Most travellers only stop in Ladakh’s second ‘city’ to change transport between Leh and Srinagar or Zanskar. After the calm and charm of Buddhist Ladakh, Muslim Kargil feels grimy and mildly hassled, though the feeling’s only relative. Slow-motion internet cafes (per hour ₹80) and a single ATM are conveniently found within the three central blocks along bustling Main Bazaar (aka Imam Khomeini Chowk, Khumani Chowk). Tucked between the main bus stand and the river via an easily missed passage, the Kafka-esque Tourist Reception Centre rents a handful of antiquated but survivable, cheap rooms (doubles ₹200). Most other accommodation seems almost as unkempt while being disgracefully overpriced compared to Leh, even after bargaining a typical 30% discount.
Hotel D’Zojila nearly 2km upstream from the centre has one block of sparkling, well-appointed new rooms aimed primarily at tour groups. Across the busy road the main block is inconsistent with rooms ranging from acceptable if kitschily panelled to sorry old boxes with blistering paintwork.
The best central option is the unusually tidy new block of the Hotel Greenland where most fittings work, showers are hot and the big TVs have countless channels.
Guesthouses charging under ₹1200 mostly range from grimy to unsavoury, and you might be advised to use a mat and your own bedding. Best of the cheaper bunch are the newer, rooftop rooms of Paradise Guest House opposite the hospital.
The best of several ho-hum eateries along Main Bazaar is Shangrila Restaurant, strewn with plastic flowers. Its menu features several veg options, though few are actually available.