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 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 is 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 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 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 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 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), 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 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.
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. The majority of long sections on both these high roads to Ladakh do not have phone signals. Only a few places or towns come in between from 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 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 a large portion of Manali Leh Highway does not have any phone signals.
As you leave Manali cross Rohtang Pass and reach Keylong or Jispa for a night stay, most part of this day you will have phone signals and the Internet as well barring 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. 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 the 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 the rest of the 125 KMs, it fades away. Finally, the mobile connectivity is restored near Nimmu and remains mostly with you up to Leh.
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 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 :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 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 offers 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 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 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 the 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. Yes, even when in 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 that 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 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 least, have patience within 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 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 :). These alerts are 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 to get connected on the 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. Power banks will not help to restore the power of your phone but 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 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, feature, and even transfer/share 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.
FAQs Mobile Phone Services in Leh 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.
BSNL / MTNL outside state mobile postpaid connections offer 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, the Airtel network offers better quality than BSNL.
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 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.
Mostly 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 better and expected way without any surprises.
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LAST UPDATED: Jan 2020
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.