Tips for Surviving the 3-Day Tour to Salar de Uyuni
The absolute highlight of every trip to Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni!
I mentioned it in couple of my previous posts: I am not a big fan of organized tours. Whenever possible I try to avoid them and opt in for DIY. Some attractions however, can only be accessed as part of a tour – so the Bolivian Altiplano.
I had a good tour company, so I was mostly prepared, but there were also some unexpected surprises along the way.
If you ever take this 3-day tour to Salar de Uyuni (and you should), here are my tips for surviving!
Prepare yourself for the cold!
It doesn’t matter at what time of the year you visit Salar de Uyuni, be prepared to be freezing a lot, especially during the nights.
Warm clothing, warm clothing, warm clothing! I also recommend taking a decent sleeping bag with you. There won’t be any heating at the accommodation.
On day 3 you will reach the highest altitude of about 6000 meters. I visited the area during the Bolivian summer and yet saw a lot of snow up there. So again, make sure to keep yourself warm!
Expect lack of electricity!
It is very likely that the accommodation where you will be staying the 2 nights won’t have electricity.
Therefore, make sure to bring extra battery and a solar power bank. You won’t really need it to charge your mobile (because there is no internet or phone signal anyhow), but your camera will certainly run out of juice at one point.
Did I say no internet? Yes. Embrace the fact that social media and whatsapp won’t be part of your life for 72 hours. After all, you will literally be in the middle of nowhere.
Be ready for some altitude sickness!
Okay, it all depends a bit of where you travelled just before this trip. If your body is already used to the high altitude you might be fine, but it not, there are some things to consider.
When you start the tour, drink tons of water (around 3 liters a day), take it easy, and chew coca leaves. Be aware that coca leaves diminish your thirst and hunger, so be sure to eat and drink plenty.
You can also get some local Soroche tablets from a pharmacy in Uyuni. They do help.
Empty your SD cards!
You will take thousands of photos (at least I did). The last thing you would want to happen is that you are running out of storage space in the middle of nowhere.
So make sure to empty your SD cards before you head off to your adventure or bring extra SD cards with you.
Bring enough snacks and water!
Tours include all meals, but the food is very basic and portions can be small. Water is only provided along with the meals.
If you start your tour in Uyuni, there are some shops in the city center where you can buy snacks and water.
Make sure you stock up before you leave, you will not have any opportunity to buy anything during those 3 days.
I recommend not just getting some chocolate, cookies and chips. Also buy some fruits, cereal bars and nuts. The tour is quite exhausting and tiring, you will need some energy supply.
Get some inspiration for creative Salt Flat photos
Not really an advice for survival, but yet important (I think).
You see them across all social media channels: funny photos taken with different kind of objects surrounded by nothing but white color.
Those shots are actually much harder to get right than you think.
Before you go on the trip, I recommend to get some inspiration from Instagram, Pinterest and Google and take some toys and other objects with you. Some things to bear in mind:
Your main backpack will go on top of the jeep. Ideally have all essentials for the 3 days packed separately in a small day pack for easy access. Here are some items you SHOULD bring.Toilet paper! There is a reason why I put it on top of the list. During most of the trip, there won’t be any toilets. Meaning you will have to do your business in the nature. Wet wipes are also a good idea. Sunglasses and sun screen! Even though I said it can get really cold, that doesn’t mean you won’t need sun protection. You will be at a very high altitude especially on day 2 and 3.
Sun’s reflection from the salt flats will easily burn you if you don’t watch out. Pocket size dry shampoo! There will be showers, however you will have to pay extra for hot water and because of the cold you probably would want to skip a shower completely. Towel! The hostels where you will be staying will (in most cases) not provide any towels. Ear Plugs! If you, like me, have a light sleep and if you are not used to share your bedroom with strangers, bring ear plugs! On the second night, you will be staying in a 6-bed dormitory. Swimwear! Visiting the hot springs is part of the tour. You will get the chance to enjoy the thermal waters (for 30 mins only and at a surcharge).
I didn’t go in because the weather was simply too cold, but you still might want to be prepared and keep your options open. Solid, waterproof shoes that can stand mud, snow and water. Be prepared for all weathers! As mentioned before there is a guarantee that it will get really cold. But it can also get very warm sometimes.
On the first day when I went to the salt flats, the sun was out all the time and I could actually wear shorts and a top. Layers are key on this trip!! Cash! Yes, even though you paid for your tour you will still need to bring extra cash (entrance fee to the National Park, hot springs, hot showers and your exit stamp at the Bolivian border). Best is to check the exact amounts with your tour operator before you head off.
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