Delhi to Leh travel
We start our treks in Leh because of huge variability in ticket prices, a better Delhi airport and internet bookings, 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 Airport)
Do carefully research your flight options between your home and Leh. Sometimes a minor extra cost or using an alternative airline can be substantially more convenient. Jet Airways flies from Newark, Toronto, London and Paris plus to Leh and so you could book all segments on the same ticket easily. Air India offers a similar reach too and very competitive pricing, even if the service is more ordinary. Combining Singapore Airlines with the new Air Vistara, who code-share, is sometimes convenient too, and there is no hardship involved in a Singapore stopover.
If an all in one ticket doesn't work then check out the budget airlines as well, GoAir and Spice Jet.
All Leh flights are by Boeing 737's or a similar-sized airbus jet (unlike Nepal where domestic flights are in small planes).
All domestic Delhi-Leh flights depart early, between 5.40am and 9am, and the return arrives in Delhi before midday, so that is what you are planning around. Additionally 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 at very minimum 1.5 hours for transiting in Delhi and 2+ hours is safer. It is compulsory to pick up your checked in luggage on arrival at Delhi and take it yourself through customs before handing back for the domestic sector. Early in the morning there are few queues however during the day security lines and passport lines can be up to half an hour each. There are also some long walks out to gates.
The end of the trek is not always as smooth though as there are few afternoon international flights out of Delhi (SIA is the exception) which means either hanging around the airport, which is now better than it ever used to be, or taking trip into the city (we can arrange). There are also useful paid lounge services at the airport.
Additionally, check how booking directly with an airline compares with Expedia, MakeMyTrip.com and other aggregating services and note that not all airline options will show with Expedia etc. Singapore Air, Qatar and Air Asia are best booked direct with the airline. Do try to book all your flight segments on one ticket as then if the domestic flight out of Leh to Delhi is delayed (and this happens roughly once a month) then there can be no charge if your international flight has to be changed; it is up to the airline to sort out. If you cannot do this, don't worry though, most airlines airlines are and that is what travel insurance is for, also.
Delhi is the only international arrival destination for Leh flights. Delhi airport has four terminals spread between the domestic and international terminals, do make a note of which terminals you are using, although conveniently with Jet and Air India, you arrive and depart all at T3, for international and domestic flights.
Particularly if coming from the USA, with the large time zone difference and long flights, it can be nice to arrive in Leh a day early for extra recovery time. We will 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.
Air Vistara, the 2017-new airline is a Tata-Singapore Airlines partnership and are our 2019-recommended airline to check first. Their prices are often good value.
Air India is the national airline and flies huge numbers of soldiers in and out of Leh. Their flights are reasonably reliable but their level of service is definitely a notch down.
GoAir is India's biggest airline and is cheap and cheerful with multiple daily direct flights. The standard baggage allowance is 15kg but you can purchase more at the time of buying the ticket. Their GoBusiness upgrade has a 35kg allowance. They leave from Terminal 1D and for the free shuttle you need your old boarding pass. Allow more than an hour for moving between terminals and once there, ask carefully!
Jet Airways used to be our recommended however have possible financial issues.
Spice Jet also flies once a day, so with five airlines flying and sometimes almost a dozen flights a morning in total, there is a lot of choice.
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
One option for recovery between flights is the clean Eaton transit hotel in the airport, which saves leaving the airport. Another are the Plaza Premium lounges and conveniently they have something like 5 different lounges, including two in T3 that are 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 18001211080
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...
To dive right into the heart of chaotic Delhi stay in Pahargunj. We have had a long association with the curiously named Hotel Cottage Yes Please, which is as good a choice as any around there. All tend to be slightly grimy.
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 or Leh and Srinagar is an absolutely stunning adventure and we worth doing once, even if the roads are rough, especially the Rohtang Pass section (although the new tunnel may open in 2020?). The real damper on this is the next stage of the journey though. Manali to Delhi is a somewhat torturous 14-16 hour overnight bus ride. We recommend the Himachal Pradesh Tourism buses (HPTDC) as the safest, with cautious drivers. Manali to Shimla by bus (around 8-10 hours) and then the toy train plus another train is also an alternative.
From Kulu airport, around 60kms from Manali, there are almost daily flights to Delhi however during the monsoon flights are sometimes delayed by days and so we cannot recommend them as being reliable enough for the start of a trek.
From Srinagar there are buses and flights to Delhi, assuming you survive the Kashmiri salesmen.
Studies prove you are at risk of getting a cold/flu if you are sitting relatively close to someone who is sick on the plane, and also flight attendants can pass on bugs however they have better hygiene practices so lower the risk. To reduce your personal risk, 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.