Monday, 17 December 2012

Best way to see Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni Information and Advice

The shanty town of Uyuni
Where to start?
We took the tour from Tupiza ad we strongly recommend this. Many tours leave from Uyuni as it is the nearest town to the flats. This is definitely an option for those who have less time to do a full 4 day tour but Uyuni was literally a dump! I mean the people actually dump their rubbish in the streets. Not a nice place to stay!

Where does the tour begin and end?
 If you begin the tour in Tupiza, the tour finishes in Uyuni but there was an option to get a ride back with the driver to Tupiza as they had to return anyway.

Which company to go with?
Like any tour, we suggest to go onto Trip Advisor or check out Thorn Tree (Lonely Planet´s online forum) and read the reviews from fellow travellers to get the tour that is right for you. We found the most highly recommended company in Tupiza was Tupiza Tours and we would recommend them. 
   The staff were professional and the tour guides were great fun. Barely any English spoken though. The food was nice and there was no problem being a veggie. The jeeps were in okay condition but never caused too much of a time delay. The people in the office were very friendly and helpful and even spoke English so ll details were covered when we booked. The office was located in Hotel Mitru  which was convinient if you stayed in the hotel.

The pool at Hotel Mitru
Where to stay?
There was not a great selection of hostels in Tupiza and because weknew we would go with Tupiza Tours, we stayed in the very nice Hotel Mitru. It had the highest recommendation online andwe agreed. There was a wonderful pool to relax and cool off in and a wonderful breakfast buffet. The staff are pretty incompetant but overall we had a great stay and returned there after our tour.

What to bring

  • Warm clothes! It gets chilly on the salt flats and the tour in general, especially at night.
  • A camera (of course) and spare memory card and battery. There was no option to charge anything for 5 days.
  • A bathing suit for the hot springs
  • Sun cream - the reflection on the salt flats was like a tanning reflector
  • Sunglasses
  • Good shoes for for climbing rocks on day 3
  • Flash light/headlamp - electricity was limited
  • Toilet paper (facilities are very basic)
  • (optional) sleeping bag for the Bolivian winter. We did not need it in the summer.
We would also add the following:
  • Toys and props - for awesome salt flat perception photos
  • Cards or Uno - thee was very little to do in the evenings, plus it was a great way to bond with your group
  • Book and/or music for the long jeep rides
  • Wine for the evenings - it got progressively more expensive each night of the tour

Coming from La Paz?
We travelled from La Paz to Tupiza by the safest and easiest method, by train. The train station is located in Oruro (4hrs south of La Paz). We took a cheap bus, Aroma,  for B20 at 12.30pm so we could arrive in plenty of time to catch the train. The train times are limited to one train a day, 4 days a week. There 2 companies that make the journey with varying class qualities:
  Expresso del Sur: Tues & Fri 3.30pm - 4am   Better quality but more expensive
  Wara Wara: Wed & Sun 7pm - 8.30am   Cheaper but lower quality

We went with Wara Wara and could only get first class which was a lot more expensive (B170 as opposed to B75 for second class). Its recommended to buy the train tickets in a day or two in advance to get your preferred seat and class choice. There was only one place to buy the tickets (without booking through a travel agent) and it was a small building on ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Calle Quintin Barrios 791, between Ecuador and Cervantes Avenue N. in La Paz.

Alternatively, you could go by bus but we were told the road conditions weren´t great and during the rainy season (December to March) there are frequent issues of delays and flooding. The journey would have been approximately 14-16h. The train was definitely the better option.

Have a great tour!

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