A quick guide to the epic Uyuni, Bolivia

Tips for the Uyuni trip

 Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia offers a variety of tours ranging from one to four days. In one day you will see the salt flats and be able to snap those famous funny pictures. In two days you can visit the salt flats, see flamingos and nearby lagunas.

I did the three-day tour, which took us across 12,000 square kilometres packed with volcanos, red, green and white lagunas, strange rock formations and a landscape similar to Mars. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend the three-day tour.

We booked it 1,5 month in advance, but that’s just because I’m an obsessive planner. I know a lot of travelers book the tour on the day they arrive, but chances are that your numbero uno tour operator doesn’t have any space left. If you book the tour 2-4 weeks in advance, you should be fine.

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WHAT DID IT COST?

  • The three-day tour: 995 bolivianos
  • Fee to the National park: 150 bolivianos
  • Coins for the toilets and shower (it usually costs 1-2 bolivianos)

In total: 1,155 Bolivianos (US$168)

Guide to the Uyuni trip

WHEN TO VISIT SALAR DE UYUNI, BOLIVIA

There are two peak periods for visiting the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. One is between July and October where the sky is super blue and the weather is on your side. The other is the rainy season between January and April, which by far is the most beautiful if you ask me. During the rainy season, a thin sheet of water covers the flats, reflecting a perfect representation of the sky above so that it is impossible to tell where sky ends and the land begins. Absolutely breathtaking!

WHAT TO BRING

  • Sunglasses. The sun is quite powerful in the Salar and you will be blinded without sunglasses.
  • Sun screen. This is a must, as the UV radiation here is exceptionally strong.
  • Water. Four litres should be enough for three days.
  • Swimsuit. On day three, you’ll be visiting hot springs, so bring your swimsuit.
  • Towel
  • Warm clothes. Uyuni is high in altitude, and it gets quite cold and windy. Bring fleece sweaters and a windproof jacket. I brought a softshell.
  • Toiletries. Bring your daily essentials and don’t forget the toilet paper (this is a rare commodity in the desert.)
  • Snacks. There are no shops out there, so bring a snack or two for the road.
  • Camera
  • Flashlight. Power outages are common, and most places turn off power on purpose in the evening.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT TOUR COMPANY

During my research of Uyuni tour companies, I read many horrifying stories about drunk drivers and people going hungry for days, so I was kinda on edge to find a decent company. As I discovered, some of the most popular companies are: Cordillera Tours, Red Planet and Quechua Connections.

We chose Quechua Connections, partly because of the good reviews on Tripadvisor and also becauset it’s a family-run company. I had a good feeling about them, and it showed to be accurate. I have nothing but praises to give this tour operator. They cost the same as everyone else, and José (the owner) makes the tour so much more fun. He speaks excellent English, knows all the good places, has great ideas for photos, and he’s a good cook! He even took us to his favorite place to see llamas, which was not on the itinerary.

You can contact José at this email address: [email protected]

Guide to the Uyuni trip

Read my post about visiting the Salar de Uyuni and the three-day tour.

Have you been to Uyuni, Bolivia? Would you go?

More posts from Bolivia you might like

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Salar de Uyuni offers a variety of tours ranging from one to four days. In one day you will see the salt flats and be able to snap those famous funny pictures. In two days you can visit the salt flats, see flamingos and nearby lagunas. The three-day tour, takes you across 12,000 square kilometres packed with volcanos, red, green and white lagunas, strange rock formations and a landscape similar to Mars. Get travel tips for visiting Uyuni, Bolivia here.

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17 Comments

  1. Hi Miriam,
    thank you so much for the insights and breathtaking pictures, I am going to Uyuni in May and hope to also get a chance to do the 3-day tour with quechua connection. Your blog was a great inspiration, and might be for future travels. thanks!

    1. Thanks, Phil! I’m so glad you found it helpful. I highly recommend Quechua Connections – better contact José well in advance to make sure there’s room. Have fun in Bolivia – it will take your breath away.

  2. Hello fellow obsessive planner! Thank you for the Quechua Connection recommendation – quick question on safety – did your jeep provide seat belts?

    Your blog/site is great – thanks for all your tips, cost breakdown, and to-bring list 🙂

      1. i did the tour with QC in May 2015 (as in pre-travel my comment above). the tour was very scenic. however, the jeep had exactly 1 seatbelt that was working (which was the driver’s seat – and the driver also used his seatbelt at all time), then there were 3 seats which had no seatbelt at all (the actual belt had been removed), and then there were 2 which theoretically had a seatbelt but didnt work and was additionally covered by some sort of seat cover.

        I heard a lot of good stories about quechua connection, but be aware that they use freelancers as drivers (with their own cars, not the one of Jose) and freelance-guides – like all others do. our guide told us right from the start that he “doesnt know our driver, had never seen him bevore, but hopes he’s not a drinker, but you never know”…. (in the driver’s defense: he never drank alcohol during the 3 days).

        tour was nice but 3 days at quite a speed without seatbelts is not risky, just stupid. even the driver knew that, since he used his. the guide didnt understand the issue at all. but volunteered to take what we called the “hot seat” (second row, middle seat) where you probably have the least chances in an accident.

        1. Phil, thanks so much for this update. I wasn’t aware that QC was using freelancers that they couldn’t vouch for, but I will make sure to inform my other readers about this. When I was there, safety was a priority for José and that ought to be the case when they use freelancers, too. Thanks for sharing this, I really appreciate it. I hope it didn’t ruin your trip.

          1. Hi Miriam, no it didn’t ruin our trip at all. In fact, we had a great trip, the landscape was breathtaking and we were accompanied by really great travel mates. I was surprised by how much variety bolivia has to offer, apart from the famous salt flats.

            But i think the seat belt issue needs to be adressed frequently and directly. I have the impression this is an issue that is important to many travelers but for some reason not understood by locals.

            Our driver seemed to be quite responsible and the guide who was talking quite openly about the various operators in Uyuni meant QC is amongst the ~15% of operators he would honestly recommend.

            I would recommend people to ask quite directly if (meanwhile) all seats have a seat belt. cant be a big investment – the car wasnt in bad condition, just lacked the belt itself. i guess if people ask for it they sooner or later understand the importance. hopefully sooner.

            1. I know im replying some years after the comment but I wanted to point out that the seat belt thing is very much a cultural thing in Bolivia – most people dont even know what they are for here. There was an interesting video made by a local news channel not so long ago (so in 2017) that followed police in La Paz as they stopped bus and taxi drivers that werent wearing seat belts (all of them basically) and informed them that 1. it is the law (again something 99% of people in bolivia dont know) and 2. asked them to put the seatbelt on – most of them didnt even know how to put it on and you would be amazed at the things they tried.
              The point is though , that whilst I agree with you seat belts should be available in all the tours and there are a handful of drivers / agencies that do this in Uyuni now (mostly due to tourists asking – so the more that do the better and slowly things might improve) most drivers there probably dont even know what it is for Its an education thing but it is one of many 1000s of things that need addressing in Bolivia and changing the culture in order to address them is a long , slow and difficult process especially when the politicians are more immediately concerned with other things (things like this usually only receive focus after there is a serious incident that causes international attention to be focused on it), people are generally reluctant to change and laws are seldom enforced anyway.
              Quechua are a good company though, amongst a handle of responsible ones there such as Red Planet aswell and a few others – many others though , especially the cheapo ones are just ticking time bombs.

              1. Phil, thank you so much for your two cents! My main concern is with the tour company drivers that drive drunk or reckless – that’s when you really need a seat belt. I understand that it’s a cultural thing and I agree with you all the way, but it’s still concerning. Hopefully it will get better over the years as tourism grows.

  3. I’m glad it didn’t! Satety is the main reason I urge fellow travelers to choose the right tour company. I’ve heard of (and seen) too many drunk drivers in Uyuni, and whether you’re with him in the car or passing by, seat belts are an ABSOLUTE must. I’m glad you brought this up, Phil.

  4. HI Miriam!
    Finding your blog post about Uyuni is a blessing. I am hoping to fly there from Peru at the end of January and desperately trying to get someone to email me back from QC. In the mean time, when you traveled to Uyuni-did you have to fly to La Paz and then fly to Uyuni? and did you find any good accomedations in Uyuni while waiting for the tour? I’m not finding a ton of places to stay that are too great in my research! Thanks a bunch for any advice,

    1. Glad to help, Lindsay. You have to go through La Paz to get to Uyuni. I booked a direct flight (1 hour) from La Paz to Uyuni at a set price at around $240 each way. I stayed at Hostal Vieli in Uyuni. It’s a nice hostel – nothing fancy, but alright. I remember having problems finding a good place too, but was content with this one as it was safe and clean. I hope QC will get back to you soon. They aren’t always good at answering emails so keep writing them.

      Have a great trip 🙂

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