Uyuni is in the Potosí Department of Bolivia.
Uyuni a small town situated in the middle of nowhere. It originally blossomed as a railroad junction, and even if this is still an important aspect, no doubt is tourism now its main source of prosperity. What would otherwise be a fairly dull stopover en route between Salta, Argentina and La Paz or Potosí, has become absolutely mandatory. The sole reason: salt flats, the world's biggest. (See Salar de Uyuni).
Uyuni has a small airport (IATA=UYU, IACO=SLUY).
TAM flights to La Paz (via Sucre) several times a week. Currently (July 2015) you can't buy a ticket online but they have office in the Uyuni centre.
Amaszonas is also servicing Uyuni. There are three flights per day and cost about $250 each way. However, for many the Amaszonas is the worst airline in South America. It's very often late, usually by 2-3 hours. In these occassions Amaszonas doesn't care at all and provide passengers absolutely nothing.
To sum it up, you pay fortune just for a one-way 50-minutes long flight which is at the end slower, less comfortable and ten times more expensive than an overnight bus. I strongly recommend you think very hard before booking any overpriced flight with this unreliable and unprofessional airline. Rather get a flight with TAM instead.
- You will need around 12 hours from La Paz, by bus. The bus ride with worse operators can be bitterly cold in winter - travellers have been known to sit in their sleeping bags on the night bus from Oruro to Uyuni.
| Todo Tourismo
|| direct from La Paz
|| relativly new buses, good service, warm, semi-cama, toilet
|| direct from La Paz
|| new company in 2015, older buses with new full-cama seats, not always warm, service sometimes cancelled (they will book you on Todo Tourismo or similar), toilet
| Trans Omar
|| from La Paz via Potosi
|| sometimes warm, sometimes cold, the road via Potosi is better (2015), 1 hour longer, toilet
| Panamerica Sur
Buses to Oruro/La Paz are often booked up in advance - you likely need to book at least the day before, several days if you wish to take the comfortable tourist bus or one of the better bus companies - best to do this before going on a Southwest Circuit tour (if coming from San Pedro de Atacama, be prepared to spend a night in Uyuni and have little choice of bus company).
- There are several buses daily to and from Potosí (4 hours, 30 Bs.), from there you can go one to Sucre (3 hours more). There is also a nightly bus to Sucre leaving at 9 p.m., arriving at 3:30 a.m., for 60 Bs. Beware however, companies such as Transporte 11 de Julio have been known to cancel buses without notice, and without even opening their office to explain. As of June 2014, beware of companies such as Flecha Bus selling "direct" tickets to Sucre, when the bus reaches half-way in Potosi, the bus driver claims the service ends there and will try and make you go all the way by taxi, this is a scam, you should ask for ALL your money back from the bus driver and get a taxi if you´re stuck in Potosi to Sucre(3hrs about 40B each).
- To come from Sucre there are a couple of direct buses from 6 de Octubre and 11 de Julio. Apr 2017 schedule for 6 de Octubre: 8:30, 9:30, 20:30 from Sucre. Price 80 Bs. Takes 7 to 8 hours. Stops for a 30 minute lunch break in Potosi. Another option is to go to Potosi and change there to Uyuni.
- Many daily departures around 5:30 - 6:00 AM for Tupiza, stopping halfway for lunch in Atocha, 7-8 hours, 60 Bs. Three days a week there are 9 AM departures, and occasionally a Land Cruiser departs 6-7 PM, -ask around. Although the train is definitely smoother, and somewhat faster, this bus ride offers terrific views.
Uyuni to Calama. (August 2016) Two bus companies leave Uyuni at 0400 in the morning. One is Cruz del Norte. Takes about 10 hours. Arrives at the border at around 08:00 a.m. Cruz del Norte buses are direct, you do not have to change buses at the border; as of August 2019, this company has two departures from Uyuni per day (5:30 a.m. and noon). The other company has you changing buses at the border.
You can find up-to-date bus schedules at Bolivia Schedules.
Trains of Ferroviaria Andina run south to Villazon on the Argentinian border, stopping in Tupiza and Atocha. Northbound trains go to Oruro. The formerly existing train connection to Calama, Chile has been discontinued. The views from Oruro to Uyuni are interesting - the train goes over the Poopó lake (with flamingos), then over the altiplano (terrain and towns are quite depressing); you can see nice sunset on the way.
Expreso del Sur (better class) trains leave from Oruro on Tuesdays and Fridays at 14:30 (2:30 p.m.) and arrive 21:30 (9:30 p.m.) to Uyuni. You can select between executive and 2nd class tickets in Expresso del Sur. It's best to buy the tickets, i.e., 5 days in advance to have a seat - for this you may contact the company offices in La Paz or at the local train station, or buy your ticket online (segunda clase is only available locally).
The other train, el Wara Wara, leaves Oruro on Sundays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and arrives in Uyuni at 2:30 a.m. The Wara Wara has Ejecutivo, Salón and Segunda classes.
You can also rent a car in La Paz and drive. After Challapata the road signs are scarce to find Uyuni, in the rainy season the rivers grow and it's dangerous to come in a car that is not a jeep 4x4. As of March 2016 the road to Uyuni is finished and is now paved in all bar one small 500m section. This section had seen a bus rollover very recently so still take care.
- Museo de Arqueología y Antropología, Arce (Half a block from the clock tower). Quite a few skulls and a handfull of mummies, plus some less exciting stuff. Bs 2,50. edit
- Despite its modest site and geographical isolation, Uyuni is worth an hour or so walking around. Particularly the Avenida Ferroviaria has many monuments, mostly railroad related.
- Allegedly Bolivia's first locomotive, it stands in the middle of Avenida Ferroviario, by the corner of Calle Santa Cruz. The first locomotive is in Pulacayo almost 20 kilometers on the road to Potosi. Used in the Huanchaco mine.
- Train Graveyard - a couple of km south of town, by the railway to Chile, there are dozens of old, rusted locomotives, a few wagons and some other antiquated machinery. Usually a stop on salt flat trips.
The salt flats, Salar de Uyuni, can be visited on daytrips, or longer trips, up to 4 days, including a swipe down towards the Chilean border and the lagoon and geysers of that area. You can also reach the salt flats by local bus for a hike.
Make sure that you point out that you only wish to go with a responsible driver; there have been reports of drunkenness among drivers that may be averted with continued pressure on the tour companies before departure.
One of the tour companies said drunken drivers are no longer such an issue as there has been aggressive testing of drivers by the National Park department.
- Several blocks of the main street Avenida Potosi turns in to an open air market, selling a bit of everything, including loads of handicraft. The open market feria is on Thursdays.
- Small eateries, (first floor of the marketplace building). Cheap typical breakfast. edit
- For a cheap lunch (10Bs for soup and main) head for any little joint with the sign Almuerzo outside.
- Minuteman Pizza - Ferroviaria 60, Uyuni, 591 2 (693 3186)  Hours: Breakfast Buffet 50bs. 7:30-10AM , Dinner 5-10PM Within the Tonito Hotel, backpackers congregate here in the evenings (enter through the hotel reception, this keeps wandering petty thefters from entering). Large variety of pizzas (including spicy llama), great breakfast, English-speaking owner, travel-book library. From 45 Bs for an individual pizza. Just don't arrive too early for dinner - the people running the hotel were incredibly rude and refused to let us wait 30 minutes in the lobby for the place to open.
- Pub-Pizzeria-Restaurant ARCOIRIS – Avenida Arce 27, Uyuni, 591 2 (693 3177) ; English / Italian - speaking owner ( Willma ); Hours: 3-12PM; Pizza & Pasta (Italian taste), typical local plates, some time live music.
- Pizzeria Donna Isabella, Corner of calle camacho and calle colon. Not cheap but not expensive either. Everything is delicious and house speciality quinoa pizza is worth trying. edit
- Have a beer or a good coffee during daytime at the shack right next to the clock tower.
Note: be careful when choosing a room not to have gas heaters in your room, especially in winter. This is mainly the case with old heaters. It releases carbon-monoxide and can provocate death. Some people died in the past due to this.
Beware of the cheap hostels near the bus offices. If you arrive in the early morning these places might charge you a full night for your stay until 12PM (noon).
- Hostal Sajama, Potosí 35, 693-3099. It very close to the corner with Calle Bolivar. Cheap place with basic clean rooms. Hot water is really good. Gas heated. Wifi router is in the reception office, that means that the closer you are, the better the signal. Has kitchen access. Double with shared bathroom Bs. 50 and private is 60 Bs.
- Residencial La Cabana, on Calle Bolivar, at the corner of Potosi, 100 meters from Hostal Sajama. Shared bathroom is Bs 50, with bano is Bs. 80. Breakfast included (bread, egg, jam, butter, coffee/tea/mate, "juice"). Has a kitchen you have to ask to have the key to use - use allowed 9am-9pm, there is no light for use after sundown (it is in the central atrium space and so there is limited ambient light). All rooms on all four floors open onto a central atrium, ensuring that you will hear every loud action movie being played well into the night, to say nothing of people shouting their arrival at 12am and the television they turn on at reception at 7am.
- Hosteling International Salar de Uyuni, Calle Potosí esq. Sucre, Uyuni. There are reports of poor service, unbelievable levels of rudeness and management not honoring bookings, in fact literally shoving booked guests into the street late at night. Horrible staff who acts like they don't need customers. 1 shower per person per night. Rooms are dark and old. Bs100 per room with shared bathroom
- Hotel Avenida, Ferroviaria 11, 693-2078 , clean and inexpensive in the town center, near tour operators. Only two hot showers, but the door to one is often locked. Single with bath 70Bs, without 40Bs Double/Matrimonial with bath 100Bs.
- Hotel Girasoles, Av. Santa Cruz 155, Uyuni, phone: 026933323, Bs75 double bed
- Hotel Julia, Av. Ferroviaria 314, Uyuni. Clean, but quite expensive considering the room size and quality. The hotel has singles, doubles, twin, triple, quadruple and rooms with shared and private bathrooms. Double room with shared bathroom Bs200, Bs300 en-suite (July 2015). Very poor breakfast, one of the worst in Bolivia. Small radiators in bathroom and room, but only turn on for few hours at night. TV cable (Spanish but some documentaries can be in English with Spanish Subtitles). It also has a living room with TV and tape recorder, a computer room (Fees) and a storage room (free). Note: Spanish only. Nice staff but a bit disorganized. Room can get a bit cold at night. Sheets smells nice laundry products. Soap, towels and toiler paper provided.
- Hotel Luna Salada, Salar de Uyuni (By the entrance of the salt flats.), ☎ +591-7121-2007. High-end hotel at the entrance of the Salar de Uyuni. Walking distance from the salt flats. edit
- Piedra Blanca Backpackers Hostel,Av. Arce 27, Uyuni". Double with private bathroom BS280 incl. breakfast. Speak English and Spanish. At the time of staying the walls had peeling paint and rooms were basic with no TV or furniture but had a small radiator that can be plugged in. Liquid soap, nice fluffy towels, and toiler paper are provided.
- Hotel Vieli, Calle Sucre 257, Uyuni (enter at Colon and Cabrera), ☎ +591-2693-2377 or +591-2693-3024. Budget Hotel with large covered courtyard. Basic but better condition than the more run down places around the train station. Value for money. No kitchen for guests, no breakfast. Above average showers. Has good wifi but the code is a closely guarded secret as they don't allow laptops to use the internet, just download an app on your phone that stores your wifi password ahead of time. Single with private bathroom Bs60, shared Bs40, Double room shared bathroom Bs100 (Oct 2015). edit
- Tonito Hotel, Ferroviaria 60, Uyuni. Phone: +591-2693-3186 web Mid range hotel in town. Rooms are situated around an internal atrium area. Clean rooms, solar or electric-heated showers, transportation from train station available, book ahead in the high season. New rooms with heating. American buffet breakfast. Double with private bathroom, Bs400.
- Do not lose sight of you luggage when taking public buses from Uyuni. Some bus companies might 'forget' and then it will be nearly impossible to get your luggage back. Watch them actually put your luggage on the bus and make sure it is coming to your destination.
- It is better to spend a little more money on a tour company than go for the cheapest. A lot of people going on an Uyuni trip, spend 3 days with car trouble in the cold desert instead of enjoying the breath taking views. There are also some guides that steal from their passengers or drive drunk. That can be dangerous on the road.
- Do not attempt to walk into the desert or cross it walking unless you are under expert advice. People die there.
- It can get extremely cold in Uyuni once you are out of the sun. Make sure to layer up, wear thermal underwear and even a scarf, gloves and a hat. You will not regret it. In the sun and out of the wind, it is extremely hot because of the altitude.
- There is now a Banco Credito ATM in Uyuni, on Calle Potosí. WARNING: this ATM will fail silently if it runs out of cash. Your card will still be charged, you will not get your money and the bank staff will be 'unable' to help you even if you speak Spanish fluently.
- Prodem gives cash advances on mastercard or Visa creditcards with a 5% commission.
- You can get cash out of an ATM indoors at a bank with Maestro. WARNING: on weekends the ATM runs out of cash stranding tourists who counted on that ATM for money. Bring an extra stash of dollars just in case.
- There are several casas de cambios to change travellers' checks or dollars, euros, Chilean pesos or Argentinean pesos. If you are heading to Chile, get rid of your bolivianos, as the exchange rate on the other side is much worse.
- One of a handful of laundries, Laundry Huila Khota at Av Ferroviaria 257 (by the homonymous hotel), has same-day service at 15 Bs per kilo. Lava rap is the biggest laundry service for 15 bs a kilo.
- The cheapest international phone calls seem to be at Call Shop Uyuni, Av. Arce, 30 metres from the clock tower. Bs 2,50 to most of the world. Internet here is expensive, though, at 6 Bs an hour.
- Get the exit/entry stamps you need at the immigration office now on ferroviaria inside the old cine.
- There are several slow internet places for around 5 Bs. per hour. Quite fast internet you can find in Hotel Julia.
- If traveling by (rental) car, find and pay for a gated and secured car park. (Or you may lose some external parts.)
- You can quickly and conveniently get to Potosi (bus takes you there in ~4 h for Bs 30 over an asphalt road) to see impressive colonial city and the famous silver mines. Then you can continue to Sucre.
- You may want to visit hot and lively lowlands. To save yourself a day or two of mountain ride (some segments may be tough for your body) look for a flight directly to Santa Cruz (city, Bolivia). Amaszonas (Bs 1500) and TAM (Bs 600) have offices in the town and offer flights, but not every day - check the schedules
- See the get in section for additional options.
- Salar de Uyuni - with over twelve thousand square kilometers, is the largest salt flat in the world. It can be done as a daytrip (100-150 Bs), or with a few overnights, often combined with the lagoons and geisers closer to the Chilean border. Instead of returning to Uyuni, you can opt for San Pedro de Atacama or Tupiza.
If you go to Chile via the usual border crossing in the middle of the desert (which is used by all the Uyuni tours with a transfer to Chile) you DO NOT need to get a Bolivian exit stamp in Uyuni as it was the case in the past. There is a Bolivian immigration office at the border when you will do the exit stamp. You will then do the Chilean entry formalities at an office close to San Pedro (as of March 2016. There seemed to be an office in construction close to the border, which be the entry point in the future).
The Bolivian immigration charges a 15Bs service fee as of March 2016 (This fee is an illegal bribe, ask for a recipt to avoid supporting corruption).
If you plan to go Chile, you can get transport onwards to San Pedro de Atacama with any tour company instead of return to Uyuni. The price is usually around an extra Bs50. Some tours include this in the tour price, ask first. The bus usually leaves around 9.30am - 10am from the border crossing with the Bolivian immigration office.
- Bus/Train may be taken to Avaroa station near the Chilean border, from there the border may be crossed to the Chilean Ollagüe, where another bus/train may be taken to Calama, etc.
- Note there is an exit fee to be paid at the Bolivian border control—have enough cash.
- Also note the Chilean customs officials are very strict in their inspection—read carefully the customs form and be careful to declare everything in your possession, lest you be facing charges for attempting to smuggle in your cooking condiments.