I'm an avid traveler, but I'm not a travel blogger. However, my recent Ladakh trip is something which I feel I should share. This is no Europe or New Zealand where you get all amenities, and nothing will go wrong. This is a different experience in itself.
I am your average unhealthy person. I eat junk, don't workout at all and spend most of my time either working or watching series. I cannot stand cold weather and I prefer road trips over hiking/mountain climbing. The first time I hiked it was down and up the Grand Canyon. Going down was fun, it was coming up which made me decide I will never hike again. I didn't event hike on Honolulu's tiny hill which everyone else around me was doing, I preferred chilling at the beach instead. So if you're the average lazy Indian like me who prefers comfort over anything else, and is planning to go to Ladakh, please go through this list. I'm not saying you'll die otherwise (you might), but it will save you from getting airlifted to an army camp hospital. Also, it will help you enjoy a happy and comfortable trip, like I did. :)
1) Postpaid sim card: You cannot just land at Leh and expect your prepaid sim to get converted. Prepaid Sims don't work in most places in J&K and Ladakh comes under that territory. Also, only BSNL and Aircel works there, so ensure that you have a Postpaid sim card of either of these two networks so that you're not stranded at the airport. Airtel usually converts to Aircel, so check with your network provider in advance. Also, data and network gets controlled by the J&K govt and they block both based on any disturbances which happen in any area. So if there is a riot happening in Srinagar, your data, network and Wifi might just get cut off in Leh, even though you're miles away.
2) Essentials to pack: Gloves, Caps, Muflers, Earmuffs, Woolen socks and thermals are essential apart from jackets. Take two types of jackets, one for temperatures between 5-15 degrees and one which you can use in Sub zero temperatures. If you're flying and weight is an issue, carry the heaviest jacket with you in hand. Don't rely on Google for weather. If you're planning to go to pangong/khardungla, the temperature will fall below zero. I went during their peak Summers and it was mad cold. Also carry sunglasses and sunscreen, the highest point in the world also gives the worst sunburn when you're in your car.
3) First timers please don't DRIVE to Leh: You might be like Road Trip! And take the stupid decision to drive in Ladakh. Don't do it. The town is very motorable, the beautiful scenic areas are not. That is why they are beautiful. There are tiny roads cut from the middle of the mountains, and in some places there are no roads at all! You will be driving through frozen ice, stones, landslides and even mini streams! All this time, there will be a deathly mountain edge on your side. One slip and you're done. Even if you are a super skilled driver with an Innova or Xylo, your car might get destroyed. Better take a local driver through a tour operator. Even if you decide to drive till Leh, please rent a car for visiting Pangong or Nubra and leave your car at the hotel.
Also insist on either Innova or Xylo. There are certain roads on which other cars face issues climbing and get stuck. I've seen multiple cars turn back when their engines gave up.
4) Oxygen: Acclamatization is real. If it were a tourism gimmick Himachal would be doing it too. Imagine this, you're at sea level and your plane puts you 11000 feet above it in just two hours. Of course you will feel breathless. But does that mean you ruin your first day and do nothing? If I had a job and had the luxury to take holidays I would. But being an entrepreneur, every single day of vacation counts. Also, I hate sitting in a beautiful cafe and reading a book with a cup of tea, that's not me. I'd rather sit next to a waterfall or lake or in the middle of the mountains and listen to music.
So here's my solution to breathlessness: Buy Diamox BEFORE your trip. One day before you are flying, take one at night. Next day onwards, take one after breakfast and one after dinner. The day you land at Leh airport, before going to the hotel go to a pharmacy and buy an oxygen spray. There are various brands, I bought Oxy99 from Life Care pharmacy near Leh market. For 600 bucks, you get 100-120 sprays. Pricey? Yes. But saves you an extra day of hotel rent doing nothing, if you think about it. Diamox also takes care of motion sickness by the way.
Spend the first day exploring the city so that it's fun+Acclamatization. Go see the parade at Hall of Fame, the gurdwara and explore the market, nothing very tiring. You'll be good to travel next day.
5) Hotels: A lot of travel agencies will force you to take hotels based on their recommendation. Having an agent is good, but don't listen to everything they say. Always check the hotels on trip advisor. Thomas Cook had suggested a really crappy hotel to us, we saw the ratings and didn't go with them. My driver literally laughed when we said that this is where Thomas Cook makes their customers stay.
If you take care of these 5 small things, you'll have an amazing time there. Ladakh is by far one of the most beautiful places I've been to in the world. It's raw beauty makes it even prettier than New Zealand. This is not a travel itinerary, it's just a list of 5 pointers which you'll rarely find online. Hope it helps. :)