Uyuni

Uyuni is in the Potosí Department of Bolivia.

Uyuni map

Understand

Uyuni a small town situated in the middle of nowhere. It originally blossomed as a railroad junction, and even if this is still an important aspect, no doubt is tourism now its main source of prosperity. What would otherwise be a fairly dull stopover en route between Salta, Argentina and La Paz or Potosí, has become absolutely mandatory on this leg of the gringo trail. The sole reason: salt flats, the world's biggest. (See Salar de Uyuni).

Get in

Plan to arrive a day or two before you intend to depart on a salt flat tour, especially if there are only 2 of you. That gives the chance to meet other travellers, thus a larger group has more bargaining power for the 'daily rate'.

By plane

Uyuni has a small airport (IATA: UYU). Líneas Aéreas Canedo (in codeshare with Aerosur) used to operate flights on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Cochabamba on a historical Super DC-3. Those flights took about 90 minutes landing at a salt runway near the city (1km northwest). Ticket prices were 150USD one way, 250USD return. In 2010, these flights are cancelled and it is unknown when and if there will be flights in the future. The new airport is almost completed. TAM and Amazonas are starting to promote their future flights, but it is still uncertain when they will fly.

UPDATE: Amaszonas is now servicing Uyuni

By bus

You will need 12-15 hours from La Paz, by bus. The bus ride can be bitterly cold in winter - travellers have been known to sit in their sleeping bags on the night bus from Oruro to Uyuni. With other options (Todo Tourismo,Trans Omar and Panamerica Sur) you must change buses in Oruro to get to La Paz. Beware that even though Panamericana has a direct line, heating and toilet, it is notorious for breaking down, and the ride can easily take 8 hours more than promised. Buses to Oruro/La Paz are often booked up in advance - you likely need to book at least the day before, several days if you wish to take the comfortable tourist bus or one of the better bus companies - best to do this before going on a Southwest Circuit tour (if coming from San Pedro de Atacama, be prepared to spend a night in Uyuni and have little choice of bus company).

There are several buses daily to and from Potosí (6-7 hours, 30 Bs.), from there you can go one to Sucre (3-4 hours more). Beware however, companies such as Transporte 11 de Julio have been known to cancel buses without notice, and without even opening their office to explain.

Many daily departures around 5:30 - 6:00 AM for Tupiza, stopping halfway for lunch in Atocha, 7-8 hours, 60 Bs. Three days a week there are 9 AM departures, and occasionally a Land Cruiser departs 6-7 PM, -ask around. Although the train is definitely smoother, and somewhat faster, this bus ride offers terrific views.

By train

Trains of Ferroviaria Andina [www.fca.com.bo] run south to Villazon on the Argentinian border, stopping in Tupiza and Atocha. Northbound trains go to Oruro. The formerly existing train connection to Calama, Chile has been discontinued. Trains leave oruro on Tuesday and Fridays at 3:30pm arrive 10:30PM to Uyuni. That is the Expreso del Sur..Executive and 2nd class tix. The other Train Wara Wara leave Oruro on Sundays and Wed at 7pm and arrive in Uyuni at 2:30 am.

By car

You can also rent a car in La Paz and drive. After Challapata the road signs are scarce to find Uyuni, in the rainy season the rivers grow and it's dangerous to come in a car that is not a jeep 4x4.

Get around

All walkable.

See

Do

The salt flats, Salar de Uyuni, can be visited on daytrips, or longer trips, up to 4 days, including a swipe down towards the Chilean border and the lagoon and geysers of that area.

Make sure that you point out that you only wish to go with a responsible driver; there have been reports of drunkenness among drivers that may be averted with continued pressure on the tour companies before departure.

Buy

Eat

Drink

Sleep

Beware of the cheap hostels near the bus offices. If you arrive in the early morning these places will charge you a full night for your stay until 12PM (noon).

Cope

Go next

If you plan to go Chile, you can get transport onwards to San Pedro de Atacama instead of return to Uyuni. The price is usually around an extra $10USD. Some tours include this in the tour price, ask first. Remember to get an exit stamp in Immigration Office in Uyuni (the date on the stamp is the expected exit day, so you may get Chilean entry stamp with earlier date). The Immigration Office is open 7 days per week.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, September 29, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.