Riding to Ladakh – Things That you Need to Know

Ladakh has become a bucket-list destination for motorcyclists from all over the world. Every year, there are more and more people setting out to conquer the Land of the Lama on two wheels (and several more doing so by other means of transport). I was fortunate enough to travel through the the region on my Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 in 2016. It was an absolutely mind-blowing trip. Before my ride, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to go about planning my trip and what to expect on the ride. Useful information was hard to come by. So now, that I’ve done the trip I’m putting together this guide with information that I wish I had had access to before I went there.

This post will cover some of the key things that I think anyone should know before they embark on this adventure. Some things will only be covered briefly in this post, and I will write more detailed posts on those topics in the coming days. The intention is to make available a body of information that will enable just about anyone to go out and do the trip that I did.

A ride to Ladakh is something that every motorcyclist should do

Route and Itinerary

This is where all planning usually begins, but the itinerary itself cannot be finalised until you have considered most of the aspects that follow in this post.

I strongly believe that there is no ideal Ladakh itinerary. It really just boils down to how much time you have and what your priorities are. If you’re primary aim is to experience the roads and the mountain passes, then your itinerary should include a lot more riding and stops should only be planned for acclimatisation and rest. If you want to see places along the way, you might need to compromise on some riding and prioritise longer stops in some places. I spent around 15 days in Ladakh and made the mistake of trying to cover as many places as I could. This meant that I got to do a lot of riding but I ended up feeling like I spent too little time in each place. I’m definitely going to go back and do the ride at a much slower pace.

First, you need to decide the general route that you plan to use to reach Leh. Broadly, the options available are as follows: (i) Srinagar to Leh and return through Manali (this was the route that I did, and I highly recommend it); (ii) Manali to Leh and return through Srinagar (this is the route that a lot of motorcycle touring companies offer) (ii) Manali to Leh and return to Manali (people choose this if Srinagar is not accessible for any reason or if a rented bike needs to be returned in Manali; (iv) Srinagar to Leh and return to Srinagar (I don’t think anyone does this, but it is an option anyway); and (v) fly to Leh and rent a bike there (the least adventurous way to go about this trip).

I’ve set out below the minimum time that I think it takes to cover some of the key places in Ladakh. Once you’ve figured out your general route plan, you can use this information to plot the specifics of your route and customise your itinerary by combining whatever you want to see or what fits into your time schedule:

From and ToRouteMinimum Time RequiredWhat to Expect
Srinagar to LehSrinagar - Sonamarg - Zoji La - Drass - Kargil - Namika La - Fotu La - Lamayuru - Khalsle - Leh2 daysAverage roads but great views until Drass

Great roads and even better views thereafter
Manali to LehManali - Rohtang - Gramphoo - Tandi - Keylong - Jispa - Darcha - Baralacha La - Sarchu - Nakee La - Lachung La - Pang - Debring - Tanglang La - Upshi - Karu - Leh2 days - if all you want to do is just keep riding - won’t have much time to stop and see things along the way

3 days or more - if you want a more relaxed ride
I haven’t ridden this route on the upward journey so whatever I know about that is based on hearsay. I did however take the route (except the Karu to Debring part) and I have covered that in 8,9,10 and 11 below.

If you use this route, you need to be careful to plan your stops at places that are at lower altitudes. For example, people prefer to stop at Jispa or Darcha for the first night, because even though Sarchu is reachable, it is at a higher altitude and therefore there is a higher risk of altitude sickness on the first day itself.
Leh - Khardung La - LehLeh - South Pullu - Khardung La - South Pullu - Leh1 dayGood roads until South Pullu

Bad roads but a sense of achievement on riding from South Pullu to Khardung La
Leh to Nubra ValleyLeh - South Pullu - Khardung La - North Pullu - Khalsar - Sumur/Diskit/Hunder1 dayGood roads until South Pullu

An adventurous ride from there to Khardung La, and an even more adventurous one to North Pullu thereafter

Fantastic roads and better weather from North Pullu to Nubra Valley
Nubra Valley to TurtukSumur/Diskit/Hunder - Turtuk + return1 day

2 days, if you'd like to spend a night at Turtuk
Fabulous roads, fabulous views. Interesting stops at monasteries and at the sand dunes
Nubra Valley to Leh

I didn’t get a chance to ride the route from Nubra to Pangong through Shyok so I’ve not included any details on that
Sumur/Diskit/Hunder - Khalsar - North Pullu - Khardung La - South Pullu - Leh1 dayThe reverse of the ride from Leh to Nubra
Leh to Pangong Tso/SpangmikLeh - Karu - Sarkti - Chang La - Durbuk - Tangste - Lukung - Pangong Tso/Spangmik1 day

Some people prefer to ride back to Leh on the same day. Personally, I think that is a bit rushed.
Very good roads till a little beyond Karu.

A challenging ride through Chang La that ends with a rewarding view of Pangong Tso
Spangmik to Tso MoririSpangmik - Merak - Chushul - Tsaga La - Loma - Nyoma - Mahe - Sumdo - Tso Moriri/Karzok



Inner Line Permit required
1 dayA stunning ride along the banks of Pangong Tso until Merak

No roads whatsoever until Chushul

Average roads and gorgeous views from Chushul till Sumdo

Terrible roads but mind-blowing views till Karzok
Tso Moriri to JispaKarzok - Sumdo - Polokong La - Tso Kar - Debring - Pang - Lachung La - Nakee La - Sarchu - Baralacha La - Darcha - Zingzingbar - Jispa1 day

If you have the time, this is better ridden over 2 days. The ride will be a lot more enjoyable
Expect a gruelling day on the saddle. It’s a lot of distance to cover and the roads are terrible until Debring.

A fabulous stretch of road through the More Plains.

An interesting descent down the Gata Loops - 21 consecutive hairpin bends through a rugged landscape.

Several mountain passes to be covered, you need to make good time otherwise you will end up in the middle of nowhere.
Jispa to ManaliJispa - Keylong - Tandi - Gramphoo - Rohtang - Manali1 dayAn easy cruise.

The ride up Rohtang is mildly challenging, but the descent towards Manali is effortless.

Expect lots of traffic and a not so pleasant welcome back to crowded civilisation at Manali

 

Acclimatisation

The weather and terrain is unlike anything you are likely to have experienced anywhere else in India.

If you’re travelling to Ladakh you are generally advised to spend at least one day in Leh for acclimatisation. Make sure that you make a provision for this in your schedule irrespective of everything else. No matter how superhuman you think you are, do not take acclimatisation lightly. Altitude sickness is serious business and could very easily ruin your entire trip to Ladakh. So, it is best to adopt a cautious approach.

I’m aware that some people take Diamox to help deal with the shortage of oxygen at higher altitudes. However, since I’m not qualified to advise on medication, I would suggest that you check with a doctor on what medicines you can or cannot take, the right dosage, when you should start taking such medicines, how often you can take them and other such matters. Taking the wrong medicines or popping a pill at the wrong time could have a worse impact than not taking any at all. It’s best to rely on the advice of experts for this stuff.

Road Conditions

From what I’ve seen and heard, Ladakh isn’t nearly as difficult to ride as it once used to be. The Border Roads Organisation has been working diligently to make the entire region easier to motor through, In fact, you will find that some stretches have better roads than the most ‘developed’ parts of the country. That having been said, there are still several challenging sections sprinkled along the several routes. Most of the mountain passes have terrible roads (if they can even be called roads) on at least one side (i.e. either the ascent or the descent).

Some surprisingly wonderful roads lie in wait.

But don’t worry, these roads are definitely not impossible to ride. I had no prior off-roading experience and I was able to navigate them quite comfortably. You need to remain cautious and focused at all times, because at the end of the day, the terrain is unforgiving and the slightest skid or slip could prove to be quite damaging to man and machine. If you ride sensibly (for example, don’t ride fast or hit the brakes when on loose sand or in water) and carefully, you should be fine.

It is also not uncommon to run into water crossings, ranging from tiny pools of water that could pass off as puddles, to larger crossings where water flows across the road with force. While the smaller crossings are fairly easy to navigate, with the bigger ones, it’s best to stop and decide your route through before riding into the water. If you’re not sure about a crossing, wait to watch someone else go through it first. If they pass it successfully, you can try to use a similar route across. If they run into trouble, don’t make the same mistake as them. But before anything else, please go help that person get to safety.

Navigation

One of the things I was unsure about before my ride was whether I would need a to use a GPS system or Google Maps to be able to navigate. I couldn’t afford a GPS device and my phone had no network throughout my ride (so, no Google Maps). I ended up doing the ride with absolutely no navigational assistance (technology-wise). The good news is that I was able to find my way around most parts of Ladakh without any issues whatsoever.

The Border Roads Organisation has done well on this front too. You will find boards with directions at frequent intervals, which makes navigation quite effortless. If you don’t find a board, you can always ask anyone you see on the way. If you can’t find anyone around, you can just flag down a passing taxi or truck and ask the driver for directions.

The only place where navigation was a challenge was on the stretch from Spangmik to Chushul, on the route from Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri. There were no boards or people on this stretch and we had to take our chances following the trails left behind by vehicles that had traversed the route before. If you don’t find something like that to guide you, navigating through these less-used routes can be challenging. Here again, you can avoid getting lost by simply asking a taxi going down the route to act as your lead car. The local drivers know the terrain very well and will guide you to where you need to go better than any GPS possibly could.

Weather

To put it in one word – unpredictable. Given that you are constantly changing altitude and that the surrounding terrain and environment also changes from place to place, you are likely to experience a wide range of weather conditions as you journey through Ladakh. I was there in early June and I rode in every possible kind of weather, sometimes within the same day. A ride that started out sunny and warm transformed into one through snowfall within a distance of 40-odd kilometres. I’d expected Nubra to be particularly cold but it turned out to be almost beach-like. The only way to approach this is to expect the worst and then be happy if the weather turns out to be more favourable. But, you can be assured that you will run into foul weather somewhere or the other.

The snow came down on us at Khardung La

Accommodation

We city-slickers are often extremely paranoid about accommodation. Since the thought of going to Ladakh is associated with the idea of riding to a remote place a lot of people automatically assume that finding accommodation will be difficult. In reality, it is anything but. Since tourism is the primary source of income for the people in Ladakh, hotels, homestays, camp-sites and other forms of accommodation are quite easy to find in most of the bigger towns and even some of the smaller villages. I didn’t need to pre-book a room while I was there. I would just land up at my destination and find a place to stay. The camping culture is also quite popular in these parts, so if you’re carrying a tent and the necessary gear you are likely to also be able to find places to pitch it and crash for the night, provided you can withstand the weather. Booking rooms ahead isn’t a crime, of course, so if you’re more comfortable travelling that way, you should by all means do so.

Tariffs for budget rooms range from as low as INR 400 a night (for 2 people) to about INR 1000 per night (for 2 people). Obviously, more premium options are also available, but that’s not something that I would know much about. Accommodation was cheaper in Kargil, Leh and the bigger towns, and more expensive in the more remote areas such as Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. The remote places are easier to camp at though, so you can save money by simply pitching a tent and wrapping yourself in a cocoon of warm things.

Hotel Yarab Tso in Sumur

I’m setting out below contacts to some of the people who helped me with accommodation during my journey (to the extent that I can remember). Unless otherwise specified, all of these places are budget accommodation options with basic facilities.

LocationNameContactType of AccommodationWhat it was like
SrinagarHotel Lala RukhThis property is operated by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation.

They may take reservations online or through email/phone bookings, otherwise you will need to take your chances and find out about availability upon arrival
Dormitory accommodation at INR 300 per night per bedThe dorm was quite clean, as were the bathroooms. They also have private rooms which cost more, but these are usually reserved for government servants and not offered to other guests
KargilRoots Travel Cafe


They don’t offer accommodation themselves, but are a friendly lot of people who will probably be able to help you find a room in Kargil

Tafu - 9419887776
Twin-sharing roomsThe room that they helped me find wasn’t in a hotel. It was just a space in an old building and so it isn’t worth writing about.

That having been said, these guys know the town inside out and will at least be able to guide you to the right places as per your budget
LehOxon HillAli (he likes to be called AliBhai)

9469736736
9419978331
9622666630

yasoobs9@gmail.com
Twin-sharing room (common bath) at INR 400 a night

A room with an attached bathroom cost INR 700 per night (for two people).

These rates may have been revised, because I was there when they had just opened and were offering rooms at a steal.
This hotel opened its doors a few days before I stayed there, so it was very clean and comfortable.

Alibhai is an entertaining host and loves to tell stories. So your time at Oxon Hill is bound to have at least a few memorable incidents or stories
SumurHotel Yarab Tso





If you want a cheap place to stay you could try to pitch your tent at the camping site near the Sumur Sand Dunes
Rigzin Wangdu

94193 42231
01980-223661

hotelyarabtso@gmail.com
Check rates online or call/email to find outThis was the fanciest place that I stayed at on my trip, courtesy a friend’s friend’s friend.

Rooms are expensive, but the property is really beautiful and the family that runs it are even more special.

Make sure to ask them to cook for you if you stay there. They make some mean momos and a lot of other fabulous food.
Pangong Tso/SpangmikOne of the several tent accommodation options available at Spangmik.

I don’t remember the name of the place
Twin-sharing tent at INR 1000 per night (with attached bath). The place was clean and comfortable enough.
Tso Moriri/KarzokUnfortunately, I don't remember this name either, but it was one of the first places on the left side of the road as you enter Karzok, and just before the descent towards the place where all the luxury tents are pitched.Twin-sharing room at INR 800 per night (with attached bath)The building was really old and the room and the bathroom were strictly average. But the setup was good enough to keep one warm enough through the night.

The terrace had a fabulous view of the lake though.
JispaHotel Bhaga River ViewPrem Thakur

94182 70979

www.hotelbhagariverview,com
Twin-sharing room at INR 800 per night (with attached bath)The rooms were clean and comfortable. The in-house restaurant also served really good food at decent prices.
ManaliLostTribe HostelYou can find them onlineINR 350 per person for a pod-bunk.

Not the most comfortable way to sleep
The place is clean but the hostel is a bit far away from the road so it is a challenge to carry luggage from the bike till there.

Also, there isn’t much space to keep your things inside the dorm and you might have to leave luggage in the common area.

If you can find a better place to stay, I’d recommend doing so.

 

Food

If you’re okay with simple vegetarian food, you are likely to not have any issues in Ladakh. A lot of people get by on a diet of Maggi (instant noodles), Wai Wai (also effectively instant noodles), chips and other junk food. Personally, I eat that kind of stuff only when I can’t find anything else. Bread-omelette and dal-rice, wherever they were available, saved the day for me. In the towns and villages (i.e. when you’re not on the highway or the mountain passes), you are also likely to be able to find some decent Tibetan food. The occasional bowl of Thukpa was a nice change from the otherwise drab and dull diet.

Leh is a full-blown tourist town and you can find pretty much any kind of cuisine (and non-vegetarian food) quite easily. Obviously, the more fancy stuff costs more. So if you do want to plan an indulgent meal, you should probably schedule it for when you are in Leh.

People

For the most part, the people are simple, warm and helpful when you interact with them in a non-commercial context. I felt that there was a very calm and easy vibe to the place, even Leh which is probably the most crowded town in Ladakh. Everybody seems happier and more content with life.

If you’re polite to people, you can expect that they will treat you similarly. Inherent aggression (seen in many other parts of India) is not common here.

If your interactions relate to a service or facility, expect treatment similar to that in any other tourist destination. Tourism is their bread and butter and most of them know how to get what they want out of the people who visit.  Since tourism is the primary industry you will come across enough and more people who are out to take you for a ride.

Budget

I can’t possibly give you an exact budget for a trip, because it depends on several factors. Instead, I’m setting out below, what I believe to be the minimum costs that you will incur for the absolute basics. I’m listing them as per day costs on an average basis (i.e. some things may be more expensive on one day and might be cheaper on another).

  • Accommodation  – INR 400-500 per person (if you are sharing)
  • Fuel  – INR 600 per day (if you buy petrol at normal prices)
  • Food  – INR 400 per person (at least)
  • Other expenses –  INR 100-200 per person
  • Total for Basics (per day)   – INR 1500-1700

 

If you are renting a bike, or hope to have a support car with you, those costs will need to be factored in separately.

Bike maintenance/repairs and other unexpected costs may also push your budget up. Permits, entry fees to places and other miscellaneous costs would also be additional. I had a lot of bike trouble on my trip and ended up spending almost INR 4000 on the bike just while riding through Ladakh. This without any punctures. Some people are fortunate to get through the entire circuit with no expense whatsoever (other than the oil change at the beginning and end of the trip).

Please bear in mind that this is only an approximation and is applicable for a budget-trip where you eat very simply but stay comfortably (i.e. not slumming it out). It is possible to travel cheaper or in a more expensive way.

Permits

There are 2 key permits required for an Indian national riding in Ladakh. If you’re riding towards Leh from Manali, you need to get a permit at Manali to cross Rohtang. However, no permit is required for riding the reverse route (i.e. if you are going to Manali from Leh). Since I rode up to Leh from Srinagar and only returned through Manali I didn’t need to get a permit for Rohtang. I believe that only a limited number of permits are issued for each day, so if you don’t get your permit in time you might have to delay departure until you get one. No such issue if you ride to Leh from Srinagar and return through Manali.

The second permit is required if you are riding to Tso Moriri from Pangong Tso. This permit can be obtained at Leh (not available at Manali). You won’t need this permit if you are riding directly on the Leh-Manali highway (i.e. through Upshi and Tanglang La).

Permits are also required for riding to certain other places, for example if you want to ride towards Marsimik La. Since I didn’t get a chance to cover those routes I don’t have first-hand knowledge of the requirements. If you plan to go anywhere other than the places that I’ve been able to tell you about, you should separately ask about permit requirements either beforehand or at the district office in Leh that issues these permits.

The requirements for foreign nationals is more stringent and they need permits for travel to several other parts of the region too. So if you are a foreign citizen you should look up these requirements before planning your trip.

You need to factor these permits in when planning your route through Ladakh, because they could potentially affect your timelines and route. You can get these permits through a travel agent, and possibly even through the hotel that you are staying at (for a charge, of course). Alternatively, you can get them yourself by visiting the district office and submitting the required forms along with ID proof and paying the applicable fees.

Apart from the permits, there will be several checkpoints along the way where you will be required to make entries in registers or submit a specific form (usually provided at the checkpoint itself). However, these can be done on the spot and do not require any additional formalities to be completed in Leh prior to your journey.

Rented/Private Bikes

The Ladakh region has a strange set of politics related to the vehicles that are allowed to be used for travel. The local motorcycle union is particularly possessive about Khardung La and are known to impose stringent restrictions on the vehicles that can be used to traverse this popular route.  Things keep changing from time to time, but I was told that there are times when motorcycles rented from Manali or Srinagar are not allowed to Khardung La or any place accessible through it. From what I understood, this is because the Ladakh motorcycle rental union wants people to rent bikes from local agencies rather than those in Himachal Pradesh or Srinagar. Some rental agencies in Manali have the necessary arrangement for their bikes to be allowed passage, but this is something that you should definitely check before renting a bike.

Interestingly, I was also told that the union sometimes doesn’t allow private motorcycles ridden by anyone other than the registered owner to ascend Khardung La from Leh. I was stopped at a checkpost before South Pullu (en route to Khardung La from Leh) manned by the motorcycle union guys and they checked to see that my registration papers matched with my ID proof before letting me through. This again is something that I was told can be ‘managed’ but it’s relevant to know before you go.

Documents/Papers

Related to the above, please make sure that you are carrying all the documents that you need in order to be able to ride a motorcycle anywhere in the country. That means you need to have your Driving License, Registration Certificate, Insurance (make sure its valid), Tax Receipt and current Pollution Certificate. The Driving License will usually double up as your identity and/or address proof in most places. As a matter of caution, you could carry one other government issued identity proof (if you have one).

I tend to lose documents easily, so I only carried originals of the documents that are checked the most often, i.e. driving license, registration certificate and pollution certificate. For insurance and tax receipt I carried photocopies. I was never asked to show these documents so I never faced any issue related to them.

Make sure you carry additional photocopies of all documents (ID and bike documents may be required to be deposited at some checkposts and at the time of applying for permits), as well as a few passport size photographs (could be required too).

Fuel

Fuel is not as easily available as it would be in more populated parts of the country, but you’re unlikely to run short of fuel if you plan ahead. The main highways to Leh, from Srinagar and Manali aren’t a significant concern on the fuel front as long as you fill up your tank at the last petrol pumps en route at Kargil (on the Srinagar Route) and Tandi (on the Manali route). You can then replenish the tanks upon arrival in Leh.

The real requirement to carry additional fuel arises when you set off on adventures towards Nubra Valley or if you plan to ride from Leh to Manali through Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri, or any other route that requires you to cover significant amounts of distance away from the main highways. If you plan to spend a few days in any of these more remote places you should factor in the additional mileage that you may rack up then as well while determining your fuel requirement.

Back-up fuel.

It is best to fill up your tank and your additional cans or bottles at Leh itself, because the fuel is dispensed from proper machines and is cheaper. That having been said,you will be able to find petrol in several of the villages along the way as well, but this will be at a considerable premium. A litre of fuel costs about 80 Indian Rupees in Leh but costs anything between INR 120-140 in the villages. Interestingly, most of the villages sell fuel in 750ml bottles. So the price quoted will be for 750ml and you need to factor this in while figuring out how much to buy and what you are paying for it. Another issue with villages is that there is no assurance that the shop selling fuel will be open on a particular day or that it will have stock. So, you could very well land up at a village that usually has fuel only to find out that they’re out of stock or that the shop is closed. This actually happened to me in Chushul, where I had to wait for more than an hour for a shopkeeper to come and sell some fuel on the sly because the whole village had been shut down due to a ceremony at the local monastery.

Since most of the cars travelling these routes run on diesel it is unlikely that you will find someone who would be able to give you petrol in an emergency, unless you’re fortunate enough to run into a fellow motorcyclist with surplus fuel, of course. Long story short, with this too, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry. Tank up and fill up every container you have in Leh. You will be a lot more relaxed thereafter.

Money

ATMs are available in all of the major towns (i.e. Manali, Leh, Srinagar and Kargil) and also at some of the smaller towns along the main highways. Just as the case is with fuel, it makes sense to carry cash with you when you’re heading off into more remote parts. Card payments are unlikely to be accepted anywhere other than in the main towns. As a rule of thumb, you should expect to make all payments in cash.

Bike Prep

If you’re taking your own motorcycle on this adventure, you need to ensure that she’s in decent enough shape to take on the terrain. It’s better to do what you can ahead to try and avoid break downs on the way, rather than just land up there and then find yourself in a difficult situation. Yes, it is possible for things to go wrong even after you’ve taken all the necessary precautions, but that would just be bad luck. I didn’t know what to expect and hadn’t really done a good enough job preparing my bike for the trip. As a result, I faced several issues while I was on my ride (but thankfully, no punctures). Based on what I’ve learnt, I’ve written a post about how I think you should go about preparing your bike for an adventure of this kind. You can read about it here.

It’s best to prepare your bike for a trip like this.

Even if you’re renting a bike in the mountains, this post might be useful to you as it will give you an idea of things that you should check on the motorcycle that is being given to you before you head off into the middle of nowhere.

Add-ons for the Bike

There are just three things that I would recommend adding to your motorcycle for this trip:

  1. Additional LED lights;
  2. USB Charger; and
  3. Ladakh Carrier.
A few add-ons can go a long way in making life easier while on the road.

You can read more about the upgrades that I made to my bike before my trip by clicking here. You can also read my post about the Pros and Cons of a Ladakh Carrier by clicking here.

Riding Gear

This is an ideal environment for an ATGATT (All the Gear All the Time) approach to riding. The terrain can be treacherous and the weather unpredictable. So it is best to be as well-prepared as possible in terms of gear. There are several people who have ridden through Ladakh in nothing more than a jacket, t-shirt and jeans and lived to tell the tale. But apart from it having been a risky thing to do, there is no way on earth that their ride could have been even remotely as comfortable as it would have been if they had the right gear. If you’re there to have a good time, you might as well do what it takes to ensure that it’s not ruined by something as foolish as being stuck on a motorcycle in a wet t-shirt (or even worse, wet underwear) in incredibly cold temperatures.

I recommend carrying all the gear you need in order to be safe, warm and dry. As long as these three aspects are covered your ride experience is far more likely to be good. I’ve written a detailed post about my list of riding gear essentials for a trip like this. You can read it by clicking here.

All the gear, all the time. Even when walking around 🙂

On a related note, don’t forget to keep your luggage dry too. Wrapping everything up in a tarpaulin is an absolute must-do. I could put up a video showing you the technique that I use to wrap up my luggage so that everything stays dry and clean. Please leave a comment on this post if you would like to see a video on this.

Spares and Tools

Since you are likely to be riding long distances through largely uninhabited landscapes it’s a good idea to carry along the basic tools and spares that you might need to fix your motorcycle. I’ve put together a post with details of what I did carry (or should have carried) on my trip. Please click here to read that post.

If you’re travelling alone you’ll need to carry all of it yourself. But if there is more than one motorcycle, you could possibly split the load amongst yourselves.

Mechanics/Repairs

Finding a mechanic for a Royal Enfield, Bajaj, Hero or any of the other simpler motorcycles in any of the bigger towns is not likely to be very difficult. You will definitely be able to find help in Srinagar, Kargil, Leh, Manali and some of the smaller towns. In the more remote parts and on the mountain passes, help is hard to come by.

A Royal Enfield authorised Service Centre was opened in Leh in 2016 (Venture Third Pole). A temporary workshop was also set up on the Leh-Manali route to provide assistance to riders. In Leh, most of the mechanics and service stations (including the authorised ones) are located on the Manali road.

Rather than rely on third-party help, it’s definitely advisable to know a little bit about fixing your bike by yourself. I’m working on a series of videos that are tutorials for basic repairs on a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500. I’ve put two videos up and will be putting more up soon. Click on this link to view these on my YouTube channel. Please do subscribe to stay updated about new videos that I put up.

Spares are a bit harder to come by. While cables, brake pads, chains and the like may be easier to find (not necessarily all genuine accessories though), more expensive things like discs and shock absorbers might not be as easily available. But it’s not like you can carry spares of these bigger things with you anyway, so you will have to leave these things to luck. Look at it this way, the mis-adventures with the motorcycle will only add to your journey story.

To Conclude

That brings me to the end of this post. I think I’ve covered all the things that you should know or be thinking about when you are planning a trip to Ladakh. If you have anything to add or any specific queries, just leave a comment below and I will get back to you.

Plan sensibly and everything should work out just fine. While a ride to Ladakh is adventurous, it is not even nearly as dangerous or scary as it seems when you initially think about it. Also, don’t forget to enjoy every moment of your trip.

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If you haven’t already seen the video that I made of my ride from Chennai to Ladakh, you can watch it on my YouTube channel by clicking here for the video.

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27 thoughts on “Riding to Ladakh – Things That you Need to Know

  1. Man such an awesome blog. Actually you have answered me all that I have asked. But only one remaining man. What are the problems that you have faced with ur bike man

    1. Thanks a lot, Nirmal. I’m glad that you found this addresses the questions that you had. The topic of problems I had is actually a pretty big one. Also, with Royal Enfields, you can never be sure what issues will come up. I’ve written about some of them in my post about how to prepare a bike for a road trip. Briefly though, my battery conked out, brake pads had to be changed, front shock-absorber fork seal broke, chain had to be changed, starter relay motor burnt out, ignition coil got burnt and I had issues with water in the spark plugs and fuel tank. But I think it is possible to get through the trip without any issues too. It really depends on your luck and your bike. For example, I didn’t have any punctures, no problems with accelerator or clutch cables or other things that happen to a lot of other people. Royal Enfield – nothing can be predicted.

      1. And are there any camping sites available. Or I can hike anywhere on an empty land bro. And is nubra valley a worth visit

        1. Hey. In some places there are areas where people generally camp (like in Sumur in Nubra), but generally too, you should be able to find a place to camp. Personally, I like to find a place where there are some other people, at least, and request them for permission to set up camp. But that’s just me. And NUbra is definitely definitely worth seeing.

  2. Thanks for clearing all my queries about the solo ride…Your Blog helped me a lot for my planning my tour and time estimation for the trip for the solo ride….I just wanna ask did it need some permit to travel to Leh and Ladakh?…. @ Prateek

    1. That’s great to know, Prateek. Do read my post “Riding to Ladakh -Things that you need to know” . It has a lot of the information that you may need. The portion about permits will give you an answer to this.

      1. Thanks for the advice @ tollfreetraveller… Yours blog are great it helps a lot for the detailed trip planing. and thanx once again….@ Prateek

    1. Hey – June/July is better – some of the mountain passes remain closed in May. So starting a month later makes sense,

  3. Awesome blog man!! I watched your video.its really an inspiration to all the adventures junkies(including me).and thanks for sharing your experinces.👍

    1. Thank you. Happy to be able to share my experiences. Hope that it will enable others to go be adventurous too!

  4. Hi bro am so impressed after watching Ur video and blog and nw am working in saudia next year i will be return to india and plan to make a trip to ladakh bro. How much km from Chennai to ladakh and R15s bike is suitable for this trip or not bro? Gud luck for Ur another trip..

    1. Hey, it’s a fair bit of distance to get across the country. The R15 may not be the ideal bike because the riding position is unlikely to be comfortable for such a long tour. But if you like it then it’s your preference

      1. Thanks for Ur reply bro.. Little bit changes in my plan bro bcs my wife also want to come with me so we are planning to getting rental bike from leh bro which bike is comfortable to ride with pillion bro.. we planning our tour around 15days bro..

        1. Hey, it’s great that she is coming along. The Thunderbird has a more comfortable back seat than the rest. So might be the most comfortable for 2 people.

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