Visited by thousands of tourists, Ladakh, also known as the land of high passes is known for its serenity and Buddhist monasteries. Often called as Little Tibet, Ladakh is greatly influenced by Tibetan culture. This rugged region with its high altitude ranges, massive lakes, scenic trails, deep valleys and high passes is a perfect destination for adventure enthusiasts.
Due to its high altitude and low atmospheric pressure, it is necessary that you should be aware of the necessary precautions during you Ladakh tour. So if you are planning a Leh Ladakh bike trip for the first time, here is some essential travel guide.
How to Reach Leh Ladakh
By Air – Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh is the nearest airport, which is in Leh town. It is the most convenient way to reach Leh. There are a number of flights from Delhi to Leh.
By Railway – Jammu Tawi Railway Station is the nearest rail-head, which is 850 Km from Leh. An excellent rail network connects Jammu Tawi to other important cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. You have to get taxi and drive to Leh via Srinagar or Keylong. But since these routes are close in winter you can’t visit Leh during winters via road.
By Road – There are two routes to reach Ladakh if you consider Delhi as a base, one from Manali and another from Srinagar. Srinagar to Leh and Manali to Leh have the best road conditions and scenic views.
Temperature In Ladakh
Summer in Ladakh is quite comfortable as compared to the winter, which can be quite harsh. Temperature can drop to minus 30 degree in Leh and Kargil and minus 60 degree in Drass, during winters. This region experience subzero temperature from December to February. Due to the light air, the ferocity of the sun is greater here in comparison to lower altitudes.
Ladakh Bike Trip – Best time to Visit
The best time to go on a Leh Ladakh bike trip to Leh Ladakh is from the months of June to September. Due to heavy snowfall, roads are blocked hence it is advised not to start road trip during winters. However some tourists also plan ladakh trips in winter because of winter safari, Chadar Trek and Ladakhi festivals.
Permits for Indian Nationals are a sine qua non only for some of the restricted areas like Tsomoriri, Tsokar and Pangong Lakes, Dhahanu and Nubra Valley, which can be obtained easily from District Magistrate, Leh, through Travel Agents at Leh. You don’t need permit for travelling to Leh.
All foreigners and international tourists need to register themselves especially those travelling by road. Drass, Rumtse and Sarchu are the registration points. Those travelling by air should get their registration done at the airport. One can register himself at the airport if travelling by the air. At least keep six copies of the permit with yourselves because you need to submit these permits at the checking points.
Altitude Sickness During Leh Ladakh Bike Trip
High Altitude Sickness is a common episode, if you are going directly to Ladakh, especially by air. Acute Mountain Sickness occurs due to scarcity of oxygen at high altitude (after 8000ft) and inability of our bodies to adjust to low oxygen content in air. This led to the higher breathing rate and your body gets adjusted when you append some time on high altitude. Dizziness, loss of appetite, vomiting, loss of breath, and rapid heart rate are some of the major symptoms of AMS
Tips For Better Acclimatization:
- Acclimatize your body by taking rest and increase your altitude deliberately and balance ascent.
- Keep yourself hydrated by consuming ORS water, soup, milk, tea and juice.
- Alcohol and smoking can be dangerous in extreme cold, especially on high altitudes.
- Keep your energy level high and don’t over-exert.
- At least wear 3-4 layers of woollen clothes instead of a single heavy jacket to keep you body warm.
- Don’t sleep during daytime and always sleep at lower altitude. Also try to sleep in upright position.
- If symptoms of the AMS increase, it could be fatal. So you must down at once which the last and best solution.
- For high altitude sickness, medicines are available in market which will make your body breath faster than usual rate to compensate for the low amount of oxygen. Diamox and Aspirin are medicines but only use after consultation
Things To Carry
Going on a Ladakh bike trip is like hard-core backpacking through the roughest of mountains. A road trip to Ladakh requires packing to be compact yet all the basic requirements need to be lifted along.
- Backpack(40-60L) with rain cover
- 3-4 Warn layer of Clothes
- Two pairs of cotton socks. 3 pairs of woollen socks
- Two pairs of full sleeve shirts/T-shirts, track Pants and jeans
- Thermal inner – two pair
- Sun cap
- One pair of wooden hand gloves
- Balaclava or woollen scarves
- Charger, power bank, batteries for backup etc.
- A good quality camera.
- Toiletries – Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer.
- One water bottle(1L) and one thermos flask(1L)
- Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
- Personal Medical Kit
- Mandatory Documents
Accommodation and Food
Family run establishments are a common form of accommodation Ladakh which offer personalized services. There are some luxury hotels but these hotels can only be found in Leh town. Home stays are the best option in Suru Valley, Zanskar Valley and Nubra Valley. Camps are also established near Tso Moriri and Pangong Lake.
Home stays is a great way of getting acquainted with the Ladakhi people and their incredible hospitality.
Leh police station can be contacted in case of any unexpected circumstances Leh which falls under the jurisdiction of Jammu and Kashmir Police. Other police stations in Leh are in Nubra valley and in Nyoma.
- Fuel Points: Manali, Tandi and Upshi are fuel points situated on Manali Leh Highway. On Srinagar-Leh Highway, you can find fuel points in Srinagar and Kargil.
- Hospitals: Manali, Keylong, Leh, Tangste, Diskit, Kargil, Srinagar
You can find medical aid at army camps at Pang and Sarchu. If you are facing nameless emergencies then you can go to the Army’s Feneral Hospital at Leh.
- Mobile Network: BSNL post-paid mobile connection is the best option and only mobile connection which will work in Ladakh. You will find full connectivity in Leh town and areas surrounding it.
After Rohtang pass on Manali-Leh highway and after Srinagar on Srinagar-Leh highway, your connectivity will completely disappear.
- ATMs: Since most of the hotel owners don’t accept cards, it is advisable to carry cash in hand. Manali is the last point where you will find ATM if you are travelling through Manali- Leh Highway. You will find many ATMs in Leh town but to depend on cash if you are in Nubra, Pangong and Tso Moriri.
Government run buses and private vehicles are options for Intra city transportation. There are various buses from Leh to the major places of Ladakh but these buses are exceptionally crowded. Leh bus stand is chaotic and poorly organised. These buses are irregular and depending upon the uncertain weather conditions.
Leh has a large fleet of tourist transport facilities with more than 2000 vehicles. These taxis include Innova, Mahindra Scorpio, Xylo, Toyota, Tata Grande, etc.
Road Conditions and Roadblocks
Leh- Srinagar Highway and Manali- Leh Highway are closed due to heavy snowfall after October, So don’t plan your leh ladakh bike trip in these months. The path over Srinagar – Leh Highway and Manali – Leh Highway gets too risky to traverse as you enter the month of October owing to snowfall at passes, black ice on road that skids the vehicles making driving risky and above all extremely harsh cold conditions with not much shelter and food at disposal, especially on the latter one, Manali – Leh Highway. So, the only way to visit Leh Ladakh in winters after October, is to get a flight from Delhi. Since the region of ladakh is a challenging terrain, landslides can happen in Ladakh anytime.
Places to Visit
Leh town, Pangong Lake, Tso Moriri, Zanskar Valley, Suru Valley, Khardung La, Nubra valley, Hemis National Park, etc.
The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. Hindi, Urdu, Balti and English are other major languages of Ladakh.
Carry Proper Documents
One should always keep multiple copies of one’s driving license, PUC, insurance, vehicle registration papers, voter-id card or passport and aadhar card with oneself all the times.
You need to submit various copies of your identity cards with permit when you are travelling to restricted areas like Tsomoriri, Tsokar, Pangong Lakes, Dhahanu and Nubra Valley
Do’s and Don’ts For Leh-Ladakh Bike Trip
- Carry drinking water and dry foods.
- Take medicine with you if you are willing to go Khardung La as it is on very high altitude.
- Stay at least 1 day in Leh town before starting your Ladakh bike trip so that your body can acclimatize.
- Always use those vehicles which are in good condition and have good ground clearance.
- Carry proper medicines and make a first aid box to tacle with headache, fever and vomiting etc.
- Consult your physician before undertaking the Leh ladakh Bike trip and carry basic medicines you are using for the purpose of added safety.
- Obey proper dress-code and don’t hurt the sentiments of local people while visiting the monasteries.
- Carry Charger, power banks, Bluetooth headset, batteries for backup etc as there is electricity problem in Leh.
- Respect local people as they are very friendly in nature and hospitable.
- Always carry sufficient cash with you as there are many places which don’t have facility of Credit/Debit cards.
- Carry snacks, biscuits etc. with you as Landslides/road blocks can appear suddenly on your way and you would not want to stay hungry at such times.
- Carry extra fuel with you if you are driving your own vehicle. Petrol bunks are less common and you might be stuck in the middle of nowhere without petrol or help.
- Don’t use plastic bags as Plastic is officially banned in Ladakh.
- Due to acclimatization, don’t plan to go anywhere on the day you arrive, if you are planning to reach Leh by air.