In today’s article I am going to talk about some tips on mobile phone connectivity in Zanskar Valley. Unlike Ladakh and Spiti Valley, Zanskar Valley has a fairly limited set of places to visit and a fixed route to follow to reach Padum, so far. It is much simpler to explain and cover this topic on phone connectivity in Zanskar Valley as compared to Ladakh and Spiti Valley which have a wide range of places to visit and sleep overnight. In general, you should be less bothered about phone connectivity in Zanskar Valley if you are carrying the right phone connection with you. We will look into the details about it in the article which will answer the simple question “How is the mobile phone connectivity in Zanskar Valley”
In today’s lifestyle, it is very hard to accept that you will not be able to connect with your family or friends in the outer world or on social media 🙂 … However, while visiting the places like Zanskar Valley, Ladakh or Spiti Valley in the Himalayas, you must understand that it is completely possible to stay disconnected with the world. I am sure, tips mentioned in this articles below will set your expectations and make you aware of some do’s and don’ts when planning a trip to Zanskar Valley.
Tips on Mobile Phone Connectivity in Zanskar Valley
As you might have read in the article of most common itinerary of Zanskar Valley, you need to travel to Zanskar Valley from either Srinagar – Kargil – Padum route or Leh – Kargil – Padum route. I have already talked about phone connectivity on Srinagar – Kargil – Leh Highway in the other article, so I will be mainly focusing on Suru and Zanskar Valley in this article, primarily Kargil – Suru Valley – Zanskar Valley region. Please read them carefully before planning your trip to Zanskar Valley.
1. Only post-paid mobile connections work in Zanskar Valley
Zanskar Valley falls under the jurisdiction of Jammu & Kashmir, hence only postpaid connections of outside state works in Zanskar Valley or Suru Valley. Hence, you must carry a postpaid SIM card from your home or else your phone is going to be dead in the whole trip of Zanskar Valley.
2. Connection works in limited areas only
Once you leave Kargil, soon the mobile connection will die and for the next 200 odd KMs throughout Kargil – Padum road, you will only get the mobile connection back about 15-20 KMs before Padum town of Zanskar Valley. You will be out of network for about 8-9 Hrs of drive between Kargil – Padum. Once you reach Padum, the postpaid mobile connection will work only in the vicinity. Once you leave Padum and go beyond a certain range, you lose the phone connectivity again.
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
3. Keep your family and friends informed whenever possible
As you now understand that majority of the route on Kargil to Padum will not have any signal, it is always better to inform the family about your plan and whereabouts before leaving Kargil and Padum respectively. It is always better to inform them upon reaching Kargil and Padum too. I know you might feel that you are on a relaxing trip and not to report things to your family about anything and everything. However, PLEASE believe me when I say you MUST do it because bad time never comes knocking the door. I have been personally involved or have known enough untoward incidents while running this blog where merely known locations of the loved ones could have resulted in some different circumstances 🙂 … Over information is always much better than no information in places like Ladakh, Spiti Valley and Zanskar Valley.
4. Use satellite phones only in an emergency
Some remote villages in Zanskar and Suru Valley does have satellite phones available at Rs 2/minute for STD/ISD to make a call in case of emergency. However, please do not exploit them. Keep them only for an emergency and not to call your girl to say how much you love her 😛 😉 .. Who knows that abusing such life-saving emergency facilities may cost a life in real emergencies and you could be the one to suffer too one day. Hence, never use such facilities for personal use.
5. Only BSNL / MTNL Connection Works
In Padum or nearby Padum, only BSNL or MTNL postpaid connection works and hence, it is important that you carry such connection only. Sometimes you will find that only the SMS is working and that will be your chance to at least send your well-being message and co-ordinates to your loved ones. Having said all that, the connectivity and reach has improved in last few years and improving every year.
You should always carry your own water bottle and refill it as many times as you need water. It will not only keep you hydrated always, but you will also help in saving the Himalayas from plastic garbage. Remember, every tiny step counts and your step in this direction can help save the Himalayas too !! 🙂 🙂
6. Data connectivity in Zanskar Valley
Data connectivity in Zanskar Valley is mostly limited to 2G/GPRS that too in Padum and Kargil. Most of the time the Internet will be of some meaning to you in the night only. 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 or cyber cafes or guest houses in Padum / Kargil. Sending messages through WhatsApp will work mostly and may prove to be effective than even SMS and calls. 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 the connection is too slow to even load google properly 😉 ;)…
7. Always carry a couple of power banks to charge your mobile
Electricity in Zanskar Valley may be erratic and in case you are sleeping overnight at Rangdum or camping near Pensi La pass or Drang Drung glacier or any other 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. 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.
8. Never plan for connectivity in Zanskar Valley
You should never plan a trip to Zanskar Valley on relying on mobile connectivity. Be it your office call or calling for help to plan the next day or to get connected with hotel or taxi guy, the connectivity in Zanskar Valley should never be trusted. If you have something important, then complete that work and then go on the trip to Zanskar Valley.
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 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 some missed call alert messages once you return :)… Hence, tell your family and friends too before leaving for a Zanskar Valley trip because they may also face the same issues, so nothing to worry about, it is usual in general.
I hope the above tips on mobile phone connectivity in Zanskar Valley will help you plan your trip in a better and expected way without many surprises. In case you still have any questions or suggestions or need any help in planning your trip to Zanskar Valley? If yes, please feel free to post them either in the comments section of this article below or in “Ask a Travel Question” section of the website. You can also take guidance from other travel experts in DoW Community | Itinerary Advice forum for Ladakh & Zanskar Valley and discuss your upcoming travel plans for Zanskar Valley 🙂
If you like the article, please feel free to share it with any of your family or friends who are planning a trip to Zanskar Valley. In the next article of the series, I am going to talk about some more interesting tips on traveling to Zanskar Valley.
All picture credits goes to Sharada Hande who was kind enough to share these pictures with us in DoW Travel Community Facebook group. Do you want to feature your images in our articles too?? Feel free to join our Facebook group and share them to get featured.