This budget travel guide to Uyuni came about as a result of me spending a week there resting up after cycling. This is not a Lonely Planet guide – ie it is from a real traveller, a budget traveller!! The prices are based on my stay there in October 2010.
Most if not all people travel to Uyuni, Bolivia to visit the salt pan, the Salar de Uyuni. The Salar de Uyuni is the highest and largest salt pan in the world. I have to say that it is pretty spectacular, and somewhere that will stick in your memory long after you have left Bolivia. Now, having cycled through the salt pan, I can’t write much about the range of trips available (although I will write a bit!). This blog post is mainly a budget travel guide to Uyuni, which is where people are most likely to stay before or after a trip to the pans.
Where to stay –
For the budget traveller, there is really only one place to consider in Uyuni, and that is Hotel Avenida. Sure, there are other options available, and you might even get lucky and find somewhere cheaper, but Hotel Avenida offers great value for money.
A single room with shared bathroom costs 30 Bs
A double room with shared bathroom costs 60 Bs
There are rooms with en-suites, but this is a budget travel guide to Uyuni, so why would you take one? Rooms here are clean but basic, with an electric power point socket in each room. The shared bathrooms are cleaned daily, and the hot water is REALLY hot! At night, they even turn a heater on in some of the bathrooms. It can get very toasty in there!
Hotel Avenida is set around a courtyard, which for cyclists is great, in that its good for bike cleaning, storage and maintenance. There are also a couple of sinks for hand washing clothes, and the drying lines get the sun for most of the day.
There are a lot of rooms here, and during my stay, I tried three of them. Fondest memories of room 19 thoug.
By the way, if you stay in this room, the electric socket is behind the bed!
Uyuni itself is a tiny place, and easy to walk around in 10 minutes. Just to the right, and then right again of Hotel Avenida, is the main plaza. This area is lined with pizza places and other restaurants catering to the tourist. Whilst nice for a treat, the true budget traveller should probably head to the Mercado area, where there is an eating hall. Below are some sample prices of food –
Plaza area – Meals here average out at 30Bs. Beer is anywhere between 16-20 Bs a big bottle.
Mercardo area – An almuerzo of 2 courses is 10 Bs. In the food hall, a variety of breakfast (Bolivian) cost 10 Bs. Food stands sell chicken and rice for 5Bs. Salchipapas are 5Bs. A hamburger from a kiosk (near the other market) is 3.5 Bs.
I have used the internet all over town, and in general, the connection absolutely sucks. I think I have narrowed this down to Facebook – I am not sure if the Bolivian government has some firewall there or not. The Lonely Planet recommends Mac internet. (opposite the clock tower). I certainly DO NOT recommend this place! Not only does the connection suck, but he knows it, and charges a minimum 2 Bs fee.. Meaning that if you cant load a page in 5 minutes, you pay for 24 minutes!
My personal recommendation, is to use the computers in Hotel Julia, which is a few doors to the right (as you come out) of Hotel Avenida. There is no minimum charge here, and the connection is good if you are the only one on it. You can also use Skype here. The rate is 5Bs an hour, or 1 Bs per 12 minutes.
There are laundry options all over town, but doing it yourself at Hotel Avenida is free!
Tourist Information –
There is a small tourist information booth in the old clock tower.
Money – ATM machine in Uyuni
There is one ATM in Uyuni, which dispenses both Dollars and Bolivianos. That said, the ATM in Uyuni runs out of cash from time to time, and may have only one currency or none at all. The ATM in Uyuni is next to the BCP bank, from where you can also withdraw money over the counter with your card. On the same street, are also a few casa de cambios, or money exchangers. They all offer the same rate for dollars (it was 7 whilst I was there). Some shops also exchange money, but give a far poorer rate.
Salt Pan Tours –
You can’t walk more than a few steps before you see another tour company. Invest a couple of hours, and wander from place to place comparing prices. If there are a group of you, aim to get a bigger discount. There is so much to compare – Cheap doesn’t mean the best, but either does expensive. Ask around other people returning from trips – They normally get back after 17.00.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my little budget travellers guide to Uyuni !