Season for Leh – Ladakh is going to start soon and one of the most common questions I used to answer at Devil On Wheels is “How is the mobile phone connectivity in Leh – Ladakh?”. Well, in this article today, I will share some tips on mobile phone connectivity in Leh – Ladakh as 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 before you make a trip to Leh – Ladakh in coming season.
Tips on Mobile Phone Connectivity in Leh – Ladakh
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
First and foremost thing to keep in mind is that only postpaid mobile connections of outside J&K work in Leh – Ladakh and other parts of Jammu & Kashmir. So, carry a postpaid connection only from your hometown else it will be dead all throughout your stay in Leh – Ladakh, and parts of Kashmir. You might be able to get pre-paid SIM cards within Leh – Ladakh or Kashmir in case you have forgotten to carry one from home. You can give it a try to stay connected wherever possible, at max, they will say NO 🙂 🙂
2. Only few routes/places have connectivity in Leh – Ladakh
Only places like Leh, Nubra Valley (Deskit, Hunder), Pangong Tso (Lukung, Tangste 34 KMs before Pangong Tso), Chumathang (about 60-65 KMs before Tso Moriri) and recently on the list, Hanle will have any connectivity and it will be erratic mostly.
3. Intermittent connectivity on routes to Leh – Ladakh
Most of the places or majority part of the journey on Manali – Leh Highway (beyond Jispa/Darcha) and Srinagar – Leh Highway (excluding near Lamayuru or Kargil) will not have any mobile connectivity whatsoever. So, again plan passing message before leaving on these long routes as you may not be able to pass any message on the way. Extremely important to pass the message or connect with family/friends before leaving on Manali – Leh Highway.
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, so do call at home or inform your loved ones whenever there is connection at hand before venturing out for the day for sightseeing or reaching another place.
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 not to call your girl and say that you love her so much 😛 😉 .. Who knows that abusing such life saving emergency facilities may end up in lost cause in real emergencies and you could be the one to suffer too. Hence, use such facilities only in case of emergencies, not for any personal use.
6. BSNL has the widest coverage followed by Airtel
BSNL has the widest coverage of connectivity but not quality wise, so carry a postpaid BSNL or MTNL connection if possible with you. Other networks just remain alive around Leh city only but Airtel may have better call quality than BSNL at any given day. 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 last few years and improving every year.
7. Data connectivity in Leh – Ladakh
7. Data connectivity 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 :)… Otherwise, you can use WIFI connections which available in hotels, restaurants or cyber cafes. What I remember most from my remotest and disconnected experience is that WhatsApp always work 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 when the connection is too slow to even load google properly 😉 ;)…
8. Plan for no connectivity in Ladakh
Never plan a Leh – Ladakh trip based on the fly communications believing you will call someone and get connected to prepare for next move or help find better stay. This might not favor you due to the non-existence of network when in need. Hence, plan everything before venturing into the trip.
9. Be proactive and disciplined
9. 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 connectivity you get any time in the day at any remote place to connect with your family and friends.
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 calls not making through or dropping off or takes 100s of attempts to make a call. Be ready to have tons of missed call alert messages once you return :)… This is mostly usual at 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 same issues, so nothing to worry about, it is usual in general.
Additional: Always carry a couple of power banks to charge your mobile
Electricity in Ladakh or Spiti Valley may be 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.
I hope the above tips on phone connectivity in Leh – Ladakh 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” section of the website. You can also take guidance from other travel experts in DoW Community.
LAST UPDATED: 15th May 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.