A trip to Leh is not your ordinary vacay and needs proper planning and research to be safe and happy to enjoy your holidays in those unique terrains!
Here is an exhaustive list of things you need to do and carry while planning and before starting your trip.
This article covers everything, right from flights, cabs, medicines, clothes, gadgets, dos and don’ts, etc. Bookmark this article?
Booking an SUV
- We were 7 people for this trip and hence booked a Xylo which was comfortable for all of us and our backpacks.
- We booked it through Himalayan Tours Studio – +91 9419441522 / +91 8494038049. For Srinagar, Mr. Sajad – +91 8803310924 and for Leh onwards, Mr. Naamgyal.
- It cost us a total of INR 54,000 for the vehicle, permits and driver costs.
- You can contact the drivers directly too by checking https://devilonwheels.com/
- Alternatively, you can contact Riyaz Travels (similar cost) on +91 9419019325.
- SUV is the smallest car available and hence it is better to have 5-7 people to reduce the cost and carbon footprints.
- For more than 7 people, a maximum of 13 people, there is an option of the minibus – INR 70,000.
Our bookings for the vehicle were done 2 days prior to the trip since we were on the verge of canceling the trip because of unrest in Srinagar. We took a leap of faith by talking to friend’s relatives in Srinagar and left from Mumbai.
The cost of the same vehicles was INR 10,000 to INR 20,000 lesser, 2 months prior to our departure (booking dates).
Keep in mind you need an extremely experienced driver to maneuver these treacherous roads. So make your bookings through a renowned agency. We were lucky to have expert drivers on our trip.
Do NOT EVEN THINK about self-drive! The terrain is the one that you’ve never traveled on before even if you are born and bought up in the mountains!
Landslides are common phenomena, vehicles (cars, trucks, etc) may skid anytime, a few places witness shooting stones too — to maneuver safely and without any tension, it is best to let the skilled driver do his job on these unique terrains while you enjoy your holiday s.
- Four of us booked our flights in February. Mumbai to Srinagar was ~INR 7-8000. Leh to Mumbai was approximately INR13,000.
- A gap of 2-4 hours for any layover is mandatory, in case the previous one gets delayed, you have buffer time with you and will not end up missing your connecting flight.
- Two of our friends had a layover in Delhi. The timings on their tickets were different from the actual timings of the flight and they missed their flight! They then booked another flight to Srinagar. Check the time on the boarding pass with updated flight time on the internet regularly.
There are 2 routes to reach Leh
- Manali to Leh.
- Srinagar to Leh- Many blogs suggest this route because of a gradual increase in the altitude compared to Manali Leh road. Hence, there’s no / less problem in getting acclimatized.
Dos and Don’ts
- The rate of acclimatization is different for different people. Take complete bed rest for 24 hours once you arrive in Leh. DO this even if it is your 10th trip to Leh. The rest is mandatory.
- No smoking and alcohol for the first 24 hours.
- Take sufficient oral fluids (water/juice)
- Take a diet rich in carbohydrates. Do not skip meals.
- Avoid physical exertion in the first 24 hours.
- Do not disregard any symptoms of illness
- Do not be out of your vehicle for a long time (more than 15-20 min) at Khardung La, Chang La or any place with high wind velocity.
Things to carry
- Sport shoes or hiking boots (wear only this every day – do not experiment with flipflops outside your hotel/homestays)
- Boots (I wore them in Sri Nagar, Kargil. I stuck to sport shoes in Leh, Turtuk, and Pangong)
- Down Jacket
- Skull cap
- Flipflops (to wear them inside your hotel/homestay)
- Cotton (for ears) or earplugs
- 2-4 pairs of thermal wear
- Caps and Hats
- Warm tees and pants
- Hoodies (Yes, plural)
- Toilet roll (Keep them handy even if you are in a fancy hotel. Leh airport did not have water in the loo and these rolls were our savior in our times of ‘pressure’)
- Antifungal powder (In case you miss a bath due to the climate, sprinkle some on yourself to be away from sickness and be fresh)
- Hand gloves
- A bag to collect all your plastic waste to dispose of when you leave JnK. They do not have any system and hence end up burning the waste – this is more harmful to the environment.
- Airplane pillow (For flights and long road trips. Most of the places are at least 5-6 hours away from each other)
- 5-6 extra pair of socks (They might get wet with sweat/water/ reasons unknown. We had our socks wet at Pangong Lake, God knows how that happened. It was a good thing we carried extra pairs of socks which helped our feet not get frozen)
What is AMS?
- AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness is a common issue with tourists up there.
- Many people experience mild AMS during the acclimatization process (the first 1 to 3 days at a given altitude)
- It occurs if one doesn’t let their body get acclimatized to less oxygen (high altitudes)
- It can hit ANYONE! I know a lot of people, who are physically fit and strong were hit by AMS.
- The occurrence of AMS depends on the altitude, the rate of ascent, and individual susceptibility.
How to treat/avoid AMS?
- Run and walk less on day 1 in Leh. Rest on your bed on day 1 EVEN if you ARE NOT TIRED.
- Symptoms usually start 12-24 hours after arrival at altitude and include headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, nausea, disturbed sleep, and a general feeling of malaise.
- You can take a medicine DAIMOX which helps fight AMS. The result of this medicine is a little slow hence it is advisable to take this medicine 24 hours before you reach Ladakh and continue it for your entire trip. Of course, do consult your family physician once before consuming these medicines.
- But, this is not how you have to let your body adjust to altitude gain. These symptoms are a way that your body exhibits to tell you that its getting adjusted to the altitude gain.
- A natural way to treat or avoid AMS is to consume a lot of water, butter and/or onions during the trip. Start consuming at least 4 liters of water at least 2 weeks before your trip to any high altitude place. AMS occurs due to shortage of oxygen and water helps provide that (H2O)
So here is a list of medicines that I carried on my trip. You can purchase these medicines in medical shops in Leh market too.
I did not want to take any risk since we had a mountain road trip before Leh as well.
Please keep them handy even if you do not have any sickness. These are new terrains and is not your next-door vacay – Better to be safe than sorry.
- Medicines for cold, cough, fever etc
- Motion sickness tablets
- O2 tablet – for loose motions
- Crepe bandage
- Oxygen can (You can get this at the airport or any local medical shop in Leh)
- Balm / Vicks
- Any other medicines that you need.
In case you hit AMS, consult the local doctor immediately like how did, in Leh market (my other friends were fine).
Contact numbers in case of medical emergency:
- Sonum Norbu Hospital 01982-252014 / 253629
- Chief Medical Officer – Leh 01982 – 252012
- Torch / Head torch (in case your phone battery dies)
- Portable charger (Keep it wrapped in your clothes since lesser temperature tends to drain the batteries faster)
- 3 pin plug point (since more of the hotels/guest houses have only 1-3 plug points, you can use your 3 pin plug point to charge more gadgets at a single time while sharing the same with your family/friends)
- Extra camera/GoPro batteries (in case the one inside drains out during the day)
Last few tips
- If you have any winter clothes/shoes etc. to give it away. Please give it away to the not-so-fortunate- locals before or after your usage. It will make them immensely happy.
- Be mentally prepared. Whatever happened (sickness) to me, didn’t happen to my friends. I am letting everyone know just a tiny bad side to this trip. Let these worries not hamper your excitement and happiness of the trip by taking these precautions beforehand.
- Last but not least, I would request you to watch these 30 seconds videos before you plan your trip on how you can make your travel non-polluting if not sustainable. Video credits – AbhiandNiyu
- The original school from 3 idiots – Watch here
- Meet the Ice Man of Ladakh who is helping its environment – Watch here
- Combat plastic pollution by earning money – Watch here.
- The history behind our gorgeous Pangong Lake which is in India because of our soldiers’ sacrifice – Watch here
Comment below if anything else has also helped you in your Leh travel 🙂
Other links you might find interesting to read:
- A week in Jammu and Kashmir – Srinagar to Leh
- Meet the Tattooed Headhunters of India in Nagaland
- Meghalaya under INR 10,000 for 7 days
- Why should you visit Arunachal Pradesh- the Land of the Rising Sun?
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