[This is the final post in a 4-part series. If you’re new here and have yet to read about my disastrous experience in the Bolivian Salt Flats, click here to read part 1: “That Time I Got Stranded in The Bolivian Desert”.]
I did a lot of research before I went to the Bolivian Salt Flats and the Atacama Desert, but my trip was still a mess. Experience definitely trumps the internet in some cases.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of tips that would have completely transformed my trip. Here are 8 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia:
Before you visit the Bolivian Salt Flats
- Do NOT pre-book a tour!
It frustrates me to see so many bloggers advising their readers to book in advance. A quick Google search will show you that the big tour operators are charging over $200 per person to pre-book a tour. Shockingly, Banjo Tours charges $1525 if you’re on your own, but I’ve heard that other people have paid this much as part of a group! TripAdvisor recommends one of these rip-off companies (because they will receive a commission, of course) but take my word for it and pay a driver when you’re in Uyuni. Unless, of course, you’d rather spend $1525 than $50? Finding a driver is easy-peasy – the streets were lined with reasonable drivers when we got into Uyuni. Your tour will also include food and accommodation, so there’s nothing to worry about.
Important: You CAN find drivers that understand English for this price.
- Don’t listen to everything you read.
My favourite part of the tour – by far – was the Eduardo Avaroa National Park. Some bloggers incorrectly state that you’ll only visit the park on a four-day tour, but I did so on a three-day tour. Just ask your driver for his itinerary before you hand any cash over.
- Pack everything you need.
There are no pharmacies for tampons or medical emergencies. There are no stores for the last-minute bits you didn’t pack. In particular, I would recommend first aid supplies, Imodium, and PLENTY of water. Water will not be provided during the tour, so I recommend grabbing as much as you can from one of the little stores in Uyuni.
- Take CASH!
Most, if not all of the ATMs in Uyuni will reject your card. You’ll also have some surprise expenses – to pass checkpoints on the tour (at least 200BOB), to use the toilet (depends on your bowel movements hehe), and even to use the shower.
- Take spare batteries for your camera.
Assume that you will not be able to charge your electronics in the accommodation. Seriously, there were two charger points in the entire hostel I stayed in. To make things worse, the hostel managers chose to turn on the electricity for a very brief period. It became a race to charge my electronics AND have a three-minute shower. Did I mention that I also encountered a scorpion in the shower? No? Click here for more on that.
- Give yourself time to acclimatise
The Salt Flats are um, pretty high up. You’ll need a few days beforehand to acclimatise.
If you’re suffering when you arrive, don’t panic. You can ask for Soroche Medicine in a pharmacy. I’d also recommend drinking the coca tea (it really does help). Just don’t cross the border with it – coca leaves are used to make cocaine, so most countries’ laws don’t distinguish between the two!
- Pack enough clothing
Given the soaring daytime temperatures, you’ll be surprised to learn that the weather can drop below freezing at night. Pack enough warm clothing and your own sleeping bag – the hostel duvets won’t be enough! A silk sleeping bag saved me on countless occasions during my three-month trip in South America.
- Get travel insurance
This is perhaps the most important tip on the list. Please, please get travel insurance. You may think that the worst accident would be a sprained ankle, but vehicles have overturned in the past. Bolivia, generally, can be a bit dangerous – even this idiot had travel insurance!
8 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting the Bolivian Salt Flats
Follow these tips and I guarantee that you’ll enjoy your trip a little bit more. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below 🙂