You started to plan your trip around South America or you’re mainly interested in visiting Bolivia because of its beautiful salt flats. Then my friend, you are in the right place!
Bolivia was one of our destination during our 3 months trip to South America and we did not get disappointed. We visited La Paz and did a 3 days trip to Salar de Uyuni finishing in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. I can say for sure that Bolivia’s salt flats was one of the highlights of our adventure.
You probably have million of questions about how to get there, which tour company you should go with, how much does it cost, where you should stay, how to make the most of it and so on. In this post I’ll make sure you have all those questions answered and that you have an amazing time visiting the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.
What you should know before you go to Salar de Uyuni
The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is the largest salt flat in the world and is located in the southwest of the country. Besides being in a remote location, you can fairly easy reach it by travelling to its closest city – Uyuni. It can be quite warm during the day, but you better be prepared for the chilly nights ahead. Also, because of its high concentration of salt, you may have some stains on your shoes and clothes. Don’t worry it does come off eventually, but I would advise you to either use wellies or flip-flops if you’re up to put your feet in the water.
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How to choose the best tour operator to visit Salar de Uyuni?
The first thing you have to know when deciding about which tour operator go with, is what you are going after? Is it price, is it a luxurious experience, is it safety? All these questions are very important when talking about South America, standards are very different than the ones in Europe and North America, therefore you have to be careful as you will end up having what you’ve paid for. I would strongly advise going with the most experienced company, especially during rain season as you can have some 4×4 not crossing over the flats because of getting stuck.
How much you will pay for a tour will depend on few factors: how many days are you going for, are you crossing all the way to Chile? Are you staying in a private accommodation? Do you want to have a private bathroom? Due to the amount of options available, the price range can be anything from £50 to £250 per person.
Here you can find some of the most known tour operators for the Salar de Uyuni with all details you need. Although these are very well known companies, we have done our tour with a different operator recommended by a friend. Andes Salt Expeditions offers budget to luxurious tours and have very experienced drivers. During our time crossing the flats we did see couple of other groups not being able to go and our driver was one of the few who made it through. Even tough we haven’t had a great experience with food, we would still recommend them.
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What’s the best time to visit Salar de Uyuni?
The amazing giant mirror you see in the Salt Flats doesn’t happen throughout the entire year, so if you are dying to see that, you have to book your trip wisely.
The dry season happens from May to October, during this time you wont be able to see the mirror, however you will have better road conditions and will be able to visit Cactus or Fish Island.
The rain season goes from November to March, that’s when you can see the the sky reflecting in the salt flat. Road conditions at this time is a little rougher but it’s totally worth it.
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How to get in Salar de Uyuni?
So after choosing your tour operator, deciding when you’re going, now is time to know how to get there. As I said before, Uyuni is the closest city to start your tour to the salt flats. Uyuni is a very small town where you can find plenty of operators with the most variety of tours you can imagine. To get there, if you are based in La Paz, you should look for a bus company called Todo Turismo. Although I am sure there are many other bus companies going to Uyuni from La Paz, we did find Todo Turismo very reliable and extremely comfortable. We booked our tickets online, but if you are spending couple of days in La Paz and have some flexibility, you can buy it in the bus station too. This company has a night bus leaving at 9pm arriving in the Uyuni around 7am; it costs BS250 one way per person, including dinner and breakfast. Choose the VIP option to have some space and a very comfortable bed-seat.
If you are going to Uyuni from any other destination you can have a look at this website for buses and trains.
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There is no real need to book accommodation in Uyuni, I would recommend you to stay in La Paz, get the night bus from there and start your tour as soon as you arrive in Uyuni. The tours normally leave around 10am allowing you plenty of time to even grab something else to eat. In La Paz we’ve stayed at York B&B which was very well located and easy to reach the bus station.
Make sure you have plenty of water on you and if possible stay on dry food only. Also bring some stomach medication, your hygiene products and head torch. There’s no grocery shops during the tour, the food is brought over from Uyuni and you only get fresh cooked meal during dinners.
Get dressed with couple of layers as during the night can get really cold. Bring swimming suit with you, if you planning to go to the hot spring.
Be aware that depending on your accommodation choice shower may be cold and all the hotels options work on power generator.
Hope we could help you figure out how to visit Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, please let us know if you have any other question by commenting this post. See you soon!