Delhi to Leh travel
We start our treks in Leh because of huge variability in ticket prices and the fact we are not a bonded travel agency. So, you are responsible for getting yourself to Leh and here is the info to make this as smooth as possible. Book early for better value!
Planning your flights
Leh airport code IXL (Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport)
Delhi airport code DEL (Indira Gandhi International /IGI Airport)
Booking flights can be an ordeal and so set aside a good amount of time and carefully research your flight options between your home and Leh perhaps using Google first. There is plenty of choice and sometimes a minor extra cost or using an alternative airline can be substantially more convenient. For an all-in-one ticket, the main option is Air India, a Star Alliance member, and they fly from five US airports and three UK airports. Pricing is competitive however their inflight service is basic. All their flights leave/arrive at Delhi T3 (terminal 3), which is convenient, and if you buy the whole route with them, your international luggage allowance is applicable to the domestic flight too.
Alternatively, take your fav international carrier then get a separate domestic ticket. There is some choice, IndiGo and SpiceJet are budget carriers. Air Vistara is smaller and in theory perhaps better but not always in practice. Avoid Go First as they are in trouble.
All Leh flights are by Boeing 737's or a similar-sized airbus 320 jets (unlike Nepal where domestic flights are in small planes).
There are more than a dozen flights beginning very early through to around midday. Most international flights arrive into Delhi late at night/early in the morning and so it is possible to arrive in Delhi and transfer to your domestic flight with only a few hours in-between, meaning you do not need to leave the airport.
Do allow a minimum 3 hours for transiting in Delhi, better 4 hours if mid-morning. It is compulsory to pick up your checked in luggage on arrival at Delhi and take it through customs yourself before checking it in again for the domestic sector, which adds considerable time to the process. Early in the morning there are few queues however during the day security lines and passport lines can be half an hour each. There are also some long walks to and from air gates in T3, 15 minutes+ for some.
Transiting between T3 and T2 takes around 15-20 minutes, and walking is often the best. Perhaps watch a Youtube video on it. From T3 to T1/T1D takes more than half an hour by vehicle.
The end of the trek is not always as smooth though as there are few afternoon international flights out of Delhi (Singapore Airlines is the exception) which means either hanging around the airport or taking trip into the city (we can arrange). There are also paid lounge services after check in however you can only check in at maximum 4 hours before your flight.
Additionally, check how booking directly with an airline compares with Expedia, MakeMyTrip.com, Kayak and other aggregating services and note that not all airline options will show with Expedia. Singapore Airlines and Qatar are best booked direct with the airline.
Particularly if coming from the USA, with the large time zone difference and long flights, it is better to arrive in Leh a day early for extra recovery time. We still arrange an airport transfer and hotel booking and extra hotel nights are good value.
Do feel free to discuss travel options with us too.
A normal price for Delhi-Leh one way is USD150, so any deal that starts at around $100 (with add-ons to be added) is good value. Most use the budget airline model and so have a 15 kg luggage allowance and the additional weight is best bought before as part of the ticket as the price is relatively steep. There are now around 15 flights a day, sometimes two dozen (when we started trekking there were less than a handful). Booking direct with the airline mostly works best.
Indigo is a very big operator who add flights when busy.
SpiceJet flew three times a day in 2022 and has a standard 15kg allowance, so book additional.
Air India (T3) is the national airline and flies huge numbers of soldiers in and out of Leh.
Air Vistara operates from T3 and has a single flight a day.
Which seat? Consider where the wing is and take a window seat on the left (A) side to Leh, which means you are not squinting or shooting into the sun. The flight time is approx 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Booking your Delhi-Leh flights
If the prices quoted directly by airlines seem expensive check MakeMyTrip.com and SkyScanner.net. Along with a couple of other resellers, sometimes they have block-booked most of the cheap seats.
One option for recovery between flights without leaving the airport are the Plaza Premium lounges and conveniently they have something like 5 different lounges and two shoebox hotels that are immediately outside the gate area, so you can catch a nap or shower when moving between international and domestic, especially handy with a long transit time, when you pick up your baggage but are not allowed in to the next check in area until 4 hours before your flight.
There are a handful of good hotels in the true Aerocity (obviously close to the airport), however a another good, probably slightly cheaper hotel still very close by is:
Hotel Classic Diplomat
Block B, Mahipalpur Village, Mahipalpur, New Delhi 110037
tel: 011 40419900, 1800 1211080
and this is best booked through one of the booking apps, Expedia, Agoda or Tripadvisor. Their sign is readily visible from the main IGI Rd intersection and taxis invariably drive against the one way flow for the short distance to the door...
For other options and for buying air tickets or bus tickets, and for Taj Mahal packages, contact our friends at Kipling India, and do mention that you are travelling with us.
Overland to/from Leh
Driving between Leh and Manali is an absolutely stunning adventure and well worth doing once, although it is most definitely a multiday journey.
Currently, we recommend avoiding Srinagar.
Studies prove you are at risk of getting a cold/flu/covid if you are sitting relatively close to someone who is sick on the plane so mask up for the flight, use hand cleaning gel (a small tube to get through security) or anti-bacterial hand wipes multiple times, and especially before meals, and especially avoid touching your face and eyes.