Planning a Himachal holiday anytime soon? Then a day trip to Rohtang Pass is highly recommended. Located at an altitude of 13000ft, it is one of the now (easiest) places to reach in a day for sighting Himalayas. I say easiest because Rohtang Pass is the entryway for more lucrative (difficult to reach) destinations like Lahaul, Spiti, Leh and Ladakh. So if you want to know more about planning a Rohtang trip, then these are my top Rohtang Pass Travel Tips that I wish I knew before travelling.
Most Useful Rohtang Pass Travel Tips
Back in the day, Rohtang meaning Ro- corpse, Thang – field, had a lot of deaths when people tried to cross the pass during bad weather. Up until 2017, the work on the pass was on in full swing making travel quite difficult and equally risky. Come 2018, the road conditions are far better now. But one must still be careful. So here comes my Rohtang Pass Travel Tips number 1.
Tip 1: Always keep a check on the weather forecast before leaving for Rohtang
I would categorize this as one of the most important Rohtang Pass Travel Tips. Rohtang is known to be notorious for its changing weathers. One minute you see a clear sky, the next the blistering winds might just freeze you to death. I can now say it out of experience…
When I was in Rohtang, the day was crystal clear. Think blue skies, some white clouds here and there and the perfect backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayan mountains. It couldn’t get any better. It was an Instagram perfect scenario. We had picked out one of the better days of the week to make this travel plan. So all seemed good.
When we reached Rohtang Pass:
We left our bags inside our transport and ran out like little children left to play. It had been six crucial back-breaking hours before we could get out. The excitement was real. All the way we ran right up to the edge of the mountain to see the Himalayas. Oh, the sweet smell of the mountain air. I can live here I told the boy. Maybe we can have a small hut just behind the temple?
And then it happened.
We had been frolicking around for what might be just 10 minutes when I heard the first whistles coming from our back. Ah, its just some harmless winds blowing I said to myself. But it got louder and louder by the seconds. In a few minutes, the mountain behind us where our transport waited was gone. It was completely engulfed in the clouds. Oh, what crazy intense clouds they were. Deep dark grey ginormous clouds. It was like the Dementors from Azkaban had found us and there was nowhere to hide.
We stood there on the plain fields of Rohtang completely in the open wearing negligent summer-winter wear. Nothing could protect us from natures wrath of this sorts. But something had to be done. By now, the winds were so strong, I could feel a push towards the great Himalayan unknown (ditch) which was barely a few meters from where we stood.
Our only rest in sight was the temple which was a few steps away. We picked our camera gear, closed our ears and ran to the temple.
Point being: If the Rohtang Pass weather looks dicey, cancel the plan!
There is no better way to sugar coat this. Travelling in the hills in bad weather is like taking deathly steps into the unknown. Even the most skilled drivers of the hills can’t protect you when the time goes wrong. And there is just no turning back. At that moment when the winds were bone-chilling cold, all I could think was, I am sitting on a plain tugging hard at life. While a thousand others are stranded somewhere on the hill stretch climbing up or going down.
Visibility can go to zero in no time. If you are stuck in bad weather, find the right place. Stop right there. There is nothing more dangerous than travelling in the midst of a raging storm.
Rohtang Pass Travel Tips: How to keep a check on Rohtang weather?
Your phone is your best friend. I check AccuWeather.com Although ironically, in Manali, no weather forecast is ‘accurate’ per say. Keep in mind, the network goes for a toss once you embark on your trip to Rohtang. So ideally my recommendation would be to monitor the weather continuously for 3-4 days prior to your travel. Also, on the day of, make sure you see the weather forecast before getting into your transport.
In case of bad weather, reschedule your trip for the day after. If you have booked a cab or a private transport, this should not cost you anything. In case of public transport, you might just lose that money.
P.S. If you still decide to travel during bad weather, chances are Rohtang Pass might be shut and you may have to come down the hill without even getting to see the place. Don’t be fooled by cab drivers who just want to make some money!
Tip 2: State Buses cost a whole lot less than Private Cars
I wish someone had mentioned peak season cab fares in their Rohtang Pass Travel Tips. Depending on the season you travel, cab and public transport fares can vary significantly. We travelled in the month of June which is the peak travel season to Manali. This is what we were quoted:
Manali to Rohtang Pass Taxi Fare (June)
- Private Taxi (Alto) : INR 6,500 (non-negotiable)
- (Swift): INR 7,500
- (Sumo): INR 12,000
The first thing on our agenda when we reached Manali was to book our Rohtang Trip travel. We walked to the Mall Road in Manali to book cabs only to find out the crazy hiked prices by the private transport union. We tried every trick in the book to find alternatives, but no car in the whole of Manali would take us to Rohtang under INR 6500!
Just to give you an idea, the distance from Manali to Rohtang is a mere 51kms a.k.a. 1.5-2 hour travel time. Spending INR 6500 in no scenario is logical. But tourists being tourists, almost every soul was coughing up the amount to visit this spectacular marvel.
I being a budget psycho of sorts put my foot down. If it were meant to be we’ll go, or we’ll find alternative places to see. After all, I am Pahadi myself. What’s the worst that can happen if I miss a few Himalayan mountains, I said to the husband. The boy, on the other hand, was not happy. If we are here, we got to see it. Bas!
Toh bas, I decided I had to find other alternatives to avoid the crazy expense this was about to be.
How to Reach Rohtang Pass?
Manali to Rohtang Pass Bus Services:
There are two Public Buses that run from Manali to Rohtang every single day.
The HPTDC buses are ordinary Non-AC buses. Since they cost lesser than private cars, the demand is quite high for these transports. It is recommended to buy these tickets at the earliest when you reach Manali.
- HPTDC Tour Route: Manali – Kothi – Rahala – Marhi – Rohtang Pass – Manali
- HPTDC Manali to Rohtang Pass Bus Fare: Rs.310 per person (Non AC Bus) – Non-Peak Seasons
How and Where to Book HPTDC Rohtang Bus Trip?
Book at Himachal Tourism office on Mall Road, next to Hotel HPTDC Kunzum. The minute you reach Mall Road, you will see a line of tour operator shops and other wannabe freelance cab drivers hovering around. Keep your focus and go straight to this place first. If you’re lucky, you will get the bus seats.
P.S. The tickets for HPTDC from Manali to Rohtang cannot be booked online.
Manali to Rohtang Pass by HRTC Bus
The HRTC Buses, also ordinary Non-AC can be booked online through Red Bus. Usually, you can easily get the HRTC bus tickets 3-4 days prior to travel. The charges for HRTC buses are INR 600 per person. The good thing about these buses is that there are multiple time slots you can book starting at 5.30 am.
Now you can also experience Electric Buses from Manali to Rohtang Pass
We will start with three buses. Seats get booked in a few hours. The fare is Rs 600 per passenger. The buses will leave Manali for Rohtang at 8 am, 8:30am and 9am and will return in the afternoon. We will increase the number of buses as per demand. A bus has the capacity to carry 25 passengers.” – HRTC regional manager DK Narang – Source: Tribune India
How did we manage to get Public Transport Tickets?
Oh yes, did I tell you? I scored the HPTDC Bus tickets at the last moment. There is a crazy story there.
We were at the HPTDC booking centre at Mall Road in the afternoon only to find the counter shut. The person behind the counter pretty much movie style without looking up just put the counter shut placard on our face bringing all our dreams crashing to earth. But I am not someone who gives up easy.
At least the man owed us one conversation. He said all the bookings were full for the next day, and then he chucked us out of the place leaving us with one important information.
Stand in the queue at 5.30 am the next morning for the bus tickets. The counter will open by 10 am. Buy the tickets for the day after that.
Shocked? I was for sure. I couldn’t believe our rotten luck. The last time I was standing five hours anywhere was Lalbaugcha Raja in Mumbai. Back then I had told myself, never again. And yet, here I was.
We paid INR 600 per person for HPTDC Bus Tickets
We sat in the cafe outside the gates out of sheer exhaustion. Only a double scoop well deserved pity ice-cream could be my saviour. This was only the day two of our Manali trip, and already the holiday was turning out to be well, let’s just say a bad experience.
We sat there for what seemed like hours watching happy tourists go by. And then, just out of nowhere, the ticket counter person called us out. I was like, blah, I am not bribing into getting a trip out of him. Doesn’t he know Papa kaun hain mere? He called out a second time, and within a blink of an eye, the boy was at the counter. I mean, some people Nah, I tell you.
But, it turns out it was our lucky day. Like, cross your heart lucky-lucky. A last-minute cancellation came in, which meant there were exactly two seats available now.
You see, miracles do happen when you have pity ice cream for hours outside a ticketing booth. Next time try it.
P.S. I should also tell you that I don’t think buses take you right to the point of Rohtang Pass. They stop somewhere before that. We even asked, is this it? But it didn’t seem to be the Rohtang Pass stretch that you see in the pictures. Maybe it was due to lack of snow. But maybe you should find that out before doing the bus ride.
Some other Good to Know Rohtang Pass Travel Tips:
Ok, now I would categorize Tip 1 and Tip 2 as the holy grail for Rohtang Pass Travel Tips. But there are some other must-know Rohtang Pass Travel Tips that are super useful. So here goes:
Tip 3: Carry enough stock of Snacks + Water
I read somewhere while researching Rohtang Pass Travel Tips that sometimes the travel time can vary from two hours to seven plus hours. As if on cue, our bus took exactly six hours to land us at Rohtang. In the middle of it all, there was little to no scope of food or water on the hills.
When we finally got closer to the Rohtang check-post, there were humans selling plastic bottled water and other chaat-type snacks. All very unhygienic, extremely unappetizing + sold at a super premium price.
Point being, if you are travelling with family, or even on your own, a wise thing to do is to stock yourself up to the brim. Carry at least two two-litre bottles for two humans. No harm in having extra. But if you’re thirsty on the hills with no supplies, there’s little you can do at that time.
Rohtang Pass Travel Tips: Where to eat in Manali – Rohtang Pass?
Chamba Dhaba at Marhi. Oh, the hot paranthas with Masala Chai and Maggi in the hills. One of the most delicious meals ever.
There are four to five Dhabas all located side by side on the Manali-Rohtang Pass. The destination is another 14-15 km from this food stop. Depending upon the traffic, you can take anywhere from 40 mins to 4 hours to get to this place. Mind you, this is the first real food and drinks stop between Manali and Rohtang Pass. Almost every private car and public transport buses stop over here for toilet and food breaks.
While you’re here, don’t forget to peak outside the Para Gliding humans from Mandi to Manali. It is literally like watching human birds in the air. Gives quite a high just looking at them.
Tip 4: Whatever be the weather, Hire Snow Suits
Given the sheer number of tourists visiting Rohtang Pass daily, the snow in Rohtang has stopped looking like snow. Snow is of the colour white, right? In Rohtang, snow is brownish-black. No kidding. Well, at least the part where humans are jumping about. You wouldn’t particularly want to roll in that snow and then sit with the same clothes the whole ride back.
What does the Snow Suit save you from?
- Cold (They have a hoodie which covers your ears)
- Dirt (Its a full jumpsuit)
If you are travelling by any of the public transports, then no need to worry. The buses will stop at a particular shop where you can pick and choose from a range of Snowsuits and boots for hire. These snowsuits are highly reused and look pretty bad when you first see it. But you got to have it. So suck it up and choose from the range of colours they have.
How much does a Snow-Suit in Rohtang Cost?
Snow Suits + Boots cost INR 200-250 per person.
TIP 5: Time of Departure makes little to no difference
Well, in the peak season it definitely makes no difference. We heard people who had hired ‘expensive’ private cabs were leaving as early as 2 am! I mean the whole beauty of experiencing Rohtang starts with the journey itself. You miss all that scenic beauty on the way up the hills if you travel that early in the night.
Also, you should know Rohtang Pass opens for business only around 6:00 am. It’s pretty pointless if you think you’ll be escaping traffic by starting that early. High chances are, the time you save uphill will take you double the time to get downhill.
We left from Manali at 9 AM and we survived. No, actually we thrived!
Our bus was pretty much one of the last transports that left Manali at 9 am! People were shocked when I told them we were leaving at that time. We heard statements like:
Why are you even going? It doesn’t make sense to travel after 5am.
Buses bekaar hoti hai. Isiliye car book kar lo.
Bus toh chalegi hi nahi. Neeche hi khadi hogi poore din Manali mein.
Best Time to Leave for Rohtang Pass from Manali
Truth be told, yes we did take six massive hours to get to Rohtang. But I have years of experience in traffic. I have lived through six long years of SakiNaka traffic and then boarded trains at peak hours from Elphinston station. This was like having cake in front of all that. There is nothing to complain seriously. The views are so mesmerising. Most of the human’s heads were pretty much outside the window the whole time. Well, at least those who weren’t asleep for the duration of the trip.
Naturally, since we reached Rohtang somewhere around 2:30-3:00 pm we were the last transports to leave the place as well. By then most of the traffic had already moved. We took just 2.5-3 hours to get to the main road of Manali. So it all depends on your perspective of how you see things.
P.S. While researching Rohtang Pass Travel Tips on the internet, nowhere will anyone suggest you leave late for Rohtang. But mind you, leaving late only works in the peak season, when the whole world is trying to fit in the early night-morning time slot.
P.P.S. You should also know that starting at 2 am works wonderfully for the cab drivers who hurry to bring you back to Manali by Noon max. They then take the second round for Rohtang from 2pm onwards. So don’t be fooled by the urgency of leaving at like 2-3 am.
In one case, I even heard a family tell me that they were leaving soon after midnight! I mean yikees!
Rohtang Pass Travel Tips: Additional Note:
You should also note that on the hill, no Alto, Swift or Sumo can turn on their AC at that height making their humans breathe polluted fuel smell throughout the trip. It is choking at times. The minute you’re sitting on a higher level like on a bus, you tend to breathe better air. Make any sense?