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If you are traveling solo without a vehicle or traveling in a group without any means of transport to Leh and are on a small budget then there are many options available to you. Most of these are not discussed much on the internet. You can avail these if you are travelling alone because there is nobody else to share your costs. Taxis are one of the costliest options in Leh-Ladakh, so avoiding them can save you a lot of money. If you are travelling without a vehicle then J&K State Road Transport (JKSRTC) buses are your best option. Contrary to popular belief there are consistent buses to sites like Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley etc. The frequency is low but its consistent. People in Tourism department accept unofficially that they are unable to increase the frequency because of low usage and pressure from the taxi lobby.

Firstly some General Tips to see Leh-Ladakh

We suggest you carry all the essentials including the ones suggested below with yourself from your home as Leh & Ladakh are very costly areas. As the tourist season is only for five-six months from May to Sept all the prices are based on the assumption that the local people earn for six months and survive with that earning for 12 months.

  • Give yourself 24 to 36 hours of rest aftter you land in Leh to acclamatize. Drink lots of fluids and rest well. Do not do any strenous activity the first day.
  • Start early: Wake up early and start early for any visit.
  • Walk to go around in Leh & elsewhere: Walking can give you good physical exercise and also save you money.
  • Use a cap or scarf: Keep a cap or scarf with you to cover you head & face to save your skin from sunburn.
  • Use a Sunscreen cream: Purchase a 50spf sunscreen cream / lotion for your face, nose, hands etc as Sun is very sharp in Ladakh.
  • Use sunglasses: Keep sunglasses to protect your eyes from the bright sun and ultraviolet (UV) rays, especially the ones with UV protection.
  • Carry a mask, scarf or cloth to cover your nose: This is to save you from dust & pollution which is common in Leh. Especially diesel exhaust of cars & larger vehicles.
  • Hotel rates are negotiable: Negotiate with hotel owners, they will give you better rates than what they quote the first time

If you land at the Leh airport, please visit the Tourism counter, they will provide you with a map of Leh / Ladakh, a coloured brochure with good & useful information about Ladakh, a Health advisory and a feedback form. Even if you are short of time spend five minutes and collect these. They will be very handy for your travel in Leh / Ladakh. If you reach Leh by road then visit the Tourism office near Main Bazar opposite J&K Bank. They are open from 10am to 8pm. They will also provide you the same brochures and answer any of your queries. They have facility to check your blood pressure at a nominal charge of Rs.10/- and an Oxygen bar which charges Rs.50/-. This is the office where foreigners can also get Inner Line Permits (ILP). You can find the official Hotel List and Taxi Rates provided by Leh tourism here.

Most of the monastries and palaces in Ladakh are similar so if you visit one or two of them you will get a good idea of what all they have and what they look like. We suggest you visit Thksay and Hemis monastries as they are well maintained and worth visiting. If you have seen Leh Palace then you can skip Shey Palace which mainly consists of ruins of the original palace.

Travelling by Bus in Ladakh

To travel to Nubra Valley and Pangong lake at low cost you can use the public transport provided by JKSRTC with details given below. As the travel time to both these places is more than five-six hours the buses return the next day back from these sites. This is convenient in many ways as it gives visitors time for sight seeing. The only thing travellers must take care of is to find a place to stay in the night at these locations. There is no dearth of places to stay though.

JKSRTC Office Phone at New Bus Stand, Leh: +91-1982-252085 (Timing: 8 am to 8 pm)

# Place of Travel Mode Starting From Cost Days of Operation Time, Arrival at Destination Return Remarks
1 Nubra Valley (Turtuk, Hundar, Diskit) Bus New Bus Stand at Leh Rs. 317, Rs. 220, ~Rs.200 Every Saturday (Once a week) 6 am sharp,
Around 1.30/2pm at Hundar
Sunday (Next day) around 6 am Book one day in advance (try two days in advance to get front seats)
2 Nubra Valley (Turtuk, Hundar, Diskit) Shared Taxi Taxi Stand near Polo Ground Rs.600, ~Rs.400, Rs.400 Every Day 6 am to 10 am (even later), About 6 Hrs after departure Every day Morning Go early morning to catch early taxis.
3 Pangong Lake (Pangong Tso) Bus New Bus Stand at Leh Rs.270 Every Tue, Thur, Sat (Thrice a week) 6.30 am sharp, Around 2.30/3pm Every Wed, Fri, Sun (Next day) at 8 am Book one day in advance (try two days in advance to get front seats). No booking for return trip, just board the bus at Pangong and take a ticket.

 

The travel agencies in Leh offer trips to Nubra Valley and Pangong Lake from about Rs. 1,600/- to Rs. 2,000/- per person on four-five people sharing a taxi as their total cost is about Rs.8,000/-. If you are looking for total comfort than you can take this option else look at the options above.

Bus(es) from Diskit to Turtuk in Nubra Valley

There is a single mini bus going daily from Diskit bus stand to Turtuk (a distance of about 70km) at 2.30pm via Hundar. Hundar is about 8km from Diskit and Turtuk is further ahead. There are shared taxis going from Diskit to Turtuk for Rs. 200/-.

Leh Airport to City and vice versa

a) Arriving in Leh

The charges for Pre-Paid taxi from the Leh airport to Leh City (Main Bazaar), a distance of about 4km are Rs. 250/- and for Changspa is Rs. 270/-. Changspa is the area which is filled with multitudes of guest houses. If you come out of the airport and negotiate with some cab drivers they can take you to most of the places in Leh for about Rs.250/-. As you can see this is overpriced, if you can get some friend to pick you up or find an alternative, this expense can be saved. There are two other alternatives to reach the Leh city in case you don't have much luggage:

  • Shared Cabs on main highway opposite the airport complex: Come out of the airport on the main highway. You can get shared cabs (mostly Maruti Vans) coming from Spituk who will take you to Leh Gate near the Leh Main bazaar for Rs.10 (this is a fraction of the normal Rs.250/-). You will have to wait patiently for the cabs and hail them. This is used by most of the airport employees to commute to Leh city.
  • Walk from the airport to the Leh city: Another alternative is to walk to Leh either via the main road or if you are going to Changspa then to walk using a very infrequently used route parallel to the highway. Walk about 500 meters on the main highway towards the city, you will see a left turn just before a small market of shops of hardware. Take this left turn (a landmark on your right is the Prasar Bharti's (AIR) office) and walk about half a kilometer crossing another perpendicular road on the way. You will reach a T junction with a large Army's Signal's area. Take a right here and walk straight for about four kilometers via a village and military area and you will reach the bottom of Shanti Stupa at Leh. If you keep walking straight here you can reach Sankar area of Leh. You take a right at the Stupa into Changspa area and walk a bit longer to reach the Main Bazaar via Changspa.

b) Departing from Leh

To go to Leh airport you can catch a shared taxi from Leh Gate going towards Spituk or Skalzangling. Many of these taxis go till Skalzangling main bazar. The ariport is about a kilometer ahead of the Skalzangling main bazar. The taxis going till Spituk can drop you right in front of the airport. The primary issue is that all flights from and to Leh are early in the morning at which time the frequency of these shared taxis is low and erratic.

Please reach the airport two hours in advance before your flight as all flights from Leh are early in the morning till 1030/1100Hrs and there is a major rush. Check-in and Security checks are slow and take a long time. There is a single Security gate so the queue to pass that is very long. If you arrive just one hour before the flight you can get stuck. One of the low cost airline flying from Leh expects that you arrive early but haven't written it on the ticket or instructions.

Reasonably priced Restaurants & Cafes in Leh

Food is one of the costliest items in Leh after cabs so we suggest you find reasonably priced food joints. You can also check out our suggestions on where to eat in Leh.

  • Punjabi Tadka in Zasti area (near IDBI bank), close to main bazaar. They have a normal thali for Rs.90/-. Try their Aloo Paratha (Rs. 60 for a pair, Rs.40 for packing without any curry or curd) and Gulab Jamun, priced at Rs.30/- a pair. If you are leaving early morning for some trek or trip, get a pair of Aloo Paratha packed with pickle, if you like.
  • Little Cafe on Changspa Road. They also have a thali at dinner time for Rs.90/-. Other dishes are also very reasonably priced. Try their Veg Chowmein (Rs.70/-).
  • Chinese Bowl (also referred to as Champi after the owner) on Changspa Road. Its a pure Vegetarian Restaurant half way between the Changspa road and very economical. It is yellow in colour and you have to climb 4-5 steps from the road to reach it.

There are probably other restaurants also similarly priced in Leh but they would be very FEW. Most of the restaurants are overpriced and focued totally on foreign clients. You will rarely find a dish priced below Rs.150/- in Leh. Going by that analysis the above restraurants are the best option to reduce your food expense.

How to go to Thiksay Monastery

Thiksay monastery is one of the best monastries to visit and as its near Leh, its easily reachable. Its about 35km from Leh. Its open from 7am to 7pm (slight variation is possible in exact timing). This monastery has an entrance fee of Rs.30/- for each person. The money thus collected is used to maintain the monastery. Catch a shared taxi from Leh Gate (this is in between Leh Main Bazar and Leh New Bus stand) to Choglamsar taxi stand which will cost you Rs.20/-. Take another shared taxi or mini bus going to Thiksay Monastery. The charges from Choglamsar to Thiksay are Rs.20/-. You can also try hitching a ride either way. Many motorists coming to Leh or going back towards Thiksay from Leh will give you a free ride during day time.

Information about Inner Line Permits (ILP)

Permits are required by all foreigners to travel in Ladakh region. Indians used to require a permit earlier but it has been discontinued. The typical cost of permit is Rs.650/- if applied using a travel agency (includes Rs.270 Govt Tax + Rs.20 per day for social work organization(s) working in Ladakh + Rs.20 per day for wildlife protection approximately) per person which totals Rs.540/- for a week, the rest is travel agency's commission). Maximum time duration for which a permit can be taken is a week. If you need to travel for a longer duration it should be renewed. Any number of people can take a single permit. Though the charges menitioned above are per person. A single person cannot get a permit so you must visit some travel agency and they will club your name with some other traveller(s) to enable granting of permit.

Tips for Bikers

  • Please drive slowly & carefully on highways as many roads have stones lying on them left by truckers & other larger vehicles who use them to stop their vehicles from rolling on the road. They do not remove them from the road when they move on.
  • Avoid driving in the night

Visiting Leh Palace

Leh Palace stands in one corner of the Leh city and can be covered on foot. The entry fee for this monument is Rs. 15/- for Indians and Rs. 200/- for foreigners. A suggestion for foreighners, this is avoidable as the palace only consists of dark, low height rooms with nothing in them. The only place of interest in the whole palace is a small prayer room which is similar to innumberable other prayer rooms in Buddhist shrines and monastries.

Visiting Pangong Tso (Pangong Lake)

Pangong Lake is a beautiful sight seeing spot. On a sunny day you can see the lake in all its beauty and multiple hues of the lake waters are seen to be believed. Its a very peaceful place to be in. If you travel by Bus to Pangong Lake you need not worry much about the night stay as there is plenty of cheap accomodation available. A hotel and restaurant just next to the final bus stop provides accomodation at Rs.300/bed. Each of the rooms have three-four beds which is more like a dormitory. If multiple people combine you can take up a room. These rooms have blankets and are warm enough for a good night's sleep. The arrangement for taking bath is not satisfactory but if you are there for a single night you can just clean yourself with some warm water in the morning and not take a full bath. There are other hotels like Padma etc where most of the bikers stay which also charges about Rs.350/- per night per bed. Most of these hotels don't have contact numbers so its difficult to do advance booking. The food in Pangong is costly just like Leh but the reason is obvious, all the raw material for it comes by bus from Leh. We suggest you keep some jacket and warm clothing as the lake can become very cold in the evening and if its a windy day, you will not be able to stay out long without a warm jacket. If that happens the purpose of going to the lake can be defeated.

Some Information about typical Bike (Motorcyclle) and Bicycle Rentals in Leh

# Mode & Models Cost (in Indian Rs.) for FULL day Cost (in Indian Rs.) for HALF day Timing Remarks
1 Bike (Motorcycle)*:       Rs. 100 extra for side carriers on all models.
  Royal Enfield 500cc 1,600 1,000   * All bike/scooty prices are courtesy Albatross Travels: +91-9622954248, +91-9596651683, +91-8492053309
  Royal Enfield 350cc 1,300 800    
  Electra 350cc 1,100 700    
  Standard 350cc 1,000 600    
  Hero Impulse / Yamaha FZ / Bajaj Pulsar 150 800 500    
2 Scooty 800 500    
3 Mountain Bicycle* 500 to 700
800 to 1200 (High End bicycles)
  8am to 8pm You can keep the cycle overnight with yourself if booked for multiple days or if you are leaving early morning before the rental shop opens. Rental shop will give you a pump, puncture kit etc.
*Prices courtesy Himalayan Bikers +91-9906989109, +91-9469049270, www.himalayan-bikers.com

These prices, we believe are negotiable. So you can bargain with the bike providers.

Information updated till 6th July, 2016.

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