Answering a big question, “Can I make a budget trip to Ladakh“? Over the last couple of years, there is a steep climb of number of tourists, especially domestic, visiting the wonderland Ladakh. Many of them are favoring those newly constructed comfortable hotels and varied cuisines sold with meal plans. However, there is still a good bunch of budget Travelers like me looking out to make budget trip to Ladakh and enjoy it in a manner which is pocket friendly too. Actually, the problem is that a road trip to Ladakh needs good number of days in hand, minimum about 9-10 days ex. Delhi, and it is whole lot of uncertainties owing to bad roads, landslides, AMS / health issues, etc.. risking the bookings for you. Hence, importance of amount of money spent or going to be spend per day basis becomes really important to reduce the over all cost of your Ladakh trip.
I am not sure if you are aware but in the past I did write one article on How to calculate cost or budget for Leh – Ladakh trip which can help you calculate your budget for Ladakh trip in an eased out manner. Any doubts you have, feel free to comment here or in the DoW Community. However, in this article today, I will try to enlist some of the tips which I follow for making my budget trip to Ladakh. I am sure following these tips will help you too to optimize your budget for Ladakh trip as well and you will be able to enjoy more rather worrying about the dent over your pocket 🙂 … So, let’s look at them one by one…
Tips on Budget Trip to Ladakh
1. Travel in April/May OR August/September
Traveling in less touristy season has its very own advantages or dis-advantages. Traveling in a bit low season like April/May just when the season starts OR mid-August/September just when the season is about to end, has the biggest advantage that most of the hotels/guest houses are empty and are more than welcoming for tourists/travelers. This gives you three basic edges to cut down costs:
a. You can make on the spot bookings easily which automatically reduces the cost when compared to over phone or pre-booked costs of same hotels.
b. Since, most of the hotels are empty so they are ready to offer good discounts too either in terms of room cost or letting an extra bed for free. In our case, most of the guest houses did not even care if we were 3 or 4 in the rooms.
c. Finally, you have less tourists, so less fuss and rush even on the tourist places. Hence, you better enjoy those places rather constantly waiting for someone to clear the spot before taking the picture 🙂
I will say that dis-advantages are really trivial like a bit cold conditions, less tourists to share taxis, less restaurants with proper cooks, etc. but if you look in totality the advantages are more pocket friendly as well as experience friendly too.
2. Commute & Stay in Group of 3 to 5
I feel it is always optimum to commute as well as stay in the group of 3 to 5 people. Having 3 people means that if you follow Tip 1, then you can have three people to share cost of the room where in most cases you will need to pay only room rent and extra bed will be free. In the recent trip (2013), we usually had a share of Rs 100-250 for the room per day and we stayed 3-4 guys in one room in case with 1-2 extra beds, mostly.
In terms of commute as well, I suggest that the taxi cost is shared in balanced way if you are in the group of 4-5. More than 5 means you will need 2 taxis, so avoid that and make groups in the multiples of 4-5 only. According to me, based on the number of people we shall use following options of transport/commute:
a. 1-2 people, then choose Bike Rental OR Shared Taxis. Hitch Hike / Public Transport where ever possible and routes of least interest like Delhi – Jammu – Srinagar Highway, Manali – Delhi Highway.
b. 3-5 people, then choose Taxi as SUV type.
c. 6-10 people, then choose Taxi as Winger/Tempo Traveller which will save you directly 65% over hiring 2 taxis.
Having said that, Self Drive/Ride on your own car/bike is always the cheapest & most flexible way to commute anywhere. And if mixed with this tip, it can really bring down the cost of travel because commute is the major portion of the cost of Ladakh tour.
3. On the Spot Deals for Accommodation & Taxis
Keep in mind that Ladakh & Spiti Valley are places with full of uncertainties like road blocks, landslides, AMS / health Issues, etc.. and pre-booking some hotel means that you are running between the money as well as flexibility of your plan with some tensions to reach the place for sure. If we talk in terms of cost, then two things to consider here primarily,
a. Talking over phone OR booking over Internet will always cost you more, remember it always. Hence, do your bookings on the spot only. If you do not plan to stay at any specific hotel and if you are OK with searching the place a bit after seeing the room conditions once reaching the place, then I guess you could save some good amount of money too on the hotel bookings. Secondly, it provides you with more and more flexibility in terms of dates you reach on a particular place and allow you any last minutes changes. In places like Ladakh where road conditions are uncertain enough to force a change in plan, the flexibility always top the list. I do not feel that Ladakh & Spiti are places where you will be left stranded on the road without any place of stay, if you have done your little research (of course DoW is there ;))… So, forget that and just on the cost of little search and giving away a particular name of a hotel/guest house, you will save alot 🙂
For a quick & handy reference, you can always take the printout of preferred list of accommodation options in entire Leh – Ladakh (Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri) including moderate and cheap budget hotels as well in the series of articles starting on the link here. You can also note some of the preferred hotels/guest houses reviewed by other co-travelers in our DoW Community at the link here.
This will help you search for hotels or contact them on the fly that very day considering any change in plans. Also, if in taxi, then your taxi guy will help you getting good deal at some hotel/guest house for sure.
b. If on the spot booking, then the late you reach in the day at some hotel/guest house or camp, then very little margin of bargaining remains because they understand that you have least options in dark. Hence, “Leave Early, Sleep Early” shall always be the principle while traveling anywhere in Himalayas.
Even booking taxis in advance shall be avoided for similar reasons. Also, by directly getting in touch with the drivers without any travel agent in between will at least help you get about 12-15% discount in general and in less tourist seasons, even more. You can check the list of recommended drivers from DoW Community at the link: List of Taxi Drivers for Ladakh – Srinagar – Leh – Manali
4. Wisely Choose your Accommodation & its location
The above mentioned list of stay options will surely help you choose wisely BUT always try to forget the name HOTEL 😀 … Most of the A-Grade or B-Grade guest houses in Ladakh & Spiti and even some homestays are well versed with cleanliness, comfortable beds & western toilets (though sometimes shared). Keep in mind that you need hotel only to stay or spend night at such lovely beautiful place because beauty is outside the room not inside 😉 …
Hence, in order to spend night comfortably, you can stay at the guest houses and do not need a full fledged hotel with amenities you might not be even needing while sleeping. The only drawback in some of these guest houses is that the food might not be available in some of them. Even then, don’t worry much as you will surely find nearby dhabha or restaurant to eat, just stay nearby Changspa or Main Market 🙂 … In order to find decent yet economic places to stay in Manali, you can stay at Old Manali, Manali – Naggar Road, Vashisth. Similarly, Leh has full of such small budget very clean guest houses at Upper Tukcha road, Fort Road, some clusters near Main Market, Zangsti road etc.
5. Wisely choose the Places to Eat
If you eat at some of the basic restaurants / local dhabhas, then along with saving some good money, you also give yourself a chance to eat local as well as fresh food in general 🙂 … Try and give yourself a chance to eat local tibetan home like cooked food at such local eating joints. It does not mean that you don’t eat at good restaurants, but all I am saying is make a mix of both to balance out the budget.
Bonus Tips 🙂
6. Pay for Individual Meals
Well, though in a group of friends sometimes it looks odd in a country sepcially ours, but it is quite common to pay on table individually and I feel nothing wrong at all in it. Things get a bit messy if you are not used to and people in the group are not pro-active but if done properly, it does help in saving money. If you take this up, you can additionally save about 10-12% in your overall trip or help someone in the group save it 😆
7. Air Travel? Plan in Advance
Air tickets in season time for Leh – Ladakh are CRAZILY high but if you plan your Travel to Ladakh well in advance, it is always better to book your tickets well in advance as applicable for other places. However, for Leh sometimes it works too much well because in season time the one sided tickets can go even like 10K and if booked in advance same can cost you about 5K types. Same is true for Srinagar flights as well with cost saving of almost 33% of tickets cost nearing to Travel dates.
Are you a Single Traveler or Couple of Travelers?
You are alone and private taxis are very costly in Leh but you will be able to find the shared taxi without much fuss at all. There are lots of flyers which people put at cafes, dine-ins, restaurants, travel agent desks/shops/whiteboards wanting to share the taxis for different trips within Ladakh. Even travel agent organize such shared taxis trip as well but charge a little higher about Rs 200-300 more than it would ideally cost you on your own. So, in worst case you can always go back to them and book a seat for yourself.
Gelling up with people in Ladakh is more or less easy because many people travel solo and look forward to meet new people and share cultural thoughts and values over the trip. No where else in the world you will find more smiling and helpful people as Ladakhis are 🙂 … Or you can search for Travel Partners online too (read below).
Online Travel Partners for Ladakh Trip?
You can even search for online Travel Partners for your Ladakh trip to reduce the overall cost and at DoW Community we already have an easy way to spot Travel Partners through our dedicated forum linked here & DoW Travel Calendar. Using our Travel Partners Forum & Calendar, you can pretty quickly and easily spot on which dates people are traveling and if some group suits your need to gel up or not. Check the example: So, take the advantage and travel in group to reduce your travel cost for Ladakh trip 🙂
I hope the above mentioned tips helps you in some way or the other to reduce your overall cost of the Ladakh trip and help you make a budget trip to Ladakh I am sure you will be able to save some good amount of money by following above tips. You can also read one of the topics in DoW Community regarding Customize Tour v/s Self Organized Tours to Ladakh to really see the benefits of traveling on your own.
In the end, if these tips in the article really helps you in making a budget trip to Ladakh as compared to some ready made Leh Ladakh Tour Packages then please, I will seriously suggest you to read about DoW Causes – A Step Towards Responsible Travel that guides you in the direction on how to help the local Himalayan people when you Travel in Himalayas and if possible contribute towards these causes on your own with very little portion of that saved money with the help of tips over DoW Blog & Community. This will do nothing BUT definitely provide you some real smiles & blessings from the locals up there in such remote villages of Himalayas. Thank You !!
PS: I know for the last two weeks I did not write any article for you and hope this will somehow help in compensating but don’t worry as I am back from Ladakh Trip, so there is much more to share in coming weeks, which will surely make up for this absence 😉 …