How to Plan A Trip to Remote Zanskar in Ladakh, India
Air? You’re not going to believe this but we actually purchased Business Class tickets! Options galore before deciding on Lufthansa, Chicago-Frankfurt-Delhi outgoing, returning on a combination of United/Lufthansa flights. Expensive Business Class tickets does have advantages; no groveling for system-wide upgrades; no sleepless nights wondering if free ticket space would be made available. Expensive but liberating. We did use United Airlines miles to pry loose the all important Delhi-Leh tickets on Jet Airways, a Star Alliance partner. Only three airlines fly to Leh, Ladakh. Jet Airways, Kingfisher Air and Air India.
Right off the bat, let me tell you that Jet Airways has disintegrated from a top-notch carrier to the bottom of the heap. If you think our American carriers are unmatched in pathetic amenities and service, fly Jet Airways. You can’t even get a free cup of coffee whether sitting in Economy or Business Class. Jet Airways now has the gall to charge for a cup of coffee. Did you ever?
There are some great fares to India if you surf the Internet. Check Fare Buzz, Orbitz, Flight Network, Kayak for the best deals. TIP: Save your hard-earned miles for First or Business Class on long-distance flights and Economy on short-hauls. It may only be 20,000 miles for a short-haul ticket.
Visas? Visas are required for all visitors to India (except citizens of Nepal and Bhutan) and you cannot get a Visa Upon Arrival. We got smart a few years ago and got a 10-year Visa for not much more than a one-year Visa. Our thinking was even if it was only used twice during the next 10 years, we’d come out ahead. Not to mention eliminating the hassle of getting a new one. Visitors staying in India for less than 72 hours can obtain a Transit Visa. Check with your nearest Indian Embassy for up-to-date Visa information.
Travel Insurance? Some don’t buy travel insurance, we always do…just in case. Vacations are too costly to risk losing everything if problems arise. Contact Travel Guard for insurance needs. There was no way we were going to take a chance with the extreme altitude in Ladakh or any possible medical emergencies without Travel Insurance. Even with the caveat that they’d probably never evacuate us in time!
Health? I always check the Centers for Disease Control updates to see what they suggest. There was no risk of Malaria in Ladakh. (Probably the mosquitoes can’t breathe either at that altitude.) A Tetanus booster is the most important innoculation in my estimation (we keep ours up-to-date religiously). It is not commonly known that you can get Lockjaw from contaminated dirt and even surface abrasions. Most people think that only a deep cut puts them at danger…not so. Hepatitis A and B inoculation is second on the list. Bring your other personal “drugs of choice.” A special drug added for this trip was Diamox that would, hopefully, help ease Steve’s acclimatization problems; he gets dreadfully sick the first 4-5 days. Boiled or bottled water would be available throughout but we also bring iodine tablets for emergency purification situations.
Equipment? Cameras, Camcorder and camping equipment. Skywalker Travel would supply tents and all camping equipment including toilet paper. It was recommended to bring our own sleeping bags since the cleanliness of rented sleeping bags was questionable. Flashlights (torch), wet wipes and Nalgene water bottles were necessities.
Clothing? Dress is always casual in Ladakh but we needed specific clothes for hiking and the elements. It is hot during the day and cool to cold at night. A hat, long pants, capris, t-shirts, hiking boots, Tevas, fleece lightweight Goretex, gloves and long underwear (just in case the weather turns frigid).
What was included in our itinerary?
– Everything! Accommodation in guesthouses and camps, drivers, vehicles, cook, guide. All meals, entrance fees.
What was not included?
– Optional tipping, visa fees, and other personal expenses.
– Alcoholic drinks
Currency? Rupee is the official currency and there is no problem exchanging GBP Sterling, Euros or U.S. Dollars in India. ATMs would be easy to find at the airport and Leh. However, we would need very little cash since everything was included. TIP: Use a money belt, leave good jewelry at home and exercise caution. ‘Nuff said. Everything planned…it was time to fly…