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 from 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, the Internet and mobile phone connectivity are an integral part of our lives nowadays. One cannot imagine a life without a mobile phone or the 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 in making a trip to Ladakh.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
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 necessities 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, the 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.
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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.
1. Only post-paid mobile connections work in Leh – Ladakh
The first and foremost thing to keep in mind is that only postpaid mobile connections outside J&K Union Territory & Ladakh Union Territory work in Leh – Ladakh and other parts of Jammu & Kashmir. The prepaid mobile phone connections outside the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory & Ladakh Union Territory do not work in Ladakh. Hence, do not carry any prepaid mobile phone connection for mobile 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. However, you need to complete KYC and must show some local proof of address to get the local mobile SIM card. You can give it a try to stay connected wherever possible, at max, they will say NO 🙂 🙂 … Mostly it works if 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 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), it further deteriorates.
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 come 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 and Reliance Jio at Lukung, Pangong Tso. Even Tangtse, 34 km from Pangong Tso has BSNL / MTNL mobile phone connectivity. Reliance Jio is also making progress up there near Pangong Lake.
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 of BSNL. So, the moment you get phone signals in Hanle, do make a call to your loved ones 🙂 🙂
Nyoma village does have phone connectivity and even Internal connectivity.
When it comes to Tso Moriri, there is no mobile phone connectivity or phone signals at Tso Moriri or Korzok village. Nowadays in 2023, there are some phone signals that have started to come for BSNL network.
The nearest place to Tso Moriri where mobile phone signals are present is Chumathang, about 70 km from Tso Moriri and even Mahe and Nyoma has started getting signals as of 2023.
Then from Chumathang, if you move to Leh, you will get mobile phone connectivity from Upshi to Karu and will be there up to Leh.
3. Intermittent phone connectivity on routes to Leh – Ladakh
When traveling to Leh Ladakh by road from Manali Leh Highway, you will not find much phone connectivity as well. The majority of long sections on Manali Leh road to Ladakh do not have phone signals.
Only few places or towns that come in between Srinagar to Leh or Manali to Leh where mobile phone connectivity is present.
So, you must pass the messages to your family and friends before leaving on these long routes. You might not get a chance to pass a message for a day or two after leaving from the main towns.
Manali Leh Phone Connectivity
If we consider mobile phone connectivity on the 450 km long Manali Leh Highway, it is quite intermittent and a large portion of Manali Leh Highway does not have any phone signals.
As you leave Manali cross Rohtang Pass or Atal Tunnel and reach Keylong or Jispa for a night stay, for most part of this day you will have phone signals and the Internet as well barring a few sections in between. However, on the next day when you leave Keylong or Jispa to Leh, once you cross over Darcha the phone signals go away for the 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 the mobile signal will come at Upshi after descending from Taglang La or a few kms before Upshi. So, you can see that mobile connectivity in Ladakh is a luxury on a road trip to Ladakh from Manali.
In September 2023, work on laying cables for mobile connectivity on Manali Leh Highway is going on by Reliance Jio and they are going to introduce mobile phone connectivity on Manali Leh Highway up to Sarchu from Leh. They have already launched the phone services in Ladakh in 2018.
Srinagar Leh Phone Connectivity
Similarly, when you travel to Ladakh from Srinagar Leh Highway, the phone connectivity is much better when compared to Manali Leh Highway. 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, mobile phone connectivity is present, and you can make phone calls at these places. So, I will say the first day of the Srinagar Leh trip you will get fair connectivity.
The phone signals fade away as you cross Mulbekh, and travel over Fotu La and Namkee La to reach Lamayuru. Mobile phone connectivity is present at Lamayuru, but as you start towards Leh for the rest of the 125 km, it fades away in between. Finally, mobile connectivity is restored near Nimmu and remains mostly with you up to Leh from Sham 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.
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
5. Use satellite phones only in an emergency
Many of the remote places or villages in Leh – Ladakh or Manali – Leh Highway do 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 :P. 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.
6. BSNL mobile phone services have the widest coverage followed by Reliance Jio, Airtel
BSNL mobile phone services have the widest coverage of mobile phone connectivity in Leh Ladakh. Reliance Jio is followed by BSNL in terms of mobile phone services in Leh – Ladakh coverage. In September 2018, even Reliance Jio launched its services and is being considered to beat both BSNL and Airtel in terms of quality and coverage.
Now, when it comes to the quality of phone calls in Ladakh, Jio and 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 for coverage. 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 the news.
Other networks just remain alive around Leh City only. Mostly they buy the airtime from these providers only.
Again, I prefer 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. The connectivity and reach have 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 improved a lot. Airtel and Reliance Jio are offering 4g speeds in Leh, Nubra, and Kargil areas. However, the remote areas in Ladakh like Pangong, Tso Moriri, or Hanle are mostly limited to 3G/2G. The 4G connectivity is rarely experienced in remote areas and of course, does not match up speeds you are used to in cities :)…
Starting in 2018, the data speed or Internet speed in Leh Ladakh by Reliance Jio has been praised a lot. And now in 2023, the results are visible with such good data speeds or the Internet in Leh from Reliance Jio as well as Airtel.
Otherwise, you can use Wi-Fi in Leh Ladakh which is available in hotels, restaurants, or cyber cafes. Almost most hotels in Leh offer free Wi-Fi 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. Yes, even when in the rarest of cases if the connection is too slow even to load Google properly 😉 ;)…
8. Plan for no connectivity in Ladakh
As you might have known by now in this article mobile network coverage in Leh Ladakh is fairly limited. Hence, you should never plan a Leh – Ladakh trip based upon the fly communications believing that you will call someone and get connected to prepare for the next move or help find a 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.
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 of 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?
Don’t have time to read the full article? You can check this short video on DevilOnWheels YouTube Channel on this topic. If you like my video, please do not forget to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.
10. Have patience
Last but not least, have patience with yourself and consider you are back in an era of landlines with poor connections. Either your effort to call will not go through, or phone calls will drop off, or take 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 :). These alerts are most usually in places with connectivity other than Leh. Hence, tell your family and friends 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 to get connected on the phone at 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. Power banks will not only help to restore the power of your phone but enable them to take more pictures and videos too.
Places like Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Hanle, Chusul, Chumathang, etc. or other remote places in Ladakh or the Manali – Leh Highway may or may not have electricity. Sometimes the electricity is available in the morning/evening only. So, having a good backup power bank could prove helpful to charge your mobile phones regularly.
I wonder how much more I use my iPhone camera now than my DSLR camera only. It is because of ease of use, flexibility, features, and even transfer/sharing of pictures in an 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.
Does UPI / PayTM work in Ladakh?
Well, PayTM or UPI payments in Leh Ladakh are only limited to Leh town or Kargil town and some hotels may accept them in Nubra Valley. However, I will always recommend that you carry enough cash when traveling outside Leh town because the mobile or Internet network may not be that reliable to ensure you have a successful UPI payment outside Leh or Kargil.
In remote areas of Ladakh like Pangong, Tso Moriri, or Hanle, the UPI payments do not work anyway due to a lack of mobile or Internet connectivity.
FAQs Mobile Phone Services in Leh Ladakh
Prepaid mobile phone connections outside Leh Ladakh do not work in Ladakh. As a union territory, J&K & Ladakh does not allow outside-state prepaid phone connections to work. The postpaid connections from BSNL / MTNL, Airtel, and Reliance Jio do work in Leh Ladakh.
Reliance Jio seems to be the best mobile network in Leh Ladakh in terms of coverage, quality, and Internet data speeds. Airtel mobile network also works in Ladakh, but coverage is fairly limited to Leh and Nubra Valley while Reliance Jio offers similar quality but more coverage in Ladakh. BSNL / MTNL outside-state mobile postpaid connections offer the best mobile network coverage in Leh Ladakh. Of course, the Reliance Jio and Airtel networks offer better quality than BSNL/MTNL.
As of September 2023, Reliance Jio is one of the best mobile networks available in the Leh Ladakh region. The Internet data speed of Reliance Jio connections is quite fast as per locals. Reliance Jio is also planning to provide mobile phone connectivity up to Turtuk in Nubra Valley and Sarchu on Manali Leh Highway. So, it will become the best in terms of coverage too.
Most of the time the Vodafone prepaid and postpaid phone connections do not work in Ladakh.
Mostly Aircel prepaid and postpaid phone connections do not work in Ladakh.
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 a 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.
LAST UPDATED: Sept 2023
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.