7 things they don’t tell you about the Uyuni, Bolivia tours

I have recently went on a three day tour starting in Uyuni, Bolivia and passing through the many attractions in the surrounding area including Salar de Uyuni, Laguna Verde, hot springs, and lots of the beautiful nature Bolivia has to offer in the south. Though we are backpackers, there are sites that require a tour; as its not accessible any other way. If done with the right agency, a tour could save you more than doing it yourself. After going to about 6 different agencies,we had found that nearly all gave around the same price and could only bargain a small amount if possible. Most tours pass by the same exact places as well. After three days, we found all agencies failed to mentioned a few things.

Pedalando no salar - Uyuni Salt Lake
Pedalando no salar – Uyuni Salt Lake by eduhhz

1. Bring extra cash

There will be no ATM’s for the next three days. Though all food and bed is covered, there are still things you need to pay for. All inclusive doesn’t include much. More details on this below.

2. Don’t expect to shower well or at all

At the time of writing, most guesthouses were charging 10Boliviano for hot water. Normally this wouldn’t be so bad if it were hot outside but even during the summer, high altitude, rain, and wind can lead to some very cold nights and too difficult to shower in. There was one guesthouse that was charging 10Boliviano to even use the shower which included the hot water. If on a budget, do what I did and take a cat bath in the sink though it’s still cold, it’s not as bad.

Soul-bouldering in the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Soul-bouldering in the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia by remo.bissig

3. Bring extra camera batterys and memory cards

Again the guesthouses will charge you if you want to charge your electronics. You’re likely to take hundreds of pictures because of the amount of sights you’ll be seeing in such a short period of time, bring a backup memory card or make sure to clear out what you had earlier.

4. Best if you’re planning to go to Chile

If you’re starting the tour in Uyuni, the tour will end in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. There is an option not to go to Chile and instead right before the border, to go back to Uyuni. After being on your third day, eight hours straight back to Uyuni in a jeep is the last thing you want to do. It’s a ride that has nothing more then plain desert fields and distant mountains you’ve been seeing the last three days.

Salar de Uyuni after the rain
Salar de Uyuni after the rain by Magnaza

5. Onward travel – Trying to leave Uyuni

Train tickets in Bolivia can only be purchased either the day of or the day before the train departures. This can be difficult when coming back late after a three day tour and wanting to leave for a new city. Tickets are likely to sell out fast the day before and leaving the day of is luck of the draw. To get around this, your tour agency can purchase your train ticket for you while you’re on their tour. Just ask them before you leave on the tour. Another option is taking the bus from the bus terminal. There are many options in bus companies though the bus won’t be as comfortable as the train, it’s a little cheaper and you’ll be able to leave the day you want to.

6. Bring flipflops

During rainy season, the Salar de Uyuni has plenty of water for you to walk on. The salt and water may ruin your footwear so be aware. Bring both sneakers and flipflops.

Isla de Pescado, Salar de Uyuni - southwest Bolivia
Isla de Pescado, Salar de Uyuni – southwest Bolivia by Phil Marion

7. It gets cold at night

We were nearly not told that it would get extremely cold at night for our second night on the tour. If we had not asked, we wouldn’t have brought warmer clothing. Be sure you bring warm clothing for the night as it will get very cold.

Sunset over the Salar de Uyuni
Sunset over the Salar de Uyuni by wallygrom

My last recommendation is to NOT stay in the HI hostel in main town Uyuni. It’s badly run with horrible management. There’s only one shower and bathroom for the entire building for over 30 rooms. They charge you if you shower more than once and question you if you take longer than three minutes in the shower. For only 10Boliviano more across the street from the train station there is Hotel Avenida which includes private shower, a place to do laundry, clean, and friendly staff.

5 thoughts on “7 things they don’t tell you about the Uyuni, Bolivia tours”

  1. I had actually had a really good experience, because we stay in the salt hotel, which is a 4 star hotel, we also got a private tour and was amazing !! I guess if you spend more money you will get a better service. I guess you stayed in a 2 star hotel….I don’t know what your expectations were, specially from a third world country. I think these rules applies to all places in this world…

  2. Yikes, I didn’t realize the tour ended up in Chile! Good thing I came here! Hopefully I can get a trip that goes closer to the border with Argentina. Overall, these gripes aside, do you feel doing a tour is worthwhile? I read about some people just doing it by themselves with a hire car or simply a one day trip.

  3. WOW this is just amazing! Shame is soooo far away from Europe. Thanks a lot for all the practical advise 🙂 I guess many people have used them 🙂

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