Here is a list of all the questions we had before our Ladakh trip. Take a look at what Wikipedia has to say about Ladakh. If you have any more, ask in the comments and thou shalt be answered.
Ladakh trip: Can I drive all day and night?
Not at all. You start riding at first light and stop well before it gets dark. At night, it becomes unbearably cold. Also, if you get stuck somewhere at night, there won’t be anyone to help you for hundreds of kilometers. You have to keep in mind that most of the areas you will go through are uninhabited. There isn’t anyone there in the day except passing tourists, at night it’s going to be lonely. Don’t take any chances during your Ladakh trip, you are going to regret it.
Another reason you can’t drive after dark, water on the road. There will be many places where glaciers melt and the water crosses the road. Since the glaciers freeze up at night, before afternoon there isn’t much water in these areas. However, as soon as the sun gets hot, the water level increases, after evening is the worst time to cross these areas.
How is the road?
Well, there isn’t much. After Manali, till Leh, then onto Pangong and Nubra, there is 30% road and 70% off-road. You will find sections of great asphalt, and also areas with huge stones in the way. This Ladakh trip is going to be a proper off-roading experience.
How cold is it?
It’s very cold, extremely cold. If you on a motorcycle, then it’s even worse. When we crossed Khardungla, the world’s highest motorable pass, Akhil was wearing 3 sweaters, riding jacket with warm liner, riding pants with warm liner, 6 pair of socks with plastic bag on top, inside a full sized gum boot, winter gloves and full faced helmet. Even then he was shivering like a leaf.
Do I need to carry thermal wear?
Absolutely! Even if you are going in a car, you gotta come out for food and tea. If you aren’t wearing thermal wear, you are going to feel the pinch.
How much is the cost of a Ladakh trip?
On a motorcycle, it cost us around 20,000 per person to arrange for proper riding gear and luggage. The cost of the trip itself was around 25,000 rupees. That included everything from train transportation to hotel stay, fuel and food etc. A Ladakh trip can never be cheap, it’s your life against money!
What is AMS and how can I beat it?
AMS is Acute Mountain Sickeness. It happens because of the low amount of oxygen available at high altitudes. Symptoms include nausea, headache, light-headedness and lack of energy etc. I had a fight with AMS on my Ladakh trip, and trust me, you don’t want it anywhere near you!
The biggest cause of AMS is dehydration. People on the trip forget to drink enough water, they just keep on riding.
To beat AMS, take the following steps:
- Drink lots and lots of water mixed with glucose.
- Take everything slow. Even little labor at high altitudes will leave you spent.
- Take one Diamox at Manali on the morning when you leave for Leh. Diamox takes one hour to start working.
- Don’t push too hard, take the trip slow. Ascent slowly, decent slowly.
- If you feel the symptoms creeping up, stop and take some rest. Don’t keep pushing.
Can you do Manali to Leh with 1 stop at Sarchu?
Yes you can, but you shouldn’t. This trip is all about appreciating natural beauty, so take 2 stops from Manali to Leh and go slow, enjoy the scenery. Also, if you take 2 stops, it gives your body more time to acclimatize to the high altitudes, reducing chances of getting AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). The main point during a Ladakh trip is to take it slow, enjoy the ride and take enough rest.
Can you go to Nubra valley and come back in the same day?
Theoretically yes, practically no. Nubra valley is reached by passing through Khardungla, the highest motorable road in the world. Passing it twice in one day isn’t such a good idea. Plus, Nubra valley is such a beautiful place you just got to spend a night there. Go slow, enjoy the views.
Can you go to Pangong Tso lake and come back in the same day?
Not at all. Pangong Tso is too far away to cover in one day. Plus you need to go through the third highest motorable pass in the world, Chang la. Pangong lake is the most beautiful part of the entire trip, its beauty has no challenge, in entire India. Spend the night there, watch the sun go down and then back up, it’s totally worth it. You can stay at one of many tents available there, like I did on my Ladakh trip.
Can you do Leh to Srinagar in one day?
Yes you can. It is a very good road, with a few sections bad around Zojila pass and Sonamarg. There are chances of rain, which will make the route full of slippery slush. Having said that, you should take a stop at Kargil, go to the Kargil war memorial and pay your respects.
What riding gear do I need for Ladakh trip?
Everything! This is the kind of trip riding gear is made for. Get a riding jacket, pants, shoes, gloves, balaclava and full face helmet. Keep in mind that all of your riding gear should be good to go against rain, hail and snow. Don’t cheap out on your Ladakh trip, it is worth preparing for the worst!
What riding luggage do I need?
All of it! Chose a good saddle bag, tank bag and hydration system. The hydration system is important, since drinking a lot of water keeps AMS at bay. When you are riding, sometimes you forget to drink enough water. With a hydration system, you won’t need to stop to take a sip, a must have item for a Ladakh trip.
Do I need to learn how to be a bike mechanic for a Ladakh trip?
No you don’t. Service your bike before leaving for the trip. You will get mechanics till Manali. Check the bike before leaving Manali, because till Leh you won’t get anything. At Leh, there are lots of service stations, get your bike in good shape there again. Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso lakes also don’t have any bike stations, so check your ride before leaving for these destinations. On the way to Srinagar, you get lots of mechanics, so no trouble there.
The point is, before you leave for a place that is going to be without mechanics, get your bike checked. The people there are very helpful, and so is the Army. If you do happen to have a snag, someone will help you. So don’t leave your job and become a mechanic just for a Ladakh trip!
Do I need to carry full set of bike repair tools?
Not the whole deal, the tool set that comes with the bike is enough. If you know bike repair, then carry a full set, maybe you can help someone else.
Do I need tubeless tires for Ladakh trip?
Oh yes you do. Tubeless tires, even if punctured, can be driven long distances by just putting in more air. They also lose air slowly, unlike tires with tube, which go flat in one second and can cause an accident. Tubeless puncture is easy to fix. For a Ladakh trip, tubeless tires are a must have.
Do I need puncture kit?
Yes. Carry the tubeless puncture kit. If you have the kit, all you need is an air pump to fix your puncture. You can buy one from Ebay for 150 rupees and it is a life saver.
Do I need an air pump for Ladakh trip?
It would be a good idea to carry one. Most bikes don’t break down easily, but tires get punctured rather frequently. If you have tubeless tires, puncture kit and foot air pump, tires will not bother you at all. You can fix a puncture in less than 15 minutes.
Should I go on my own or with a tour group?
This is debatable and depends on your level of experience. If you are a seasoned rider and have driven 300-400 kilometers in a day before, go on your own bike. If you are a novice, it might be a better idea to go with a tour group. Here are the pros and cons of both for a Ladakh trip:
Tour Group pros:
- Safety: You go in a group with a support truck behind, which contains basic medical equipment as well.
- Comfort: If you face trouble during the ride, you can just sit back in the truck and relax. You don’t have to find hotels and bargain, neither you have to worry about permits, route etc.
- Ease of trip: All you have to do is show up at their office with your clothes. They will give you the bike, petrol, helmet, riding gear, the whole deal. You can leave the bike wherever you want, they will take care of it. Gives you flexibility.
Tour Group cons:
- Cost: Going with a tour group is going to cost substantially more than going on your own. The difference is somewhere in the range of 10,000 to 20,000 rupees.
- Inflexible schedule: Tour groups have a plan, we go from point A to B via C. If you are on your own, you may wish to stay longer at C, or go to some other place called D. You need to follow the group, like it or not.
- Too easy: If you want to go to Ladakh, chances are you are into adventure. Going with a tour group takes all the risk away from this ride. You get mechanics, support, medical aid the whole deal. It takes some fun out of this epic adventure.
Going on your own pros:
- You go where your heart goes: You want to stay at Pangong lake for 7 days? Be your own guest. You can do whatever you like.
- Cost: As discussed above, it costs a lot less to go on your own than with a tour group.
- Knowing your bike: Ladakh is a ride where you must know your bike absolutely well, it is critical. There is no margin for error there. You must know how quickly your bike will stop on gravel, how much it can turn, how much mileage it gives. If you go with a tour group, you go on their bike. That might not be a good idea at tricky spots.
- Your bike deserves to go: Riders have a relation with their bikes. It’s not that I went to Ladakh, it’s that I and my bike went to Ladakh.
Going on your own Cons:
- Lack of support: The people are helpful there, there is no security issue at all. However, going on your own or with a few friends does leave you vulnerable in case of a major problem. What if your chain break off? Nobody can pull your disabled bike on that terrain.
- Struggle for route and hotels: You will need to go into the city and check out a few different hotels, then bargain for the price and so on. You will also need to regularly keep a check on the route you are taking, one wrong turn takes you to a whole new place.
What permits do I need for a complete Ladakh trip?
You will need permits to cross Rohtang pass and for Nubra valley and Pangong lake. If you cross Rohtang early in the morning, chances are no one will be there to check your permit. For Nubra and Pangong, you need 2 permits each.
What do I need to get permits?
You need one photocopy of your identity proof each to secure these permits.
Hope this info helps in your Ladakh trip! Ride safe and have fun.