A trip to Leh is an experience in itself, and if you plan to visit Leh in summer, then here is a list of things to remember:
1. Book your flight tickets at least 6 months in advance to get the best deal. With only a handful of daily flights to Leh, ticket prices soar high as the peak season nears.
2. Pre-reserve your window seats, when you check-in 48 hrs or 24 hrs (depending on your airlines) before your flight day. Beautiful landscapes await you on your flight to Leh and you don’t want to miss them. For our trip we woke at 6 in the morning to get the best seats :P. Believe us the view is worth the trouble
3. Pre-book seats towards the left of the plane i.e. towards ‘A’ side. If you book towards the right of the aircraft, the sun shines directly in your face.
4. Book seats towards the start or the end of the aircraft. Avoid booking right over the wing. Check with your airlines for rows that do not have a window. This may not be indicated in the seating diagram at check-in and you may end up with a window seat with a missing window! Psst: We managed to do just that and ended up on row 15 on jet airways flying Delhi- Leh which to our horror did not have any window! Luckily for us we managed to secure another seat at the emergency window with more leg room 🙂
5. Leh is a military airport and photography is banned at the airport. However, we were not asked to refrain from photography by either the airline staff or the military personnel guarding the airbase. When you get down at the airport, be prepared to be spell-bound by the landscapes. If the military does not intrude, then by all means go shutter crazy.
On the airport runway
5. When you travel to Ladakh by road or by air, make sure to double wrap your ointment tubes. Due to atmospheric pressure, excess air gets filled in these tubes which can cause the ointments to leak and ruin your bag and clothes.
6. In Leh, hotels do not have fans. In summer it is very hot, and we were surprised to find no fans, when we checked-in to our rooms in Leh. I called up the reception to enquire if we can shift to a different room that has a fan or an air-conditioner. It turned out that none of the rooms had either of those. They didn’t even have a standing fan! Even the most expensive hotels lacked fans.
7. Carry sunscreen, Lip balm, and do not forget to carry 100% UV protection sunglasses. Leh is located at a very high altitude of 11300 ft. The UV rays will not just badly tan your skin at this altitude, but they can also cause serious harm. We recommend a cream based sunscreen of SPF 50 or above. Since the air is dry, the cream helps to keep your skin hydrated. In addition, keep lip balm in your pocket. You are going to need it more than you think :).
8. Don’t miss the sun! At high altitude, a mix of physics, chemistry and geography gives rise to a ‘Sun Halo’. Thick ring can be seen surrounding the sun. It is a beautiful sight that is frequently seen at high altitudes.
9. Taxi cabs and the state run bus service are the most prevelant options to travel within Ladakh. A board outside the bus-stop indicates the bus services, distance from leh, frequency and timings. There are buses connecting to all tourist spots viz. Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley, Tso moriri Lake, Srinagar etc. Advance bookings for bus services cannot be done, and tickets are sold only a day in advance. Moreover, the state of the local state transport buses leaves a lot to be desired, and a journey on the bumpy roads would be taxing. Nonetheless, the bus fares are dirt cheap in comparison to taxi fares. If you want the most bang for your buck, then give the state transport buses a try.
The timetable outside the Bus stand
If money is not a criteria, then taxis are a good option. One can hire SUVs like Xylo, Innova and Scorpio, the only vehicles that can wade through hilly terrain. Leh taxi union has fixed rates for all routes, and all taxis-drivers carry around a printed rate card. Nonetheless, taxi drivers are willing to bargain 10-20% of the printed rate and one can get a decent discount depending on ones bargaining skills. Since, summer is the only season when the locals in Leh-ladakh can make a living, do not feel too bad for having to shell out more than what you do back home.
Another hack is to find a shared taxi. One can find pamphlets to share taxi rides throught the Main Market area. Just ask around local tour operators and you will find vacant seats on a shareable basis to most tourist destinations. This way one saves considerably on the taxi fare.
Another option is to rent a motor-bike or a cycle. It is a fun way to explore the surroundings and it is easy on the pockets.
10. Carry sufficient cash with you. Most shops in Leh do not accept card payments. Hence keep cash handy. There are sufficient ATMs in the city, and if you find one out of cash, just hit the next one on the street.
We hope this article helps you enjoy your trip as much as we did!