Cheap private taxi to Leh – Ladakh | A Myth or A Reality?

Ladakh taxi rates are quite high and these taxis are the backbone of transportation in Leh – Ladakh. Hence, we all look forward to options for a cheap taxi in Leh Ladakh. Now the question comes, with such high rates of a taxi in Leh, is it really possible to get a cheap taxi in Ladakh or it is just a myth?

Looking for a cheap private taxi for Leh Ladakh trip?

In this article, I will share with you some tips and tricks which can help in reducing your budget of Leh taxi rates, especially for Manali – Leh drop.

Cheap taxi for Manali to Leh – Really possible?

In my previous article on how to calculate the budget for Leh Ladakh trip, I mentioned that if you hire a private taxi for Manali to Leh journey then it can easily cost you about Rs 17000 – 19000 just for a drop from Manali to Leh or Leh to Manali. However, there is another way out if your luck is with you.

Luck !! Seriously?? What is it?

Manali & Ladakh Taxi Union Rules

Well, Leh Ladakh taxi union and Manali taxi union has a rule that Leh registered taxi cannot pick up passengers from Manali while coming back from Manali to Leh and a similar rule is applicable in Leh as well that Himachal or Manali taxi cannot pick up passengers from Leh while coming back to Manali.

Video – Budget Taxi on Ladakh Trip

Hence, the private taxis charges are so high because the drivers have to get costing for traveling to both directions. But, we are humans after all, and at times these rules are broken for the benefit of both passenger and the driver.

How to hack the rule?

The driver charges the operational and fuel cost to take you back from the place where he is not authorized to pick up passengers as per the rules of Leh and Manali unions. Hence, if you can get hold of one driver or a taxi, then Ladakh taxi can take you back from Manali by paying just fuel plus the operational cost and similarly, Himachal/Manali taxi can take you back from Leh at a similar cost.

Looking for a cheap Leh Ladakh taxi?

Now, the best part. This operational or fuel cost can range from Rs 8000 – 12000 depending upon how you bargain with the taxi driver for the rates. Hence, the cost of a taxi or car hire in Leh for a drop to Manali and Manali to Leh drop comes down from 2 X (17k-19K) = Rs 34K – 38K down to Rs 16000 – 24000…

And, well, you can save the entire cost of food and accommodation almost for the entire trip and hence, can easily make a budget trip to Leh Ladakh 😯 😯 …

What is the catch??

Haha, however, the toughest part is to find such a deal in both directions until unless you have sufficient contacts with both Ladakh Taxi drivers as well as Manali taxi drivers who are friendly enough with you to fix such a deal. Maybe on your third or fourth trip to Ladakh, you can manage such a handsome deal. But keep reading…

Realistically speaking, with little ease you can at least chip in with Rs 7K – 8K savings.

Sometimes it also depends on the model of the taxi as well along with its condition. For example, you will not find Innova in Leh at cheaper prices, while on the other hand if it is Sumo or Tavera, the driver will be happy to bargain.

So, how do you get a cheap Leh Ladakh taxi?

When you reach Manali try to fix the deal with Himachal taxi driver first for one side journey to Leh. He will, of course, ask you anywhere about Rs 18-19K for a drop to Leh as per the taxi rates.

Once you settle for one side, then tell him about your interest to come with him only from Leh as well on one of the days he will be returning from Leh to Manali. Depending on your Leh Ladakh itinerary, fix the day and deal with him.

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He will probably ask you anywhere between Rs 8000 – 12000 depending upon the bargaining skills or maybe for the entire package. If the taxi driver does not agree, then move to some other one and repeat the same process in a way you like. You will need to explore some options to find such a deal. Hence, reaching Manali or Leh taxi stand a day before or early morning is highly advisable.

A true account of my friend who followed the above process and successfully booked such a deal for Rs 21,000 in June 2011 where he paid Rs 4000 for the return journey from Leh to Manali. Thereby saving good Rs 11K – 12K for investing in local taxis within Leh Ladakh. I know it is 2019 now, but rules have not changed much.

Excellent Roads at Moore Plains – Manali Leh Highway

Problems or Challenges finding such Ladakh taxi deals

  • Ideally, the driver while coming alone from the other end does this journey in a single day. So, you should be ready for some tough time with this single day cannonball run between Manali to Leh. Otherwise, you can always pay a bit more and ask him to cover the journey with a night halt at Keylong or Jispa. If you are short on time then finding such a deal will be bread on butter 🙂 …
  • It might be possible that the day when the driver returns to his native place from Leh or Manali, you may not be ready to return as per your itinerary. Hence, tweak and synchronize your maybe with taxi’s nearby return date or ask him to accommodate you in some of his friend’s taxi who is returning on the day you have planned to return.
  • AMS is always an issue while traveling from Manali to Leh. Hence, you do not have the option to go via Srinagar side and minimize AMS related issues. So, follow the tips on minimizing AMS and maybe halt your Manali – Leh journey on Keylong or Jispa thereby avoiding stay at high altitudes of Sarchu or Pang.
  • It may not be possible to find such deals if you travel to Ladakh via Srinagar side and come back via Manali side or vice-versa. The problem gets complicated here, in a way, like you are finding such deals on both sides i.e. from Manali as well as Leh without knowing any driver. However, you can refer to the Ladakh taxi driver list in our community.
That highway to heaven NH1D – Srinagar to Leh

Few tips to find cheap taxis to Leh – Ladakh

  • As soon as you find a non-native (Ladakhi driver in Manali and Himachali driver in Leh) exchange your contact numbers. Do not talk much there at the taxi stand. Fix the deal and pickup point over the phone or away from the taxi stand so that other native drivers cannot get into the act and create problems for that non-native taxi driver.
  • If by chance, some native driver gets into the act, then confidently tell him that you were clarifying on the road conditions of Manali Leh Highway. You wanted to know about the status as you are having your vehicle to drive back and are a little concerned. Then fix the rest of the deal and pickup point over the phone only.
  • Try to stroll around mall road or taxi stands of Manali or Leh around the night, when most of the non-native drivers reach. Get hold of any of them and quickly exchange phone numbers and maybe tell him to come over away from the taxi stand. (Thanks to Dhiraj Debbarma for sharing the idea of night stroll in the comment below)
  • I am sure that after one trip to Leh – Ladakh you will feel the itch to go again (such is the beauty of this heavenly place), so try to keep records of contact numbers of such drivers, such that you can contact them for such deals on the next trip. Share the numbers with other fellow travelers too, maybe here, other forums, your friends who are traveling to Ladakh, etc.
  • Find and ask on forums, blogs, sites, etc. for such contact numbers of taxi drivers doing Manali – Leh, Leh – Manali, Leh – Srinagar, Srinagar – Leh… Contact them and try to fix the deal or ask them when they will be reaching a non-native place based on the itinerary. (Thanks to Kaushik Da for this tip in the comment below).
  • You can call the local drivers directly to connect with them and check the more comprehensive List of Taxi Drivers for Ladakh – Srinagar – Leh – Manali with recommendations/reviews for DoW community members.

Note: Same rules apply between Srinagar – Leh Highway but I have heard many drivers of Leh and Srinagar both, run their taxis from other ends as shared taxis where they charge about Rs 1300 – 1500 per seat for a drop. In that case, it will be more difficult to find such a deal. Hence, I have not mentioned anything about Srinagar though you can apply the same process between Srinagar and Leh as well, who knows your luck is on the higher end of the curve at that moment 🙂 … In general, Leh to Srinagar taxi fare is about Rs 15000 – 16000 approximately. 

Shanti Stupa in Leh at Night

FAQs – Taxis in Leh Ladakh

Can I get shared taxis in Leh – Ladakh?

Yes, you will be able to find the shared taxis in Leh – Ladakh without much fuss at all. There are lots of flyers that people put up at cafes, dine-ins, restaurants, travel agent desks/shops/whiteboards wanting to share the taxis for different trips within Leh Ladakh as well as on Srinagar – Leh, and Manali – Leh routes. Even some travel agents organize such shared taxis tours with sightseeing as well but charge a little higher about Rs 300-500 more than it would ideally cost. So, in the worst case, you can always go back to them and book a seat for yourself in such shared taxi tours in Ladakh.

Is it a good idea to travel from Leh to Manali in a shared cab?

Yes, if you are short on budget or time, then you can travel on Manali Leh Highway in s shared cab or taxi. In general, these shared taxis will charge a fare of Rs 1500-1800 per seat for a drop from Manali to Leh or Leh to Manali. The shared cabs do not stop for sightseeing much and mostly do this 474 KM journey in a single day cannonball run style.

Which taxi service is the cheapest in Leh Ladakh?

The Ladakh taxi union controls the rates of taxis in Leh Ladakh. They publish the rates every year in March – April, and you will get the cheapest taxis in Leh based on the model of the taxi. Taxi union divides the taxi rates in three segments based on the model of the taxi, with the highest being Innova, XUVs, etc.. and the lowest segment being Sumos, Tavera, Vans, etc.. However, the difference isn’t that much. Best is to get in touch with a local driver who can provide you 10-12% discounts in his own capacity.

Can I get taxis from Leh airport?

There is no Leh airport taxi service available unless you fix a deal with a local taxi driver who will come to pick you up from the airport. In general, taxis charge Rs 500-600 for a pickup and drop in Leh from the airport. There are JK SRTC buses also available from Leh airport for a drop to Leh town, which can be a very cheap option in case you do not have too much luggage.

You should always carry your water bottle and refill it as many times as you need water. It will not only keep you hydrated always, but you will also help in saving the Himalayas from plastic garbage. Remember, every tiny step counts and your step in this direction can help save the Himalayas too !! 🙂 🙂


In the end, all I have said so far, it is a bit difficult to find a cheap taxi in Leh Ladakh but is indeed possible, and people do it or have done it in the past. Just it depends on your luck and the way you deal with people after meeting them.

So, while planning your trip to Leh – Ladakh try to explore this option as well or keep it at the back of your mind and who knows you may “manage a 2N/3D Nubra and 1N/2D Pangong Tso trip from the savings you get from it.“, as quoted by one of my friend and a super passionate traveler Kaushik da in this IM thread. In fact, the source and motivation of this article is Kaushik da and that IM thread only, so special thanks to him for pointing me out.

Have a travel question?? You can follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my YouTube channel to ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram or comment on my YouTube videos.

I would be pleased if one of you find such a deal and have any experience with it. Any tips, suggestions, contacts, anything that saves us money, and get the cheap taxis in Leh – Ladakh, will be helpful for other fellow travelers too. So, do share your thoughts and valuable inputs or resources on the same with us too.

If you know your friends or family are planning a trip to Ladakh, do share this article with them to help them make a memorable Ladakh trip.

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