First of all, here's an easy tip - DON'T BOOK ANYTHING IN ADVANCE!! Yes, there is absolutely no need to book this tour online or by any other means before you arrive in Bolivia. Get yourself to Uyuni, Potosi or La Paz and get things booked from there.
You can start the Salar de Uyuni tour in either Bolivia or Chile, but this report focuses on doing it from the Bolivia side, here's a guide on booking the excellent tour!
Booking the Salar de Uyuni tour:
- Ask at reception in your hostel in Bolivia if they can organise a 3 day tour (I really recommend the 3 day tour, unless you are really pushed for time of course).
- Once they give you a price, head out and ask around to get the cheapest price - dont pay more than 100 dollars - you can easily get a decent tour for 3 days for $80.
- Don't be fussy with your dates - go when it suits the company - you can book it one day to start the next day or even on the morning of a tour.
- Check the price includes pick up from your hostel (in Uyuni) and all food for the 3 days.
- Ask them where the tour starts and ends so you can think about your next journey after the tour.
- Check if there are any extra costs, such as tips, entrance fees for national parks etc. You'll probably have to pay extra to visit Laguna Colorada.
- Get a receipt for the tour (you will pay up front in almost all cases).
Preparing for the salt plains tour:
- if you plan to head directly to Chile then check the passport situation before hand - you'll find you probably have to get your passport stamped in Uyuni before the tour - don't forget.
- Take lots of water - it gets particularly hot up there and aside from the drinks with your meals, no other drinks are provided so you need to bring your own water. I brought 2 x 2 litre bottles.
- Bring a couple of beers as there is no alcohol on the tour - this is also a great way to get to meet your travel buddies at night.
- Sun cream and insect repellent are musts - don't forget them.
- If you need to contact friends or family, e-mail them before you head on the tour and tell them you'll be offline for about 3 days. There is no internet available on the tour, and you wouldn't want it anyway!
- Try and leave your bags at a hostel before starting the tour (as long as you're heading back to Uyuni)
- Don't forget your passport!! You might not actually need it but if you get to the border at least it gives you the option of popping across into Chile!
- Charge your batteries in advance on your iPods, cameras etc. - don't expect your accomodation to have sockets.
There you go! That is a full guide to get you started to get onto the amazing salt plains tour known as the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. There are loads of companies to book with and the tour is a highlight of most people's travels in South America. A fantastic trip to do!
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