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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.