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Ladakh on a budget: 6 Tips to cost cutting

Ladakh on a budget: 6 Tips to cost cutting
BUDGET TRAVEL

By Aquib Nawab

04 Jul, 2024

Ladakh, nestled in the high Himalayas, is the dream destination of many tourists in search of adventure and aesthetics. This northernmost part of India has an arid mountainous landscape interspersed with old monasteries, adobe villages, and lovely blue lakes that give it the look of a fairytale land. But, going to Ladakh can be quite pricey too. Flights, hotels, and activities are more expensive than at other popular tourist destinations in India. However, fear not, because through some smart planning, adaptability, and a spirit of adventure we can plan an affordable trip to Ladakh.

So, be with us till the end, this blog will explore the ways through which you can plan a budget friendly trip to Ladakh.

Best time to visit to Ladakh

Visiting during off-peak season is one of the ways you can save money in Ladakh. Peak tourist season, however, falls between May and August, when the weather is most pleasant, but this also means that there are many fellow travellers, hence the high prices across the board.

The months from September to November are shoulder months for budget travellers as they still have good weather without huge crowds, plus hotels and flights are much cheaper.

Although winters may be harsh, people interested should note that rates drop significantly, especially from December through February.

Land of high passes, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

How to save on travel?

Flying to Ladakh may cost you quite a fortune at times since airfares rise up to about Rs 6,000–Rs10,000 from major Indian cities such as Delhi or Mumbai during peak time, while discounted fares can be as low as INR 4000.

Here are some tips on how to grab cheap flying deals:

  • Book 4-5 months beforehand. This is so important because you might find low-priced tickets before they run out completely. One should have fare alerts set so that he or she receives any notifications concerning reductions in fares.
  • Keep your dates flexible. Flying over weekends attracts higher prices compared to midweeks. Also, look at flying into Leh in the morning or out in the evening to avoid paying for an extra night's accommodation.
  • Consider nearby airports. You can find cheaper flights to and from Srinagar or Jammu. You can then take a shared taxi or bus to Leh.
  • Make use of coupons and sales. You always have to keep checking airline websites for promotions and discounts. They have newsletters through which you sign up so that you can enjoy deals.

Quaint villages dotted on valley floors, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

Navigating Ladakh on a shoestring

Travelling around Ladakh is not going to cost you an arm and a leg once you are there. Public transport, such as buses and shared taxis between main towns, is quite affordable. In Leh, walking is usually the most convenient way of sightseeing and feeling the atmosphere. For longer-day trips, it’s easy to join other travellers in hiring private jeeps or buses; here are some rough transportation estimates:

  • Leh-Pangong Tso (one-way): Travel through shared taxi (Rs 200-300 approx.)
  • Leh-Nubra Valley (one-way): Travel by a shared SUV (Rs 500-600 approx.)
  • Leh-Tso Moriri (round trip): Book a chartered Jeep (Rs 2000–2500; consider bargaining)
  • Leh-Srinagar/Manali: Himachal Roadways bus (Rs 1000–1500 approx.)

Note: Rates are subject to fluctuation. This is as of July 2024.

To save money further, find travel mates at your guesthouse with whom you can share taxis and split petrol fares. Sometimes local people from Ladakh waiting by taxi stations may also offer cheap rides if they have empty seats in their shared vehicles.

Endless vistas of rugged beauty, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

Economical eating: Native dishes

It is very expensive to eat out three times a day while you are travelling. In Ladakh, you can have authentic meals in local joints for as low as Rs. 200 per day if you know where to go.

  • For breakfast, Tibetan bread and butter tea is a hearty choice. Most guest houses offer this for free, or else you can drop into corner bakeries that sell fresh kham-tik (Rs. 10–30 per piece).
  • At lunchtime, try thukpa, a hot broth with noodles, vegetables, and meat, momos, or tingmo, Tibetan steamed buns. A tasty meal goes for Rs. 100–150. You can try Chang (local barley beer) for Rs 50–80 per pint, which is the perfect accompaniment.
  • Cheap dinners can be found at dhabas serving dal-chawal and roti-sabzi for less than Rs. 100; also try Skyu, a heavy Ladakhi stew prepared from wheat flour, vegetables, and meat sold at between Rs. 200 and Ksh 300; and optionally, gur-gur chai, which is a salted butter tea.
  • For just Rs 20–30, street foods like yummy Apricot cakes or deep-fried mutton pakoras are available too; hence, smaller grocery shops selling snacks and drinks are cheaper than restaurants'.

Journey to the top of the world, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

Budget stays in Ladakh

To avoid spending all your money on accommodation, it’s best to choose places like guesthouses over hotels.

  • Homestays in villages such as Nubra and Tso Moriri will give you an idea of what life is like here, most of the homestays are cheap and include meals.
  • The main bazaar area of Leh has guest houses that offer clean, basic rooms with shared bathrooms.
  • Monastery guest houses in places like Likir, Lamayuru, or Chilling. Zambala and Ladakh Residency are budget hotels that provide rooms with breakfast.
  • Avoid expensive packages; instead, travel during shoulder season, book well in advance online for the best rates, and don’t shy away from negotiating politely for a discount to keep costs low.
  • You can book your stays at The Hosteller as well, some of our nearest Hostel stays from Ladakh are: The Hosteller Old Manali (10hr 58 min hours from Ladakh), The Hosteller Manali (11 hrs from Ladakh), The Hosteller Kasol Parvati Valley - (around 13 hrs from Ladakh).

Note: Prices of aforementioned accommodations are subject to change during the peak season. However, prices remain between 200 to 2000 INR.

Top attractions on a shoestring

You don’t have to spend so much money to enjoy beautiful monasteries, stunning vistas, and different cultural experiences that make Ladakh unique. Here are some of the top sights and activities you can enjoy without breaking your bank:

  • Visit monasteries: Thiksey, Hemis, and Shey are some of Leh’s biggest monasteries, which do not charge any entry fee. Go there during morning or evening prayers for an enriching experience.
  • Pangong lake: A great attraction in Ladakh is this blue lake sharing a border with China. By sharing a vehicle, you can use a budget trip for Rs 1500-2000.
  • Shanti stupa: Built on a hilltop overlooking Leh, this white-domed stupa looks amazing in the sunrise and sunset lights; it is free to enter!
  • Zanskar river: Enjoy stunning canyon views along the Chadar trek route; alternatively, go for day hikes instead of multi-day treks to save money.
  • Leh market: Wander around the busy bazaar, checking out handicrafts made by locals and street food that can be bought even by people who do not have much money left when they are leaving from here.
  • Stok Kangri: Rather than paying for expensive climbing packages, try trekking up this 20,000-foot mountain in one day. The permit costs Rs. 400.
  • Mountain biking: Rent a bike for Rs. 800-1000 per day to enjoy scenic rides through Nubra Valley or Pangong Lake.
  • Festivals: Time your visit to coincide with famous Ladakhi festivals like Losar or Hemis Festival to experience cultural performances for free.

Culture and nature living in harmony, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

Handy tips to save more

Follow these extra pointers to make your budget stretch further in Ladakh:

  • Carry a flask so you can refill drinking water for free instead of buying disposable plastic bottles everywhere.
  • Stock up on snacks or cook your own instant noodles or maggi at guesthouse kitchens instead of eating at cafes all the time.
  • Use public transport like buses or shared taxis instead of hiring private vehicles to get between towns.
  • Book activities like rafting or yak safaris as part of a group, or join guided treks rather than going solo.
  • Shop for souvenirs at local markets instead of hotel gift shops. Haggle respectfully for better deals.
  • Avoid using your cellphone excessively, as recharging costs are higher here. Disable data roaming.

With careful planning, flexibility, and a spirit of adventure, you can satisfy your wanderlust in Ladakh without breaking the bank. Travelling on a budget not only saves you money but also allows you to travel slower, mingle with locals, and have a more authentic experience than package tourists.

Untamed and magnificent splendour, Leh Ladakh | Credits: Canva

Conclusion

The remote and barren nature of Ladakh should not scare away budget-conscious tourists. With careful planning and being adaptable, one can have a memorable adventure without necessarily spending much money. Be sure to choose off-peak seasons, public transport, local food and homestays to enjoy an affordable experience. Discover the beautiful side of Ladakh, its welcoming nature as well as cheap ways which will guarantee some unforgettable memories. Stay with The Hostellers for convenient accommodations in Manali, Old Manali, or Kasol, book your stay now and make the most of your Ladakh adventure!

So pack your rucksack, grab your hiking shoes, and get ready for the magical journey of a lifetime in Ladakh!
 

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