Zanskar Valley is getting popular and popular with each passing season as Ladakh and Spiti Valley are filled with tourists nowadays. Now with the opening of Manali to Padum road, a trip to Zanskar Valley can be all the more luring. Adventurists are constantly looking out to explore more offbeat places in the Himalayas, and the wonderland of Zanskar Valley is one of them.
Hence, another frequently asked question on my blog nowadays is “Can I make a budget trip to Zanskar Valley“? In this article, let me share some tips that will help you save money and plan for a Suru-Zanskar trip.
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Let's quickly dive into the details:
Planning a Budget Trip to Zanskar Valley
Unlike trips to Ladakh and Spiti Valley, making a budget trip to Zanskar Valley is a bit tricky, and everyone may not be able to approach the trip in that fashion. Lack of regular public transport, well-connected transport routes and less number of tourists going to Zanskar Valley increases the challenges of decreasing the budget for Zanskar Valley trip.
Having said that, there are tons of budget travelers like me who look forward to making a budget trip to any place, and Zanskar Valley is no different. Like Spiti Valley and Ladakh, you need a good number of days to plan a trip to Zanskar Valley.
Hence, the impact of the daily budget is very critical on the overall budget of Zanskar Valley trip. The more the number of days you plan for Zanskar Valley trip, the more the budget you need.
What is the overall cost of Zanskar Valley trip?
In the past, I have already written on the topic of calculating the budget of Zanskar Valley trip which helps you calculate the overall budget in an eased out manner. However, in this article today, I will enlist some of the tips that you can follow when making a trip to Zanskar Valley and keep the overall budget under check.
I am sure that the following tips will also help you optimize the budget for your Zanskar Valley trip without making a big dent in your pocket :).
So, let’s look at them one by one.
1. Travel Early May or September / October – Season Corners
You cannot travel to Zanskar Valley in winters as the road from Kargil to Padum closes at Penzi La pass. The Kargil – Padum road closes in winters, around November and reopens in a May-June period, in fact, it opened in very early in recent years (2018 & 2019).
The road from Darcha – Shingo La – Padum is not yet officially opened. However, in the upcoming season of 2020, the traffic should start running from Manali to Padum via Shingola pass.
Even the road from Leh – Chilling – Padum running along Chadar trek. Once the Leh – Chilling – Padum road opens, at least people flying to Leh will be able to make a trip to Zanskar Valley all around the year. Currently, it is only possible to visit Zanskar Valley in winters by doing a 21-day Chadar trek.
Hence, the months on the corner of the season like May-early June and September – October provides an ideal time to save some cost on your trip to Zanskar Valley.
Advantages of a trip to Zanskar Valley in the shoulder season
The biggest advantage of traveling in shoulder months is that the stay options are pretty much about to open or to get closed. Hence, they are more than welcome to any tourists. It gives you some levers to pull to save money, such as:
- a. The majority of stay options will be available for on the spot bookings due to less number of tourists.
- b. The hotels or guest houses are ready to offer lucrative deals like a free extra bed, allow you to sleep more than three in one room or in general good discounts. In our case, most of the guesthouses did not even care if we were 3 or 4 or 5 in a room.
- c. You get more time to spend on your places of interest with fewer tourists around. It also helps you take photographs of your own and reduce the photobombs. You don’t have to wait for tourists to clear a spot and then take a photo.
Challenges of travel to Zanskar in the shoulder season
In the end, when you travel to Zanskar Valley in these months, there may be few challenges as well.
- There will be fewer tourists, so chances of finding travel partners are a bit less.
- During these months, it is also somewhat cold, but I believe you can manage that with some extra woolens and carrying proper clothes for Zanskar Valley trip.
2. Make travel group of 3-5 members
When you travel in a group of 3-5 people, you get additional cost-saving means. When hotels or guest houses will offer you free extra beds and combined with Tip #1 offseason discounts, the overall costs are bound to reduce for you.
Similarly, when you consider transport, the private taxi cost shared among all along with the comfort of 4-5 people sitting in the car is optimum. You can follow the guidelines listed below for your mode of transport or commute when traveling to Zanskar Valley:
- a. 1-2 people, then choose Bike Rental from Srinagar or Leh OR Shared Taxis. Use Hitch Hikes / Public Transport where ever possible. Of course, traveling solo to Zanskar Valley, you can make a budget trip to Zanskar Valley by public transport.
- b. 3-5 people, then choose a taxi or a self-drive car of SUV type.
- c. 6-10 people, then choose Taxi as Winger/Tempo Traveller which will save you directly about 55-60% over hiring two taxis and you travel together in the group as well.
Of course, self-drive or self-ride on your car or bike is always the cheapest and the most flexible way to commute on any trip. And if mixed with this tip, it can bring down the cost of travel because the commute is one of the major pie of the cost of any trip to Zanskar Valley.
Pro Travel 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. Book hotels or transport on the spot
When we travel to high altitude places like Zanskar Valley by road, a lot can go wrong if your luck is not on your side. Things like roadblocks, landslides, acute mountain sickness or health issues are common for any trip to Zanskar Valley. Do not take AMS lightly.
At times, you will see yourself running to reach a place forgetting all the beauty of the journey to the place because you had pre-booked a hotel, and your half-day got lost waiting for a landslide to get cleared.
Other times you may not even reach the place due to landslide and end up paying twice for the same time.
I will suggest that you consider the following points before choosing by booking a stay option or mode of transport for a trip to Zanskar Valley.
Tips for booking stays Zanskar Valley
In a place like Zanskar Valley, it is straightforward to find a place on the spot, such as a homestay or small guest house. It not only saves money but also helps you with flexibility. Unless you are too particular about a place to sleep, you can easily afford to book on the spot in Zanskar Valley.
Otherwise, carry your camp and pretty much camp anywhere for free. Camping in Zanskar Valley is very common, and you can easily talk to any village homestay to get some food while you camp nearby. Most taxi drivers will be able to help you through with stay options, but even if you are planning on your own or self-driving, the same is applicable.
When traveling the Himalayas, always tend to follow my golden rule Leave Early, Sleep Early. When doing on the spot bookings, the key is to let the owner know that you do not care about staying and only looking for a good price. The late in the day you reach the place, the less bargaining power you will have because soon it will be dark. Hotel owners will know that you will not have many options and energy to explore.
Tips for booking taxis on a trip to Zanskar Valley
You can call the local drivers directly to connect with them and check the more comprehensive list of Taxi Drivers for Zanskar – Ladakh – Srinagar – Leh – Manali with recommendations/reviews for DoW community members.
Do not forget to check the Leh – Ladakh taxi union rate list 2019 – 20 including the contacts of some reliable taxi drivers within Leh – Ladakh. Using it, you can get about 12-15% of discount by directly getting in touch with drivers and of course, talking in person rather on the phone always help in bargaining more.
4. Be wise in choosing accommodation & where it is located
If you are on a budget trip to Zanskar Valley, I believe you should not consider stars in the hotels but consider sleeping at a place with cleanliness, comfortable beds, and clean toilets. Mostly you will be wandering in nature, so the facilities in the hotel do not count much, I believe. Hence a decent homestay with the above attributes should suffice your needs.
Sometimes the disadvantage of such small homestays or guest houses is that food may not always be available on your request or may not be available at all. The food gets prepared along with the family food. Hence, the concept otherwise you are better off with a hotel.
Also camping on your own in the Zanskar Valley is another option which will save a lot of money and also provide a billion-star stay in pristine, raw nature. Many dhabhas at places like Rangdum and Padum can offer you to camp outside and provide food as well. You can follow the same trick outside the JKTDC Alpine huts in various villages of Suru Valley like Prakachik, Panikhar, Purikutchey, Sankoo, etc..
Pro Tavel Tip: Please plan to stay in touch with your family and friends when traveling to remote corners of the Himalayas. Make sure you read my article on mobile phone networks, signals and connectivity tips in Zanskar Valley.
5. Be wise what and where you eat or drink
Luckily in Zanskar Valley, most common places to eat will be roadside dhabhas, which are also mostly limited to places like Rangdum, Panikhar, Parkachik, Sankoo. Hence, it saves them money on its own, and of course, you can carry your packed lentils to ask them to let you cook.
You can try some local food at homestays and limit your unnecessary spendings. You should try to create a balance between eating at local places or joints and good fancy restaurants throughout the trip to get a taste of everything.
If you plan for some treks in Zanskar Valley, for example, Phugtal Monastery trek, it is wise to carry some energy bars with you along with dry fruits.
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 !! 🙂 🙂
Online Travel Partners for Zanskar Valley Trip?
You can even search for online Travel Partners for your Zanskar Valley trip to reduce the overall cost and at DoW Community we already have an easy way to spot Travel Partners through our dedicated and very easy to use 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. You can filter the travel partner calendar entries based on your preferences and places of choice.
So, take the advantage and travel in a group to reduce your travel cost for Zanskar Valley trip 🙂
I hope this article will help you in reducing the overall cost and help you make a budget trip to Zanskar Valley. You can also read one of the topics in the DevilOnWheels Travel Community regarding Customize Tour v/s Self Organized Tours to Ladakh to see the benefits of traveling on your own.
Do you 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 or reach me out on my Instagram account.
If you like the article, please feel free to share it with any of your family or friends who are planning to make a budget trip to Zanskar Valley. In the next article of the series, I am going to talk about how you can make a trip to Zanskar Valley with kids.
All picture credits go 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.