Permits for Leh Ladakh Trip: Everything you need to know

Located as it is in a very sensitive and strategically important location sharing its border with both China and Pakistan, Ladakh requires both Indian nationals and Foreign visitors to acquire permits for Leh Ladakh to visit certain places. 

For Indian citizens, the permit needed to visit some of the interior regions of Leh Ladakh requires a permit called the ‘inner line permits.’ 

In the case of foreign visitors, the permit required to visit these interior places in Ladakh is known as the ‘protected area permit.’ 

Which Places in Leh Ladakh requires Permits for a visit?

Khardung La: Permits for Leh Ladakh

A View from Khardung La Top: Riding at the Top of the World

Permits are needed to visit places like Khardung La and beyond to Nubra Valley, Shyok, Hunder, Turtuk. Permit is also required to visit Changa La and beyond to Tangtse, Pangong Tso Lake, Man, Merak, Chumathang, Tsaga La Tso Moriri and also if you are traveling from or to Pangong Tso to Nubra Valley via Wari La direct route. Batalik and Dha-Hanu also require permits to visit.

Both inner line permits and protected area permits are issued by the District Commissioner of Leh and the permits are issued at the Leh DC Office on weekdays except for National Holidays in India.

However, citizens of certain countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal etc. need to get their protected area permits from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

The point to note is that in order to apply for and obtain inner line permits for a trip to Leh Ladakh, visitors have to pay a nominal fee. Also, the permits for Ladakh are only valid up to a certain period of time.

Let me break down for you the process, fees and how to apply for inner line permits as well as protected area permits for Leh Ladakh trip.

  1. How to Apply for Inner Line Permits in Leh Ladakh (For Indian citizens)

First of all, don’t get intimidated by the word ‘permit.’ Inner line permits for Leh Ladakh Trip are one of the most hassle free documents to get without you having to go under any lengthy process or standing into long queues. In fact, you can even apply for and get it online.

You just have to keep the following point in mind while applying for inner line permits offline by directly visiting the Leh DC office or if you are applying offline.

There are 3 ways to apply for and obtain inner line permits for Leh Ladakh Trip:

  1. By visiting Leh DC office in person
  2. By applying online
  3. Get it through a travel agency/tour operator or the hotel staff in case you have pre-booked it in Leh.

Documents required for inner line permit application:

Irrespective of how you apply for it, as an Indian citizen, you’ll need to provide a valid identity proof. The documents which are accepted include your driving license, aadhar card, voter ID card, PAN card or a passport.

Charges/Cost of inner line permit application:

There are three components to your Leh Ladakh inner line permit cost. Two are fixed cost namely, environmental protection fee and Red Cross donation whereas one of the components i.e. Wildlife Protection Fee is charged on a daily basis.

  1. a) One time Environmental Protection Fee is INR 400 per person
  2. b) One time Red Cross Donation Fee is INR 100 per person
  3. c) Wildlife Protection Fee of INR 20 per person per day

So, if you are applying for a inner line permit for say 2 days for a trip to Pangong Tso Lake, your inner line permit cost will be 400+100+2(20) = INR 540

Validity of the inner line permits for Leh Ladakh:

The inner line permits for Indian citizens are valid for the duration of up to 3 weeks in which you can visit the places mentioned in the permit as many times as you’d like.

  1. How to Apply for Protected Area Permits in Leh Ladakh (For Travelers from overseas)

The process of applying for and obtaining a protected area permit is slightly different for travelers from overseas. The most important difference is that a foreign citizen can’t apply directly for a protected area permit in person .

S/he has to do so only through a registered travel agent or even your hotel staff (if you have pre-booked one in Leh can arrange that for you for a little extra ‘service charge’). Also note that foreigners can’t apply for a protected area permit if they are traveling solo.

If you are a solo traveler from a foreign country, then worry not. There’s a way around that which is to say not ‘illegal.’

If you are traveling solo, your travel agent will put you in a group of other travelers from overseas so that you will be granted the protected area permit to travel to inner areas in Ladakh region.

The beauty of it is that once you are granted the permit, you don’t need to travel in the same group or with the same people. You just have to get enough of those permits photocopied to produce them at checkposts wherever required during your trip.

The fee/cost structure for protected area permits is the same as inner line permits. As for the documents required for the protected area permits, you will need to produce your valid passport with VISA/OCI cards for applying for protected area permits.

The protected area permits for travelers from overseas are valid up to 15 days from the date of the issuance.

  1. How to Apply for Protected Area Permits for Special Cases (Pak, Bangladesh, Bhutan etc.)

Applying for protected area permits for certain nationals and people associated with certain organisations is a little different and complex. 

Visitors from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will not be able to obtain a permit from the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Leh. They will have to apply for an Inner Line Permit from the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi.

Foreigners holding a diplomatic passport and members of the United Nations will have to apply for an Inner Line Permit from the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.

Special Notes: 

  • Don’t forget to mention all the important places along the route when you are applying for the inner line permits in person. Also, carrying a permit doesn’t mean that you’ll be guaranteed to be allowed to take a particular route due to the sensitive nature of the place. Word of the army at the checkposts where your permits will be checked will be final. 
  • For a better understanding of the route (especially if you are taking the Pangong Tso – Nubra Valley or Pangong Tso – Tso Moriri Direct Routes, do check out the online application form for the inner line permits to Leh Ladakh.
  • Also note that you don’t require inner line permits or protected area permits while traveling on Manali – Leh Highway or the Srinagar Leh Highway. However, if you are planning to visit Tso Moriri directly from Manali via Sarchu, then you’ll need to apply for obtain the requisite permit for the same in advance.
  • Also note that even if you are going for an online application for inner line permits, the printed out copies of permits still need to be stamped by either you visiting the Leh DC office or Tourist Information Center.
  • Yet another thing to note while applying online for a permit is that you can’t apply for the Tso Moriri – Pangong Tso – Nubra Valley direct route. For that, you will have to pay a visit to the Leh DC Office and apply for them in person or else get it done through a travel agent.

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