One of the most popular attractions in Bolivia is the Salar de Uyuni tour, also known as the ‘salt flats’ tour. It was at the top of my list for things to do in Bolivia, and remains as one of my most favourite travel moments. As I was very flexible with time, but not with my budget, I decided to turn up to Uyuni and try and barter me a bargain, rather than book in advance. Below, I review the tour company I went with, tell you how I chose this company, what it cost, and tips about what to ask when you are booking the trip.
Andes Salt Expeditions
I chose to go with a company called Andes Salt Expeditions, and I couldn’t recommend them more! They were professional from the get go, and a very good middle range tour company to go with. I had a lot of questions about what was included and what was not included, and they answered them all. Best of all, the tour went according to plan, and our guide carried out everything that he said he would do.
Here are the basics of my tour:
- Starting point: Uyuni
- Duration: 3 days
- Finishing point: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
- Vehicle: Toyota Land Cruiser
- Group size: 7
- Rating: 5/5
English or Spanish-speaking guide
Andes Salt Expeditions can provide both English and Spanish-speaking guides. There is quite a large price difference between an English and Spanish-speaking guide, so weigh up whether this is important to you. My tour guide was Spanish-speaking, and did not speak English. This was fine for my group as some of us could speak a little bit of Spanish and were able to translate for the others. My Spanish was not strong at this point, but I still got a lot out of the tour.
Personally, I do not think you need an English-speaking guide for this tour. Most of the time you are on the road and taking in the sights. The things that were explained were little facts about the salt flats and how certain rock formations came to be. If you are on a tight budget like me, I would not worry about it, save your money and practice your Spanish! This could save you around 200-500 Bolivianos (about $30-$80 USD). As an extreme budget backpacker, this is a huge difference. In the scheme of things, it is not that much more expensive.
The cost of your tour will depend on many things, including the time of year (high season/low season), whether you book online or in person, which company you go with, your company’s reputation, the standard of tour offered by the company, where you start your tour from (Uyuni, Chile, etc.), and how many days your tour will be.
3 day tour: 700 Bolivianos ($100 USD approx.)
+ 50 Bolivianos ($7) for transfer to San Pedro de Atacama
Many companies, usually the more reputable companies, have the option to book online. There are many good reasons why it is a good idea to book your tour online. When booking as a group, you will be able to guarantee that you will all be able to travel on the same tour. Booking online allows you to do some research about the company, read reviews, ensures your space is saved with the company you want.
Booking in person
I booked my tour in person as I knew this was the cheaper option, and allowed me to get a feel of the company and how reliable they might be. It also allows you to bargain! I arrived in Uynui township in the afternoon the day before I wanted to go on the tour. I walked around the town trying various tour agencies.
What to ask when shopping around tour agencies
- Are sleeping bags included in the price?
- Is drinking water included?
- Does my guide speak English?
- Is the transfer to San Pedro de Atacama included? (if you intend on finishing in Chile)
- Does the accommodation have electricity to charge cameras?
- Does the accommodation included use of showers?
- Are all meals included?
- Will we get to see the sunrise/sunset on the salt flats?
- Can I look at the list of other people in my tour group?
- This is important if you want to make sure you are in group of people who speak the same language as you, or if you want to be with others the same age group as you. Trust me, this can make all the difference in your experience, especially when taking photos on the salt flats.
What is included
I chose to do a three day tour of Salar de Uyuni, finishing the tour at the Chile border crossing. Our tour included the transfer from the border, through Chile customs, and to San Pedro de Atacama township. Transport, all meals, water and accommodation is all included in the price of the tour. Moreover, the food was basic but tasty, and there was plenty of it. Also, the accommodation was basic but clean and comfortable. One of the nights we stayed in a hotel made of salt. There was salt everywhere, it was a pretty cool novelty. Apparently even the more expensive tour providers stay in similar accommodation.
How to get to Uyuni from Sucre
A direct bus from Sucre to Uyuni costs 70 Bolivianos. The bus leaves the Sucre bus station at 9:30am
Company: 16 de Octobre (book through your hostel or directly at the bus station the day before you go)