Yes, the news is true that rented Self Drive cars in Leh – Ladakh are FORCIBLY banned now by taxi union. Over the past few days, there have been several reports put up on various social media platforms and online travel forums/communities. Further, a lot of panic has been created in the last one week regarding traveling to Ladakh and travellers are now reconsidering their plans. I would like to summarize the issues for you after going through all the sad incidents and also talking to various local people in Ladakh spanning from taxi guys to travel agents to hotel guys.
After all these discussions and incidents, we still strongly feel that as long as you’re following the taxi union forced rules, nothing will spoil your dream trip to Ladakh. The taxi union forced rule for Leh – Ladakh says “You cannot take any rented self-drive car to Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, and Tso Moriri lake. In case you or anyone in your group will do, then the problem arises and you can be part of collateral too even if you have white plate car but someone in the group has rented a self-drive car. You can get into Leh from Srinagar or Manali and get out of Leh to Srinagar or Manali in any car including outside rented taxis, rented self-drive cars too. The private white number plate car should be in the name of you or anyone in the car or belong to your family/father/company which you can prove to them with some proof if confronted for a white number plate. The moment they feel it is a rented car going sightseeing and does not belong to anyone in the car, you are in trouble.”
It all began in June 2015 when the Ladakh Taxi Union reached their own (non-approved by administration, please read) resolution that the tourism potential of Ladakh is being exploited by use of malpractices such as private hired vehicles (white number plate), self drive vehicles (black number plate vehicles) and motorbikes for commercial use in Ladakh. The resolution can be found below:
Soon after the resolution, there were isolated incidents of blocking hired self-drive cars and bikes in Ladakh and forcing its occupants to hire a local vehicle to do sightseeing within Ladakh. In some cases, tyres were deflated, people were surrounded. You can even read the advisory issued by Zoomcar themselves to all their customers below as well:
This clearly says, that Zoomcar also knows about the taxi union forced rule and advice taking rented cars for sightseeing in Ladakh thereby. The law is legal or illegal, as of now it does not matter unless you want to go and fight it out in court which I feel a similar case is being fought in Jammu High court against the ban of outside rented bikes not allowed in Ladakh for sightseeing since last year. But, yes this forced up issue or rule has been around now and also appears that will continue too. So, all fellow travelers must have a caution that they are panics with this forced non-approved rule by taxi union.
However, in the past week, we have learnt of couple of very sad incidents where people from the local taxi union have attacked self-drive rental cars breaking their windshields, piercing body armour with metal rods and injuring occupants in the process 😥 :cry:… The height of insanity we feel of this forced upon rule.
From its discussions with sources and drivers in Ladakh, DoW has learnt that in addition to the attacks, tourists with private vehicles (white number plates) are also asked to prove that the vehicle belongs to them and isn’t hired. For example, it has been asked of the tourists that the person mentioned on the registration certificate of the vehicle should be present in the vehicle or if the vehicle belongs to a relative (father, mother, husband, wife), it has been asked to prove it using other documents like driving license, or so. The idea being, privately hired vehicles are also being confronted to control the malpractices of renting cars from outside Leh. But this might be a temporary phase for self drive cars with white number plates and in case you are in your own vehicle or someone with you, NOTHING TO WORRY AT ALL.
In view of the above, DoW would like to issue a strict advisory to all its members/readers to avoid using services of any self-drive rental company for sightseeing within Leh – Ladakh to Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley and Tso Moriri Lake. You can freely use such rental services to get in to Leh and get out of Leh without any issues. Till the time matter is not resolved or confronted, please stick to the rule to avoid any hassles.
While carrying your own can or car of some relative, please carry sufficient documents to prove ownership of your private vehicle to avoid any trouble at all. If the vehicle is not in your name, consider migrating the RC or at the very least, get a affidavit executed from the owner to prove that the vehicle is a private vehicle and isn’t used for commercial purposes. However we cannot assure if the local taxi union will accept such an affidavit or not. Just a thought on mitigating the risk, in case arise when car does not belong to you and not a rented self drive car.
DoW also suggests that every traveller should carry a copy of the resolution of the taxi union which mentions that “non-local vehicles will only be allowed to drive on the highways from Srinagar and Manali to Leh and fro”. This will help you to avoid a confrontation with the taxi union if you’re driving to Leh, since you are allowed to park your vehicle in Leh and hire a local vehicle thereon.
DoW also suggests to an extent possible, avoid traveling in big convoy and rather go solo or in a small group of 3-4 cars at most for this season to avoid any issues of confrontation as well. Also avoid traveling with anyone who is using a hired self-drive car as you might find yourself in the line of fire and end up being under collateral damage.
Beyond what is discussed above, we do not believe there is any reason to panic or reconsider your dream trip to Ladakh. Until a resolution on the above activities is reached, please follow the taxi union forced upon rules to avoid hassles. However, shall a confrontation still occur, DoW recommends exercising restraint and resolving the matters amicably, offering to drive the vehicle to Leh, parking it there and hiring a local vehicle thereon.
In order to keep you updated on this sad unapproved taxi union forced rule, we have started the entire thread in DoW Community on this taxi union forced rule of self drive cars in Ladakh and other updates where you can find the incidents which happened over last few weeks and reported online. The link to the community thread is: Self drive cars in Ladakh – status & updates. Feel free to post your experiences as well once you are back from your Leh – Ladakh trip to help other fellow travellers in dilemma too.
EDIT: Headline Updated. Also, we DO UNDERSTAND that the livelihood of the people up there in Leh – Ladakh does depend upon the tourism and having self rented cars from outside Leh, may be 50-60 cars at a time in Leh is affecting the lives and earnings of 50-60 drivers and their families while benefiting the people outside Leh in commercial terms, however, we strongly condemn such acts by Taxi Union of hurting the tourists or travelers for such forced upon rules by them and not getting to the situation in sane way.
Happy traveling to Leh – Ladakh guys and gals 😉 !!
PS: Really sorry for not writing on frequent basis for last few weeks, but now I am back from Saach Pass trip and other things are also sorted, you will get a post every Monday morning as it used to happen weekly earlier, starting with Saach Pass only ;).