Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia – tips for visiting
Salar de Uyuni is a must-see destination when in Bolivia. It is the world’s largest salt flat, offering visitors breathtaking landscapes they will never forget. However, to make the most out of your trip, there are some essential tips that you should know before visiting Salar de Uyuni.
If you come from Bolivia, you can catch a bus or train to Uyuni and start your tour there. If you are coming from Chile, the best starting point for your tour is San Pedro de Atacama. And if you are from Argentina, starting in Tupiza in Bolivia is best. Tupiza is easily accessible from the Bolivian-Argentina border.
TYPES OF TOURS
You can choose from several types of tours, depending on your time and budget. Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia – tips for visiting will help you choose the tour that suits you the most.
One-Day Bolivia Salt Flats Tour
This is the most popular and cheapest option. It includes a visit to the train cemetery, a stop in Colchani and the Salt Flats, and a lunch. The tour ends at 5 pm. It is an excellent choice if you are on a tight schedule. Still, I strongly recommend the 3-day tour, as it combines the salt flats with other incredible sites in the area, such as lagoons, hot geysers, flamingos flocks, hot springs, rock formations, volcanoes, lakes, and stunning landscapes throughout the Andes. Prices range from US$30 to US$60.
Roundtrip Tour or Onward Journey
If you depart from Uyuni, you can return to Uyuni or continue to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.
Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama
You will be transferred to the Chilean border at the end of your tour, where you will catch a bus to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.
San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni
Salar de Uyuni salt flats tours departing from San Pedro de Atacama are typically one-way tours covering multiple days. The prices range from US$100 to US$250, depending on the tour operator and the hotels.
HOW TO GET FROM LA PAZ TO UYUNI
La Paz, the bustling capital of Bolivia, is a common starting point for travelers looking to visit the incredible Salar de Uyuni salt flats. Located in the southwest part of Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, spanning over 10,000 square kilometers.
One of the easiest ways to get from La Paz to Uyuni is by bus. Todo Turismo is a popular bus company that offers overnight buses with fully-reclining cama seats (beds) that provide comfort and safety during the long journey. These buses have heating, a toilet, comfortable seats, attendant service, meals, and drinks, all included in the price.
To book a ticket, visit Todo Turismo’s website a few days before your departure. There is an option to book a cama seat, which is perfect for an overnight trip. The journey from La Paz to Uyuni takes approximately 10 hours, so bring enough snacks and entertainment to keep you occupied during the ride.
HOW TO CHOOSE A TOUR COMPANY TO VISIT SALAR DE UYUNI
When visiting Salar de Uyuni, choosing a reliable tour company is essential. There are many tour companies in Uyuni, but not all provide the same level of service and quality. Booking a tour in advance is best to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience, especially during peak season. Suppose you’re not on a tight budget. In that case, it’s worth choosing a more expensive tour operator, as there are significant differences between cheap and more expensive tour providers regarding transportation, accommodation, meals, and service.
Prices for Salar de Uyuni tours vary depending on the length of your stay, with the most popular tours being one-day and three-day tours. Three-day tours typically cost between US$200-$250, depending on the tour operator and the level of service provided.
When choosing a tour, it’s important to consider what is included in the price. A good tour will include a 4×4 tour of Salar de Uyuni, lodging, home-cooked Bolivian meals, an English-speaking guide, and a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama.
However, some additional costs may not be included in the tour price, such as entrance fees to Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve (150 BOB or US$21), Museum of Salt and Llamas (5 BOB or US$0.7), Fish Island (30 BOB or US$4.2), and Hot Springs (6 BOB or US$0.85). Tips for the guide and driver are optional but always appreciated.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Salar de Uyuni is during the wet season from January to March when there’s a chance to see the incredible mirror effect on the salt flats. In March and early April, a thin layer of water may still be left on the salt flats, providing a unique and stunning view.
The driest and coldest period is from April to September, while October to December is warm but can be hard at night due to the high altitude. Regardless of the time of year, visiting Salar de Uyuni is a must-see destination for anyone traveling to Bolivia.
SALAR DE UYUNI TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITING
Salar de Uyuni is a mesmerizing destination that attracts thousands of visitors annually. Here are some essential travel tips that you should consider before embarking on your Bolivia salt flats tour.
Charge your phone and camera
Make sure you fully charge your phone and your camera before leaving. The salt flats are a photographer’s paradise; you want to capture the incredible views. Remember that electricity at the hotels/hostels could be on for limited hours, so it’s recommended to bring a portable charger to keep your battery full.
Salar de Uyuni is situated at about 4.500 meters, which means there is a chance of altitude sickness. Symptoms of altitude sickness can include headaches, nausea, and fatigue. It is best to give yourself a few days to acclimate to the high elevation to avoid this. Additionally, taking medication prescribed by a doctor, drinking plenty of water, and chewing coca leaves or drinking coca tea can help alleviate symptoms.
Travel insurance is essential for any trip, especially when traveling abroad. It provides financial coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellation, lost or stolen items, and other unforeseen circumstances that can arise while traveling. Before departing, check your policy’s coverage to ensure it includes medical emergencies and evacuation at high altitudes.
It’s a good idea to bring cash with you on your Bolivia salt flats tour. Most of the small towns in the area do not have ATMs or banks, so it’s best to have cash on hand for purchasing food, souvenirs, and other expenses.
Choosing a Tour Company
When choosing a tour company, research and read reviews from other travelers. There are huge differences between cheap and more expensive tour providers regarding cars, accommodation, meals, and service, so take advantage of this. Choosing a reputable and experienced tour company with English-speaking guides and a good safety record is also essential.
WHAT TO PACK
If you plan a 3-day trip to Uyuni Salt, Bolivia, it is important to pack efficiently and ensure you have everything you need. Here are some essential items to pack for your Uyuni Salt adventure.
Clothes for three days – The weather in Uyuni Salt can be pretty unpredictable, with hot days and freezing nights. It is important to pack clothes suitable for both extremes – pack layers of clothing, such as T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, hoodies, and a warm jacket. Comfortable and sturdy shoes are also essential for walking on salt flats.
Swimming suit – One of the highlights of the Uyuni Salt trip is visiting the hot springs. Pack a swimming suit to enjoy the hot springs and relax after a long day of exploring.
Camera – Uyuni Salt is a stunning destination with unique landscapes and natural wonders. Remember to bring your camera!
Flashlight (torch) – A flashlight can be helpful for stargazing at night and walking around in the dark.
Bottled water – It is essential to stay hydrated while on the Uyuni Salt tour. If drinking water is not included in the tour, bring your own. There are shops to purchase bottled water along the way, but it could be much more expensive than those in Uyuni. Plan a minimum of a 1.5-liter bottle of water each day.
Don’t forget to bring
Wet wipes – Bring wet wipes to help you freshen up while on the road. The salt flats can be dusty, so wet wipes are essential to clean your face and hands.
Sun protection – The sun in Uyuni Salt is intense, and it is easy to get burned, so it is important to pack sun protection items such as sun cream, a hat, and sunglasses. It is also recommended to bring lip balm with SPF protection.
Lotion – The weather conditions in the desert can be harsh, so bring lotion and face cream to keep your skin moisturized.
Toiletries – Pack basic toiletries such as a toothbrush, deodorant, toothpaste, soap, and any medication you need.
Important packing tip
Pack two bags: a big one at the top of the 4×4 and a small backpack to bring inside the vehicle, where you will keep a camera, sun lotion, sunglasses, wet wipes, and drinking water. This will help you stay organized and access essential items during the trip easily.
Packing for a 3-day trip to Uyuni Salt requires careful planning and preparation. With the proper clothing, toiletries, and essential items, you can have a comfortable and memorable experience exploring the stunning landscapes of Uyuni Salt. Remember to pack efficiently, stay hydrated, and protect yourself from the sun to make the most of your trip.
A visit to Salar de Uyuni is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should be noticed. Following these essential tips and booking a reputable tour operator can make the most of your trip and create unforgettable memories.
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