Salar de Uyuni from Tupiza, My experience/recommendations/good to know
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Dec 26, 2011 5:30 AM Last Post By: flip666
Dec 7, 2011 9:46 AM
I went to Tupiza because I heared the quality of tours is better than in Uyuni. I dont think this is true.
In short: the nature is awesome, astonishing, beautyfull,....but the tour operators are below average compared to the rest of the world (and the rest of Bolivia). This applies for tour operators from Tupiza too.
Even if you pay more in Tupiza, it is still a lottery if you get a car in good shape and a good guide. I heard from another traveller that the goverment certifies the guides and the agency is allowed only to hire from this pool of certified guides. I dont know if this is true.
My experience/recommendations/good to know :
* Tours from Tupiza costs much more than in Uyuni
* 4 day Tour from Tupiza costs 1200 - 1300 Bs (3 day from Uyuni costs 680 Bs)
= 325 vs 226 per day
* You cannot hop off to San Pedro (because Tour starts in the South)
From Uyuni you can book transfer (300 Bs) with Jeep, but the number
of available cars varies (depending on book tours from San Pedro).
Transfer in short :
* Start from Uyuni at 4 pm,
* Stay overnight in Villa Mar (arrive at 8-9 pm)
* continue next day (5am) - breakfast at the thermal bath.
* drop off at the border. There the jeep picks up guests from san pedro
and starts tour
* exit argentina
* continue with a (private) bus (20 Pax) to aduna in San Pedro
* the immigration takes forever - after that the bus drop off all
passengers at a big parking lot (= San Pedro Terminal)
* arrival around 1 pm in San Pedro
* Dont forget to check the clock (timeshift)
* No ATM in Tupiza
Some Tour Operator borrow money - you can pay the driver in Uyuni.
I recommend to pay in Uyuni - then you can easier get money back if
the Tour was terrible.
* The agencies located in Tupiza do not run an office in Uyuni
Make complains was difficult because you can only talk on phone with them.
On the receipe of my operator was only a email-address - ask for the
phone number just in case ...
* Somebody told me Uyuni is very touristic. In fact there are many streets and houses,
but all tourist restaurants and pubs are around the clock tower. Nothing interesting
beside that. The travel agencies are spread in the town center -
It was easier in Pedro and Tupiza to locate the agencies.
Because of the size of Uyuni it is more exhausting to check out different
accomodation - you have to walk a lot.
Tupiza is a mix of touristic and locals. Pedro exists only because of tourists.
Tupiza and Pedro have a similar size (5 x 5 blocks)
* In Uyuni is nothing to do beside Salar and train cementary
(Train cementary is part of Salar de Uyuni Tour).
=> No reason to stay longer than necessary.
* In Tupiza you can visit the canyon (6 km on food or horse).
* In Pedro you can visit valley de luna, swim(drift) in a salty lake, ...
* Tours from Tupiza run with a guide/driver and a cook (=chef)
= Both seats in the front are occupied by staff
This might depend on the operator.
* Tours from Pedro run with one person (Driver=Guide=Cook)
* In the rear of the jeep are two benches
=> first row like in a normal car
=> second row designed for kids = no freedom for legs and not so
If I would do the tour again I would spend the extra money to
go on a tour with 3 people - then all can sit on the first
* Tour operator do not seek explicit for groups
- it might be more difficult to go on a tour if you travel alone
because the majority are couples (2 persons).
- ensure they dont add a 5th person if you look for a tour with 4.
* In Tupiza Operator charge 150 Bs extra for each person if english guide
* all operators (Tupiza, Uyuni, Pedro) import cars from US
=> The cars in Tupiza are not better (our two cars had 140000+ km)
* The maintainace is done by the driver => If he is bad the car
break - no advantage to book from Tupiza
* cars with open hood or changing tire is a typical.
* It seems mechanic skills are more important then guiding =>
Our "Guide" did not tell a lot (he gave a short answer when somebody
I heard different opinions from other groups.
=> it seems you need luck - no guarantee to get a better guide if you go to Tupiza.
* In Uyuni and Tupiza all Tourist-Restaurants are Pizzerias
(In Uyuni they offer mexican Food too)
* Bring water (> 3 liter)
We ran short on water on the last day
* everbody gets sick in Bolivia - expect diarrhea and cold.
* 10 Bs for an hot shower in the hotel made with salt bricks
* Power to recharge batteries only in the hotel with salt bricks.
* Transfer Uyuni - Tupiza is free because they must return the cars
Note: I guess it will be an unpleasant 6 hours if you had complained
before about their performance in the tour. I know two person who
preferred to go by bus on the next day... =>dont count on this feature.
* Tell cook directly if you are vegetarians.
I read several complains that agency does not pass this information on.
* charge all your batteries before the tour - power is limited
(3 hours) and only available in the salt hotel.
* in my opinion lagoon verde and thermal was nicer in the afternoon
(Tours starting from Tupiza).
* if I understood it correctly then tours from Uyuni do the big salt flat first.
Starting from Pedro or Tupiza you do it at the last day. I prefer to see the
highlight at the last day. I had the impression the nature became everyday better.
Tupiza Tours specific:
* got wrong information about Nationality - If somebody
speaks French than he must not be from France
* we had the impression, the agency delegates risks and costs to the
* Tupiza Tours advertise with the slogan "We are the first and the best"
I cannot confirm this. I did not go with La Torre (foud no group), but
I think La Torres has at least similar good reviews.
Compared with the rest of the country/region
(Rurrenapaque Death Road, Potosi, Salta, San Pedro, ..) and running
10 years in this business I expect more from an tour operator (than we got) :
* In Rurre the cook was permanent in the accommodation - more space in the car.
Other solution: Driver is cook (like in Pedro) and real BBQ like in Australia.
Other solution: Cook takes the role of guide since he has nothing to
do during the travel.
* Guide should guide. A very good guide would :
* entertains the group
* tells stories, tales, history, local traditions/food/...
* briefing at the begin, end of the day (what next)
* tells when and where are restrooms
* speaks at least basic english and slow clear spanish
* uses microphone and car loud-speakers if he has not a loud voice.
* helps to make good photos
* ties to know the name and nationality of the pax.
* tells where wine, beer, cookies and other stuff can be bought
* provides 2 liters of water per day for each person on tour
* breakfast with eggs (every morning) = I get sick of cheap bread, butter and marmalade.
* Driver drives slow on bumpy roads
* Agency has a sticker/logo on the car
= agency is responsible and takes care - no outsourcing, no risk of bad cars
* Staff wears shirt with company logo
= loyalty and commitment, and tourists know who they follow
* Staff is proud of their country and like to work with tourists
* Agency covers for faults if guide/driver/cook is doing something wrong
= tourist should not have to fights with staff and agency
* Agency makes deal for hotel = warm shower should be self-evident
(if possible in the hotel)
I dont understand why agencies prefer to tell everybody please pay
10 Bs extar or hot shower....
* Organizes accommodation and optional night in Uyuni
Currently tours ends in front of the ATM. Since there is no Tourist Information nearby it
is harder then should be to find acc, food, ....
* Welcome drink/breakfast
* After Tour Party (typical in Australia)
* Car can play charge and play music from ipod
The list can be continued fowever...
=> Tupiza Tours might be not the worst, but I have no idea why Tupiza Tours thinks they
are the best.
Dec 7, 2011 3:13 PM
1That's a whole lotta reading, but, a good feedback as a further reference to other travellers.
I did the tour from Uyuni, and I learnt it's a hit and miss experience. I started with a guide/driver, an old and miserable macho type. He was embarassing. Luckily, I saddled on after lunch on the first day, and joined another group. From that moment everything worked out fine, the guide spoke good English, was knowledgeable about everything in Altiplano, and wasn't drunk. (sorry, that happens).
Anyway, having two different guides I could see the difference. On those tours you're totally dependent on the guide and his 4WD. It's a lottery, unless you know who the guide is.
Dec 8, 2011 11:37 AM
Dec 14, 2011 4:42 PM
3I am not sure I follow this critique too well but we just reteurned from a salar tour that started in Tupiza with Tupiza Tours and we had a great experience!
We lucked out with Willy, he was our Chaufer , guide and cook. We had a private tour and opted for the Tayka hotels so I can not comment on the breakfasts in the basic accomadations because we ate at the hotels BUT our lunches that Willy prepared ( he got up really early and cooked them,) a milanese one day and roast chicken the next served with at least three or four vegetables and salads were the best meals of the trip. We had more snacks than we could possibly consume and plenty of water. Sodas were available but mostly we just had water.
We originally thought we would request an English guide. i Speak Spanish and my husband understands a lot but struggles to speak much . Tupiza tours sent Willy to pick us up in Potosi and we liked him so much and he spoke so clearly and was so informative and entertaining that we requested him as our guide for the three days and never regretted the choice.he is a mechanic also and those roads can be tough even on a well maintained vehicle. he had to make a few little repairs on the road.
the scenery between Tupiza and Uyuni was spectaculR and I am glad we did not miss it.
Uyuni is a horrible dirty dump of a town and I am glad we did not have to spend more than a few minutes there,aranging our tranfer to San Pedro. Tupiza , on the other hand was a pleasant town in a nice setting. we are not backpackers ( any more) but certainly there were dozens of young people in Tupiza and in our hotel and we occasionally saw some of them out on the Salar and the other sites we visited out there and they were smiling so they must of been successful at finding tours.
Dec 15, 2011 2:57 AM
4The tours out of Uyuni are not the horror that some people seem intent on making them appear and for $100 US total it was a good value. For a single traveler, it is risky going to Tupiza, you could wind up paying three times more or even losing a day or two waiting for a tour to join. I was able to get on a tour in Uyuni on the same day I arrived. If you don't have a lot of time to start with this is something to consider.
I went with Blue Line out of Uyuni, I´d say they were okay, not perfect. Some of the tour agencies from La Paz or overseas also use them. They can drop off in San Pedro at about 10 am and arrange the transfer. They were asking 700 Bs and that seems to be the current standard rate for the 3 and 2 night. One thing that isn´t much up to date is that there are a lot of nicer lodgings built by the community now for the second night. They are similar to the salt hotels except made without salt. Be sure you are staying there and not in the old camps. I would bring earplugs if you are sharing rooms, if you snore bring them for your roommates too.
And bring some extra protein snacks and about 2 liters per person of water per day (the company might provide beverage with meals but you will want more). Also an extra battery for day 3 if you take a lot of photos, there isn´t any recharge on night 2. The food isn't great but seems pretty typical among the Uyuni tours ( it is the lodges doing the cooking but it depends on what the driver brings or arranges), Despite drivers carrying around a few dozen eggs all we ever saw of them was pancakes on the third morning. We had the same stinky cheese on top of spaghetti with tomato sauce for the last night dinner. It might be a refrigeration issue. Our lunch the final day was canned tuna with tomatoes and cukes but actually it looked better than another groups beef. We had the feeling the guides might be supplementing their income by selling some of the food supplies.
Dec 16, 2011 3:14 PM
5For the record, I went with Tupiza Tours 4 day/3 night in April and they were awesome. Food good, guide good, jeep good (2 punctures but you expect that). They even gave me a free transfer back to Tupiza from Uyuni as I had to get back to Salta, because I had booked an extra nights accommodation at their hotel in Tupiza.
Yes it would have been cheaper to start in Uyuni but I would recommend going from Tupiza anytime over Uyuni, worth the extra $.
Dec 26, 2011 5:30 AM
thanks for all the information! Very helpful.
But you did not mention the most important advantage booking from Tupiza (for me):
When we left Tupiza we were 4 Jeeps (2 from Tupiza Tours, 1 Torre, 1 other). Driving through the Dali Desert we counted 20+ Jeeps going the other way. On the island of Salar de Uyuni we were the third car arriving in the morning. When leaving all the cars from Uyuni arrived, again 20 or more cars...
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