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

Other parts of the series
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 ...

613 Comments

  1. Bhaskar Roy on

    We are planning for Manali-Leh travel during Sept first half with a Xylo car and experienced local driver. Is the choice of car is OK or not?

  2. NITISH AGRAWAL on

    Hi Dheeraj, we are a group of 5 guys planning for a self-drive road trip with an aim to chill and experience adventure at the same time. We are planning to start on 22nd July from Srinagar- Kargil-leh-Nubra-Pangong-Leh-Sarchu-Kasol-Chandigarh-Delhi on my uncles Toyota Fortuner. Though we all are safe & good drivers but not having much experience in hilly terrains. My question to you is,
    (1) Is it safe for self-driving on Leh-Manali route?
    (2) Since we are to cover all above-mentioned destinations in a span of 11 days with having only one night to stay at every destination, will the trip it be too hectic from a bachelor trip point of view?
    (3) Or should we just start from Srinagar towards staying in Leh for a few days and then back to Srinagar?

    Much thanks in advance.

    • Hi Nitish,

      You have High GC vehicle, so GC will not be an issue. You should be cautious and careful and in case you have confidence with the dimensions of large car with gaps and all, you should be OK with it. You can check a very balanced and most common itinerary for Leh – Ladakh followed by many travellers including me at the link here for 13-14 days: Most Common Itinerary for Leh – Ladakh.

  3. Banveer Singh on

    Dear Dheeraj

    We are planning a trip in our toyota corolla patrol to leh ladakh. Our itinerary is

    11 Aug Stay at sonmarg
    12 Aug sonmarg to leh
    13 Aug – stay in leh local sites
    14 Aug – Leh to nubra velly stay at nubra
    15 aug – Nubra to Pangong Lake via shyok
    16 Aug- Pangong to Tso moriri via Karu Chumathang , stay at tso moriri
    17 Aug – Tso moriri to Sarchu via Polokong la, tsokar, stay at sarchu
    18 Aug – Sarchu to Manali

    Kindly suggest us is this itinerary good as we want to cover all these places, also on basis of your knowledge please suggest the routes which we are taken are fine?
    Also as we are reaching leh on saturday evening and will be leaving to nubra on monday morining how can we get Permits? And should we take some extra care as we are visiting there on Independence day.

    • Hi Banveer,

      Your plan is OK but hectic. Also please note it will be very challenging to do Nubra to Pangong Tso via Shyok in a sedan like Corolla and for sure it will take a beating or may get stuck.

      You may need to arrange the permits in advance in such a case. Get in touch with some agents to pay the fee and get the permits in advance.

  4. Vikrant Gandhi on

    Hi Dheeraj..
    We want to travel to Leh ladaak..starting to manali..can u help me to make my trip successful..as we have 10-12 days to spent on whole day..detail given below…
    1.First day We start from Chandigarh and stay first nite at manali.
    2 day travel manali to jispa and stay there
    3 day travel to Leh and stay at leh
    4 day we will roam local leh to give test the body to avoid hectic traveling continiously and stay nite again in leh..
    5 day we will go to pangong and stay nite there
    6 day we will travel to nubra valley and stay there
    7 day we will travel nubra back to Leh..and stay at leh..
    Now u suggest for further to come back via Sri Nagar or back to manali way.. have 2-3 more days to stay..kindly advise if we will back route via Srinagar side and explore which places..kindly advise ..more and also suggest any amendment in tour…
    Our travel period will ne between to 15 July to 31 July..any extra precaution to travel in monsoon season..

    • Day 5, should be Leh to Nubra Valley, then Day 6 Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso, Day 7 Pangong Tso to Leh. Then move to Srinagar – Chandigarh as below

      Day 8 | Leh – Lamayuru – Kargil
      — Cover Mulbekh Maitrey, Lamayuru Moanstery, Lunar Landscapes
      — On the way you can also see Gurudwara Pather Sahib, Magnetic Hills, Confluence at Nimmu
      — Overnight at Kargil
       
      Day 9 | Kargil – Drass – Zozi La – Sonamarg – Srinagar
      — Enjoy the vistas enroute
      — Have late drunch meal at Sonamarg
      — Overnight at Srinagar
       
      Day 10 | Srinagar – Jammu – Chandigarh
      — Overnight at Chandigarh

      Keep rest days for buffer.

  5. Pankaj Sarraf on

    Any couple who is planning to Visit Leh…
    Me & My Wife are planning for Leh by Road anytime from today…need to be back by 30’June’2017.
    We are from New Delhi – Janak Puri
    9810555144

    • Hi
      Have you already done this trip ? We are a couple from south Delhi and want to go around July 1. We will drive on a Nissan Terrano. Looking for tag along company from Delhi.

      • Hi,

        Are you done with this trip? We are also a couple from Delhi and looking for company. If any couple planning a road trip to Leh Ladakh from Delhi in next 2-3 days, do contact us on 9999943423..

        Thanks!

  6. Hi Dheeraj,

    We are planning to hire Innova Cysta for our ladakh trip. Will there be any problem if the rider of the car is not the actual owner but a family member to the owner.

    TIA

  7. Vikrant Gandhi on

    Hi Dheeraj, we 4 youngster are planning to go leh ladaak via manali from Chandigarh by hiring innova. We want to travel in between 15 July to 31 July. Everybody giving advise not to travel in those days as the monsoon rains start and it will spoil ur trip and moreover very risky to travel in rain. Kindly advise when we will travel after July is there any better time to visit to enjoy all the places without any trouble.

    • It is monsoon time in general up there in North and at some parts of Manali – Leh Highway (like before Baralacha La) and Srinagar – Leh Highway (like before Kargil) you might need to face monsoon hassles but once you get closer to Ladakh, then Ladakh being rain shadow region is least affected by monsoon rains, though rains does reach Ladakh now but to minimum and mostly it might remains overcast conditions. There is no thumb rule of certainty about weather conditions but above is generally common pictures seen over last few years except ugly 2010 …

      Please refer the link in our community: FAQ | Is Monsoon season good time to travel to Ladakh? for more details.

  8. Anshu Reshi on

    hey read your article’s and they proved quite useful about having a fair idea in mind about what one faces while taking a self drive route to leh be it from either side.
    my question is that we are 5 people planning to go for this trip on 17th June and we have decided to take my chevy cruze(2016 manual ltz model) for this trip.
    please advice that if our choice is correct or we should shift to some other car to take on this adventure keeping in mind that we are 5 people and the ground clearance for this sedan is already low.
    the route we are taking is delhi srinagar leh manali delhi.
    thanks in advance

    • For hatchback/sedan taking on Manali – Leh Highway and Ladakh, I will say:

      You will indeed face few tough challenges on the route. The hatchback/sedan will increase the level of every challenge even further, sedan is the worst candidate. My suggestion will be to go via Srinagar route as it will help you feel comfortable with the driving, provide more acclimatization and then once you have done the local Leh-Ladakh, then come back via Manali side. Secondly, since you are in hatch/sedan, then you need to drive with extra care as well. There will be some sections on the Manali – Leh highway in which you might need to sacrifice some scratches on the underbelly. Just make sure you do not bump the engine sump (know it before where it is placed in your car). You need to protect it all around the trip. Thirdly, whenever in doubt do not rush into the section rather park aside and feel the section with your foot, see how other vehicles are crossing it and make a planned route in your mind to cross that section. At the very least do carry Mseal, quick fix, funnel, jerry cans and towing rope with you all the time.

      Also, I will strongly suggest that you go through and read my series on Ladakh Self Drive tips at the links below:

      7 Useful Tips for a Self Drive to Leh – Ladakh, Routes and Road Conditions In Leh – Ladakh | Ladakh Self Drive Tips, Fuel Availability In Leh – Ladakh | Ladakh Self Drive Tips

  9. Amitabh singh on

    Hey dheeraj …your article made appear the road from manali to leh in front of my eyes at this very moment. Ive travelled before but with bikes. This time we are planning to go by car ..this june 18 … Just help me out bro with certain things :
    1.which is better eco sport or scorpio ?
    2.is there a problem using zoom car in local leh i.e nubra and other places ??
    3.from where to get the permit for the vehicle or any other doc that is compulsry?
    4.we are forced to hire car from chandigarh because we are not getting any contact to get it from manali…does manali provide self driven cars ???
    Please help …

      • Amitabh singh on

        Thanks broooo…
        And what if i take a private no.vehicle …will that attract any problem for nubra and lake ??

        • It should be under your name or name of a relative with whom you can prove a relationship with a PhotoId card like father, mother, wife or others with same surname.

  10. Hi Dheeraj,

    Me & my wife are planning to travel Leh between 17-25 June. We both desperately want this to be our first road trip & want to drive our own car(Ford Ecosports). Having said that we both are little skeptical as we dont have any prior experience driving in hills, though both are good at driving in plains but I know for sure that driving in hills is a different ball game. Would you suggest us to drive on our own or do you think we should rather hire a taxi or a driver ?

    Thanks

    • Hi Ankit,

      If you are traveling from Srinagar side, things are a bit easy in comparison to Manali – Leh and then Ladakh roads are mostly good. A priori experience in driving in hills would have surely counted in tricky situations when there is jams, people block your way coming from opposite side and you have to reverse the car, they let you pass in a very little space, the water crossings, the slush, etc.. All these are tricky situation that you might face on the trip. Read the article above and try to keep these points in mind before going out. In case after reaching Ladakh from Srinagar side, you feel fine, take the Manali – Leh Highway back home.

    • Hi Ankit, We are also doing it June 17 to 25. We are also doing it in our own self driven car,. If you don’t mind, we can start it together of course in our individual car but following each other. If you are fine with it, please give me a call to discuss further. 09311109090. We are starting it from Delhi.

      • gurpreet singh on

        hi we r also planning on 17 june from mohali with my wife and two kids who r adults in my car. we can go togeather following each other, if yes then pl call me at my cell 9814017046 gurpreet singh.

    • Hi
      Have you already done this trip ? We are a couple from south Delhi and want to go around July 1. We will drive on a Nissan Terrano. Looking for tag along company from Delhi.

    • Yes Abhit, you cannot do sightseeing in Ladakh on a self drive rented car in Leh to places like Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso or Tso Moriri. You will have to rent a local taxi once you reach Leh.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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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