Ladakh “The land of high Passes” is a known tourist destination across the globe and attracts more people each and every year. Ladakh is spread over an area of 86906 square kilometers with an average elevation of 9,800 meters from sea level. The famous Khardungla Pass of Ladakh is considered among the highest motorable passes in the world. Apart from Khardungla Pass, Marsimik La, Chang La, Zoji La and the Rohtang Pass that connect the Leh town to Kullu Valley via Spiti and Lahaul Valley of Himachal Pradesh are some other popular high altitude passes in Ladakh.
Being present near the international border, there are locations which have been recognized as Protected / Restricted Area by the Government of India. In this article, we will explore the basic 3 permits that are required to enter Leh Ladakh for the purpose of tourism. No tourist without a valid permit and valid identity card is allowed to visit Ladakh.
- Ladakh Protected Area Permit
- Ladakh Inner Line Permit
- Ladakh Rohtang Pass Permit
Protected Area Permit for Ladakh Trip:
As mentioned in the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order 1958, every non- citizen of India, must obtain the special order (The permit) from the Government of India so that he/ she can visit (for the purpose of tourism) to those areas of the country that has been recognised as Protected / Restricted Area. Ladakh Protected Area Permit, or PAP, is a government issued document to foreign tourists that allows the foreign visitors to enter the restricted areas for a limited period of time.
These restricted areas are such locations/ regions which are located near the LOC or International Borders and are considered to be highly sensitive due to security reasons. In India, mostly the locations which are present nearer to the LOC (Pakistan) & LAC (China) require the non-Indian citizen to acquire this permit in order to visit the sites. According to the instruction contained in Chapter 18 of the Visa Manual para 18.1. (4), “no foreigner except a citizen of Bhutan can enter or stay in the protected areas of the State without obtaining a permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs and District Magistrate, Leh.”
This permit allows the foreign tourist to move/ travel (within the prescribed Protected Area) for a period of just 7 days. In order to extend their validity to explore more places or locations, they are required to reapply for the permit straight to the Ministry of Home Affairs. No foreign resident who is traveling alone can be provided with a permit. At least a group of two or a group of four foreign tourists with a certified travel agent can apply and obtain the Ladakh Protected Area Permit.
Although the foreigners can obtain the permit through the online portal or by visiting the District Magistrate’s office at Leh. But Citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and Myanmar can get the PAP only with the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Carrying the passport while visiting a Protected/ Restricted area is mandatory.
Inner Line Permit for Ladakh Trip:
Almost like the Ladakh Protect Area Permit, an Inner Line Permit also restricts the movement of tourists (for the purpose of tourism) to those areas of the country that has been recognized as Protected / Restricted Area. But in case of Inner line permit, the restriction is imposed on any person who is a citizen of India but not a resident of Jammu and Kasmir.
The Ladakh Inner line permit is applicable to all those non-Jammu and Kashmir Citizens and children above the age of 12 years. Such permits are mandatory for those areas which are near to the International borders and are highly sensitive to security reasons. As some of the prominent locations of Ladakh are very close to LAC ( China) like Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri, Kargil- Batalik sector, etc, hence it is mandatory to non- resident of Jammu & Kashmir to obtain the Inner Line Permit.
In order to promote the state’s ( Jammu and Kashmir) tourism especially the locations of Ladakh, the Ministry of Home Affairs had removed the Inner Line Permit for Indian nationals in 2014. This important decision not only attracted a huge number of tourist to Ladakh since 2014 but also positively attracted the overall tourism industry of the state. As the process of obtaining a permit was not only time taking but also the incurred charges were not very favorable rather preferable to many potential tourists. But from June 2017, the Ladakh Inner line permit has again become mandatory for the Indian tourists.
The process of obtaining the Inner Line permit has become much easier than earlier. One can fill the form online and directly visit the District Collectors office or TIC office at Leh Main Market and get your permit within hours. You can also opt for the offline process for which you need to visit the District collector’s office.
The Ladakh Inner Line Permit is valid for 3 weeks (unlike the Protected Area Permit which is valid for just 7 days). During this period of 3 weeks, one can visit the restricted area as many times as they want but must carry the Permit and a valid Identity Card along with few photocopies of both.
Rohtang Pass Permit for Ladakh Trip:
Rohtang pass is again a famous tourist attraction in India and is considered to be the Gateway of Leh through the Spiti and Lahaul Valley. Rohtang pass is situated at a height of 13050 ft in the eastern Pir Pranjal Range of the Himalaya. This Pass connects the Kullu Valley to the Spiti and Lahaul Valley, which is called the gateway of Leh, Ladakh. This route to reach Leh is the most popular route as it connects the Leh Town with rest of India. Also, there are a number of popular tourist locations present along the journey from Manali to Leh.
The alarming conditions of the Rohtang pass and its nearby ecology were deteriorating day by day, hence the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has restricted the number of the vehicle towards Rohtang Pass. Hence, from 2014, it has become mandatory for a vehicle to obtain the Rohtang pass Permit for the purpose to travel towards or travel through the Rohtang pass.
The Rohtang pass permit is actually the tax to be paid by the tourist or traveler for their vehicle to visit or cross the Rohtang Pass and it has nothing to do with the number of tourists/ travelers. As per the NGT directions dated June 19, 2017, daily limit of vehicles that can go to Rohtang has been increased from 1,200 to 1,300 vehicles. In a day only 860 petrol and 440 diesel vehicles can visit Rohtang pass exclusively for the tourism purpose at Rohtang Pass.
In a day only 900 vehicles can cross through the Rohtang pass to travel beyond this location. It is also important to carry your identity cards, Valid Pollution Under Check (PUC) Certificate, Vehicle Registration Date (Age of vehicle not to be more than 10 years).
Rohtang pass remains closed for maintenance purpose on Tuesday. If a traveler is coming towards Manali from Leh, then there is no need of permit to cross Rohtang pass. The permit can be booked online from the official website of Tourism Development Council, Manali or get the permit from the check post near the Rohtang pass.