Rented Self Drive Cars in Leh – Ladakh Banned “FORCIBLY”

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Yes, the news is true that rented Self Drive cars in Leh – Ladakh are FORCIBLY banned now by taxi union. Over the past few days, there have been several reports put up on various social media platforms and online travel forums/communities. Further, a lot of panic has been created in the last one week regarding traveling to Ladakh and travellers are now reconsidering their plans. I would like to summarize the issues for you after going through all the sad incidents and also talking to various local people in Ladakh spanning from taxi guys to travel agents to hotel guys.

After all these discussions and incidents, we still strongly feel that as long as you’re following the taxi union forced rules, nothing will spoil your dream trip to Ladakh. The taxi union forced rule for Leh – Ladakh says "You cannot take any rented self drive car to Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri lake. In case you or anyone in your group will do, then the problem arise and you can be part of collateral too even if you have white plate car but someone in the group have rented self drive car. You can get into Leh from Srinagar or Manali and get out of Leh to Srinagar or Manali in any car including outside rented taxis, rented self drive cars too. The private white number plate car should be in the name of you or anyone in the car or belong to your family/father/company which you can prove to them with some proof, if confronted for white number plate. The moment they feel it is rented car going for sightseeing and does not belong to anyone in the car, you are in trouble.”
It all began in June 2015 when the Ladakh Taxi Union reached their own (non-approved by administration, please read) resolution that the tourism potential of Ladakh is being exploited by use of  malpractices such as private hired vehicles (white number plate), self drive vehicles (black number plate vehicles) and motorbikes for commercial use in Ladakh. The resolution can be found below:
Rented Self Drive Cars in Leh - Ladakh Banned & Other Updates

Soon after the resolution, there were isolated incidents of blocking hired self-drive cars and bikes in Ladakh and forcing its occupants to hire a local vehicle to do sightseeing within Ladakh. In some cases, tyres were deflated, people were surrounded. You can even read the advisory issued by Zoomcar themselves to all their customers below as well:

Rented Self Drive Cars in Leh - Ladakh Banned & Other Updates

This clearly says, that Zoomcar also know about the taxi union forced rule and advice taking rented cars to sightseeing in Ladakh thereby. The law is legal or illegal, as of now it does not matter unless you want to go and fight it out in court which I feel similar case is being fought in Jammu High court against the ban of outside rented bikes not allowed in Ladakh for sightseeing since last year. But, yes this forced up issue or rule has been around now and also appears that will continue too. So, all fellow travellers must have caution that they are inline with this forced non-approved rule by taxi union.

However, in the past week, we have learnt of couple of very sad incidents where people from the local taxi union have attacked self-drive rental cars breaking their windshields, piercing body armour with metal rods and injuring occupants in the process 😥 :cry:… The height of insanity we feel of this forced upon rule.

From its discussions with sources and drivers in Ladakh, DoW has learnt that in addition to the attacks, tourists with private vehicles (white number plates) are also asked to prove that the vehicle belongs to them and isn’t hired. For example, it has been asked of the tourists that the person mentioned on the registration certificate of the vehicle should be present in the vehicle or if the vehicle belongs to a relative (father, mother, husband, wife), it has been asked to prove it using other documents like driving license, or so. The idea being, privately hired vehicles are also being confronted to control the malpractices of renting cars from outside Leh. But this might be a temporary phase for self drive cars with white number plates and in case you are in your own vehicle or someone with you, NOTHING TO WORRY AT ALL.

In view of the above, DoW would like to issue a strict advisory to all its members/readers to avoid using services of any self-drive rental company for sightseeing within Leh – Ladakh to Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley and Tso Moriri Lake. You can freely use such rental services to get in to Leh and get out of Leh without any issues. Till the time matter is not resolved or confronted, please stick to the rule to avoid any hassles.

While carrying your own can or car of some relative, please carry sufficient documents to prove ownership of your private vehicle to avoid any trouble at all. If the vehicle is not in your name, consider migrating the RC or at the very least, get a affidavit executed from the owner to prove that the vehicle is a private vehicle and isn’t used for commercial purposes. However we cannot assure if the local taxi union will accept such an affidavit or not. Just a thought on mitigating the risk, in case arise when car does not belong to you and not a rented self drive car.

DoW also suggests that every traveller should carry a copy of the resolution of the taxi union which mentions that "non-local vehicles will only be allowed to drive on the highways from Srinagar and Manali to Leh and fro". This will help you to avoid a confrontation with the taxi union if you’re driving to Leh, since you are allowed to park your vehicle in Leh and hire a local vehicle thereon.

DoW also suggests to an extent possible, avoid traveling in big convoy and rather go solo or in a small group of 3-4 cars at most for this season to avoid any issues of confrontation as well. Also avoid traveling with anyone who is using a hired self-drive car as you might find yourself in the line of fire and end up being under collateral damage.

Beyond what is discussed above, we do not believe there is any reason to panic or reconsider your dream trip to Ladakh. Until a resolution on the above activities is reached, please follow the taxi union forced upon rules to avoid hassles. However, shall a confrontation still occur, DoW recommends exercising restraint and resolving the matters amicably, offering to drive the vehicle to Leh, parking it there and hiring a local vehicle thereon.

In order to keep you updated on this sad unapproved taxi union forced rule, we have started the entire thread in DoW Community on this taxi union forced rule of self drive cars in Ladakh and other updates where you can find the incidents which happened over last few weeks and reported online. The link to the community thread is: Self drive cars in Ladakh – status & updates. Feel free to post your experiences as well once you are back from your Leh – Ladakh trip to help other fellow travellers in dilemma too.

EDIT: Headline Updated. Also, we DO UNDERSTAND that the livelihood of the people up there in Leh – Ladakh does depend upon the tourism and having self rented cars from outside Leh, may be 50-60 cars at a time in Leh is affecting the lives and earnings of 50-60 drivers and their families while benefiting the people outside Leh in commercial terms, however, we strongly condemn such acts by Taxi Union of hurting the tourists or travelers for such forced upon rules by them and not getting to the situation in sane way.

Happy traveling to Leh – Ladakh guys and gals 😉 !!

PS: Really sorry for not writing on frequent basis for last few weeks, but now I am back from Saach Pass trip and other things are also sorted, you will get a post every Monday morning as it used to happen weekly earlier, starting with Saach Pass only ;).

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165 Comments

  1. Hi
    I am planning for leh from Kolkata in my own Pajero Sport.
    I am worried because My car is registered in my company name (white no. Plate) and I am director of company.
    Is there any chance of problem by local if yes then what type of papers help me to get out of the problem
    Thanks in advance

  2. Hi dheeraj, Narendra here. As a Traveller its really bad that they are illegally & forcefully doing all dis. I really want to take some concrete action on it so dat other fellow travellers enjoy hassle free Leh – Ladakh trip.
    If we are paying all commercial taxes for a particular state then no1 has right to stop ur vehichle & if u have private vehicle wid all documents no1 need to proof anything to any civil person. If any such incidents are still going on then its a responsibility of local administration ( DM) along with Law Ministry of India to take suitable legal action against such taxi union. Forward me some brief details at narendra.rawat1987@gmail.com along with your contact details.

    • Narendra, well, things have settled over last couple of year. Outside rental and rented taxis are banned now. Private vehicles were never affected by it. Rest I do not have more details than what is presented in the article

  3. Rahul Sharma on

    hii dheeraj

    Just wanted to know whether these issues occur with people who rent bikes from Manali and take upto Leh Ladakh . Are there any restrictions on bike rental also as if toady.

    • Bikes rented outside Leh are not allowed for sightseeing inside Ladakh except Tso Moriri and Tso Kar lakes which can be done while going to Manali from Leh. Private bikes are completely allowed. You can use the outside rented bike to reach Leh but then for going to Pangong Tso, nubra Valley, etc.. you need to hire rented bikes from Leh only.

      To know more about this rule and present situation, please refer the link: Bikes Rented Outside Leh Banned in Ladakh

      This year as per reports, rule is going to be stricter. Manali rental guys have formalized a deal that for the days Manali bike is parked in Leh and Leh bike is rented, they will charge 50% of the rent of the bike. So, confirm with Manali rental guys first about this signoff.

      • Dheeraj, Thank you for all the help you provide to people traveling in & around Leh. I have a question.

        If we have a zoomcar & returning from Leh to Manali, can we take our car to TSO Moriri via TSO kar & stay for a night there before reaching sarchu the next day? Is that allowed? We believe the ban is for Pangong & Nubra.

  4. Rahul Sharma on

    Hiiii Dheeraj

    Just want to know how is the situation today . Whether it has improved or not or any local jurisdiction is available to help you out if by bad luck you get stuck in such a situation.

    Is private vehicle a better option to take with white number plate and how safe are you in your own vehicle.

    • Replied to your other comment. There may not be any help at all in case you get caught up. IN your own vehicle as long as you can prove the vehicle belong to you or to your family, you should be good to go. Rest depends upon your stars on that day in case RC of vehicle does not have either yours or your family name.

  5. Hi Dheeraj,

    We’re planning a trip to leh in july this year and plan to take a zoomcar from srinagar to leh, drop the car at leh and again while going back take a zoom car from leh to srinagar. So, please could you help me know if at all there are any drop and pick up points in leh ladakh for zoomcar, because we don’t intend to keep the car with us for the whole trip and as it is its banned to take a self drive car so better drop it at arrival and do the sight seeing in taxi’s.

    Thanks in advance.
    Abhijit
    And yes, nice work buddy!

    • You will have to keep it parked in your hotel and better with some cover to cover that logo so that it does not provoke anything. You can do sightseeing within Ladakh on local taxi and then take the same car from hotel to drive back homoe over Manali – Leh highway

      • Yes, but the problem with keeping the zoomcar with us would be, zoomcar will charge us for the whole 7 day trip. So, i was thinking of dropping the car at leh if any zoomcar drop point available or if you have an idea of. [so i’ll be charged only from srinagar to leh(450kms) and back leh to srinagar(450kms), so in total 900kms]
        Or for that matter do you know any other zoomcar like travel services wherein they’ll provide self drive car to us, and we can drop it at leh and take it back while going back to srinagar. My point being i don’t want to be charged for the whole trip. Because i’ll be taking self drive 2 wheelers or taxi’s in leh for sight seeing, so no point in keeping the car parked at the hotel while zoomcar keeps billing me 😉
        And also, we have our tickets back from srinagar only, so we cant take manali-leh highway while going back.

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