If you find yourself in Uyuni, chances are you’re planning on seeing the incredible salt flats that lie just beyond the town. We’re going to be honest right off the bat and say that Uyuni isn’t particularly charming and we wouldn’t have visited if it weren’t for our desire to see Salar de Uyuni. But, like all of the other towns and cities we visited in Bolivia, it has its own unique aspects. And hey, that’s what makes traveling fun, right? So, without further ado, here is a comprehensive Uyuni city guide.
Getting There and Away
The easiest and cheapest way to get to Uyuni is by bus. There are daily buses that run from La Paz, Oruro, Potosí, and other neighboring cities. These tickets can be booked at the bus station before departure or sometimes online from ticketsBolivia. Traveling by bus in Bolivia is somewhat rougher than in other South American countries we visited, so practicing a little patience is necessary.
There are also daily flights from La Paz to Uyuni. Flights are substantially more expensive than bus travel, but less time consuming. If you are coming from Tupiza or Oruro, you also have the option of traveling to Uyuni by train. This is also more expensive than bus travel, but more comfortable. Be sure to find the most current schedule because the train does not leave Oruro daily and times can change. Tickets can also be found on ticketsBolivia.
You may be arriving in Uyuni from San Pedro de Atacama or Tupiza at the end your Salar de Uyuni tour, in which case your tour operator will organize transport for you.
Uyuni is a fairly small city, and most of the tourist-oriented attractions, restaurants, and hotels lie in the center. So, walking is a simple way to get around town. There are also some taxis if you aren’t feeling a stroll or don’t want to walk the streets after a late night at the bar. You can also take taxis to and from the airport since it is on the outskirts of town. Be sure to negotiate the price before entering the taxi because most are not metered.
Where to Stay
The cheapest and most common form of accommodation in Uyuni is hostels. Much of the accommodation lies near the main strip in the center of town, but there are many other options in the outlying areas. Many people visiting Uyuni only stay for a night or two before or after their salt flat excursion.
- Hostal Jerian – double rooms with private bathrooms and breakfast included.
- Onkel Inn Wagon Sleepbox – Private train wagon rooms with shared bathrooms to deluxe rooms with private bathrooms. Breakfast available with small extra cost.
- Hotel Nido de Flamenco – double and deluxe rooms with private bathrooms and breakfast included.
- Tonito Hotel – double rooms with private bathrooms and breakfast included
- Hotel Jardines de Uyuni – double rooms with private bathrooms and breakfast included.
- Hotel Palacio de Sal – double rooms with private bathrooms and breakfast included. This option is further from town out on the salt flats.
Where to Eat
Many of the more touristy restaurants are located in the center of Uyuni around Av. Arce. There are plenty of pizza joints and restaurant/bars serving appetizers, sandwiches, pasta dishes, and more. We found these places to be way overpriced with average food. Most eateries will have a menu displayed or would not mind showing you one, so don’t be afraid to explore before making a decision.
Some of the more popular and quality joints include Breakfast Noni’s for a simple breakfast and good WiFi, V8 Pub Rock Restaurant for pub food and drinks, and Tika for a variety of Latin American foods. There are a few no-name local joints that you can walk into that serve basic Bolivian meals for great deals. For snacks and breakfast, there are markets that sell fruits, pastries, and breads for very cheap.
Whether you eat in a “touristy” restaurant, a local spot, or from a market/street vendor, it is always important to use your best judgement in order to avoid food poisoning. Uyuni is somewhat in the middle of nowhere, and it can be hard to get supplies here. We were warned that some restaurants will serve food that has been stored for excessive periods of time.
Endless tour operators can be seen when walking the dusty streets of Uyuni. It’s kind of overwhelming actually. Like most businesses dedicated to tourism in Uyuni, many operators are located around Av. Arce. Our strongest recommendation is to research a bit beforehand, then go out early/get to Uyuni early to walk from place to place to find the best tour operator for you. Outside of this Uyuni city guide, you can find more detailed information on finding a Salar de Uyuni tour here.
Most tours require you to pay in cash or will upcharge you a significant amount if you pay with card. Before you pay, confirm the date and itinerary for your tour. You will also need cash during the tour to pay park entrance fees, border fees, and for other items along the way if desired.
Some of the more popular restaurants and shops will take card, but many will only accept cash. So, always have a bit of cash on you when you go out. If you don’t want to travel to Uyuni with a big wad of Bolivianos to pay for your tour, there are ATMs in Uyuni. We went to the Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz ATM to avoid fees, but this will all depend on your bank. You can also go into a bank to exchange currencies or take out cash.