A journey of a lifetime needs preparation worthy of the journey. A journey to Leh Ladakh is one of those trips where the journey itself can be as rewarding as the end destination, provided of course that you are prepared mentally and physically to deal with the unexpected and the unknown. A land with unparalleled beauty, it is also harsh and unforgiving especially for those who are not prepared to adapt and respond quickly to changing weather and landscape.
Preparing for Leh Ladakh is by no means an overnight job; simply packing enough of woolens and supplies do not ensure your survival in this snow desert. Below is a quick checklist of things to prepare for, before embarking on the holy grail of adventure.
Travel to Ladakh may be a good reason to try and build your physical stamina. Breathing exercises will come in handy in tackling that AMS at high altitudes. Do remember to carry your AMS medication; Diamox is largely preferred though checking with your doctor is prudent. An oxygen cylinder is also a must carry; you can purchase it from a chemist.
Also however prepared you might think you are, reality can hit hard which is why it is important to acclimatize yourself to the weather conditions as you go along. It is best to provide for at least a day in Leh to allow your body to acclimatize to low oxygen levels in high altitude before you proceed.
You can read more about preparing yourself physically for the trip, here
Preparing your vehicle
If you are taking a road trip, your bike or car needs to be in top working condition to function well on slippery, twisted and upward winding roads. Ensure your tyres, break pads, clutch plates etc aren’t worn out and the car battery is in perfect condition. Remember to carry spares of important parts and ensure you test the vehicle or bike by taking it for a test run in some nearby hilly areas to check for performance before you embark on this long journey. Here is a detailed guide.
Getting paperwork in order
While Indian citizens are no longer required to obtain Inner Line permit for most places, some sensitive border places like Hanle, Chusul, Tsaga, beyond Loma bend, Chumur, Marsimik La and Batalik sectors may require permits .It is best to obtain permit in advance to save time during your trip. With many army checkpoints in the road to Leh and Ladakh, valid identification is a must have. Get your identification papers and the car registration and insurance papers photocopied to carry with you at all times. Place the originals in a safe place to be produced only when necessary.
Check out the weather and road conditions before booking your trip. Delayed snow might sometimes cause roads to open later than usual in which case driving down might not be possible. Flights during peak tourist season can prove to be very expensive in which case you might like to postpone your trip to off season or wait for the roads to be motor able again
Both Leh and Ladakh offer many stay options for all kinds of travelers. From homestay options for budget travelers, to mid range hotels for comfort travelers and the ultra luxe hotels for luxury travelers. Again there is a huge difference between on season and off season rates, but planning and booking in advance helps to keep costs down. There are decent stay options available near Pangong Tso and Nubra Valley as well provided you research and book in advance.
There is much to be packed and carried when embarking on a trip to what is popularly known as a snow desert. Essentials include:
- Heavy woollen gear
- Medical and Fist Aid supplies including AMS medication and Oxygen Cylinder
- Camera equipment and spares
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Food essentials
- Camping gear including torch and flashlight
- Snow or gum boots
- Mobile and Cash
Leh has good internet and mobile connectivity as well as banks and ATM but the same cannot be said as you go higher up. BSNL connection works in some places so carry one. Also carry sufficient cash for expenses as you go further up since credit cards are not accepted in most places.