Quick Trip to Uyuni Salt Flats

Quick Trip to Uyuni Salt Flats

I wish I could say that my experience at Uyuni Salt Flats was amazing, but it was far from it. Your experience is contingent on who is a part of your group tour and how engaging your tour guide is. To go to the Salt Flats, you must hire a tour. They will not allow you to wander on your own. You will understand when you get there. 

Tour Group: Perla de Bolivia

I originally booked a three-day tour with Perla de Bolivia that stretched out to 5 days when counting transportation. The day before my tour was scheduled to commence, the owner messaged me indicating that my tour had been canceled due to vehicle shortage. The next available booking would be in 2 days for the same tour. This threw a curveball in my plans as I had only enough days for this 5-day tour and Copacabana. I attempted to look for other tours due to short notice, but my options were slim. I ended up just booking a day tour with the same company.

Transportation From La Paz to Uyuni

My tour included transportation with Todo Turismo; however, getting transportation and tour packages separately is possible and the route I would do next time. All you need to do is book transportation from La Paz to Uyuni, then a tour in Uyuni. Hotels, hostels, and tour companies can help you book transportation to Uyuni if needed or you can just book directly with the company. Some known bus companies include Pansur, Todo Turismo, Cruz del Norte, and Cisne Bus Uyuni. One way will cost about $14-$22 and a round trip is about $35-$45.

Most evening transportation will depart around 8pm-10pm. You will need to check in with the transportation company at least 30 minutes before the bus scheduled departure. The meeting location could be at the bus station or at the company’s office. You should receive information on where to meet prior to your departure. If you are unsure, verify that information with the bus company. There is a waiting area at the office usually equipped with lounge chairs, tables, restrooms, and wifi. The drive from La Paz to Uyuni is about 9 hours. 


Transportation Vehicle

Most bus rides to Uyuni from La Paz offer about 160-165-degree reclined seats. The seats are pretty spacious. Luggage are stored in the bus compartment outside. There is no storage compartment on the bus but I shoved my belongings under my seat once it was reclined. Each seat had its own curtains, light fixtures, table, thick blanket, and pillow. My bus was extremely hot and there are no controllers for it. I was getting lightheaded because of it. One grandmother complained and the attendant reduced the temperature. 

There is also one lavatory on the bus. The lavatory is only for #1 and no #2. There is a sign in the front of the bus indicating if the lavatory is occupied. 

Transportation Food

On the bus, we received water, tea, chocolate, and meals. For dinner, we received chicken, rice, and mixed veggies. It was surprisingly decent. For breakfast we received a bag of goodies that included a meat and cheese sandwich and apple juice. 

When you arrive in Uyuni, you will be taken directly to the transportation office or the bus station. If you make arrangements with your tour company, they will pick you up and take you to the tour company’s office. If you did not make arrangements to get picked up, you will need to figure out how to get to the tour company’s office. 

Once you have arrive at the company’s office, they will request for your passport. They will make copies of your passport and return it to you. 



All tour companies start their tour at the same time. It will be a lot of waiting around. My bus arrived at 7am but the tour does not start until the last bus arrives which is about 10:30am. In the meantime, you are just waiting around. One of the travelers and I circled Uyuni to see if there was anything to do. Since it was early, most shops were still closed or set up. I was beyond bored and not pleased with this rule. 

The Tour

Around 10:30, the guides and drivers start to arrive at the tour office. The guides start to explain where we are going and what to expect for the next 1,2, or 3 days. For 1 day-ers like me, they pointed out where we will go and where our tour will end. This continued on for the next 3 days. For day 2, they indicated that there will be electricity for the whole day but day 3 there will only be power for 2 or 3 hours. The first hotel does have a shower but the last day did not. After the explanation, our team splits off to our respective team. I was in a vehicle with a driver, tour guide, and 3 other travelers. I did not mesh very well with my group. I could not communicate with two of them as they did not speak English or Spanish. I kept to myself most of the time. 

The Vehicle

Our vehicle was older. The air conditioning did not work which we needed during the early part of the tour. The windshield wipers did not work when it started down pouring. When the driver attempted to fix the wipers, the handle popped off. It was a disaster. 

The Drive

Uyuni had downpoured the night before so the entire ground was flooded. There are no drainage systems in this region as it is still a developing area. We had to swerve left and right to find the lowest water level. 

Tour Itinerary

1. Train Graveyard

The first place we went to once our tour started was the train graveyard. The cemetery consisted of several abandoned locomotives. The graveyard was full of tourists taking candit photos in various poses. The tour allowed 45 mins to roam the area but realistically, we only need 10 minutes. 



2. Colchani

Next, we went to Colchani, a small settlement just outside of the salt flats. Here, we learned about how salt was processed. After that, we headed over to a room for lunch. Our driver had picked us some steaks, salad, and drinks. Following lunch, we were given another hour to shop for souvenirs.


3. Salt Flats

Finally, it was Salt Flats time. There were a line of 4X4 waiting to enter the salt flats. The officer at the front reviewed paperwork from our driver and gave us the okay to enter. We were driving with the other vehicles and then our driver branched off. We intended to do the tour backwards to minimize the crowd. After 15 minutes of driving in the salt flats, our car hit a ditch and we were stuck for 1.5 hours. Our driver was proactive and got a colleague to tow us out of the ditch. In the meantime, we were just walking barefoot in the salt. The view was breathtaking. It feels like we are in the clouds. It is no wonder our driver did not see the pothole. Our tour guide told us that there are pockets of soft salt that could be easily punctured was is perhaps what caused our pothole. 



Walking on the salt flats was uncomfortable. The salts were very rigid. We saw other tours and it appeared that they had gum shoes. I’m not sure if they purchased them or their tour offered it to them. But those are helpful! 


About 1.5 hours after being caught in the ditch, the driver’s colleague attached a rope and pulled our vehicle out. We continued the tour for the next 2 hours. 

By the early evening, we saw the clouds moving in. It eventually downpoured and the salt flats now look like a lagoon. I’m glad that we had some sunshine. 



Leaving Uyuni

Most people take two routes from Uyuni, return to La Paz, or travel to Atacama in southern Chile. I returned to La Paz. After the tour, we returned to the tour company’s office. I had to walk to the bus office to check in for my transportation. It departed at 9pm and scheduled to arrive at 6am. The ride was similar to the departure in La Paz. When arriving in La Paz’s bus station, there were lines of taxi asking if you need a taxi. I took one of those taxi and returned to my hostel. 

Traveling to Atacama, Chile

Most tours end in Uyuni and you will need to schedule your next bus ride. Atacama is the nearest major city to Uyuni. It is a 3-hour bus ride and crosses into another country so a passport is required (and visa if required). Atacama is a desert region with several hikes. There is not much to do outside of this. 


Overall, I did not enjoy myself but think that the Salt Flats is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. I may want to do the Salt Flats again but with another tour company. I did not appreciate all the waiting around. It feels unorganized. I think that we could easily squeeze two days into one. I am sure other people have different experiences but the wait placed me in a sour mood. 1/5 do not recommend this tour company.