A trip to Ladakh features on the bucket list of almost every Indian as well as a number of foreigners. The rugged charm of the cold desert region, the endless winding roads, the high mountain passes, the high-altitude lakes, the serenity.. all add up to making this one of the most sought-after destinations.
This beauty and serenity comes with its own set of issues though and a little precaution can go a long way in making the trip more comfortable and hassle-free. To this end, we have compiled a list of Do's and Don'ts and precautions and suggestions for Ladakh travellers to keep in mind. So here goes...!
1. Carry water and emergency rations in the form of dry fruits, snack bars, dry snacks and chocolates while on the road. There are occasions when one gets stranded in the middle of nowhere due to a landslide or a particularly nasty naala crossing. At such times, emergency rations come in handy.
2. Carry warm clothes handy with you at all times as weather in the mountains can be unpredictable.
3. Ensure you have sufficient fuel for the distance till the availability of the next fuel pump. Sometimes, the distance between availability of fuel can be in the range of hundreds of kilometers depending on the planned route, so stocking up on fuel is essential. Also, carry printed maps as gps is not available en route, and running out of battery on your device means you will not have access to off-line maps.
4. Also ensure you have the necessary toolkit and spares for your vehicle as well as a working knowledge of fixing basic issues. Availability of mechanics and service centers is limited to towns like Kargil, Leh, Diskit, Keylong, etc. only and no such service will be available en route.
5. Carry all necessary permits with you to be submitted at various check-posts as well as identification documents like a driving licence, voter id card, etc.
6. Ensure you carry all necessary medication in a medical kit.
For a basic list of medicines, click here.
* Please note that while diamox is recommended to avoid altitude sickness, it is best taken under prescription from your physician.
7. In the event of any hint of mountain sickness, do descend to a lower altitude as quickly as possible and stop for first aid at any medical center available on the way. There are a number of army run centers along the major routes.
8. Carry portable oxygen cylinders for aid in times of emergency.
For more information on AMS, click here.
9. Do take time to acclimatise to the high altitude especially if landing directly into Leh. Spend the first day resting and taking short, slow walks.
10. Ensure that the body is hydrated adequately starting a week before the trip and continue to have adequate water and fluids like black tea and warm water, when possible.
11. It is advisable to travel as light as possible and to use back-packs and ruck-sacks instead of suitcases and trolley bags as the former cause less exertion and also leave the hands free to clamber over landslides with your luggage, if required as well as to carry luggage up and down from the rooms to the vehicles and vice versa.
12. Carry one set of thermals and clothing that can be layered to mix and match as per the weather on any particular day. Also advisable to carry one set of rain gear, especially for bikers as rain and snow may be encountered depending on the season of travel. Do carry modest clothes that cover the arms and legs for monastery visits as entry to these places of worship may be restricted in case of inappropriate clothing.
13. Carry comfortable footwear which is easy to walk in and also to remove and wear. The trip will involve a fair amount of walking and also footwear will have to be removed a number of times while visiting any monastery, so a good mix to suit the two requirements is advisable. For bikers, shoes are a must, along with protective gear.
14. Use of credit cards is possible only in very few establishments in the big towns and a number of them levy a surcharge. It is, therefore, advisable to estimate the costs that will be incurred and carry cash for the trip. ATMs are available in Leh and in few other small towns but chances are that will have run out of cash due to the large tourist demand.
15. Carry extra camera and phone batteries as electricity may not be available at all stops en route. Regarding cellular phone networks, prepaid cards do not work in the region. Do make sure you have a postpaid number and check with your service provider regarding network coverage availability... or you could just unplug and enjoy the surroundings. :)
16. Before clicking pictures, ask for permission from people who you plan to click and also check the rules of photography at monuments. Photography is prohibited at some places en route as well, like bridges, etc. which are important from security and military point of view.
17. Carry sunscreen and sunglasses as the sun can be quite harsh.
18. Respect your pristine and serene surroundings and avoid loud music, singing and screaming as it disturbs other visitors as well frightens off the wildlife.
1. Don't run or exert the body at an altitude till acclimatised properly. Avoid carrying heavy bags, trekking, climbing steps too fast or similar strenuous activity.
2. It is best not to ignore any signs of discomfort or symptoms of the beginning of AMS like dizziness, nausea, headaches, irritability, etc.
3. Avoid plastic bags as plastic is banned in Ladakh. Even if carried, the bags must be brought bag and disposed of after returning.
4. Do not litter. Ladakh is a remote destination and an ecologically sensitive region. Garbage cleaning crews do not access remote locations so avoid throwing wrappers, bottles, etc out of your car window while travelling.
5. Do not click pictures at places where it is forbidden and do not use flash inside monasteries as the light damages the old frescoes.
6. Avoid smoking & drinking while in Ladakh as this dehydrates the body and also may lead to AMS by reducing oxygen supply to the blood.
7. Avoid running around at high passes or spending more than 10-15 mins at high passes to prevent chances of AMS.
8. Do not touch Thankas or statues or frescoes in monasteries or heritage sites and avoid smoking on the premises.
9. Avoid riding alone on bikes along the longer routes. Preferable to go in groups in order to have help handy in case of a breakdown.
10. Avoid buying bottled water. Carry a bottle with you that can be refilled at any of the halts en route or at the hotel or guesthouse where putting up for the night.
Ladakh is a wonderful destination and the local people are very warm, friendly and hospitable. Respect the culture and your unique surroundings as well as the nature of the terrain you are visiting.
Happy travelling! :)