So, the Ladakh season is here again. Some people are already there and the rest are planning. As usual, if you are going for the first time, you must be frantically searching for basic information. So, I thought I will simplify the process for you. As a budget traveller, I never take flights, and due to my love for Himachal, I prefer the Delhi-Manali-Ladakh route.
The Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) runs regular bus services to Leh in the tourist season, starting from Late June/early July and it runs till mid to end September, depending on weather and road conditions. However, there are several buses leaving from different points, and offering different types of facilities. So, this can be a bit confusing if you are going for the first time.
To be honest, I always take it slow, and spend several days in between, before reaching the final destination. However, not everyone has that much time at hand and for such people, you even have buses from Delhi nowadays. On the other hand, you can always catch them from Manali or even Keylong. Also, the time taken and rate depends on he nature of the bus. There are some ordinary buses running, who are cheaper (and personally I find them more enjoyable) but there are more expensive buses too.
Leh Bus Timings
Delhi to Leh Bus Fare & Timing
The HRTC bus service from Delhi to Leh covers around 1072 KMs. It is a marathon journey that takes you from the buring plains of North India to the dizzying. 5000 meter+ passes. It takes two days, including an overnight ride on the first night but a night halt at Keylong on the second night. It also stops at various other points for convenient food breaks.
Delhi-Leh Bus Route
Delhi-Leh Bus Timings
Here are the timinsg of the bus. (You can hop in at various points, depending on the availability of seats)
Start from Delhi- 2:30 pm
Start from Chandigarh (Sec.43)- 8:30 pm (Do NOTE that Chandigarh has two major bus stands. You need to go to the one at Sector 43)
Start from Kullu- 5:15 am
Start from Manali- 7:00 am .
Reach Keylong for Halt 1:00 pm
Start from Keylong- 5:00 am
Reach Leh- 7:00 pm
Delhi to Leh Bus Fare
The bus fare has been raised slightly to INR 1500 for the season in 2019 for the ordinary bus 2X3 (47 seater)
Delhi-Leh Bus Night Halt
The bus is likely to halt at Keylong, the headquarter of Lahaul region. This fare does not cover your night stay. So, you will have to find a hotel on your own and then report back to the bus the next morning on time.
Mountain Passes on the Manali-Leh Route
The bus crosses Rohtang La (3900 meters), Baralacha La (4900 meters), Naki La (4700 Meters), Lachung la (5000 Meters), Tanglang la (5300 meters) before finally reaching Leh City (3500 meters).
Booking Delhi to Leh Ticket Online
While you can ask at the HRTC ticket counters at ISBT Kashmiri Gate in Delhi, HRTC is also trying to make it available online. I checked it and as of now they are only allowing booking till Manali but they may start it soon. Check this link for booking Delhi to Leh bus online ticket.
Leh to Delhi Return Bus Timing
You can return from Leh on the same bus. The timings are below, all other details remaining the same (but in the reverse direction).
Start rom Leh 5:00 am
At Keylong- 7:00 pm (Overnight Halt)
From Keylong- 6:30 am
From Manali 1:25 pm
Reach Delhi (Kashmir Gate) ~ 4 am
Manali to Leh Bus Fare & Timing
Manali generally offerstwo different types of options. One is the more expensive luxury option that halts at Keylong and gives you enough time to stop and enjoy the views. The other one is the usual ordinary bus that reaches the same day.
Manali to Leh HPTDC semi-delux Bus
This bus is run by Himachal Pradesh Tourist Development Corporation (HPTDC). Naturally, the focus is on tourists and it i smore expensive.
Manali-Leh HPTDC Bus Timings, Fare, & Booking
Departure from Manali 10 AM
Reach Keylong 4 PM
Departure from Keylong 4 AM
Reach Leh 7 PM
Bus Fare INR 2900 (Includes dormitory accommodation at HPTDC Hotel Chanderbhaga, Keylong with Dinner and Breakfast).
The same bsu returns from Leh at 5 AM, following the same route in reverse.
Booking is generally done at the HPTDC office at Manali Mall Road (NOT the bus stand but not far from it either). I am not sure about their online booking facilities for this bus. But check this link, they may start it.
Manali to Leh Ordinary HRTC Bus
This bus is run by HRTC and it is the ordinary bus that starts early morning and tries to reach by the evening. There is no night halt. It will halt for food at various places but you will have to pay for the food.
Manali-Leh HRTC Bus Timings, Fare, & Booking
Departure from Manali 4 AM (The bus may actually start from Kullu even earlier)
Reach Leh 7 PM
Bus Fare INR 800-900 (No inclusions).
Booking is generally done at the bus stand at Manali. Try to book it in the previous evening.
ANother bus leaves later, at around 8 AM. But it halts at Keylong. So, next day you can go from Keylong as explained below.
Keylong to Leh Bus Fare & Timing
Naturally, all other long distance buses mentioned above also travel from Keylong.
Keylong to Leh Bus Timing, Fare and Booking
Start from Keylong 5 AM (If it leaves at all. A lot depends on the weather and road conditions).
Reach Leh 7 PM
It costs around INR 500. It is a basic ordinary HRTC bus.
You can directly go in the morning and hop into the bus, however, to be safe, try to enquire and book a ticket at the Keylong Bus Stand in the previous evening (Sometimes they don’t give tickets in advance, if they are not sure about the schedule next morning).
Following is the counter number (as per HRTC social media team) for this although I have never called myself.
Contact number: 01900 222245
BTW, in case you have time at hand in Keylong, don’t be disappointed. You will find nice budget hotels (INR 500-600) with free Wi-Fi here, near the bus stand. Lahaul is a nice, underrated area. In fact, I encourage you to spare a few more days here. Read my Lahaul and Keylong Guide for the same.
Exploring Ladakh on Buses
Once you make it to Leh, you may want to explore rest of the places on locan buses too. For taht purpose, read this post on Exploring Ladakh on Buses.