Leh Ladakh & Spiti Valley Trip in 2021 – Latest July Update – Covid Rules, Bike Issue & Road Status
Friends, I am getting lots of questions about traveling to the Himalayas. These days as the covid impact is reducing in India. Many states have either removed the restrictions completely or relaxed a lot for trouble-free travel.
So questions like if I can go to Ladakh or Spiti or traveling there is safe or not, or how are the road conditions. In Ladakh or Spiti or are there any covid restrictions or rules we should keep in mind?
Here are the July updates on these questions to help you plan a safe trip to Ladakh & Spiti.
Before we begin, let me stress the importance of staying at home, staying safe, wearing masks, and following covid guidelines. This way you will protect yourself as well as locals of the Himalayas.
Let’s start with Ladakh updates before going to Spiti updates.
Road status and road conditions
Talking about Srinagar Leh, the road is open and in fair condition. The road is still narrow at Zojila Pass.
So right now authorities have made Friday as maintenance day and no traffic is allowed to ply on Fridays.
Hence you will not be able to travel between Sonmarg and Kargil on Fridays.
Sometimes they do allow light vehicles in the evening but there is no guarantee.
So adjust your travel plan accordingly. And this Friday maintenance day should be kept in mind.
Now you will ask if Zojila Pass is like this, how is Manali Leh Highway?
Manali Leh is open but the road conditions from Darcha to Sarchu to Pang, are bad. And takes some time to cross this section.
Nowadays a water crossing near Patseo has a lot of water in it. And another one near Sarchu – Bharatpur has also gone ferocious.
Hence if you are staying at Jispa or Keylong. Then leave early morning so that you find less water in these water crossings. As noon comes, sunrises and snowmelt faster, the water level increases making them difficult to cross. Roads within Ladakh are in good condition.
Flights to Leh are operational but please check the covid guidelines. From the airlines from the state you are flying from.
These updates were on road conditions and status for Ladakh road but what about the covid guidelines?
See if you are traveling to Ladakh, you still need to show a negative RTPCR report. And its validity should not be more than 96 hrs. The report is mandatory irrespective if you travel by road or by flight.
Even if you have a negative RTPCR report. The covid checking center can do a Rapid test there and if, god forbid, found positive. Then you will have to quarantine yourself in those centers or some hotel in Leh.
When traveling by road you will pass through Manali Leh or Srinagar Leh. Himachal’s latest covid rule updates have removed the need for any RTPCR report or ePass. So at least entry to Himachal is not a concern. You need to show your report at Upshi before entering Leh.
From the Srinagar Leh side, you need to show the reports at Phyang, Khaltsi, or Meenamarg check posts.
Now let’s talk of some important questions and the most popular one is what to do. If I do not have the RTPCR report or it expired before reaching the center, Then in that case what can you do?
Such cases are at the mercy of the centers on which it has happened to you.
Are you at Upshi or Meenamarg? Specifically, the Meenamarg check post is very strict. And they may send you back in the case the report is expired or not there.
Another check post, especially in cases of the expired report, is allowing but then they are doing the RTPCR test. There and they will ask you to quarantine in Leh hotel until your test results do not come out for it.
Hence it is a humble request that if you are in this situation. Then please do proper quarantine in Leh hotel. Till the time your report does not come out. This way you will keep yourself safe as well as others in the hotels safe. So please take care of it.
Let’s talk now about some more important aspects before talking about Spiti.
If I talk about permits then the process is now completely online and. If you are able to make a successful payment then you do not need to visit the DC office and get a stamp on it.
So far there is no need to upload any RTPCR report but in the future, there may be a need. But as long as you are able to make a successful payment then you can make a copy of it or even take a screenshot of it and display it when checked.
Yes, this is definite that if you are unable to make a payment due to any technical error. Then you will need to visit the DC office which remains open from 10 AM to 12 PM for permit application and is closed on Sundays.
On this permit topic, people ask two questions. 1 Is Hanle stay allowed or not and second
Can I travel from Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri?
So this Hanle stays as per general guideline is not allowed and depends purely on your luck.
Generally, guys at Loma check post will tell. If you can stay at Hanle or not or you have to come back by evening. So that you can stay at Nyoma which is near to Loma.
That is why plan in a way so that you can come back and stay at Nyoma. If I talk about Pangong to Tso Moriri route via Chusul or Harong – Kaksang La route tourists are not allowed on both these routes.
The next pointer of the update is public transport which is now running at 50% capacity in Ladakh. You can travel to Ladakh and do sightseeing in Ladakh on these buses.
So for traveling directly between these lakes. You will have to return to Karu, and then from there, you can visit Tso Moriri via the Chumathang route.
Delhi Keylong Leh bus has also started from 2nd July and this bus leaves. Delhi ISBT 2.30 PM and its bus ticket fare is just Rs 1548 only.
And similarly, Srinagar Leh buses are also running and you will get two buses there.
One is a premium category whose fare is Rs 1300 approx. While the other is the standard one whose fare is Rs 900 approx.
Now talking about the taxis in Ladakh. Well there is no change in the fare of the taxis and you can rent them in Leh.
As the number of tourists is increasing, so is the number of shared taxis as well.
There are no longer any vehicle movement restrictions including that odd/even rule and you can freely move there without such rule/restriction.
Now let’s move to the interesting topic of Bike Rentals.
There are a couple of interesting updates, and the first one is a bit inconvenient update.
There are some tensions going on with Manali and Leh Bike Unions and both Bike unions have decided to not allow each other’s bikes in each other’s territory.
As of now, Sarchu is the midpoint where Manali bike can go till Sarchu and Leh bike can also go till there
for any interchange if you may require. But it is definitely inconvenient. Bikes rented from Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar, etc. Are allowed till Leh but then for Ladakh sightseeing, you cannot use outside bikes and will need to rent the local Leh bike again as per the rules.
But at least you can reach Leh using these bikes.
There is no issue with a personal bike which you can take to Leh as well as do sightseeing on it as well.
I am sure you will be saying what is this, a joke? Who are these union guys to make rules in our free country?
Friends, I am with you in it and I personally feel that this matter should soon be resolved.
And after talking to few locals it looks like this matter will resolve soon for all bikers/tourists like us.
The second update is also very interesting on Ladakh bike rental.
The Ladakh bike rental union rates have been increased a lot, I mean really a lot.
Personally, I feel these rate hikes are done to control the bargaining so that when you ask for discounts. At least you take bikes on old rental rates and these new rates will take some time to be in effect.
All hotels and restaurants have mostly opened up and by July end they all should be fully operational till season end.
Similarly, camps at Pangong and Tso Moriri are also operational.
Shops and restaurants in Leh main market have also more or less opened up now following the guidelines from the authorities. So you will be able to get any items you may need up there.
Now talking about the final update on Ladakh, you may have seen some viral videos/posts few days before
some irresponsible tourists were driving the car near the shores of Pangong and that car was stuck.
Hence, it is my deeply humble request that you follow the responsible travel and don’t indulge in such acts. You are not doing adventure doing such acts but you are insulting our nature.
Hence, please, go as a responsible traveler or tourist to Ladakh and protect the fragile ecosystem of Ladakh.
Now finally let’s talk about Spiti valley travel updates.
I will start with road conditions and the Manali Kaza route is open.
And like I have told you in my Manali Kaza video, the road conditions on this route are always like driving on the river bad.
As of now Dorni water crossing between Gramphu and Batal has a lot of water in it which will create some problems for you.
Hence leave early in the morning to cross this water crossing with less water in it.
Shimla Kaza route is all good and you can travel to Kaza on it in any car without much trouble.
As for the Covid rules, there is no need for any RTPCR report or ePass to enter Himachal.
These restrictions are removed from July by the Himachal govt.
Public transport has started as well for Spiti Valley and Delhi, Kullu, Manali, Kaza routes have operational buses now.
Kullu – Kaza, Keylong – Kaza buses are also operational now.
Due to some commercial license plate issues, you will not get bike rentals in Kaza this season and bike rental shops in Kaza are not issuing any bikes. So get the bike from Shimla, Delhi or Manali for the Spiti trip.
If you want to rent a taxi then plz refer to the local driver list on my blog so that you can support the locals as well.
Now let me tell you some important updates on the Chandratal visit.
Chandratal road is now open and the most interesting part is that HRTC has started the Manali Chandratal tempo traveler bus for budget travelers.
But this bus is a very important step because the taxi rate from Manali to Chandratal was very high which created a lot of budget problems for folks like me on budget.
So this move by HRTC will be very appreciated by the budget traveling community.
The second update is that the camps are also operational on Chandratal lake campsite and you can very much stay there.
The third update is that govt authorities have started an ePass to visit Chandratal or Gramphu – Batal road if you are going via Kaza or Manali side, this ePass is mandatory.
And due to any issue, you are unable to get this ePass then apply it in the Kaza SDM office. SO this is it in Leh Ladakh And Spiti Valley Trip update.