In the month of August 2017, I worked in Ladakh for a month and a half. Being a budget traveller, I had to make sure that my trip is as cheap as possible. So when I started my trip, I made sure that I will find the easiest way to reach Ladakh and make a return trip. The idea was to go for an ultimate budget trip to Ladakh.

Fun fact; I ended up spending my time in Ladakh for 15k which included my stay, food and travel to the places where I was working. But that will be very much impossible for you so let’s stick to the basics of doing a road trip to Ladakh.


I guess, if you are past the first paragraph then you are planning to visit Ladakh in the near future. While there are frequent flights to Ladakh from major airports of India, they are very costly unless you book them atleast 3 months in advance. A lot of shops in Manali and Leh offer cheap return flight tickets to Ladakh but it totally depends on your luck and how you can find it.

My journey to Ladakh included Manali to Leh by road and then Leh to Srinagar while returning. There is at least one bus which runs between Srinagar, Leh and Manali but it takes almost two days. According to me this is the perfect way of travel.

Ladakh road trip

Another fun fact; I have spent my 20s selling travel packages to Ladakh. I hadn’t visited Ladakh then but had remembered every aspect of traveling there.  I used to receive 20% commission for every trip I used to sell and there was an extra 5% commission for selling flight tickets.

How can you plan a perfect Ladakh road trip itinerary

Manali to Leh

Traveling from Manali to Leh

There are two ways to travel between Manali and Leh.

Manali to Leh via Keylong (Night stay in Keylong)

Manali to Leh via Keylong (no night stay in Keylong)

Manali to Leh by bus

The second way will help you reach Leh by 8 PM if you start from Manali by 4 PM but is hightly tiring and exhausting. This trip should only be taken if you have experience of long road trips in past. However, if you really don’t want to waste your time in Keylong then better keep moving. Anyhow you’ll be spending a day relaxing in your cosy hotel room in Leh.

Buses and shared taxi between Manali and Leh

There is one bus which starts from Manali at 5:30 AM. This bus starts running during the month of early June after Rohtang Pass is cleared.

Make sure that you read about Rohtang Pass opening dates if you are planning a visit during early May. This year Rohtang Pass was only cleared by June 10th. The Leh – Manali road status is only cleared after BRO clears the snow from the road.

Despite a semi deluxe bus available between Manali and Leh, I will not recommend it for those who want to reach Leh in a day. The reasons being, that this bus takes a night halt at Keylong and you’ll have to bear the expenses of overnight stay at Keylong on your own. The bus charges INR 2900 for a trip to Leh and it doesn’t include the cost of meal and stay that you’ll be spending at Keylong so that total amount that you’ll be spending during your Manali to Leh trip by the bus will be close to INR 4000.

Once past Rohtang, you can also take a detour and go to Spiti Valley instead, if you have extra time in hand.

Here is everything you need to know regarding how to reach Spiti Valley from Delhi

ladakh manali

On the other hand, regular shared taxis run between Manali and Leh. These taxis start at 3:30 AM and pick you directly from your hotel. The shared taxi and tempo traveller office is right next to the Manali bus stand and the payment has to be done in advance. You start from Manali at 3:30 AM and reach Leh by 8:00. This taxi will leave you near Leh Bus Stand so you’ll have to take another taxi to reach your hotel. Shared taxi charges INR 2200 per person and is perfect for those who are traveling solo or are in a group of maximum three people.




In case you have a group of more than 3 then you can hire their own taxi, which will cost somewhere around INR 10000. Most of the taxis take an overnight halt at Jispa or Sarchu so you’ll have to convince your driver to drive straight to Leh in case you don’t want a night halt. He may charge a two or three thousand extra but it is still better than spending the same money at a campsite in middle of nowhere.

Now that you have arrived Leh, you’ll probably be thinking about how to return upon the end of your vacation.

Return trip from Leh to Manali


There is one bus between Leh to Manali that again takes two days to reach the destination. You can instead go to the city bus stand and visit the office of tempo traveller association. The tempo traveller will charge you between INR 2100 to INR 1800 depending on the time of the tourist season.

The tempo travellers and shared cars start at 4 PM and reach Manali in the morning by 10 AM. They do this because they travel all night and by the time they reach Rohtang Pass it is already morning. An early morning trip between Leh and Manali would mean that you’ll be spending the overnight at some place before Rohtang waiting for the pass to open.

I know someone who tried traveling at 3:00 AM in the morning with a target that they’ll cross Rohtang by 4 evening. Their tyre flattened in the way and they had to return all the way to Keylong after reaching Rohtang as it was closed. Don’t be that person, Okay?

Return Trip from Leh to Srinagar

A return trip between Leh and Srinagar is the best way to end your trip. You start from Manali and while returning you take the route of Srinagar. Or you can start from Srinagar and do the vice versa.

Leh Srinagar bus

Most of the people who travel to Srinagar start early morning and spend the night at Kargil. The share taxis take you straight to Srinagar by an overnight journey. Before taking the taxi better make sure of your co-passengers and ask for the front seat. It is not that the road is unsafe but the co-passengers can make you comfortable. I would rather recommend you to take the government bus. You need to book the ticket at least a day or two in advance. The bus is safe and will drop you near Dal Lake in the morning.

Moreover, the bus ticket will cost you INR 1100 and the taxi will charge at-least 2000 so it is a huge win for you.

You’ll find a lot of posters in Changspa and Leh Market area looking for a co-passenger. You can follow suite and stick posters of your own.

Leh to Srinagar bus timings

A private taxi between Leh and Srinagar costs INR 10000.

A lot of travellers leave from Leh and then travel to Lamayuru and spend a night there. From Lamayuru they take a bus till Kargil or Drass and then travel to Srinagar

Traveling from Srinagar to Leh

Like Manali, the Srinagar – Leh road status is only cleared after the snow from Zo-Zila pass is cleared. The bus from Srinagar leaves in the morning and one needs to confirm the timing. If you miss your bus then you can also travel till Sonmarg and then to Kargil (or Drass and then Kargil) from where you’ll find a bus or share taxi to Leh. Kargil will also give you an option to hitchhike a car or truck.

Shared taxis between Srinagar and Leh start in the morning and you can book them again near the taxi association’s office. But for Srinagar a bus journey is more recommended even if you are in a large group of just a bunch of traveling females. While the bus is kind of uncomfortable, it is a great way to save at-least 1000 bucks compared to what shared taxis would charge.

One of my favourite idea to travel between Srinagar and Leh was to spend the night at Drass. People generally stay in Kargil but Drass is more rustic and authentic Kashmir. You’ll get to meet lovely locals and eat some great food. A bus ticket between Srinagar and Drass costs INR 350 and takes 5 hours to take you there.

Ladakh bus timings

Bus schedule from Leh


So you can either travel in the following ways

Manali – Leh – Srinagar

Manali – Leh via shared taxi (INR 2200)

Manali – Keylong / Jispa / Sarchu – Leh (INR 2900 + extra cost for food and stay)

Leh – Srinagar (by shared taxi, avoid if possible – INR 2000)

Leh – Srinagar (by bus, INR 1100, fun ride)

Leh – Lamayuru – Srinagar (By bus, book the ticket for Lamayuru Srinagar from Leh bus stand itself)

Leh – Lamayuru – Drass/Kargil – Srinagar

Leh – Kargil /Drass – Sriangar


Srinagar – Leh – Manali

Srinagar – Leh by bus (INR 1100)

Sringar – Leh by shared taxi (INR 2000, not recommended)

Srinagar – Kargil / Drass – Leh

Srinagar – Kargil / Drass – Lamayuru – Leh

Sringar – Lamayuru – Leh


Manali – Leh – Manali

Manali – Leh

Manali – Keylong / Jispa / Sarchu  – Leh

Leh – Manali – Leh (Absolutely recommended, don’t even think about taking a night half)


Srinagar – Leh – Srinagar

Srinagar – Leh

Srinagar – Kargil / Drass – Leh

Leh – Srinagar (By shared bus)

Leh – Lamayuru – Sringar

Leh – Drass/ Kargil – Sringar


Additional Notes – Those arriving Jammu can take a shared bus or tempo traveller till Banihal station and then take a train to Srinagar station. The train passes through beautiful tunnels and green scenic fields of Kashmir. It is a beautiful ride and gives you a chance to meet Kashmiri folks. The ticket between Banihal and Srinagar costs you only INR 40 compared to a bus or jeep that will take at least INR 400 for the 4 hour ride. On a down side you’ll not get a seat on the train but then the ride is only 2.5 hours. Make sure that you arrive before the last train leaves.

Rohtang Pass is closed for maintenance every Tuesday. Zozi-La pass is closed for maintenance every Friday. This means you cannot travel to and from Manali, Leh or Srinagar on those days.

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 50 Comments

    1. ansh997x

      Thanks Lalitha. Traveling to Leh is tough so it gets kinda confusing. I wrote this post so that others don;t have to face same difficulty that I did.

  1. Zarah

    Nice job breaking down how you did it. You’re a pro traveler and your tips are useful!

    1. ansh997x

      Thanks Zarah. Glad that you thought this way.

  2. Soonjoo

    Great tips! I would love to visit Ladakh!

    1. ansh997x

      Do it and let me know if you need to know anything else.

  3. Mane

    Thanks for sharing this! I also want to know how to travel on a budget. Nice pictures and very informative

  4. Sarmistha Goswami

    Me and my husband are planning to visit Leh for a long time and I found this post really very helpful and informative. Plus, your pics are beautiful too! Thanks for sharing.
    Do drop by my blog as well : http://styleovercoffee.com 🙂

    1. ansh997x

      You’ll find Ladakh a perfect place for your photoshoots. 😀

  5. Suruchi

    Your post brought back so many memories of Leh Ladakh road trip. Even we did this complete circuit trip in August 2017 and it was just a lifetime experience.

    1. ansh997x

      Great to learn about it. Did you seen snow around Khardung-La?

  6. Ishani Nath

    Such a detailed post, we were planning to visit Leh this october but somehow it got cancelled. We are planning one very soon.You post will be very helpful.

    1. ansh997x

      Do plan and let me know if you face any confusion.

  7. sushmitamalakar

    I am really scared of traveling to Leh by road. This one is surely going to inspire me!

    1. ansh997x

      I think the only problem of traveling to Leh by road is that people who are not used to drives will start feeling dizzy. Otherwise it is fine.


    Nice tips. Broke it down to smallest bit. Hope to put it in my travelling plans just as descibed by you.

  9. tripwears

    Interesting. When does leh-ladakh open again? Not in winter, right?

    1. ansh997x

      you can fly to Ladakh in winters if you can withstand -35 degree cold. Otherwise the road will open in late may and tourist season begins by late March,

  10. Michaela Šedová

    Such interesting spot! I have never been in Kashmir but I would like to visit it one day! I liked all your practical advices and tips and I love the picture! Stunning. 🙂

  11. wanderlustvlog

    Very good tips! I will save it for when I ever go there. Thanx for sharing!

  12. ourtasteoftravel

    India feels like the unknown to us, so this is really handy! Can’t wait to visit.

  13. postcardstoriesblog

    Great experience! Very interesting blog. Good luck to you!

  14. Mane

    wow!I want to go and visit LEH. Thank you for sharing this!

  15. beblessed23

    Wow! I want to go and visit LEH too! Thank you for sharing this!

  16. John Mulindi

    These are tips that every travel should know! Thanks for sharing them.

  17. anissa4334

    Very insightful and useful! Details are outstanding.

  18. Travelquartz

    I want to plan trip to leh soon and I will be using this post for tips. I think one need fifteen days to cover everything?

    1. ansh997x

      You’ll need atleast 10 days, 7 if you arrive by flight

  19. Well written and great tips.. I may not be able to use this BUT i’m sure other people traveling that way will find this very useful:)

  20. Debarup Mukherjee

    Hey excellent blog with detail information. I have travelled in Ladakh last year 2016 July. Did the road trip. From Delhi – Manali – Sarchu – Tso Morini then Leh and came back via Kargil – Srinagar. This road trip is just lifetime experience, I will never ever forget it.

    Do drop by my blog as well: https://www.topfivebuzz.com