Getting there & away
Bus companies are scattered throughout the town. Those with services north- and southbound on the Panamericana include the following:
Flota Barrios (361-611; Vargas 1802)
Géminis (341-970; Antofagasta 2239)
Pullman Bus (364-411) Center (cnr Av Balmaceda & Sotomayor); Mall Calama (Balmaceda 3242, Local 130)
Tacc Expreso Norte (347-250; Balmaceda 1902)
Tur Bus (316-699; Ramírez 1802, Granaderos 3048)
Tur Bus provides regular services to San Pedro de Atacama (US$2.30, one hour).Buses Frontera(318-543; Antofagasta 2041) also has buses to San Pedro, Toconao (US$3.25) and Socaire (US$5.25). Buses Atacama 2000 (316-664; Abaroa 2105B) serves San Pedro and Toconao for a few cents less.
A community service organized by Richard Pérez (343-400) runs colectivos to Chiu Chiu (US$2.25) and Lasana (US$3), and also organizes tours.
International buses are invariably full, so reserve as far in advance as possible. To get to Uyuni, Bolivia (US$12 to US$15, 15 hours) via Ollagüe (US$5 to US$8, six hours), ask at Frontera and Buses Atacama 2000; services go twice weekly. Service to Salta and Jujuy, Argentina, is provided by Pullman on Thursday, Friday and Sunday morning at 8am (US$45, 12 hours), and more cheaply by Géminis on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings at 10am (US$35, 12 hours).
The only active passenger train service in the north operates between Calama and Olla- güe, on the Bolivian border, with connections to Uyuni (US$12.50, 18 hours). The train leaves every Wednesday at 11pm. Tickets are available at Estación de Ferrocarril (348-900; Balmaceda 1777; 8:30am-1pm & 3-6pm). The ride passes through the altiplano, with wonderful views, but is basic and tough, and there can be long complications at the border.
Show your passport when buying tickets, and obtain a Bolivian visa from the Bolivian Embassy (055-341-976; Latorre 1395, Calama) if you need one.
Temperatures can drop well below freezing, so bring woollies and sleeping gear.
Lan (600-526-2000; Latorre 1726) flies to Antofagasta (US$46 to US$63) and Santiago (US$162 to US$266) five times daily. Sky (310; Latorre 1499) has slightly more economical flights (to US$190).