Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (H.P.T.D.C.) runs regular bus service on Leh-Manali-Leh route during season every year. The bus plies a rough and scenic mountainous route between Leh (Jammu and Kashmir) and Manali (Himachal Pradesh).
The one-way Leh-Manali bus ride takes up to 24 hours (about 475 kilometers). The corporation bus completes this journey in two days. The bus stops for a night halt at Keylong in Himachal Pradesh. But the travel time is not evenly divided into two days. On the first day, starting at 5:00 am from Leh, the bus covers 360 kilometers (Leh-Keylong) in fifteen (15) hours. On the second day, the bus covers the remaining distance in 6-9 hours depending on weather, road, and traffic conditions.
In this blog, we will answer seven question you should (“should ask questions (SAQs)”) ask about the bus ride:
1. Which seat number should you book and why?
If you want to photograph the route from the bus, the seat number is very important because high mountains (most of the time) hem the right side of the road up to Keylong. The valley (s) with river (s), interesting mud structures, tar road loops clung to the mountain slopes at various levels, and pasture lands run along the left side most of the time. If you book seats in the row behind the driver’s seat (on the mountain side), the view would be very limited and chances of photography would be limited given the small size of the bus window.
To get the best and wide views, book a seat in the row running along the bus door for Leh-Keylong.
After Keylong, the valley fences the right side of the road until Khoksar. So you need a seat behind the driver’s seat. After Khoksar, the valley would be on left side of the road (most of the time).
You can select the seats (window or non-window seats) while booking online. The online booking platform has accurate bus seat diagram.
[ Related Read: HPTDC Begins Online Bus Booking for Manali-Leh-Manali ]
2. What type of clothing is required?
The bus crosses at least five high altitude passes: Tanglang La (5,303 meters), Lachulung La (5,059 meters), Nakee La (4,711 meters), Baralacha La (4,890 meters), and Rohtang Pass (3,978 meters). Especially these passes and the surrounding areas experience cold weather. You would thus need a light woolen jacket, wind proof jacket, or thick cotton jacket, cap, and gloves for a part of the journey. Wear at least cotton socks.
If it rains and it is cloudy, you will definitely need woolens.
3. What type of food is included in the bus fare? Should you carry food for Leh to Manali bus ride?
The corporation serves two Indian meals: vegetarian dinner and breakfast at Keylong. For the remaining journey, the bus stops three four times at different places en route. For example, Upshi, Pang, Sarchu, and Bharatpur. These pit stops feature traditional dhabas or temporary food stalls in big canvas tents. These stalls sell local food such as dal chawal (rice and pulse), sabji (dry vegetables or vegetable curry), meat, momos (dumplings), thukpa (noodles with soup), paratha (shallow fried India bread), chapati (flat Indian bread), dry snacks, chocolates, biscuits, Indian savories, cold drinks, tea, and water. However, cost of the food is relatively high. For example, ten pieces of veg momos would cost INR 60-80. A water bottle costs INR 40 per liter instead of MRP of INR 20. A ten rupees potato chip pack would cost INR 15-20.
Fresh fruit stalls are almost non-existent along the route. You may get bananas at one or two shops.
4. Which type of accommodation would H.P.T.D.C. provide: sharing or non-sharing?
The corporation offers beds and blankets in canvas tents on sharing basis at Keylong for a night. Each gender specific tent accommodates five guests. Permanent wash rooms in the hotel complex are common for all thirty passengers sharing the bus for the two day trip.
However, you have a choice to stay in a room in H.P.T.D.C.’s Hotel Chandra Bhaga. But you have to pay extra for sleeping in non-sharing room. A double bed room for the bus ticket holder costs INR 935 per night.
The tents are also pitched within the hotel complex.
5. Does this journey give motion sickness?
Motion sickness is subjective. Chances of getting motion sickness depends on health of an individual. A healthy person who has acclimatized well to high altitude and who does not travel empty stomach may not get the sickness at all.
To avoid motion sickness, our advice is don’t travel empty stomach. Do not over eat either. Eat small simple meals / snacks at frequent intervals. Chew food properly. Do not swallow. Sip water.
6. Do pit stops feature wash rooms?
Wash room scene is not good. But some pit stops feature three side enclosures with rudimentary toilet seats. But these are not clean. But offer some privacy and some protection against wind and rain. One of the pit stops at Pang feature proper toilets but they were dirty on July 18, 2014.
7. Does bus stop at high altitude passes?
The bus may or may not stop at all the passes. For example on July 18, 2014, our bus stopped at two of the passes: Tanglang La and Baralacha La. The conductor also informed us about Suraj Tal (lake). The bus was slowed down as we reached the lake so that we could have a better glimpse of the lake.