“Is Spiti safe?” I found myself pondering over this very question as I desperately searched the internet for blogs and articles that shed light on the same. I was well aware of the hardships that come with taking a trip to Spiti Valley. Thus wanted to be well-prepared to ensure a smooth journey.
A lot of people who’re planning a trip to Spiti are not aware of the dangers of the locale, the nature of people and the mountain life overall. Thus, they end up worrying and thinking is Spiti safe or not. This question is valid because truth be told Spiti is a remotely located place.
Therefore, in my current blog, I will explain in great detail whether is Spiti safe or not. I’ve spent some quality time in this surreal region and would love to address the issues of fellow travelers. After all, what good are our travel stories if they don’t add value to others.
Is Spiti Safe?
Spiti will be sure to challenge you at every single step – be it no phone connectivity, be it the organic toilets, be it the harsh temperatures or be it the high altitude.
While all of it is as exciting as it can get, being underprepared could prove to be hazardous, especially if you plan on going solo or spending more time in the valley.
So, let’s find out the safety of Spiti Valley by means of the subsequent metrics. The metrics have been based on my own travel experiences in the region.
Taking a biking trip to Spiti – Moderately safe
Visiting Spiti with friends – Very Safe
Going solo to Spiti- Very safe
Traveling as a woman – Very safe
All girls trip to Spiti – Very safe
Family trip to Spiti – Very safe
Taking a Spiti trip as a couple – Very safe
Backpacking trip to Spiti – Very safe
Public places in Spiti – Safe
Homestays in Spiti – Safe
Public transport in Spiti – Moderately safe
Private cabs in Spiti – Moderately safe
So the answer to the initial question asked whether is Spiti safe or not? My answer would be “yes.” Spiti is one of the safest travel destinations you can visit in India.
Now that I’ve mentioned the level of safety in Spiti for various kinds of trips and otherwise, let me elaborate more on the safety conditions in the region. This will help you understand the region better. Also, you will be mentally prepared for the conditions that will be in store for you.
Are the Unpredictable Weather Conditions in Spiti Safe for Travelers ?
Being a resident of Mumbai – a city with stable warm temperatures, this was naturally the most crucial question I had to ask before planning my budget trip to Spiti Valley for 10 days.
While days in Spiti can be glorious and pleasant, nights in Spiti can either make you or break you. Although they are inexpressibly beautiful, insufficient clothing could leave you freezing to death. What I realized was that all it essentially takes to beath the cold in the mountains is the right kind of clothing and toiletries.
On one of the days of my Spiti Valley Trip, the temperature in the day was around 3 degrees Celsius, dropping to approximately -18 degrees Celsius at night. So you have got to watch out for this.
However, is Spiti safe when it comes to weather conditions? YES, it is!
|How to pack for Spiti Valley?
Spiti Valley is a cold desert which implies fluctuating temperatures. What’s important thus, is not packing a lot, but packing in layers. Ensure that you carry inners, thermals, light tee shirts, and jackets; instead of carrying one thick jacket or overcoat.
What to pack for Spiti Valley?
Light & comfortable clothes, jackets, beanies, gloves, woollen socks, scarves, ponchos, etc. In case you don’t own the right woollens, fret not. You could purchase the same at the local market in Kaza at reasonable prices!
In addition to your regular toiletries, make sure that you carry sunscreen to avoid sunburns to an extent, lip balm to prevent dryness and tearing of lips, and moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated.
Is Spiti Safe for Self-Driving?
Piloting a vehicle yourself on the rough and barren roads of Spiti is something you should definitely do if you’re a passionate driver. However, this is deemed to be a safe option if and only if you’re well informed about the conditions of the road and have immense experience driving on jaggy roads.
One major perk of self-driving to Spiti would be flexibility in terms of time. While travelling by public transport is economical, it also ties you up in that you need to plan every single day as per the bus timetable. A lot of bikers ride to Spiti from Manali on a daily basis during the months between June and October.
Spiti is not for the faint-hearted,” they say. “True,” I’d say. But to be honest, all it really takes is to be prepared for the worst at all times. What’s the worst that could happen apart from being stranded in a beautiful cold desert in the Himalayas? Moreover, that’s the best kind of “worst.” Would you really mind that?
So is Spiti safe for self-driving? Yes, it is!
|Things to Remember when you’re self-driving in Spiti
There are a few things that you should remember at all times if you decide to self drive in Spiti.
Experience is Important
Opt for self-drive only if you have had immense driving experience in the past, and are comfortable driving/riding for long hours.
If you ever feel exhausted/drained, make sure you take a stop. Fortunately, the route to Spiti will take you through a number of villages where you could halt.
Basic maintenance and Repairing
Learning basic maintenance and repairing tasks with respect to your vehicle can come handy.
Inspect, when in doubt
In case of driving on roads covered in snow, step out of your car/bike, walk the path and inspect it when in doubt.
Refill your tank
As off now, Kaza is the only village in Spiti that offers a petrol pump – make sure you refill your tank in case you’re going to locations far off. For example, Pin Valley/Kunzum/Chandrataal.
Carry Extra Fuel
It would also be a good idea to carry 2-3 litres of extra petrol at all times.
Several mechanics are available in Kaza.
Is it Safe to Travel in Spiti’s Public Transport ?
In spite of being tucked away, Spiti offers the option of choosing public transport – buses run by the Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) for the commute. While one can always choose to opt for cab services and private cars, I feel for the people who travel solo and most often, on a budget should use public transport.
I must admit, the seats won’t be cushioned and the drive will be bumpy. But for someone who has a heavy passion for genuine travelling and not as heavy a wallet, these buses are the go-to transport option. What’s more is that you will be sure to get some great advice and suggestions if you happen to strike a conversation with the locals. This is something they will be more than happy to do.
From my personal experience, I can say with 100% confidence that all of the HRTC (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) bus drivers are more than equipped to ride on the riskiest of roads that take you to Spiti.
So is Spiti safe when it comes to public transport? Yes.
Spiti is accessible via 2 routes – Shimla and Manali. Choose the best route after careful research.
Buses leave Shimla for Peo at a frequency of half an hour, starting 6AM until 11AM. Note that there’s just one bus that leaves Peo for Kaza on a daily basis, which is at around 7 AM. There are about 2 buses that go to Kaza from Manali and the departure time of the same is 5 AM and 5:30 AM.
For buses that have a good frequency, it wouldn’t be necessary to make a prior booking. However, for times when there’s just one or two buses on the route, make sure you visit the booking office (any local would be able to guide you there) and book a day in advance.
This was something I personally didn’t keep in mind, which led to us having have to stand in a moving bus for 9 hours straight. Not my idea of fun for sure.
Relax, you won’t be burning a hole in your pocket. Most of the tickets range from 200-400 INR and also offer a concession to all the females out there.
Although you might be someone who is comfortable travelling on rough roads, make it a point to carry medicines (like Diamox) that will help you fight AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
Is Spiti Safe Despite Unstable Connectivity and Electricity Cuts?
“Make sure you inform us once you reach Spiti”, said my parents as I left home. “How am I supposed to do that when I’m going to have no network at all?” I asked myself. Since Spiti is (thankfully) not as commercialized yet, your phone is most certainly going to be out of coverage network.
We realized that we had absolutely no connectivity 2 hours into our bus journey from Peo to Kaza. We are all used to being glued to our smartphones 24/7 back in the city, and this can thus be undeniably frustrating for starters. But trust me when I say this, it is only going to prove to be a blessing as you progress further into your trip.
I wouldn’t have felt as strongly about my trip if it was for giving constant updates over WhatsApp to my friends. In case you’re worried about family and friends back home being concerned about your safety and well-being, you could opt to purchase a BSNL sim card in Kaza.
If I’d have to offer advice on this, however, I’d suggest you not to do that unless completely necessary. What we did was use the locals’ phone and call up home about twice during our trip – worked out completely fine.
What was also a fairly common phenomenon during our Spiti Valley trip was frequent electricity cuts. Our phones along with our portable chargers were drained at times, but we couldn’t believe how quickly and effortlessly we got used to the same.
Therefore, is Spiti safe despite connectivity ? Yes!
Only BSNL sim cards partially work in Spiti Valley.
Perks of low connectivity
With zero phone connectivity, comes greater connectivity with the beauty of Spiti Valley. You’ll realize the true essence of this statement when you visit Spiti. An electricity cut on one of the days of our Spiti Valley trip made us witnesses to the starriest night we had ever seen.
Is Consuming Food in Spiti Safe ?
Freshly prepared steaming hot dal chawal ( rice and pulses), freshly prepared appetizing Maggi, freshly prepared fulfilling aloo parathas (potatoes wrapped in round Indian bread) & freshly prepared garam chai ( hot tea) will always be a part of your meals in Spiti.
If there’s anything you do not have to worry about at all, it’s the food in Spiti. There will be absolutely nothing coming out of metal cans and plastic wrappers, and your body will almost always be relishing fresh and delicious food. What we also registered during the course of our trip was that we craved nothing but simple food – something you won’t find any difficulty obtaining in Spiti. The mountains surely make you modest beings.
Make sure, however, that at every point of your trip, you have a backpack that contains at least some food – fruits, chocolates, biscuits, etc. and at least a liter of water. Remote locations in the already remote Spiti Valley like Kunzum La have no homes, no restaurants, and no shops. It is also absolutely necessary to keep hydrated at all times. In a cold desert like Spiti Valley, it might be possible that you won’t feel as thirsty, but remind yourself to keep drinking water at regular intervals – it will help you stay healthy.
Hence, is consuming food in Spiti safe ? Yes !
|Commonly found food in Spiti
Aloo parathas, maggi, momos, dal chawal, chai, lemon tea.
Make it a point to carry food & water with you at all points of the trip
Is Spiti Safe for a Little Adventure and Adrenaline Rush?
Considering how beautiful Spiti Valley is, it wouldn’t be uncommon to be tempted to get a little adventurous. You might want to camp at Chandrataal Lake, hike to Key Monastery and trek instead of opting to drive.
However, it would be advisable to keep your adventure in control, especially if you aren’t used to the rough terrains and extreme weather conditions that mark Spiti Valley.
Looking back to my Spiti Valley trip, I remember how we excitedly agreed to a 3 kilometre trek to the beautiful Dhankar Lake. We made it to the top completely fine and it sure was worth it. But I have to admit that it is not typical to get breathless just a few steps into the trek.
“Adventure” also brings to my head memories of when we drove 15 kilometres ahead of Chicham, a little village in Spiti, just to camp on open ground with a 360-degree view of snow-capped mountains and photograph the starry sky.
Things went down when our tent kept collapsing amidst strong winds, when we ran out of firewood and when the cold became difficult to bare: minus 18 degrees Celsius to be precise. We made our way back to our home stay after a spellbinding yet adventurous night.
So is Spiti safe for the adventure freaks out there? The answer is “yes,” provided you’re fit & well prepared for the same.
Reevaluate your temptations in the light of the harsh conditions that characterize Spiti Valley.
Must Carry Things
In case you do decide to camp, trek, hitchhike etc make sure you’re geared up for the same – adequate food supplies, sufficient woolens, etc.
Is Spiti Safe when ATM’s Bail on you?
Back in the cities, the idea of digital payments and credit cards and debit cards is being popularized and disseminated more than ever. However, these ideas continue to remain strange things in Spiti.
While most blogs will tell you that you don’t need to worry with ATM’s being present in Kaza, I’d suggest you to anticipate your expenses before hand. It would be a great idea to carry cash. Else, your trip will end up being spoilt due to insufficient cash. This is the last thing you’d want.
During my Spiti Valley trip, I fell short of cash, and the hosts at our home stay were kind enough to let us get back to Mumbai and make an online payment to them. I will forever remain grateful to them. This kind of goodness will take you by surprise. No wonder Himachal is often referred to as Dev Bhoomi (Land of Gods).
So is Spiti safe regardless of its erratic payment options? YES!
Unavailability of cash in the ATM’s and non-functionality due to power cuts is pretty common.
Go cash all the way during the course of your Spiti Valley trip.
Is Spiti Safe for Spontaneous Beings?
While the most common advice given to those taking a trip to Spiti Valley is “plan well and enough,” it is more than okay to be impromptu with certain decisions. We, for example, went with no prior bookings for our trip.
Most of our decisions were taken on the spot and we definitely wouldn’t have seen the places we saw and wouldn’t have paid prices as low if it were otherwise. A lot can go wrong before you even get to Spiti – a landslide, bad weather conditions, a breakdown (of your vehicle) are not rare.
Keeping this in mind, a little spontaneity would not only be fun, but also advisable and wise.
So, is Spiti safe for Spontaneous Beings? With caution and wit – yes, it is!
|Perks of spontaneity
Minimization of costs, exploring places you wouldn’t have read of on the internet – we hadn’t heard of locales like Gette and Tashigang until the time a native told us about the same.
Are Travel Destinations near Spiti like Chitkul, Batseri and Sangla Safe?
After spending a week or more in the barren cold desert, our eyes were craving the greens. Visiting Sangla, Batseri and Chitkul in Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh definitely seemed like a must-do at that point.
Only a few kilometres away from the Indo-Tibet border, Chitkul is majestic. While you won’t find much to do in Chitkul, if sipping hot coffee on a terrace-café and watching the sun go down is your idea of fun, you will be sure to love the place.
A number of local buses run from Reckong Peo to Sangla, Batseri and Chitkul. But it would be safe to confirm the timings at the booking office a day in advance. Safety shouldn’t be an issue here at all, even in case you’re travelling solo.
The people are helpful, the climate is warmer & phone connectivity is stronger. However, remember that the options for stay are much more diverse in Sangla. In case you plan on returning to Sangla from Batseri or Chitkul for your stay, the options for transport aren’t many.
There are barely 1 or 2 buses that leave for Sangla on a daily basis. While we were unaware of this very information, we concluded that ignorance is bliss, for how we ended up reading Sangla was as follows – in an open jeep while the sun was setting and the wind was blowing straight into our faces.
So, are travel destinations near Spiti like Chitkul, Batseri and Sangla safe ? Yes!
|How to reach Sangla, Batseri and Chitkul?
You will have to take the bus from Kaza to ReckongPeo. You can then hop on to a bus from Peo to Sangla/Chitkul/Batseri!
Numerous homestays and guesthouses are available at reasonable prices. We spent approximately 500 INR per person which included our stay & dinner. Sangla has the best accommodation options.
Traveling for me is really stepping out of my comfort zone. No matter how cliched and typical it may sound, it really is spending a few days without a Wi-Fi connection, and doing all those things I never thought I would.
When I look back to my 10 day trip to Spiti, what makes me smile the most is the little things – getting restless amidst no phone connectivity, the joy attained when I finally spoke to friends and family on reaching Peo, successfully peeing into nothing but a hole in the ground and eating simple, wholesome dal chawal for 12 days straight.
If these are the things that really make you happy as a person, do not hesitate to take a trip to Spiti. It certainly won’t offer you luxury hotels and resorts, but I believe that that is what makes it so special. It will allow you to stay ‘you.’
Happy wayfaring 🙂