Ladakh - Volunteering FAQs

Ladakh - Volunteering FAQs

1. How long do I need to volunteer?

Volunteers are required to work for a minimum of two weeks at the project, and are welcome to stay longer. It takes two-three days to acclimatise to the high altitude (Leh sits at 3500m above sea level) before you are able to work.

Depending on how many vets there are at the clinic at a time, it can be possible to take days off during your stint. However if you want to go trekking, etc it would be ideal to plan time before or after your working weeks.

2. What are the general working conditions?

Volunteers are expected to start work at the clinic in Leh around 9am, Monday to Saturday. Sterilisation clinics may also be run in the outer regions.

Surgeries are usually completed by 3pm but sometimes we have a later finish – and sometimes earlier. Lunch is provided at the clinic.

Along with performing surgery, volunteers might be expected to help the dog catchers sedate the dogs, monitor anaesthetics, give peri-operative drugs, treat other injuries, etc. Volunteers may need to regularly check the dogs postoperatively and may also have to supervise the release of dogs.

You will be required to work as part of a small team. There may be one or two volunteer vets and a volunteer nurse working at any one time, along with the local staff. The project employs several local staff to work at the clinic as dog catchers and vet aides (nurses) throughout the season. It is the intention to have Ladakhi vets working at the clinic for some of the time. They have basic surgery skills and will require some training by experienced volunteers.

Flank (rather than midline) speys are performed routinely on the female dogs. Many vets who come have not done a flank spey before but pick up the technique quite quickly.  Closed castration method is used for the males.  Intradermal sutures are used to close the wounds.

Euthanasia is performed in certain situations, but given the Buddhist beliefs on the process of dying and death, euthanasia is never entered into lightly. Discussion between the vets and local project manager is very important on this matter.

It is expected that volunteers will follow the standard clinic protocols – although discussion and new ideas are certainly welcomed.

Ladakh is a predominantly Buddhist region with a significant Muslim minority. As in many parts of India, English is widely spoken by the locals. The Ladakhis are very tolerant of visitors and our ways! Drinking alcohol, smoking and eating meat are commonplace. It goes without saying that courtesy and respect toward the local people and their customs is expected from all VBB volunteers.

3. What costs do I have when volunteering in Ladakh?

VBB volunteers will meet all expenses during their volunteer placement although lunch is provided while working at the clinic.

Volunteers need to arrange and cover the costs of their own flights and tourist visa to India, transport within India to Leh and also their own medical expenses, including travel insurance and rabies vaccinations. 

4. Rabies Vaccinations for Volunteers?

It is compulsory for all volunteers to have completed their rabies vaccination course at least ten days before arriving in Ladakh. Evience of rabies cover and travel insurance must be supplied to VBB before departure. 

Volunteers should seek advice on appropriate vaccinations and preventative medicine for travel in India from a travellers’ medical centre before they leave home.

5. Liability Waiver Forms?

After volunteers have registered with VBB and organised their dates to attend the project, they will be sent a Liability Waiver form. This needs to be signed, scanned and emailed to the VBB secretariat prior to arrival in Ladakh. This process includes providing VBB with a certified copy of the terms and conditions of your travel, medical and med-evac insurance before arrival in Ladakh.

6. Where do volunteers stay?

There are a number of accommodation choices available online. We also suggest volunteers make contact with Mr Dorje at Discover Ladakah Adventure who also has an office in Delhi. His team can also organise air fares and other travel and treks, etc. 

7. Getting There and Away

There are direct flights from Delhi to Leh with Jet Airways, Kingfisher and Indian Airlines. All flights to Leh leave early in the morning. There are many websites on which to check flight schedules and fares

The road from Manali (in Himachel Pradesh) to Leh is an incredibly scenic if somewhat long route. The bus will take at least two days with an overnight stop. Jeeps will drive straight through (18-25 hours depending on conditions) though do not recommend this option as adjustment to high altitude may make the journey very uncomforable. The general consensus is that it is much more pleasant to make the trip over two days. Going by road will assist with acclimatisation but you MUST spend at least two days on arrival adjusting to the high altitude in Leh and this means rest and little activity of any kind. 

The closest airport to Manali is 50km away in Buntar, with direct flights to and from Delhi.

8. Facilities in Leh

Leh is well set up for tourists with ATMs, money changers, internet cafes, travel agents, chemists, doctors, shops catering to all needs (including trekking). There are many cafes and restaurants. The hospital is of a good standard. We will provide full volunteer briefing material on approval of your application to volunteer.

9. Can volunteers bring a friend?

For the Ladakh project, it is no problem to bring a friend or partner. They are welcome to stay with the volunteers but would be required to cover their own expenses of accommodation and food.

If a friend or partner of a volunteer would like to visit the project clinic or interact at all with the work it carries out, they must first have completed a course of rabies vaccinations and agree to the same conditions outlined in the VBB volunteer indemnity waiver form signed by the volunteer they are accompanying.

10. What is the weather like?

Ladakh is a high altitude desert and normally rainfall is very scarce in the summer. The main source of water is the snowmelt. However, the last few summers have seen some rain. A raincoat may be useful – especially if you are going trekking.

In summer the weather is usually comfortable, with daytime temperatures below 30 C. Evenings can be quite cool and a jumper and long pants are recommended. The direct sun is very hot and high SPF suncream and hats are essential.

Leh is at 3,500 metres above sea level and so it is EXTREMELY important to take time to acclimatize, and be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness. Complete rest for the first couple of days, along with drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes will be enough for most people to start acclimatizing well. It is not unusual to have a bit of a headache and perhaps some nausea in these first days, but if the symptoms persist then medical attention should be sought.

To help avoid altitude sickness some people start taking Diamox (acetazolamide)  @250mg bid a few days prior to arrival - consult your doctor before taking this medication.

11. What To Wear?

Ladakhis are quite traditional when it comes to clothing and it is respectful for tourists to dress modestly. Girls should avoid singlets and shorts (t-shirts and anything below the knee are fine). Shorts are fine for men, but singlets are not so appropriate.

Summer days are usually clear and often quite hot but the evenings can be quite cool. It is worthwhile bringing at least one jumper and a pair of long pants. It rarely rains but a raincoat might be useful, especially in June and September

12. Is travelling around Ladakh restricted?

Some places in Ladakh require a permit, however these are quick and easy to obtain. You usually do not need to organise a permit more than one-to-two days ahead of when you would like to travel. Travel agencies in Leh can organise this. Many places do not require a permit, and travelling around Ladakh is easy. There are many buses or you can take taxis, hire jeeps and drivers for a private trip, rent motorbikes, or mountain bikes.

There are numerous travel agencies in Leh and treks can be organised with or without horses, or ponies, with or without guides/cooks etc. There are also opportunities for mountaineering.

13. What to bring.

There is a list in the volunteer briefing material which we will provide upon approval of your application.

14. And just to repeat:

 VBB requirements for Volunteers

  • VBB membership
  • Rabies vaccinations up to date
  • Seek advice from travel doctor about other recommended vaccinations
  • Travel insurance is compulsory and scanned copies must be provided to VBB
  • Read any health and safety documents provided by your doctor or travel advisory service
  • Read and sign the provided indemnity form
  • Have a great trip!