Salt Flat Tour in Bolivia

Bolivia’s Otherworldly Uyuni Salt Flats

The most popular thing to do in Bolivia is undoubtedly visiting the Salar de Uyuni. A vast “salt flat” renowned for its otherworldly, mirrored aesthetic, Salar de Uyuni’s horizon never seems to end, hopelessly divided between the starkest whites and deepest blues.

Unfortunately, the only way to see the Bolivian salt flat is to join an organized tour. Literally dozens of agencies in Uyuni offer salt flat tours departing daily, so shop around throughly and use the tips I provide in this travel blog post to aid you in making your final selection.

Need help planning your trip to South America? Hire me as your Travel Coach!

How to Book a Bolivia Salt Flat Tour

When I was initially researching my trip to South America, several travel blogs I came across recommended booking Bolivia salt flat tours in advance of my arrival in Uyuni. Some even went so far to suggest I book a salt flat tour before I left the United States.

If you’re considering this option, I advise you strongly against it. As is the case for other popular South America tours — such as the “Inca Trail” from Cusco, Peru to Machu Picchu or boat trips through Iguazú Falls in Brazil or Argentina — booking in-person and on-location is always cheaper and affords you greater freedom and flexibility.

Uyuni’s central plaza is literally dominated by travel agencies offering Bolivia salt flat tours to the Salar. Although Bolivia salt flat tours, for the right price, are fully customizable, most tourists sign on for pre-packaged three- or four-day salt flat expeditions.

Cost of Bolivia Salt Flat Tours

With so many agencies offering essentially the same Bolivia salt flat tour — and usually, at similar prices — differentiating between them on a deeper level might seem an arduous task, particularly if your Spanish is limited.

One of the first questions should ask is whether or not the entrance fee to Avaroa National Park (a sum of 150 bolivianos as of March 2011) is included in your salt flat tour. Nearly all salt flat tours pass through this national park and if you haven’t pre-paid your ticket, you’ll be required to purchase one before you’re allowed to enter.

Another perk certain agencies offer is the ability to transfer to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile after the salt flat tour, free of charge.

When investigating this option, make sure the agent agrees to get you a Bolivian exit stamp before you leave Uyuni, as the Bolivian side of the border with Chile isn’t always manned.

Additionally, ensure he gives you a ticket to board the bus that takes you from the border to San Pedro’s town center — this is crucial, as I explain in the next section.

A guide will cook all your meals for you over the duration of your salt flat tour, so make sure to express any dietary preferences to the agent before you depart. Most of the places you stop and stay during the salt flat tour are quite literally in the middle of nowhere, so sort these things out in advance.

 
 
 
 
 

Lincanabur Tours of Bolivia Salt Flats: A Warning

I don’t typically use this blog to recommend against anything, but I offer you a warning: Do not book a tour with Lincanabur Tours in Uyuni, the agency Lonely Planet recommends in both its Bolivia” and “South America on a Shoestring” guide books.

This agency proved to be unprofessional and dishonest in a number of ways. For one, the price it offered for a salt flat tour was significantly higher than that of its next-cheapest competitor.

While my group was waiting for our meal at the hostel the first night, I peaked my head over to the people next to us to inquire about how much they paid for their salt flat tours. While we’d each shelled out Bs. 850 (including entrance to the national park); they each paid just Bs. 750.

After answering my question, the group went back to enjoying a sumptuous feast of roasted chicken, sauteed vegetables and warm bread, crowned by a bottle of red wine. To the dismay of everyone in my group, our meal — for which we waited more than an hour, without any beverages and only stale, saltine crackers to tide us over — was an embarrassing pasta concoction made with overcooked noodles, watery sauce and a can of mushrooms I saw a drifter pass our driver before night fell. Our tour guide and “cook” Marta was unapologetic, both for the delay and the poor quality of the food.

Although we did enjoy one acceptable meal before the Bolivia salt flat tour’s end, several other factors turned me off to the Lincanabur experience.

For one, we spent the vast majority of the time in the Jeep, stopping for only a few minutes at each attraction before continuing on our way. Despite the fact that I’m somewhat fluent in Spanish, I had to practically beg our tour guide to explain the importance of certain features to us. When we arrived at the crimson Laguna Colorada, for example, she didn’t anticipate that we’d want to know why it was, you know, red.

In the case of Lincanabur, the “three-day” label is also a bit misleading. As I’d opted to transfer to San Pedro de Atacama, I knew I’d only be enjoying part of the third day, during which the rest of the group would need to make it back to Uyuni to end the salt flat tour.

What I didn’t know is that this would occur at 9 a.m., a lukewarm aguas termales with the sole activity among the promised 10 I’d have time to enjoy. The others in my group informed me their journey back was uneventful and rushed.

The final nail in the coffin, however, occurred when I arrived at the border. As our jeep approached, Marta casually reminded me that I’d need the ticket her boss gave me to board the bus to San Pedro. I repeatedly informed her that I was never given a ticket, which caused her to become impatient and eventually outright angry with me. I got pretty pissed off too, I’ll admit, and it was only by a stroke of luck that one of the waiting drivers was willing to take my word and transfer me without the ticket I never got.

Again, I’m not talking shit for the sake of talking shit: I do understand that things don’t always function as they’re supposed to in out-of-the-way places like Bolivia. But if you take only one piece of heaps of advice I offer on this site, make sure it’s this one. You will absolutely regret choosing Lincanabur for your salt flat tour in Bolivia.

Leave Your Daily Hell   Filed under: Bolivia

About The Author

is the author of 714 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

Get Email Updates

Like what you're reading? Sign up to receive my weekly email newsletter – it's like a trip around the world to end every week!

Upcoming Trips

  • Russia January 19-28
  • Yunnan, China February 19-March 4
  • Kyushu, Japan March 27-April 5
  • Iran April 5-22
 
 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Mairead February 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm

THanks for the advise. Who did the group you talked to at dinner book with??

Robert Schrader February 6, 2013 at 9:06 am

They didn’t tell us, unfortunately! The good news is that there are quite a few tour operators in Uyuni – in fact, they are without a doubt the most numerous category of businesses in the town – so I would recommend just shopping around.

spudman March 27, 2013 at 12:25 pm

exactly, I’d also like to know who the other group booked with, like the mis-spelt comment below (it’s ADVICE)…sorry, drives me mad when people can’t spell

Heyitsbilly October 26, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Spudman, have you considered the fact that not everyone who visits this site is a native English speaker? You do know that people from all over the world visits this site, right?

If you’re going to be tied up on spelling, make sure you use the proper grammar, which you are woefully lacking in your post. It’s “whom” not “who”, “Exactly” not “exactly”, “spell.” not “spell”, and lastly you’re using an run-on sentence.

Do Spanish speakers get mad when you butcher Spanish? Do Chinese speakers get mad when you butcher Mandarin? No. So chill out with that English perfection nonsense.

Benito March 12, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Your article is your own experience and it doesn’t reflect most people’s, without mentioning it is boring. Nothing of value from what I read. Good travelers are not always looking for the cheapest option out there, like it seems you were. Booking in advance with a good company is always the best way. It is only cheap backpackers who end up booking last minute for the sake of saving peanuts who drive the prices down and therefore force the companies to give a mediocre service. If you had paid what this place was worth, you would have chosen more wisely.

Robert Schrader March 12, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Hi Benito:

You are welcome to your opinion, although I don’t think there is really any reason to personally attack me.

Enzo June 10, 2014 at 9:11 am

Hi Robert. This is very useful!
Do you remember roughly at what time you arrived at San Pedro de Atacama?

Robert Schrader June 11, 2014 at 8:37 am

I arrived around noon!

Bill June 11, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Robert,
I’m considering a custom 4-day excursion to the salt flats for my wife and I. Do you recommend a tour operator? Also, is there a better time of the year to visit?

Robert Schrader June 11, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Bill, there are so many tour operators in Uyuni, I simply recommend you use your best judgment and speak with other travelers. Also, both times of year (wet and dry) are great. During the wet season (January to April) pools of water create a mirror effect, while the salt itself is the star of the show during the other parts of the year.

Good luck!

Uneven Sidewalks February 9, 2015 at 8:12 pm

Great warning for how important it is to pick a good tour operator. It can make or break your experience on the the trip. We used Torre Tours out of Tupiza because we headed North along the route. I wrote an article to help my blog readers pick a good tour guide company – http://unevensidewalks.com/6-tips-to-help-pick-your-uyuni-salt-flat-tour-company/

Robert Schrader February 16, 2015 at 7:08 am

Thanks for sharing your perspective!

niall af,,!! June 23, 2015 at 12:00 am

Could I please know when is the best month to go when the salt flats become reflective? I’m thinking to go around April-May is that a good time?

Robert Schrader June 23, 2015 at 6:55 am

April is probably the best, since the rainy season (which causes reflection) actually ends in March. May will be too late and also, quite cold.

Rishi Doshi June 24, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Hi Robert,

I am planning to travel alone to Bolivia and want to do a 2 day trip to the salt flat lands, is it possible to do it alone?

Pirate Horse July 12, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Great advice as always – I love your honest, up-front approach to travel writing, its so refreshing.

Robert Schrader July 26, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Thanks for your kind comment!

{ 18 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: