11 Tips on Mobile Phone Connectivity in Leh – Ladakh

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Every Ladakh season, one of the most common questions I answer on my blog is “How is the mobile phone connectivity in Leh Ladakh?”. The season for traveling to Leh Ladakh is in full swing in the months of June to September every year. Thousands of people make a trip to Ladakh by road or by flying directly to Leh in this season time. However, they are worried about being connected to the family back home in such a remote place.

Of course, Internet and mobile phone connectivity is an integral part of our lives nowadays. One cannot imagine a life without a mobile phone or Internet and not being connected with our loved ones even living seven seas away from home.

So, Leh – Ladakh isn’t a special place when it comes to mobile phone connectivity or Internet access. Hence, knowing about mobile connectivity in Ladakh will help you in many ways making a trip to Ladakh.

Tips on Mobile Phone Connectivity in Leh – Ladakh

Well, in this article today, I will share some tips on mobile phone connectivity in Leh – Ladakh. Communication or staying connected with our loved ones is one of the prime necessity of our lifestyles in this era. Unfortunately, things aren’t as rosy as we may assume when it comes to communications or staying connected when we talk about remote parts of the Himalayas including Leh – Ladakh.

Hence, below tips will surely help you to set your expectations right in terms of phone or mobile connectivity in Ladakh before you make a trip to Leh – Ladakh in the upcoming season. 

Given below are some important tips on details related to mobile phone connectivity in Leh – Ladakh and surrounding regions including Srinagar – Leh Highway and Manali – Leh Highway. Please read them carefully before planning for your Leh – Ladakh trip.

Asking about Mobile Phone Connectivity in Leh - Ladakh??
Asking about Mobile Phone Connectivity in Leh – Ladakh??

1. Only post-paid mobile connections work in Leh – Ladakh

First and foremost thing to keep in mind is that only postpaid mobile connections of outside J&K state work in Leh – Ladakh and other parts of Jammu & Kashmir. The prepaid mobile phone connections outside Jammu and Kashmir state does not work in Ladakh. Hence, do not carry any prepaid mobile phone connection for connectivity in Ladakh.

So, always carry a postpaid mobile phone connection only from your hometown. Otherwise, your phone will be dead all throughout your stay in Leh – Ladakh, and parts of Kashmir without any phone connectivity. 

You may be able to get pre-paid SIM cards within Leh – Ladakh or Kashmir in case you have forgotten to carry a postpaid phone connection from home. You can give it a try to stay connected wherever possible, at max, they will say NO 🙂 🙂 … Mostly it works in case you know someone closely in Ladakh. 

2. Only a few routes/places have phone connectivity in Leh – Ladakh

Only very few places in Ladakh have phone connectivity available to be in the network area. Otherwise, you will mostly be out of phone network coverage when you travel to Ladakh.

Mainly the mobile phone connectivity is present around Leh and local areas around Leh. As you travel from Leh to Nubra Valley, the phone signal starts to go away as you almost reach the top of the world’s highest motorable road, Khardung La (falsely claimed).

Nubra Valley & Pangong Tso

As you reach the top of Khardung La and start to descend into Nubra Valley, the phone signals fade away and only comes back when you reach Diskit / Hunder in Nubra Valley.

If you are traveling from Nubra Valley to Pangong Tso directly, there will be no mobile phone connectivity on that route.

But, once you reach Pangong Tso, you will find phone signals of BSNL at Lukung, Pangong Tso. Even Tangtse, 34 KMs from Pangong Tso has BSNL / MTNL mobile phone connectivity.

If you are traveling from Leh to Pangong Tso, the phone signals will go away near Chang La pass and no phone connectivity will be present between Changla and Tangtse.

Hanle – Tso Moriri

Now, if you are traveling from Pangong Tso to Chusul to Hanle to Tso Moriri, there is no phone connectivity up to Hanle.

Even in Hanle, there is very limited and erratic mobile phone connectivity. So, the moment you get phone signals in Hanle, do make a call to your loved ones 🙂 🙂 

When it comes to Tso Moriri, there is no mobile phone connectivity or phone signals at Tso Moriri or Korzok village. The nearest place to Tso Moriri where mobile phone signals are present is Chumathang, about 70 KMs from Tso Moriri.

Then from Chumathang, if you move to Leh, you will get mobile phone connectivity at Upshi to Karu and will be there up to Leh. 

Darkness over Tso Moriri
Darkness over Tso Moriri

3. Intermittent phone connectivity on routes to Leh – Ladakh

When traveling to Leh Ladakh by road from Manali Leh Highway and Srinagar Leh Highway, you will not find much phone connectivity as well. Majority of long sections on both these high roads to Ladakh, do not have phone signals. Only a few places or towns comes in between from Srinagar to Leh or Manali to Leh where mobile phone connectivity is present.

So, it is very important that you pass the messages to your family and friends before leaving on these long routes as you might not get a chance to pass a message for a day or two after leaving from main towns.

Manali Leh Phone Connectivity

If we consider mobile phone connectivity on the 474 km long Manali Leh Highway, it is quite intermittent and large portion of Manali Leh Highway does not have any phone signals.

As you leave from Manali cross Rohtang Pass and reach Keylong or Jispa for a night stay, most part of this day you will have phone signals and Internet as well barring few sections in between. However, on the next day when you leave from Keylong or Jispa to Leh, once you cross over Darcha the phone signals go away for rest of the route.

You will not find any mobile phone signals or connectivity at Baralacha La, Sarchu, Pang or Taglang La. The first time mobile signal will come at Upshi after descending from Taglang La. So, you can see that mobile connectivity in Ladakh is a luxury on a road trip to Ladakh from Manali.

In September 2018, news has started to come by that Reliance Jio is going to introduce the mobile phone connectivity on Manali Leh Highway up to Sarchu from Leh. They have already launched the phone services up in Ladakh this year.

Srinagar Leh Phone Connectivity

Similarly, when you travel to Ladakh from Srinagar Leh Highway the phone connectivity is a bit better when compared to Manali Leh Highway but not that great. You find the phone signals between Srinagar to Sonamarg but then phone connectivity is lost as you reach Zoji La pass.

Once you reach Drass and Kargil, the mobile phone connectivity is present and you can make phone calls at these places. So, I will say first day on Srinagar Leh trip you will get fair connectivity.

The phone signals fade away as you cross Mulbekh, travel over Fotu La and Namkee La to reach Lamayuru. Mobile phone connectivity is present at Lamayuru but as you start towards Leh for rest of the 125 KMs, it fades away. Finally, the mobile connectivity is restored near Nimmu and remains mostly with you up to Leh.

Pro Tip: If you are doing a self drive to Zanskar Valley, then make sure to read the article 40 Must Have Things to Carry on a Self Drive Trip to Zanskar Valley

4. Well inform your family and friends

On most of the routes to sightseeing places in Leh – Ladakh you will not get any mobile connectivity in Leh Ladakh. Hence, you should call at home or inform your loved ones whenever there is a connection available or before venturing out for sightseeing or reaching another place on that day.

5. Use satellite phones only in emergency

Many of the remote places or villages in Leh – Ladakh or Manali – Leh Highway does have satellite phones available at Rs 2/minute for STD/ISD to make a call in case of emergency but again keep them only for emergency.

These phones in remote areas of Ladakh are not meant to call your girl or boy and say that you love her so much 😛 😉 … Who knows that abusing such lifesaving emergency facilities in such remote regions of Ladakh may end up in a lost cause in real emergencies. Even you could be the one to suffer too by such acts.

Hence, use such facilities only in case of emergencies, not for any personal use. Always inform your loved ones before leaving for sightseeing in Ladakh and make sure they know your whereabouts of the plans and the day.

That lonely ride at Pangong Tso
That lonely ride at Pangong Tso

6. BSNL mobile phone services have the widest coverage followed by Airtel

BSNL mobile phone services have the widest coverage of mobile phone connectivity in Leh Ladakh. Airtel is followed by BSNL in terms of mobile phone services in Leh – Ladakh. In September 2018, even Reliance Jio has launched its services and is being considered to beat both BSNL or Airtel in terms of quality and coverage.

Now, when it comes to the quality of phone calls in Ladakh, Airtel offer much better call quality than BSNL or MTNL. However, I feel it is much more important to get the coverage of phone signals than quality to deliver a short message.

Hence, you should always carry a BSNL / MTNL postpaid mobile phone connection when traveling to Ladakh. Let’s wait for Reliance Jio in the upcoming season to get more updates on the phone services in Ladakh in terms of coverage and quality. They are going to offer one of the widest coverage in Ladakh as per news.

Other networks just remain alive around Leh city only. Mostly they buy the airtime from these providers only.

Again, I personally over-weight wide coverage over better quality any day because at least you can convey your message by SMS if you have connectivity with you. However, sometimes SMS also does not work. Having said all that, the connectivity and reach has greatly improved in the last few years and improving every year.

7. Data connectivity or Internet in Leh – Ladakh

Data connectivity or Internet in Leh – Ladakh is mostly limited to 2G/GPRS that too around Leh or Kargil. The 3G connectivity is rarely experienced and of course, do not match up speeds you are used to in cities :)…

Starting 2018,  data speed or Internet speed in Leh Ladakh by Reliance Jio has been praised a lot. I am sure in time to come we will get more feedback on data speeds or Internet in Leh from Reliance Jio.

Otherwise, you can use WIFI in Leh Ladakh which is available in hotels, restaurants or cyber cafes. Almost most hotels in Leh offers free wifi connectivity, so make the best use of it.

What I remember most from my remotest and disconnected experience is that WhatsApp always works to communicate somehow. You might not be able to transfer pictures BUT for sure you will be able to pass the messages or communicate most of the time even when in rarest of rarest of cases if the connection is too slow to even load google properly 😉 ;)…

8. Plan for no connectivity in Ladakh

As you might have known by now in this article that mobile network coverage in Leh Ladakh is fairly limited. Hence, you should never plan a Leh – Ladakh trip based upon on the fly communications believing that you will call someone and get connected to prepare for next move or help find better stay or find some help on the way by just dialing a phone number.

This might not favor you due to the non-existence of the mobile phone network in Leh Ladakh when you are in dire need. Hence, plan everything before venturing to the Leh Ladakh trip.

Landscapes of Srinagar Leh Highway
Landscapes of Srinagar Leh Highway

9. Be proactive and disciplined

Be ready to be proactive & disciplined because at times in remote places the mobile connectivity tower will work just in the morning working hours and or when there is light.

So, make the best use of available phone connectivity you get any time in the day at any remote place to connect with your family and friends. Otherwise, who knows when you get mobile network coverage next time when doing sightseeing in Ladakh.

10. Have patience

Last but not the least, have patience within yourself and consider you are back in an era of landlines with poor connections, either call will not through or phone calls will drop off or takes 100s of attempts to make one phone call in Ladakh.

Be ready to have tons of missed call alert messages once you return home from Ladakh :)… This is most usual in places with connectivity other than Leh. Hence, tell your family and friends too before leaving for a Ladakh trip because they might also not connect through due to the same phone network issues in Ladakh.

So, nothing to worry about, it is usual in general not to get connected on phone in a single time.

11. Always carry a couple of power banks to charge your mobile

Leh weather or electricity in Ladakh may get erratic and in case you are sleeping overnight at some remote place, power banks may come in handy not to restore the power of your phone but to enable them to take more pictures and videos too.

The places like Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Hanle, Chusul, Chumathang, etc.. or other remote places in Ladakh or Manali – Leh Highway may or may not have electricity. Sometimes the electricity is available in morning/evening only. So, having a good backup power bank could really prove helpful to charge your mobile phones on regular basis.

I wonder how much more I use my iPhone camera now than my DSLR camera only because of ease of use, flexibility, feature and even transfer/share of pictures in instant. So, it is not just talking time or SMS that I require battery power on my phone.

Hence, while traveling to remote places in the Himalayas like Ladakh, Zanskar Valley or Spiti Valley, it is always wise to carry a good power bank of 20000 mAH.

That aerial view of Leh at night
That aerial view of Leh at night

FAQs Mobile Phone Services in Leh Ladakh

Q1. Does prepaid phone sim card work in Ladakh?

Prepaid mobile phone connections outside Leh Ladakh does not work in Ladakh. As a state, J&K does not allow outside state prepaid phone connections to work.
The postpaid connections from BSNL / MTNL, Airtel and Reliance Jio does work in Leh Ladakh.

Q2. Which is the best mobile services in Leh Ladakh?

BSNL / MTNL outside state mobile postpaid connections offers the best mobile network coverage in Leh Ladakh.
Reliance Jio is planning to take over this statement as of 2018 and I strongly feel that by 2019 Ladakh season, Reliance Jio may be the best mobile network in Leh Ladakh in terms of both coverage and Quality.
Airtel mobile network also works in Ladakh but coverage wise it is fairly limited to Leh town. Of course, Airtel network offers better quality than BSNL.

Q3. Does Reliance Jio phone connection works in Ladakh?

As of September 2018, Reliance Jio has installed the towers in Leh Ladakh and phone connectivity has been started in Ladakh by them. The Internet data speed of Reliance Jio connections has been said to be quite fast. Reliance Jio is also planning to provide mobile phone connectivity up to Turtuk in Nubra Valley and Sarchu on Manali Leh Highway.

Q4. Does Vodafone phone connection card work on a Leh Ladakh trip?

Mostly Vodafone prepaid and postpaid phone connections do not work in Ladakh.

Q5. Does Aircel phone connection card work on a Leh Ladakh trip?

Mostly Aircel prepaid and postpaid phone connections do not work in Ladakh.

The reflecting clouds at Manali Leh Highway
The reflecting clouds at Manali Leh Highway

Conclusion

I hope the above tips on phone connectivity in Leh – Ladakh, and the Internet in Leh will help you plan your trip to Ladakh in better and expected way without any surprises. 

In case, you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to post them either in the comments section of this article below or in the “Ask a Travel Question” weekly session on Instagram.

If you know your friends or family are planning a trip to Ladakh, do share  this article with them to help them make a memorable Ladakh trip.

Have a travel question?? You can follow me on Instagram and ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram too. I also conduct a weekly Q&A session every Saturday evening on Instagram, so see you there.

LAST UPDATED: 23 Sept 2018
This article has been updated with the latest information about phone connectivity in Leh – Ladakh. It is kept up to date every season to reflect the current status. Feel free to suggest any further updates you deem fit.

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You can call me an avid traveler, a day-night dreamer and a passionate lover of the Himalayas who has a high zest for driving whilst exploring new places in the 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 ...

73 Comments

  1. Comments section gets closed in 90 days. You can follow me on Instagram and ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram too. I also conduct a weekly Q&A session every Saturday evening on Instagram, so see you there !!

  2. Hello Dheeraj,

    Any idea if the recently launched Jio postpaid will work there… since it has better coverage compared to its competitors everywhere else.

  3. HI …we are planning to visit leh in july …and i am an asthma patient…will it b tough for me?are there medical facilities nearby?

  4. harry sharma on

    hi dheeraj ,, i m landing on leh on 14 september ,, if i have to buy sim there ,,, how much time does it take to start sim??

    • I don’t have that idea Harry. I think it will take time same like it takes locally for pre-paid. However, you need to consider how you will buy the local sim as they might need local address proof.

  5. Sashwata Bhowmick on

    Hi Dheeraj,
    Please inform…vodafone postpaid will work in leh ladakah.
    If it’s in between the city then it’s also ok.
    Please let me know.

    Thanks
    Sashwata

    • No, Vodafone post paid in general does not work in Ladakh. Sometimes they buy some air time from others and mostly they don’t work though.

  6. Hi,
    Nice informative article.
    we are planning a leh trip from aug 13th to 20th. Places we are planning to cover is leh–nubra–turtuk–pangong–leh. Wanted to know about the weather conditions ,so that we can carry clothes accordingly.
    Also would it be raining at that time?

  7. Hi Dheeraj…

    Sincerely thankful to u for the tips u provide on ur blog…

    We are 4 friends planning a trip to laddakh from Ludhiana. Trip will start on 25th of june and we are planning to reach Ludhiana by 5th of july. Can you please tell us if its a good idea..?? If yes.. then please provide some suggestions for the trip regarding precautions & weather & road conditions etc. Will be extremely thankful to u my Bro…
    Regards
    Akash.

  8. Dr Sundrani on

    We are staying overnight at pangong is facilities are good there haw is temp. There in June end

    • There are many camps available in Pangong Tso. You can check the nice, preferred list of accommodation options in entire Leh – Ladakh (Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri) including moderate (cheap budget hotels as well) in the series of articles starting on the link here

  9. BHARATI SHAH on

    Very Informative.we are senior citizen friends Group of 6 is it advisable to travel leg ladakh?

    • Yes, you can surely travel. Please plan the trip with a good number of days, fly to Srinagar and travel at ease by road and then you may fly out of Leh.

      • Bharati shah on

        Thanx my brother is travelling from Usa to visit Leh ladakh in mid June. He will be in Delhi for one night only from your posts I understand he should have post paid Bsnl.can I mail one from Ahemdabad?

  10. Hi Dheeraj, a very informative post. As a non-indian tourist I will be in Delhi for a few days then I will go to Srinagar – Ladakh. What would you recommend regarding provider or possibly multiple providers?
    Being able to call in Leh is essential I think to book hotels etc.
    Also being able to call/use whatsapp/google maps in Delhi, Pathankot and Srinagar would be nice.

    • Hello Zarm,

      If you are comfortable searching for few hotels here and there after reaching Leh, it should be OK. You will get a prepaid number only as a non-Indian which does not work in Leh – Ladakh as post paid connections only work up there. So, buying it in Delhi will not be a choice unless you want to just make reservations which if required you can do over emails as well, now.

      You can only use Google Maps and Whatsapp too unless you have not entered J&K state because post that only postpaid connections work up there. So, you may need to buys the sim again.

      Regards
      Dheeraj

  11. Hey Dheeraj.. I want to ask u that we are 5-6 person nd we are planning for leh in start of april. What u say,it works?

  12. Rahul Sharma on

    Hiiee Dheeraj

    Just wanted to know is it legal to carry and use satellite phones in India. Read that civilians are not allowed to carry and use them

  13. Thanks a lot Dheeraj!!
    What about hookah?
    Is it allowed to smoke there? If yes do we need to bring our flavours or we get there at pan shops
    And one more thing is there any type of rafting available as I can see some options in tours and travelers list

    • It may or may not be there, carry your own flavours. I will restrain from smokking and drinking in high altitude places of Ladakh. Rafting can be done near Leh in Zanskar and Indus rivers around Phey and Nimmu

  14. Hey we are going to come on 25th July to ladakh!
    Can u tell how will be the weather at that tym so we can carry clothes according to that!!
    Which is the best network so we can carry that!
    And do we get wine shops easily in ladakh or we need to carry from Delhi

    • Hello Aadarsh,

      Only post paid connections work in Ladakh. BSNL has the widest coverage in Ladakh so it is always preferred to be carried with you.

      There are couple of wine shops in Leh but drinking alcohal may cause AMS symptoms to elevate and cause more trouble. Weather will be nice and pleasant, cold at times. So, one light jacket is a must to carry with light woollens.

  15. DULAL KRISHNA DAS on

    We a group of 12/13 want to visit Ladakh in in middle of August, 2017. We will start from Srinagar and complete at Manali. Whether I can get a BSNL prepaid Mobile connection FROM Srinagar with necessary documents. I come to know that only post paid connection of other states are working but I want to use prepaid connection. Please advise me.

    • Dulal, I am not 100% sure if you will be able to get the SIM car for pre-paid in J&K as you need to provide residency proof of that state AFAIK.

  16. Hey
    Dhiraj M planning to go on feb 16th to feb 23 ,2017
    Is dis gud tim to visit leh Ladakh….
    Wat vl b the climatic condition,weather n oxygen level??

    • Shrenik, if you are going as a tourist and have never been to Ladakh, I will highly recommend making a trip in Season time May to September. In winters, Ladakh is harsh and if not go well prepared, things can turn out bad.

  17. Varun TYagi on

    Hay DOW,

    Nice post. I am going to do a cycle trip this year to ladakh and currently preparing for the same physically and mentally. I have a question regarding the stay. I would be carrying tent with me eradicating the expense of staying in a hotel. Can I pitch tent anywhere of do I have to take permission to pitch tent in ladakh? If so any idea about the cost?

  18. Aakash sharma on

    Which network will provide me a better connectivity in BSNL Postpaid or Airtel Postpaid?

  19. Harender Rathi on

    i am planning a roadtrip on my Avenger 150 cc Street. is the bike safe and compatible enough to ride through leh ladakh??

  20. Hi! Does BSNL pre-paid connection work in Leh-Ladakh region? I’ll be travelling mid of August, from Bangladesh. I think getting pre-paid connection will be easier for me!

  21. Hi. I will be travelling to leh on July 15th 2016. just wanted to know will Bsnl prepaid work for incoming calls.

  22. Hi 🙂 I’m coming to Leh next month and I’m confused about getting BSNL or Airtel Postpaid. I’ll be staying @ Jammu n Srinagar n Leh n Manali. So can yu suggest which has better connectivity? BSNL or Airtel postpaid ? And I’m making a solo trip so network is important for me! Thanks 🙂

    • If I were you, I will get a postpaid BSNL which I have. In fact I have both of them but BSNL always comes to rescue when in need in Himalayas.

  23. Priyamvada on

    Hi Dheeraj,

    My husband is doing a bike ride from delhi to Leh. He started this Sunday at 2 AM. Last time I connected with him on Monday nite when he was in Mandi HP. After that his both of the no are coming switch off. I was very tensed as we planned everything except this connectivity issue. He is having an Airtel postpaid and a bsnl no. I am very tensed. I am also leaving for Leh this Friday via flight. And then we will b Cmg back together on bike. After reading ur blog feeling a bit relaxed but plz help me what possible I can do to get connected.

    • Priya, I think you should wait a couple of days once he reaches Leh, he should be able to connect with you. In between signals are scarce on Manali – Leh Highway

  24. Hey…i just wanted to ask when is manali leh highway opening this year..?? Any status update..?

  25. sangeeta sahae on

    Thanks a ton !! Just a small query which cars can go till leh ?? Can wagon r be a good option ??

    • Yes Sangeeta, for sure Wagon R can go to Ladakh. 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

  26. Dheeraj, Good information once again. How about vodafone network? Only BSNL and Airtel works in Leh?
    Thanks for your info. Regards , Ravi

    • Vodafone at times work in Leh but mainly limited to only Leh only. AFAIK from the locals, they work on yearly contracts and hence depend upon year to year. From the last couple of years they do work in Leh and vicinity of Leh.

  27. The post is very informative but I feel you won’t realise there’s a world to connect to when you connect with the serene and mesmerising beauty of Ladakh..

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