You might be wondering whether a trip to Ladakh in October is such a good idea.
Yes, it’s true it isn’t the busiest time of the year for Ladakh. The summer months are well and truly gone with most tourists along with it. But why should that be a bad thing?
What to Know Before Visiting Ladakh in October
Ladakh in October is arguably the most beautiful time of the year. With 360 degree views of snow capped mountains and gorgeous autumn trees, who wouldn’t like that?!
But there are a few things that you should know before heading to this Himalayan paradise. If you bare these things in mind the biggest thing you’ll have to worry about is having enough storage for all the photos!
1. Anticipate Snow
Ladakh is filled with amazing mountain views, alpine lakes and fantastic treks only made more beautiful by the snow.
There’s usually only a light dusting of snow in the lower regions of Ladakh in October. However, in the higher regions you should anticipate lots, and I mean LOTS.
Basically the higher up you go, the more snow you’ll find. The best way to see this is on the Khardung La Road.
Once home to the highest pass in the world, the Khardung La road ascends up to over 18,000ft (around 5,359m). You’ll find hardly any snow at the bottom but gradually you’ll start to see more and you definitely won’t be disappointed when you reach the Khardung La Pass, way up at the top! It’s the perfect place in Ladakh to make a snowman that’s for sure.
If you’re planning a trip to Ladakh in October, it’d be a good idea to brush up on your snow photography skills, as you’ll want to be able to properly capture the stunning beauty of the Himalayas.
2. Be Careful on the Roads
As fun as the snow is, it can make things problematic if you don’t plan ahead.
The roads lower down in Ladakh are completely fine in October so no need to worry. Apart from the pot holes anyway. Oh and the cows. Be careful of the cows, they’re all over the roads.
The roads higher up in the Ladakh mountain ranges however are particularly prone to closure. The Leh to Manali Highway is especially a NO-GO in October. Most of the highway is unpredictable even during the summer months so it’s really not worth risking it at this time of the year. Unless you want to be rescued by helicopter anyway…
For those of you planning on driving to Ladakh from other Indian states make sure you check the status of the roads. Most will be fine but it’s always best to check.
Flying into Ladakh is a less risky mode of transport. There are pretty frequent flights into Leh throughout October. The altitude of the airport isn’t too high so snow is less of a worry, but later on in the year flights may get delayed or even cancelled in November/December time.
3. Prepare for the Altitude
This is a bit of an obvious one. But it’s hands down the most important thing to consider about Ladakh, no matter what season it is. They don’t call it the ‘land of the high passes’ for nothing.
Unless you acclimatise then it’s going to be a pretty miserable trip.
The air is so thin at that altitude that even going up a few stairs is a struggle. There are anti-sickness tablets that you can buy to prevent the sickness and headaches but make sure you’re stocked up on Paracetamol just in case.
If you’re staying in Leh then I’d recommend staying around town for the first few days to let your body adjust. It’s a beautiful town with lots of small walks and monasteries to explore. Take advantage of those before heading off on an intense trek!
4. Be a Smart Packer
Ladakh in October can get pretty cold, especially in the mornings and evenings. Make sure you’re a smart traveller and pack appropriately. Hats, scarfs and gloves are definitely needed in the evenings or if venturing up into the mountains.
Mid-day temperatures are still quite warm, around 19-23 degrees towards the start of October and a slightly cooler 12-16 degrees towards the end.
However, since the majority of the hotels in Leh lack central heating, definitely think about packing the winter PJ’s! Luckily most of the hotels provide thick blankets.
We hadn’t even thought about this, but the hotel provided us with a hot water bottle each which we were extremely thankful for (as most nights were below 0 degrees)! You can pick up small ones which are easy to squeeze into the suitcase if you have room. You’ll thank me for this one, trust me!
Make sure you have plenty of long sleeved T-shirts and thin jumpers to wear which you can easily roll up and chuck in your rucksack during the day. And of course, pack a comfortable pair of trainers or walking boots because you’ll be doing a LOT of walking.
5. Expect Power Cuts
You can expect power cuts in Leh every single night like clockwork. The restaurants luckily stay open but say goodbye to the Wi-Fi (which is temperamental at the best of times).
Make sure you have a torch with you. Without the street lights visibility is low, especially with pollution from some of the cars too. If like us, you like to walk to places as much as you can, then torches are a necessity. The roads aren’t the best even in broad daylight so to avoid falling down pot holes or bumping into the cows take a torch!
Bare in mind this also means that your accommodation won’t have power either. Most places have back-up generators but sometimes they don’t work either so keep that in mind too especially for charging your phones, cameras etc.
6. Working the Cash Machines
Ah, Indian cash machines. Prepare to get frustrated every time you use them. This is a more general thing for the whole of India but it applies for Ladakh in October too!
Even if you’ve read this article before heading to Ladakh and mastered your Indian ATM technique I can’t guarantee you will have 100% success. Half the time the cash machines don’t have any cash in them anyway!
If I can give you one piece of advice that you take away from this article, it’s make sure you get as much cash out as you can when the ATM is working.
The opening times for the ATM’s definitely aren’t consistent. Plus some of them don’t accept foreign cards and occasionally not travel cards either.
Nowhere in Ladakh accepts card so try to have as much cash on you or even foreign currency to exchange in case you can’t access cash whilst you’re here.
At the ATM, make sure that after you select ‘cash withdrawal’ always select from the ‘credit card’ option. It’s the only option that works.
Also, at the end of every transaction, even if it was successful, always press cancel or clear on the keypad to stop the next person withdrawing from your account!
7. Phone Service is Non-Existent
Even though there are telephone lines all throughout Ladakh, phone service is non-existent.
It’s definitely worth buying an Indian SIM card because you can load it with a very small amount of money and it will last you the whole trip. Data is extremely cheap in India so make the most of it. We were grateful for google maps on the trip that’s for sure. Especially since no one seems to know where anywhere is in India!
The locals phones all seemed to work fine but it was patchy at best for our phones.
Your best bet is to find a cafe which has good Wi-Fi when you arrive. We found the internet was best in Leh, in the Barista Cafe and Leh Cafe, plus both places do a fantastic coffee!
8. Be Polite
This is obviously a given, but the locals respond well to tourists that make an effort to say hello to them.
Even just knowing the word for hello (Juley – pronounced “joo-ley”) and thank you (Tu-Chi Che) will go a long way.
You’ll find the locals are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. The buddhists and children especially are very smiley and happy to help with directions or queries.
9. Tourist Information
The tourist information is in the centre of Leh. The ladies behind the desk are really helpful and can provide lots of advice so definitely pay them a visit!
They’re also really helpful in telling you the best places to go for tours and for buying bus tickets as there are so many in the centre it’s impossible finding the right one.
You can ask them how much you should pay for certain tours and taxi’s too so you can avoid being ripped off!
10. Enjoy the Local Food
Last but not least, enjoy the delicious selection of local food!
Ladakh is largely made up of people with Indian, Tibetan and Chinese origin so you can get food from all three delicacies.
The dumplings and hot and spicy soups are particularly delicious and extremely comforting after a cold trek through the Ladakhi mountains.
So there you have it! That just about covers all the things you need to know before heading to Ladakh in October. It’s a stunning part of the world that you will no doubt love and treasure the memories forever!