Recent feedback on tour operators for the Uyuni Salars
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Aug 15, 2012 10:36 AM Last Post By: mattima
May 29, 2012 2:38 PM
Recent feedback on tour operators for the Uyuni SalarsHi Fellow Travelers!
We wanted to hear your feedback regarding good tour operators to do the Uyuni Salars either from Uyuni or Tupiza.
If you´ve recently have done the tour and enjoyed your operators we would love to hear about it! The reviews in the forum are not the most recent.
Thank you in advance!
Juana and Antonio
May 30, 2012 10:01 AM
1I just did the Salar de Uyuni tour, but did it from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. I think that some of the same tour operators are in both places. I know my tour group has an office in Uyuni. I will share a few thoughts and hope it helps.
I have heard horror stories, but did not experience or see this on my journey. From my experience, I get a sense that many of the tours are fairly similar (at least those originating out of San Pedro). If you go with high expectations around food and lodging, you will likely be disappointed. Pretty basic food and accomodations, often guides only speak Spanish. But Salar de Uyuni is really beautiful and interesting.
I went with Cordillera Travellers. They are frequently recommended on this forum and in LP guides. I was not super impressed. I would not particularly recommend Cordillera, but I also would not steer someone away from them. I have a sense that Cordillera is well established and reliable, but I also think they might be resting on their laurels a bit and cutting corners slightly on food and accomodation. I would give Cordillera a 6 or 7 out of 10.
I found the following pros and cons regarding Cordillera:
Pros: The people at the agency seemed pretty helpful and very honest about what the tour was like when I booked. They made clear that accomodations were basic.
The drivers were shy, but friendly, and very responsible and drove safely, which is a big plus. The vehicles were also in good condition and we encountered no problems.
The neutrals or cons: We had a huge group - 24 people! (6 people per 4X4, which seems pretty standard). It was a good group, but I would definitely prefer a smaller one. Most of the other groups I saw had 6-12 people, which just seemed more intimate and manageable, and the people on these smaller groups seemed to appreciate the smaller size.
The first night accomodations with Cordillera had 3 toilets for 24 people; 2nd night´s accomodations had 2 toilets and showers with only one toilet working. Fortunately, it did not turn into an ordeal, but it definitely could have and you had to wait in line to use the bath room often.
The food was okay, although super average (we had hot dogs, mashed potatoes, and some fresh tomatoes, avocado, and cucumber the first night, soup and very basic pasta another night, and soup, chips, and beef the third night) - I heard from one group that used Colque Tours that they actually got to try llama meat. I think this is where Cordillera may be slacking a little. I think with such big groups, they just do the absolute basic and don´t add much more.
The group size also caused some problems with sleeping bag rental at the accomodations. It was super cold at night, and about half the group wanted to rent, but they did not have enough sleeping bags. I think this is not a good practice because Cordillera should know how many people there are and be prepared to provide sleeping bags as they said they would).
If you are with US passport, the Bolivian customs folks take your passport and are supposed to give it to the driver so that you have to pay the Bolivian visa fee in Uyuni. Our drivers did not ask for the passports of the two Americans on our tour. Fortunately, one of the Americans asked about this after they started the tour, and they had to drive back to pick up the passports. I thought this was really bad - the drivers should have checked this!
Only one of our 4 guides (one guide per 4X4) spoke English, but I think this is pretty standard, and usually someone in the group can translate if you do not know Spanish.
Cordillera is a bit more expensive than the others (about 10,000-20,000 Chilean pesos more, which is about 20-40 USD).
If I was doing it over personally, I would probably have gone with Colque or another company called Atacama Mistica, which I heard good things about. But I also am not disappointed terribly with my choice as I enjoyed Salar's beauty and did not have really high expectations around the accomodations.
In the end, I think it is kind of a matter of luck and tempering your expectations. I hope this helps a bit.
May 30, 2012 12:00 PM
May 31, 2012 2:08 PM
Jun 5, 2012 7:55 AM
4It seems like choosing a tour of Uyuni is a crapshoot. I used Rough Guide for my trip and they had no recommended agency. I met some backpakers in Uyuni who were ripped off. I used Tyupiza Tours out of Tupiza and was very satisfied with them. They were honest, The driver/guide briefed us on the coming day's activity. We had 4 passengers in the SUV and shared a cook with another Tupiza group of 3. The vehicle was serviced after each day. 1300 Bolivianos for the 4 day tour was well spent for a quality tour with a good driver
Jun 5, 2012 7:59 AM
5Me and my boyfriend also did the tour from Tupiza to Uyuni with Tupiza Tours, and I have to say it was really an amazing experience! We paid a little extra for an English speaking guide but it was definitely worth it - our guide spoke really good English and she seemed to know the places very well. She kept on explaining all the sights and telling stories about the local life on the mountain villages. We also had an excellent driver, he knew all the routes by heart and was able to advise and help other drivers, even with mechanical problems. Also the food was incredible, we ate more and better food than for weeks in South America! We were in a car with only 2 other tourists which was good.
Whatever you decide, enjoy the tour! The landscape is really beautiful there!
Jun 7, 2012 6:27 AM
Jun 10, 2012 5:16 AM
7Thank you for all the replies!
We ended up taking the tour from Tupiza with the tour agency of our hostel: Los Salares
We had the most amazing experience ever!!! No break downs! and amazing bolivian food!
Our driver was Secundino and the amazing cook Profidia! We strongly recommend them :)
Juana and Antonio
Jun 11, 2012 5:33 AM
8I found having good drivers themost improtant thing. our drivers with Tupiza Tours serviced their vehicles every evening and very carefully negotiated some of the rough spots on the route. The landscape was profoundly beautiful
Edited by: DUDE057
Edited by: DUDE057
Jun 22, 2012 1:28 PM
9Next month I will do a 4 day tour with 5 friends to a tour of Salar de Uyuni from Uyuni. I wonder whether the price level is the same in Uyuni itself as they offer on the websites.
I hear about 70 dollar for 3 days, but asking a inquiry the ask at least 180 dollar for 3 days.
And does some people having experience with making a deal at the carwash at 6 pm with a driver.?
Jun 24, 2012 12:14 PM
Jun 25, 2012 5:55 AM
11I agree 100% with Mattima. The Uyuni tour is incredibele. it owld be a shame to mess up the experience by saving a few pennies.
Jun 28, 2012 1:51 PM
12We were a bit scared after reading all the bad reviews about the various tour operators, but we luckily found one that was really well organised: Quechua Connection. Not sure if they have a website, but they are across the street from the train station in Uyuni. Our guide Jose spoke really good English, the food was good, and they brought a sleeping bag as well as a hot water bottle for each person, which we really appreciated with the cold! some agencies state that you will get blankets, which should be enough. Trust me, it's not (or at least not during winter...). We didn't pay the bottom price, but we definitely didn't pay a very high premium either.
Aug 12, 2012 8:08 PM
Aug 14, 2012 2:21 AM
14Our driver was Rene and our guide was Janet, happy to recommend both! We paid about 1100 Bolivianos each for the four day, three nights trip. The English speaking guide costs extra, I think it was about 300 bolivianos per tour. If you have other people in the car who prefer English, you can share the cost of the guide (there are always four tourists in the same car so it's not much per person). The tour started in Tupiza, went over the mountains and small villages (Lipez region), through the national park and the lagunas to salt flats in Uyuni. Every day was different with amazing scenery.You can check Tupiza Tour's website for details and ask more questions per e-mail, they have people in the office who speak and write excellent English!
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