong - ladakh Road Trip

Don’t be Fussy about Food and Accommodation

Remember, Leh Ladakh lies at an altitude above 10,000 feet where the living conditions are extremely tough and resources are limited. So, stop cribbing. Go with the limited expectation and accept happily whatever you get. Rest, soak your eyes and soul with the natural beauty.

Do carry multiple layers of clothes

While heading from one destination to another in Leh Ladakh there is a high altitude variation. For e.g. while heading to Nubra valley from Leh, you cross KhardungLa at 18,000 feet to reach 11,000 feet, which itself means a lot of temperature change. So, the advice is to carry multiple thin layer of clothes. This will keep your body as warm as required, without making you sick.

At Sonamarg - ladakh Road

Don’t forget to charge your Camera Batteries

Every frame on Leh Ladakh road trip is click worthy. So remember to charge your camera batteries and also carry some extra batteries along. Electricity supply is there in all the major towns on the way except at Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and Tso Kar.

That is all you need to remember for planning a Leh Ladakh Road Trip. If you plan well nothing can stop you from soaking yourself with gorgeous panoramas.

Humble request is travel responsibly. Please do not litter anywhere in the Himalayas and get your plastic waste back. Help locals wherever you can.

Dos and Donts for Ladakh Road Trip



19 thoughts on “Dos and Donts for Ladakh Road Trip”

  • Very well written. The Ladakh road trip needs a lot of prep owing to its unusual terrain and high altitude. One definitely needs to cautious and take those short cuts as you mentioned. Good tip on the camera batteries, I almost ran out of mine as I just kept clicking. Acclimatization is important as you said and taking stops is important for that. Good going with this post.

  • I wouldn’t call myself an adventurist and had never heard of Ladakh road before but this has convinced me otherwise! Especially loved your dos and donts in case I do get brave enough to do it.

  • I like the way you summarised all the Dos and Dont’s. It was very easy to read them, but above all, these tips are very helpful.

    Would love to reach one day the land of the valleys, mountains, monasteries, where the sky is cobalt blue during the day and filled stars at night. … it sounds so poetic and I would love to enjoy that poetry!

  • I get motion sickness and have a strong feeling I would need a lot of medicine for this trip. Love the image of the road curving down the hill! Love the image of Leh Ladakh castle with the mountain backdrop, that would be a definite detour

  • Interesting read. This doesn’t seem like a very difficult road to drive, but I’m sure you need some mountain driving experience for it. I’ve learned not to depend on cell phone connection or internet anywhere in the world. It seems you can’t have them when you need them the most, so that’s a great piece of advice. Not being fussy about food is not too difficult for me, but when it comes to accommodations I need to have a clean place. From what you are saying Leh Ladakh must have very primitive accommodations, but if they are clean I wouldn’t mind.

  • I couldn’t agree more with your advise, altitude is a very tough thing and if you don’t acclimatise properly you can end up really suck and have to turn back. Proper time is the reason why I have never been before as I want to give it the time it deserves

  • while I agree to all of what you’ve written, don’t rush, make sure you know how to drive, etc. For me, the most important things here and nice to see is that you have complete documents. Seriously, if you’re traveling through a border that sometimes has conflicts, it’s very wise to prepare all necessary documents to avoid any unwanted circumstances. I like your car! I wanna try driving one like that!

  • Wow this is super helpful. I have not come across a similar list yet in any other blog.
    I was not aware of the special permit required there. And yes time required can be quite unpredictable.

  • Wow, this drive is incredible! I would love to do this someday. Great tips especially about being comfortable driving on mountain roads safety is important. I’ve also made the mistake of trusting Google maps from time to time in remote areas and ending up on a 7-hour hike instead of a 3-hour hike. That is sad the lakes are disappearing I hope to see them before they are gone.

  • This seems like a really interesting road trip. I will save this post in case I get to that area some day. The sky is so blue too. I’d love to see the sky at night. I bet it’s unbelievable.

  • There is certainly a skill at driving in the mountains. It shouldn’t be taken lightly. Also, it’s amazing how bad Google is at predicting travel along certain roads. Even though you “may” go faster, I wouldn’t. This is a solid list of tips for a truly remarkable area.

  • Reading the numbers 18,000 feet and 11,000 feet made me suddenly realize how much altitude variation there actually is. That does mean lots of spare clothing, for someone like me, who tends to feel the cold at lot more.

  • These are really great tips. It’s so true that you can’t always rely on Google Maps for times, especially in more remote areas, like Ladakh seems to be. Great tips for road tripping this gorgeous-looking region!

  • These are pretty useful set of dos and don’ts about a Ladakh road trip. I like the fact that you have emphasised ongoing slow. This makes absolute sense as it is necessary to really enjoy the journey when you are in Ladakh and not worry about the destination. The other very important point that you make is about not relying on the journey time that is calculated by Google. When in the mountains 10 kilometres may take an hour to cover and this needs to be factored in.

  • These are such helpful tips for a Ladakh Road Trip! Aside from the practical tips (ie taking a rest, referring to google maps, taking shortcuts and talking to locals for recent updates on routes), I love that you’ve also included visiting the Leh Ladak Palaces. I must agree that this gems that are far from the influx of tourists are a must-visit before they disappear!

  • Wow such a stunning view for a long drive I wouldn’t mind driving along Ladahk road, but i bet you need a good paper map navigator with this road trip as you advised not relaying to google maps.

  • well your photos definitely make me want to go! great tip on the altitude. I always think of that when trekking, but would never have remembered to consider that when driving.

  • Suruchi, your blog is my favourite when it comes to talking about travelling in India! I have been to Leh Ladakh, though it was a while back, and I couldn’t have put together a better list of Dos and Don’ts for Leh Ladakh road trip. Especially about carrying layers of clothing, not relying on a phone and internet signal, make sure to take some time to acclimatize and be confident about driving in mountains. It is a beautiful place but it’s best advised to hire a local driver, in my opinion.

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