There is no airport in Manali, but the closest airport is Bhuntar in Kullu, which is 50 km away from Manali. Air India flights operate between Kullu and Delhi, however, these are irregular and very expensive. From Chandigarh, Himalayan Bulls offer flights to Kullu airport. The company is currently running three-flights a day to Kullu from Chandigarh. From the airport, the best way to get to Manali is by a pre-paid taxi alternatively one can get a public transport from Kullu, which is very economical.
The closest train station to Manali is Ambala Cantt, which is 200 km away. Another option is to get a train to Chandigarh, which is 250 km away. Ambala Cantt is on the Delhi Amritsar route. Even trains going to Jammu may stop at Ambala Cantt from where you will have to take a bus or a car for your onward journey, which is approximately 10 hours to Manali.
Jogindernagar and Kalka are other, less popular, options for Manali. The nearest station is Kiratpur Sahib in Punjab near the city of Nangal. It lies in Ropar district of Punjab. The station lies on the Ambala Cantt - Una route of the Indian Railways. From here you can easily get buses for Manali.
Bus - Buses are a good option if you want to travel to Manali on a budget. The distance is 570km from Delhi, the capital of India, and there are buses connecting the two cities with very good frequency. For reservations to Manali one can book tickets online, get them from the Inter-State Bus Terminus or from the Himachal Tourism office on Safdar Hashmi Marg near Mandi House in Delhi. The Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) buses are popular, efficient and comfortable. These deluxe Volvo bus tickets can be purchased online and the website accepts foreign credit cards.
The time taken to travel from Delhi to Manali is 14 hours; from Ambala to Manali is 10 hours; from Chandigarh is 8 hours and from Kullu to Manali is 1.5 to 3 hours.
Buses from Delhi usually depart at around 17.00 and arrive at 10.00 the next day. These Volvo buses are comfortable however it is advisable to book tickets in advance especially during the season. Also, this will ensure that you get good seats to enjoy the breathtaking view.
The road to Manali can be windy and causes motion sickness so it is advised to stay away from too much food and carry motion sickness medication. Though the buses sometimes provide bags if you feel nauseous.
Private Taxi - Hiring a taxi and driving to Manali is a great option if you have a good driver who knows the routes and a good vehicle. The route takes you through the hills and narrow windy roads. The driver must be adept to drive through these terrains. If you plan on going to Manali through Chandigarh-Ropar-Kiratpur-Mandi highway, then your driver would need to drive on hilly roads for at least 6 hours. Chandigarh to Manali would take the same time as in a bus, but it is a little more luxurious.
There are many private companies, which offer competitive prices based on the car you choose. One-way cabs can drive you from Delhi and Chandigarh to Manali at competitive prices. Many private cab companies from Delhi and Chandigarh have all ranges of taxis plying to Manali.
It is easy to get around in Manali if you don’t have your own transport. Most tourists hire a taxi based on your requirement, which takes you sightseeing in and around Manali. The prices range from eighteen hundred per day to three thousand for three days. If you wish to get up to Rohtang Pass, you may need to hire clothes and skiing equipment. You will find taxi hire shops on mall road.
Manali is a biker’s paradise. It is very common to hire a motorbike. There are many places where you can hire a motorbike, as it is the most common mode of transport for foreigners. Both cruiser bikes like Bullet and sport bikes from Honda, Bajaj, Yamaha etc. are easily available, though Bullet is the most commonly seen one on the roads. Rates fluctuate between 1000-1500 per day in the peak season. It is a good idea to look at the Bike Rentals Manali office in Vashisht - they have a good selection of Royal Enfield’s and Pulsars. Also 'Tinku' Bike mechanic near old Manali Bridge is an honest shop for bike rentals. Most bikers use Manali as a starting point to travel through Leh.
Public transport is not so good. There are inexpensive bus services, but they are not so frequent. If you are going to stay for a long time, it is better to know the times and use them, as other modes of public transport are exorbitant compared to bus. The buses are not punctual specially because there seems to be no written schedule. The best option is to ask about timing at the bus terminal. Buses cost as less as Rs. 10/- whereas rickshaws may cost Rs. 200/-. Buses have no set rules and you can board and alight anywhere during your journey. There are buses from Kullu to Manali every 15 minutes, from Manali to Naggar every hour and from Manali to Solang every one-hour.