Practical tips for a trip to Spiti-part 2
This article details mobile connectivity in Spiti, what to pack for the trip, best time to visit, which the best mode of transport is, how to plan a solo trip to spiti.
Mobile connectivity in and Enroute Spiti
I started my trip from Manali via Rampur- Nako- Tabo- Kaza. This was a rather long route, and I had strong connectivity till a little after Rampur, post which it dropped to zero for the entire journey, up until I got back to Rampur on my return journey.
It was annoying at first, and I kept checking my phone for connectivity, but after a while I started enjoying being away from my phone. The 4-5 days that I was travelling around Spiti, I didn’t take my phone out even once! That’s officially the longest I haven’t unlocked my phone for! It is nice to be away from the world for a few days, just alone with your thoughts, and enjoying the magnificent vistas around.
( I had both Idea & Airtel, and both did not have signal from maybe an hour from Rampur)
BSNL works in Kaza, and in other parts of Spiti, but not en route, only when you arrive at the villages. But there is no data coverage, the signal works for text messages & telephone calls- that too, the line isn’t very clear.
But if you need to make urgent calls back home, it is advisable to get a prepaid BSNL sim card for this trip.
Do hotels have Wifi in Spiti?
Also, some hotels advertise that they have wifi, but it either isn’t very strong, or it doesn’t work- so don’t expect to connect to the world when you reach your hotel. Consider yourself very lucky if you do manage to connect to the internet whilst in Spiti.
If travelling solo, it is best that you download offline maps before the start of the journey. Same goes for all other information that you may require- hotel address, phone number, helpline numbers etc. ( stop at a hotel or restaurant on the way and ask to use the landline there)
Best time to visit Spiti
This depends entirely upon you and what you want to see in Spiti. I went in the last week of June 2019. I wanted the weather to be warm ( it was still a bit chilly, and nights were COLD, but nothing compared to the winter months, I know). Most people travel to Spiti during the summer months (June to September).
But winter in Spiti is absolutely stunning! It is said that one should visit Spiti twice, once in summer and the other during the heights of winter to see the whole valley swathed in a blanket of snow.
Manali-Rohtang-Kaza route is open only between June to September (June may see unexpected snowfall which means the route will be closed)
Manali- Rampur-Nako-Kaza is an alternate route from Manali which will be open all year round.
Shimla-Kalpa-Nako-Kaza is also open all year round.
If you want to see snow, the best time to visit will be in January- March.
To know more about which routes to take, how long it will take on each route, and more, read Part 1 of my Spiti guide.
Chandratal Lake is open from June to Ocotber, but the route to Chandratal might be extremely bad till end of June on some years, depending on the weather conditions.
Travelling to Spiti in July & August might mean getting stuck Enroute because of landslides (courtesy of the monsoons in Himachal), so it is best to keep a couple of days as buffer when planning the trip.
What to pack for your Spiti trip
1) Windproof Jackets (heavy / feather if you are going before June and after
2) Pullovers / Sweatshirts
3) Warmers / Thermals
4) Woollen caps, mufflers, gloves and socks
5) Raincoat (not necessary – but good to have one)
6) Waterproof / snow-proof hiking shoes*
7) An extra pair of shoes (if you are trekking)
8) Sleeping bag (if you are trekking on your own)
9) Sunscreen (SPF40 and above)
10) Personal Medicines
11) Water bottle
12) A flashlight
13) Solar chargers / Power banks
14) Lip guard
17) Face Mask
18) Inhalers (if you suffer from asthma)
19) BSNL Prepaid / Postpaid SIM Card
20) Hand Sanitizer
22) Wet Wipes
23) Tents for camping
25) A bag to collect all your trash- waste management in Spiti is not very good, so even if you leave your trash in waste bins, it is difficult to manage it well. If you can bring back your plastics to dispose of them, it will be an effort that the mountains will thank you for. ( I kept all my chocolate and biscuit wrappers in my bag for most of my journey- so it’s not just preaching here, I practice it too! :P)
Are there ATMs in Spiti?
The only ATM in Spiti is in Kaza, but it doesn’t work all the time. It is best to withdraw the cash you require for the trip before you start your journey from Shimla or Manali. None of the shops or restaurants in Spiti accept card payment. Homestays and most small hotels don’t accept card payment either.
There are a few medical stores in Spiti, the larger one being in Kaza. The medical stores in Spiti may just have basic medication, so please carry all your personal medication from home.
There is a hospital in Kaza, but they are not equipped to handle anything big.
Are there petrol/diesel station in Spiti?
The only petrol station in Spiti is in Kaza and it sometimes runs out! So always have a full tank on you!
Which car is best suited for a trip to Spiti Valley
The roads towards Spiti and within are good in some parts, but under maintenance in most. There are several water crossings along the way, and quite a few rocky patches of road.
To manoeuvre these roads it is recommended you drive a SUV because it has higher ground clearance.
People do come in their hatchbacks and sedans, and most locals drive Maruti Alto, Zen, 800 on these roads, but the locals know the roads well and know how to manoeuvre their cars here. There have been many instances of hatchbacks and sedans getting stuck at water crossings causing a huge traffic pile up on the mountain roads.
Public transport in Spiti
The Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) runs regular services to Spiti and Manali, but it is not frequent. Within Spiti as well, buses are not frequent, but they do run between all the villages once a day.
If you miss this bus, the other option would be to get in a shared taxi. You can enquire about the share taxis in town( whichever village or town you are in, go to the bus stand and enquire; if it is a village in Spiti, go to one of the provision stores, and ask there), and the locals will help you out.
But you might not be able to go to a place and come back to where you started on that same day, because of the availability of buses/shared taxis. It is best to enquire about timings of taxis and buses for your journey for the day before you start out. You can also spend the night at a homestay in any village- there are many.
Bus and shared taxi services are regular during the summer months, during winter, Spiti is extremely quiet, so it might be very difficult to get transport. It is advisable to visit Spiti in winters in your own vehicle.
Tips for a solo traveler
1. Download all information like road maps, hotel addresses, emergency numbers etc before the journey
2. Accommodation during the summer months is easy to find in all the villages of Spiti, as there are plenty of homestays, but make arrangements for the winter months, as the villages shut down, and the place is deserted.
3. If coming without your own transport, check for the availability of shared cabs which the locals use to commute.
4. HRTC buses are available during summer months, so check for the schedule.
5. Carry enough cash for the entire journey, as ATMs may not be functioning, and shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards.
If you haven’t checked out the Practical tips for Spiti Valley Part 1, please do so for information about AMS & how to tackle it, different routes to Spiti, & important information to check with tour agency if you are taking a tour.
I hope you found this article helpful to plan your trip to Spiti Valley. Do leave your comments and questions in the comments section below.