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Uyuni

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Uyuni is in Bolivia, South America.

Uyuni map

Understand

Uyuni a small town situated in the middle of nowhere. It has few attractions but is the starting point for trips to the world's largest salt flats, Salar de Uyuni and Bolivias southern Altiplano. Check out Salar de Uyuni for more extensive information on the tour.

Get in

You will need several hours (12-15 hours) from Bolivia's capital, La Paz, by train and/or bus. The bus ride can be bitterly cold in winter - travellers have been known to sit in their sleeping bags on the night bus from Oruru to Uyuni in December.

There are several busses daily to and from Potosí (6-7 hours, 30 Bs.), from there you can go one to Sucre (3-4 hours more).

You can also rent a car in La Paz and drive.

Plan to arrive a day or two before you intend to depart on the tour, especially if there are only 2 of you. That gives the chance to meet other travelers, thus a larger group has more bargaining power for the 'daily rate'. However, it is still common practice for tour operators to join tours together so even if there are only 2 of you, you can still end up going with others from another company, but sharing the same vehicle!

It is a good idea to plan to FINISH your tour on Friday as the best option to leave Uyuni (which you will want to do asap as there is NOTHING to do there!) is the Saturday morning bus which goes North. It is the best bus in Bolivia! (Only leaves on a Saturday - however as things can change quickly in Bolivia, check it is still running - it was in late 2006!)

Get around

See

  • Train Graveyard - several km south of town, there are many old, rusted trains. Usually a stop by salt planes trips, it is not anything that you could spend more than 30 minutes looking at.

Do

Driving across it is one of the weirdest and most fantastic experiences anywhere on the continent, when the bright blue skies contrast with the blinding-white salt crust. Dawn and dusk on the salt flats are wonderful spectacles, and in the rainy season they turn into a gigantic mirror. It is a photographers paradise.

It is advised that you hook-up with any of the many Uyuni tour companies that operate 4-WD vehicles onto the salt flat. It is possible to drive a rental car you might have, but be aware that soft, muddy spots are plentiful and that if you get stuck, you could well lose your car as there are no emergency services available to help you out. You also will be subject to walking out of the flat to "shore," which, depending upon where you are on the flat, could take days.

Buy

Eat

  • Minuteman Pizza - Ferroviaria 60, Uyuni, 591 2 (693 3186) [1] Hours: Breakfast 7:30-10am , Dinner 5-10pm Within the Tonito Hotel, backpackers congregate here in the evenings. Large variety of pizzas (including spicy llama), great breakfast, English-speaking owner, travel-book library. From 30 Bs for an individual pizza.
  • Pub-Pizzeria-Restaurant ARCOIRIS – Avenida Arce 27, Uyuni, 591 2 (693 3177) [2]; English / Italian - speaking owner ( Willma ); Hours: 3-12 pm; Pizza & Pasta (Italian taste), typical local plates, some time live music.

Drink

Sleep

  • Tonito Hotel, Ferroviaria 60, Uyuni, 591 2 (693 3186) [3] THE "high-end" hotel in town. Rooms are situated around an internal atrium area. Clean rooms, electric-heated showers, transportation from train station available, book ahead in the high season. Room heater available for rent for $3 US. 19 rooms. Breakfast Included. Double with private bathroom, $35 US.
  • Hostal Sajama, Potosí 35, 693-3099. Cheap place with basic clean rooms. Single with shared / private bathroom Bs.25 / Bs.40. NOTE! On May 30, 2007, two Canadian students visiting Uyuni were found dead in their rooms at this hostal due to carbon-monoxide poisoning from their gas heater. [4]
  • Hotel Avenida, Ferroviaria 11, 693-2078, clean and inexpensive in the town center, near tour operators. U$S 2-3, with bath U$S 5-6.

Cope

There is now a Banco Credito ATM in Uyuni, on Calle Potosí. Prodem gives cash advances on mastercard or Visa creditcards with a 5% commission. There are several casas de cambios to change travellers' checks or dollars, euros, Chilean pesos or Argentinean pesos.

Get the stamps you need at the immigration office at Potosí and Sucre.

There are several slow internet places for around 5 Bs. per hour.

You can get cash out of an ATM indoors at a bank with Maestro

Get out

A visit to the salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni is the main attraction. There are plenty of tour operators offering the trip. Shop around before deciding. The standard tour takes 3 days and cost 60-100 US$ depending on the season and your bargaining skills. If they are asking more than $70 US, ask specific questions about the accommodations and food, as higher rates almost always equate to staying in nicer places, eating better, or an English-speaking guide. The tours leave at 10:30 a.m., so if you arrive in the night or early morning, you still have time to arrange a tour. Make sure if accommodation and the entrance fee to the park is included, and don't pay before you have a receipt. It is advised to bring extra water and rent a sleeping bag, as the unheated accommodations in Laguna Colorada can get down to -20 degrees at night.

If you plan to go Chile, travel offices arrange transportation from Laguna Verde (what is usually a stop on their trips) a to San Pedro de Atacama. Remember to get an exit stamp in Immigration Office in Uyuni (the date on the stamp is the expected exit day, so you may get Chilean entry stamp with earlier date). Some tour operators:

  • Lincancabur Tours , Sucre 68, 02-693-2996 (lincancatour@hotmail.com), offers 4 day tours which end in Tupiza. The official price is 120/150 US$ in low/high season, but they will go for cheaper as well.



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