The land of high passes, the cold desert, the toughest terrain there is, the land of surreal landscapes, and so on – there are many reasons for you to go to Ladakh and all are just. But one must note that neither traveling to Ladakh (by road) or staying in Ladakh is easy for it is not easy for everyone to acclimatize to this region. But the right set of packing gear to accompany you can assure a comfortable experience, and rest is always up to us to explore.
In conversation with Escape Route, a travel company ‘that aids escape from monotony via off-beat travel, customized trips and curated events’ – we collated a list of things you will need in Ladakh, some of which you must pack along to be prepared to explore the cold desert:
Luggage: Do not carry big bags / trolleys to this region. It is ideal to pack light in a suitcase / trolley or a big rucksack, so that you can drag the trolley and carry the rucksack on your shoulders wherever you go. Pack as much as you can lift all by yourself, and also remember to pack smart. You will not have help everywhere you go with your luggageClothes: Ladakh is the only place where you can get a sunburn and a frost-bite at the same time. A lot of people misjudge the climate at Ladakh. The temperature fluctuates between 20 degrees Celsius to under zero degrees, all in a day. And if you catch a cold easily, it will be prudent to stay covered all day. Please carry warmers, woolen socks, high ankle walking shoes and jackets to keep you covered throughout the day and night. Hats / caps / beanies, mufflers, shawls, gloves etc. come in handy in this region. Flip-flops / chappals will be required too while you rest indoors.
Medication: Ladakh is not an easy terrain as the roads are bumpy and the long drives will make you feel sick. Also the deficiency of Oxygen has multiple effects on your body. Also, since you do not get the food you are used to for days at a stretch, your stomach getting upset is a possibility too. Keeping these things in mind, do carry all the medicines prescribed to you by your doctor.Diamox is used commonly to fight AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). It is advisable to take basic medicines for headache (Saridon); body ache (Combiflam); body ache with fever (Crosin/Paracetamol); loose motion (Roko/Dependal); cough and cold (Waterbury’s compound); stomach ailments (Pudin hara); altitude sickness (Avomine); vomiting (Stemetil); dehydration (Electrol); energy (Glucose); and for wounds – cotton wool, bandage and antiseptic.
Vanity: This dry area will make your skin go dry and over-exposure to the sun will leave you with a bad tan or sunburn. Some moisturizer, and Vaseline for dry lips is essential. It is a good idea to keep your hair oiled for some days and keep it covered to have at least one good hair day through the duration of the trip. Do not forget your sunglasses (carry a couple of them at least).
Self-help tools: Anybody can be the X-Man or X-Woman in Ladakh just with the help of the right tools at the right time. A swiss-knife, garbage / trash bags, thermos, multi-point chargers, external battery pack, thermos, portable umbrellas, wind-cheaters, pocket knife, tyre inflator, GPS Navigator, torch, headlamps etc. come in very handy during this trip. Wet clothes do not dry soon, so some extra zip locks, and plastic covers in different sizes to carry your wet clothes is a good idea.
Toiletries: Go overboard on this one. Some of the must-haves are Sunscreen – SPF 50, body lotion, face cream, moisturizer, Vaseline, lip balm – SPF, shampoo & conditioner, hair oil, shower gel, face wash, toilet paper, toothbrush & toothpaste, mouthwash, wet wipes, dry tissues, sanitizer, deodorant, soap strips, hair brush, ear-buds etc.
Water bottle: Please carry your own water bottle, preferably a metal bottle. This will not only be your personal bottle throughout the trip, it will also help reduce the plastic waste being added by tons each day in our mountain valleys. The water in Ladakh is scarce but the drinking water quality is good and feel free to fill your bottles from houses or restaurants.
Quick bites:You will feel hungry at a lot of spots and multiple times during the day. Please keep some nuts / dry fruits handy, some protein bars, tea and coffee sachets, gluconD and Electrol for dehydration, granola bars, dry muesli and some chocolates with you throughout the trip.If a local kid asks you for money, which is sadly a truth because our fellow travelers find the Ladakhi kids ‘cute’, please do not offer any money. Just offer a few chocolates and share the love.
Documents and IDs: Some places in Ladakh are out-of-limits for foreign nationals due to security concerns near the border areas. However an Indian can reach anywhere with the right set of documentation. You would need a national photo ID like an Aadhar Card, or a Driving License etc. If you are traveling by your own vehicle, you need the attested photo copies of the Registration Certificate (RC), Pollution Control Certificate and Insurance as all times. You will need green permit while crossing over from Manali to Ladakh and will need inner-line permits to travel in and around Ladakh. The same can be obtained from the DC office at Leh.
Be ready: Do not expect to find money at every ATM or even to find an ATM in the first place. Keep your cash handy starting from your hometown and be responsible. It will be wise to budget in your days and expenses and stay prudent on the road at least. If you save enough, you can go bananas at the Leh shopping market!Camera equipment: If you are carrying DSLRs, be sure to carry them in an organized DSLR case with your lenses, memory cards, tripods, mono-pods, selfie stick for the selfie enthusiasts, extra batteries, charges and multi-point plug chargers etc. You will have electricity at Leh and a few spots to be able to charge your equipment so carry extra batteries.
Network: Your city network operator may not be functional in Ladakh. Most of the pre-paid or post-paid sims stop working the moment you cross Rohtang Pass and will only work in Leh. If you want to stay in touch while on the move, do take a BSNL post-paid sim along for the journey.
Additional tips for girls by:
“3 years back I invested in couple of tank top warmers with attached bra pads from Uniqlo. Till date they have been my best winter + travel buys. While the warmer keeps you warm on the inside, with the added bra support all in one – makes you feel light with so many layers on your body in extremely cold places like Ladakh,” adds Shraddha Gupta, Founder of StreetTrotter. Here are some more travel tips for girls from her personal experience:
- Carry your pack of sanitary pads, with extra disposal options such as some old newspapers, or disposal bags.
- Finding a clean bathroom at every stop could be tricky, so carry a pack of soft wet wipes, your own toilet paper, and a hand sanitizer, hand towel as a must.
- As mentioned earlier, Ladakh can surprise you with fluctuating temperatures – so keep your makeup on the minimal side. Avoid base foundations and keep your skin as clean and basic as possible. Carry face tissues, face cleanser, and a face cream/gel with a higher moisturizing content to keep your face fresh and less dry during the trip.
- If you are picky about hygiene while sleeping, carry your own light and foldable bed sheet.
- Ladakh is also a tricky terrain. So replace that hand purse by either a backpack or a handy side sling. Make sure to keep your hands free at all times.
- Other than a cap, its good to carry a warm headband to save your head and your ears from the biting cold.
- Trusting your instinct and carrying a pepper spray are just some extra precautions that never harm.
It is important to book your first trip with an experienced road-captain or a travel company of your preference. This way you can focus less on planning and more on having fun and exploring the place without any hassles.