7 Useful Tips for a Self Drive to Leh – Ladakh

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With Leh – Ladakh season in full swing now, lots of adventure lovers prepare themselves to go for a self drive run over the roof of the World via the ever enthralling and adventurous Manali – Leh Highway. I would like to share 7 useful tips for your upcoming self drive expedition to Leh- Ladakh that you might want to keep at back of your mind, rather always on mind, before you dive into the dream drive of your life to Leh – Ladakh:

Ladakh 2012 | Nubra - Shyok - Pangong Tso Route

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1. Over-confidence is your biggest enemy, so keep it away!!

Never be over confident that you are master of driving, you have done Rohtang Pass ‘x’ number of times, you are a champ driver in plains etc. because driving to Ladakh especially via Manali – Leh Highway could be one of the strangest and adventurous drive you will ever undertake in life. Never think that any overlying stone will not hit the underbelly, never think that the road ahead is straight as an arrow like runway and you can cruise through it etc. … Such a thinking can get you/your vehicle stranded in the middle of no where for hours to up to days.

Even the smoothest and straightest of the roads, which look like super fine, newly laid tarmac are washed in between or have sudden bumps in them which can badly hurt your vehicle. If you see a big rock lying in between on road especially at sections with loose gravel then it is always you better step out and throw it away to make your way instead of taking any chance and getting your car’s underbelly hurt with it.

2. Never rush through a any tricky section of the road

Whenever, you are in doubt about some rough section of the road, may be landslide section or pathetically rough road or a water crossing etc. then never, ever rush through it. Rather, carefully analyse that section by parking your vehicle aside and judging the situation. Try to see how other vehicles are crossing that section. And, if required, check/inspect the trouble section on your foot to prepare an exit route through it in your mind. Then finally go for it.

3. Know Your Vehicle Well

It is very important to know about your vehicle because you might find some of the stretches or sections of the road which are not possible to cross without a hit or scratches under-belly, especially with hatchbacks and sedans. In such, situations you need to know which parts of the underbelly of your car you might need to protect especially oil sump (which you need to protect all round the trip) and which parts you can let get hit from below or have some scratches.

4. Do Not Use Heaters

Use of heaters should be avoided at any cost especially at the places like Manali – Leh Highway and Ladakh because the warm air by heater destroys the levels of oxygen content present inside and can make breathing very difficult and aggravate the AMS Symptoms.

5. Do Not Drink & Drive

Should be first and foremost, but still, PLEASE do not booze/drink at all while you are driving in Himalayas, especially the Manali – Leh Highway which runs above 14000 feet at major portion of it. Boozing or Drinking means you will have some real trouble in getting acclimatized with alcohol in your belly 🙂 and of course, will create lapse in concentration while driving.

6. Always Help Others

While traveling in mighty Himalayas, you must always help other people stuck on their way with whatever you can offer, be it a lift, push, pull, fuel, spares, rope etc. because the help is always hard to find especially at places like Manali – Leh Highway, Changthang or other remote routes of Ladakh. Do not forget, this can happen to you at the very next turn and it does not feel much good when someone comes after hours and passes by without offering any help. So, please always help others who are in need. It actually defines the spirit of Traveller inside you 🙂

7. Carry Essentials and other Spare Parts

On a self-drive to Ladakh trip, one should always try to carry:

  • Basic Toolkit including Jack and Spanner
  • Air Compressor and Foot pump
  • Hydraulic Jack
  • Spare Tyre (Check for puncture before leaving)
  • Puncture Repair Kit
  • Screwdriver Set
  • Torchlight
  • Jump Start Cables
  • Spare Bulbs
  • Tow Away Rope approx. 3-6 ton Capacity
  • 1-2 Jerry Cans / Coke Bottles to carry spare fuel
  • Funnel
  • Spare Coolant and Engine Oil
  • A Long Stick/Rod
  • A Shovel and a Hammer
  • 2-3 Packs of M-Seal and Quick Fix/Fevi-Quick/Elfy
  • Plenty of Drinking Water and Snacks/Dry Fruits

For a more comprehensive list of spare parts & tools to carry with you in your car on a Ladakh trip, you can read our guide at the link: How to prepare your car for a Ladakh or Himalayan Trip

Apart from the above driving related list, I use to follow my list of things to carry whenever I Travel anywhere including Leh – Ladakh. Also, do not forget to get your vehicle serviced before 2-3 weeks when you go on a self drive to Ladakh.

Conclusion

I hope the above tips would be useful in your upcoming Leh – Ladakh trip. Please share it with others and if you happen to have done a self – drive to Leh – Ladakh before, kindly share your valuable inputs and suggestions as tips to other travel self drive enthusiasts here who are ready to take on this remote region of mighty Himalayas – Ladakh

If you found above article useful, then PLEASE stay connected with us on Facebook or Twitter or Email Subscription for any himalayan travel queries or travel updates / tips / news / guides on Traveling to Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kashmir and other parts of Himalayas. Travel, off the road with us...


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You can call me an Avid Traveler, a Day - Night Dreamer and a Passionate Lover of Himalayas who has a high zest for driving whilst exploring new places in Himalayas & sharing back those Himalayan Travel experiences with the other fellow Travelers... I am in love with Spreading Smiles in Himalayas through DoW Causes & currently enjoying life as Happy Traveling Soul at DoW Community. You can read more about me in detail at the link here ...

583 Comments

  1. Mahendra Singh Meena on

    Hi Dheeraj

    We are three people (including my 9 years old doughter), planning to visit Leh in probably from June 10th to 24th. We are self driving with 6 months old Maruti Baleno Delta Petrol. After going through valuable suggestions from your blog I have decided to to do Dellhi-Srinagar-Leh-Manali-Delhi Circle. We will be following itinerary, which you have suggested. My questions are:

    1. Is it advisable to use Baleno for entire trip (all locations on itinerary), it have ground clearance of 170mm. Keeping in mind that me and my wife are relatively new drivers. We have experience of driving of about 7000 odd kms in planes.
    2. What precaution we should take, with respect to car, other then servicing, which I got it done mt April last week.
    3. Do we have to make any changes in air filter or anything?
    4. Should we come back via Srinagar?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Mahendra,

      You will surely gonna feel pity for your new car man unless you love adventure more than your car. Otherwise, with some challenges, you should be able to make a trip as 1000s of people do it this Ladakh trip every year with hatches and sedans. Rest, please read the article above for precautions and tips.

      In case you feel the Srinagar – Leh and then roads within Ladakh were a breeze and no nerve was moved inside while driving on these roads, may be give a try to Manali – Leh Highway else if you regret up to Ladakh, then please return via Srinagar side.

  2. Rajeeve Singh on

    Hi Dheeraj,
    We are four people (including my 8 years old son), planning to visit leh ladakh from 30th May to 8th June 2017. We are self-driving with New ford Endeavour 4×4, from Delhi.
    I read your blog and understand that Manali –leh highway would not be open at that time. Is it possible to make a trip via kinnaur?
    What should be our itinerary? We would also like to do self-camping.
    Thanks
    Rajeeve

    • By the end of May, Manali – Leh Highway might open. However, if you postpone it by a week it will really help. Also, if you go from Srinagar side it will help. The road from Kinnaur – Spiti meets Manali – Leh Highway only at Gramphu.

      Only 9 days with family, road trip to Ladakh will be very tiring on them.

  3. Thank you for the tip. We plan to take the srinagar – leh – manali route in July. Is it safe to drive with Chevy spark? Is it safe for women drivers?

    • Arun Hooda on

      Ya definitely u can done with I20 but with little care and alertnessn I done it with my 2004 Skoda Octavia in 2014. Via srinagar / kargil raod conditions was very good in 2014 except Zojjila pass but via manali/ sarchu u may face bad roads even no roads, u have to cross many water streams & be prepared for snow in some high altitude passes.
      Before going u have to read out leh self driving tips and comments on leh section in DOW.

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