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Overland travel Chile to Bolivia in 3 or 4 days?

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1. Posted by ciarar (First Time Poster 1 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Hi there

I am looking for advice about travelling overland from Chile across the Uyuni salt planes and into Bolivia. There are 4 of us and we would like to hire a driver/guide and vehicle to take us (not part of a tour) as we are hoping to do the trip in minimum amount of time. I am trying to find out the following, if anyone has any advice please!

1. We plan to start in San Pedro de Atacama cross the Uyuni planes - can anyone tell me when we get into Bolivia, where is the first town / place that we come to that there is an airport?

2. Bearing in mind where we arrive at in Bolivia (answer to Q.1) Can anyone tell me how many days/ nights it will take us to do this trip, stopping for meals, to sleep, and to get some photographs?

3. We are hoping to do this trip on a budget and don't mind sleeping in tents/ low budget accommodation, Can anyone recommend a tour company that we could contact who would organise this short trip for us? Perhaps someone they sourced locally in Chile?

Any advice on the above would be greatly appreciated...

Thank you

2. Posted by markhamj (First Time Poster 1 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

hi .. its a shame no one replied to your thread as i want to do the same journey this november.. how did u get on with it? any advise?

3. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!
  • No airports any time soon when entering Bolivia: bus and/or train (from Uyuni, various options to north, east and south) are the way to go
  • A typical salares trip will take 3 days, and 2 extra nights in Uyuni because ongoing transport tends to arrive/leave the days prior to/following on your trip. There will be plenty of photo opportunities during the trip (tip: depending on what quality photos you want, take some light filters. The sun is a problem). All accommodation and meals are typically included in the package
  • Arranging to go on the salares by yourself (i.e. without a package tour) takes time. It might work out cheaper, but the tours aren't that expensive (at least, they weren't when I did one in 2004). I'd recommend taking the beaten-track approach, and not bother with arranging everything yourself
4. Posted by littlebex (Budding Member 20 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I did this in February this year, although from La Paz - Uyuni - San Pedro de Atacama.

The nearest airport to San Pedro is in Calama, about a 1 hr drive away. In San Pedro, it should be pretty easy to get on a tour (we paid around $100 US for the 3night tour, though i have heard that trips departing San Pedro and finishing in Uyuni are more expensive than the other way - just found this As there are 4 of you, you may be able to get a private tour where it will be just you, the driver and the cook. Our driver was brilliant and would take us anywhere we wanted to go. I think most of the trips take 3 days/2 nights.
Its lucky that you dont mind roughing it as it wont be much of an option!! Dont expect to take a shower while youre there, and make sure you take your own toilet paper, as well as bottled water if you plan on brushing your teeth. That said, the food that we had was excellent.

Im not sure how many proper airports there are in Bolivia, i think only La Paz, Sucre and Santa Cruz are international. To get to La Paz would take about 10 on either the bus or train (the train is the far nicer option, but doesnt run everyday)

Couple of other things - if you plan on staying overnight in San Pedro, make sure you book in advance as we really struggled to find anywhere to stay.
If you can, avoid spending any more time than is absolutely necessary in Uyuni as its not the nicest place!

Have fun!