For those who wonder how to get to the village of Uyuni to start the Salt Flats trips check the information below. Distances :
• La Paz - Uyuni 569 km.
• La Paz - Oruro 229 km (paved road).
• Oruro - Uyuni 340 km (unpaved road).
The military airline TAM (www.tam.bo) is flying to Uyuni from La Paz (via Sucre) every Monday, Friday and Saturday. Return flights from Uyuni to La Paz (again via Sucre) are also on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Buying a TAM ticket online is not possible (for now). The airline Amazonas (www.amaszonas.com) offers DAILY flights to Uyuni since Sept 5 2011, leaving La Paz at 08.15. The return flight Uyuni - La Paz is now scheduled for 09.40 (subject to change).
Trains of Ferroviaria Andina [www.fca.com.bo] run south to Villazon on the Argentinian border, stopping in Tupiza and Atocha. Northbound trains go to Oruro. The formerly existing train connection to Calama, Chile has been discontinued. Trains leave oruro on Tuesday and Fridays at 3:30pm arrive 10:30PM to Uyuni. That is the Expreso del Sur..Executive and 2nd class tix. The other Train Wara Wara leave Oruro on Sundays and Wed at 7pm and arrive in Uyuni at 2:30 am.
Private transport in a 4WD. The advantage of this option is that you travel during the day so you can enjoy the views, take pics and stop whenever you like (within reason). This option is not that cheap as we have our driver leaving Uyuni 1 day before your transfer to pick you up. He will spend the night in La Paz and then drive you to Uyuni the next day. So where it is a 10 hour drive for you, it's a 20 hour drive (+ an overnight stay) for the car and driver.
You will need 12-15 hours from La Paz, by bus. The bus ride can be bitterly cold in winter - travellers have been known to sit in their sleeping bags on the night bus from Oruro to Uyuni. With other options (Todo Tourismo,Trans Omar and Panamerica Sur) you must change buses in Oruro to get to La Paz. Beware that even though Panamericana has a direct line, heating and toilet, it is notorious for breaking down, and the ride can easily take 8 hours more than promised.
Buses to Oruro/La Paz are often booked up in advance - you likely need to book at least the day before, several days if you wish to take the comfortable tourist bus or one of the better bus companies - best to do this before going on a Southwest Circuit tour (if coming from San Pedro de Atacama, be prepared to spend a night in Uyuni and have little choice of bus company).
There are several buses daily to and from Potosí (6-7 hours, 30 Bs.), from there you can go one to Sucre (3-4 hours more). Beware however, companies such as Transporte 11 de Julio have been known to cancel buses without notice, and without even opening their office to explain.
Many daily departures around 5:30 - 6:00 AM for Tupiza, stopping halfway for lunch in Atocha, 7-8 hours, 60 Bs. Three days a week there are 9 AM departures, and occasionally a Land Cruiser departs 6-7 PM, -ask around. Although the train is definitely smoother, and somewhat faster, this bus ride offers terrific views.
• Sucre - Uyuni 377 km (9 hours of driving)
• Sucre - Potosi 169 km (paved road) (3 hours of driving)
• Potosi - Uyuni 208 km (almost a paved road now) (6 hours of driving)
Busses leave Sucre at 07.00 and at 08.30 in the morning. They stop in Potosi and then go on to Uyuni where they arrive in the late afternoon. There is also a bus leaving Sucre at 12.30, arriving in Potosi at 15.30. Then leaving Potosi again at 19.00 and arriving in Uyuni around 02.00. Probably around May 2011 it will be possible to travel to Uyuni from Sucre by night bus. The company Todo Turismo has plans to run a between Sucre and Uyuni at night, but nothing confirmed yet.
There is also the option to fly from Sucre to Uyuni on Mondays and Fridays with the military airline TAM (see info above on how to get to Uyuni from La Paz). Then from Uyuni you can take a bus back to Potosi and/or Sucre. There is a bus leaving Uyuni at 19.00, arriving 6 hours later in Potosi. This bus does not go all the way to Sucre. In the morning around 10.00 the bus is leaving from Uyuni to Sucre, arriving in Sucre around 19.00.
Probably around May 2011 it will be possible to travel to Sucre from Uyuni by a more comfortable bus (Todo Turismo) during the day. This bus is scheduled to leave Uyuni around 09.00, arriving around 14.00 in Potosi, the leaving Potosi again around 18.15 and arriving in Sucre around 21.30. Of course we can also arrange private transport from Sucre/Potosi to Uyuni or vice versa. This option is more expensive, but far more comfortable.
Take a bus or a flight to La Paz and from there on see information above. Or take a bus or a flight to Sucre and from there on see information above. Or take a bus or a flight to Cochabamba. From there you can take a bus to Oruro and from there the train or bus to Uyuni.
With a 3 day tour Uyuni - Uyuni there is the possibility not to drive back to Uyuni on the 3rd day but to cross the Chilean border and to drive on to San Pedro. For a reference program see our tours ending in San Pedro de Atacama. And from San Pedro you can do a 3 day tour to Uyuni, see our San Pedro de Atacama-Uyuni tours. We can also arrange a transfer from San Pedro to Calama airport and vice versa.