The Thing Nobody Will Tell You This Chadar 2020
This blog is meant to circulate information that nobody is sharing with you.
Chadar Trek is perhaps one of the most popular treks in India - and for good reason - since the opportunity to walk on (or even see) an entirely frozen river doesn’t present itself very often. With the increase in demand comes a rise in supply, encouraging a lot of different players (trekking agencies/operators) to mobilize their resources and make Chadar Trek accessible to hundreds of people who wish to get this unique experience under their belt.
The reason why operators aren’t sharing this information with you is because they don’t have the information themselves.
Okay, to get some context, let’s back it up a year.
With the Chadar 2019 season approaching, the J&K govt. along with the local authority issued a circular in Nov 2018, stating a new set of mandatory requirements that every Chadar Trek participant must satisfy before he/she could get the permit for the trek. After some time and deliberations, this circular was finally confirmed as ‘implemented’ and post that (around Dec 2018) the operators were able to share this circular with all their existing participants.
The mandatory requirements set forth the following conditions -
- Three Day Acclimatization Period – With the intention of reducing mishaps by ensuring that every single participant has had enough time to acclimatize before they start the trek, the first rule required the participants to stay in Leh for a minimum of three days before the trek. Besides acclimatization, this period was also necessary for taking care of some basic formalities (more on that in the following points) and any spare time could easily be spent sightseeing around Leh. The authorities verified that you've spent 3 days in Leh by checking the date of arrival mentioned on your flight’s boarding pass.
- Medical Check-up – Due to an alarming rise in the number of unprepared trekkers witnessed in the prior Chadar seasons, the authorities also decided to establish an additional safety measure regarding health & fitness. All Chadar trek participants were required to undergo a medical check-up (which included but was not limited to - pulse, heartbeat, oxygen level) which was conducted at the Tourist Information Centre in Leh.
- Adventure Insurance – Insurance is a concept that needs no introduction. However, regardless of whether you had an adventure-insurance cover of your own or whether your operator had gotten adventure-insurance for you, all Chadar Trek participants were required to obtain an insurance cover at a cost of INR 3000. (Additional considerations applicable for foreigners)
- Wildlife Dept Fee - Aimed at preserving the delicate eco-system of the Zanskar region, the Wildlife Department levied an additional fee of INR 2000 (2200 for foreigners) to obtain the Permit.
A valid receipt for the permit fee and the insurance charge was issued to each individual and both the formalities were carried out at the Tourist Information Centre in Leh.
Since a majority of the participants had made the booking much in advance (planning/booking for a trek like Chadar Trek tends to start about 4-5 months in advance), these additional charges, which were communicated a month before the trek, seemed a bit “last second” and “dubious” to some. Nonetheless, since these developments were being implemented by the local authorities and were mandatory in nature, everybody had to oblige.
Alright, heading back to Chadar 2020.
The reason why most operators aren’t sharing this information with you is because they don’t have the EXACT information themselves.
Although everybody expects the requirement to be the same as last year, nobody can be a 100% sure before an official circular is released by local authorities. Till then, we can only (a) hope that the requirements remain constant as last year and (b) spread awareness by ensuring that last year’s circular is duly shared with the Chadar 2020 participants.
Given the dynamic and tentative nature of these charges, most operators have not included the same in the booking amount so that the participants can pay directly to the authorities after they land in Leh. This practice may seem like a case of “hidden charges” if you are unaware of this entire saga, but being aware will let you plan better and be prepared for all the formalities which are required to be taken care of once you’re in Leh.
We, at Bikat Adventures, have adopted a policy where all Chadar participants are being informed before they book the trek with us regarding these additional charges (with INR 5000 being a ball-park figure). As of now, we expect by December another circular or at the least, confirmed news about the Chadar 2020 charges so that the same can be circulated with our participants through an official email.
For now, you can ensure the following to avoid surprises later –
Things to remember:
- Ensure that you prepare well and get to the minimum fitness benchmark for Chadar Trek
- Although our itinerary includes the mandatory 3 days required in the beginning, if you’re going with another operator, do make sure that your itinerary accommodates this condition
- Hold on to your boarding passes till the time you obtain a NOC from the local authorities
- (Assuming constant charges) Carry at least INR 5000 from home with you since ATMs in Leh can be a bit unreliable
- Carry 2-3 photocopies of a Govt-issued photo ID to be given at various points. Also, make sure that you’re carrying the original.
- The conditions in this region and month are quite extreme. Pack according to this packing list
- Preferably, keep one day at the end of the trek as buffer period before you fly out of Leh.
Be prepared, be safe and have a great time at the Chadar Trek!