Bolivia is a rough country to travel through and the Uyuni Salt Flats Tour is tough. The harsh conditions like the high altitude and the extreme weather might scare you at first. But when you see the stunning vistas and the white wonderland of the Salt Flats of Bolivia, nothing will hold you back as a true travellette! But how to survive the Salt Flats of Uyuni like a real queen without the drama? How to feel happy and still look decent when you take those epic Uyuni Salt Flats pictures? Read my practical female travel guide to the Uyuni Salt Flats and be prepared for the adventure of your Bolivia trip!
The Girlie Guide to Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia
This guide to the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia basically consists of 5 practical tips for female travelers and some common information which can be useful for ladies and gentlemen alike. First I’ll tell a little bit about my tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats before I dish out those girlie guidelines.
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The route around Uyuni Salt Flats
The Salt Flats of Uyuni was really high on my list of things to visit in South America. I was sure I wanted to do the 3-day tour. As I was coming from Arequipa in Peru, I traveled to Northern Chile where I went stargazing in San Pedro de Atacama. After seeing all the amazing things to do in Bolivia, I wanted to explore Bolivia after that, so it was logical to take the Uyuni Salt Flat Tour from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. Other options for the tour are from Tupiza to Uyuni via Southern Bolivia.
I booked the tour in Chile and in the morning we were picked up and brought to the Chilean border. We stamped our passports and continued to the Bolivian border. Another few stamps and we were ready to start our Tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia.
I was in a 4×4 with a Bolivian driver, an Australian couple, 2 Italian friends and 1 guy from Chile. For 3 days, we toured across the altiplano of Bolivia and on the final day, we arrived on the Salt Flats of Uyuni.
The accommodation was very basic, we spend most of our time in the 4×4 vehicle. Due to the long days of driving, lack of facilities, basic accommodation, and the harsh conditions, the tour is quite hard. During the tour, there were only 2 ladies in the car. Me and the Australian girl. We were talking about how to be more comfortable as a female traveler and I came up with this Girlie Guide to Uyuni Salt Flat Tours.
5 Tips for female travelers on Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
Travel as a (solo) female traveler is different than it is for guys. As I’m a woman, I can only relate to my own experiences. This guide is geared towards my fellow female travels who want to explore Bolivia and do the Salt Flats tour but are uncertain what to expect and how to handle the tour.
#1. Wear a sports bra
This was actually the one thing that sparked this girlie guide for your Uyuni Salt Flat Tour. I was sitting in the back of the 4×4 with my new Australian girlfriend and we were bouncing up and down in the truck.
The roads were really rough and although our driver did his very best to keep the truck steady, our girls were jumping up and down. My advice to you: wear a sports bra! Big boobs or small ones; they need to be strapped in tight for this journey!
#2. Wear your swimsuit under your clothes
You have the opportunity to take a dip in the hot spring during the tour. We came from Chile, so it was on our first day. If you take the tour from Uyuni, it will be on your 3rd or last day. The facilities are very basic. There is a small shack where you can change your clothes but chances are, it is very crowded and space is limited.
Be a smart woman and already wear your swimsuit or bikini under your normal clothes. This saves you the hassle of changing your clothes in the cold wind with everyone watching you trying to undress as discrete as possible.
Of course, you might be the one person that doesn’t give a f*ck but I was too self-conscious to change and I missed out on the opportunity to dip in a hot spring in Bolivia.
Read more: From Bolivia you can easily hop over to Jujuy in Argentina. Check my 3-day itinerary for the Quebrada de Humahuaca
#3. Bring toilet paper. Bring a lot of toilet paper
I carried toilet paper with me everywhere I went around South America. I was happy to find toilets, but 9 out of 10 times there wasn’t (enough) toilet paper. As us ladies have to use it every time we visit the toilet, we need to have more than men.
When you travel on the Uyuni Salt Flats Tour, you need to drink a lot of water to avoid altitude sickness. Hence, many toilet visits. There are some small shops, depending on where you’ll stop during your tour, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and bring enough toilet paper when you start your Uyuni Salt Flat tour.
#4. Bring warm clothes. And wear them, all at once
Yes, you probably read about this already in every guide to Uyuni Salt Flats Tours. It gets cold around the Uyuni Salt Flats. Really, really cold. Unbelievable cold.
I traveled in May and it was almost winter. During our first night, near Laguna Colorado, our room was just 5 degrees Celsius (41F). And that was inside!! The bed was cold, the sheets were frozen. The pillow felt like a lump of ice and there were 5 blankets on top of the bed.
What I wore during my nights at the Uyuni Salt Flat Tour:
- Thermal underwear. Long sleeves and trousers
- Thermal socks
- Big woolen socks
- Fleece Christmas pants
- Icebreaker Merino Wool shirt (long sleeves)
- Fleece hoodie
- Padded bodywarmer
- Woolen hat
You get the picture. Basically all the clothes I had with me! For more packing tips for South America, check out this post by Practical Wanderlust about the subject.
I laid myself down on 1 thick blanket and managed to crawl under the other 4 blankets. And….It worked! Yes, it was cold, but as soon as I relaxed, I was able to fall asleep and not freeze to death! Yeah for layers!! What do you wear in bed when you’re cold?
5. Use lip balm. Generously
The Uyuni Salt Flats is a dramatic place. The sun shines down on you fiercely. The winds blow non-stop from left, right and center. The air is dry because of the altitude and you’re in a desert. And last but not least, there is a lot of salt, duh!
These 4 things cause for your lips to dry out. They burst, they bleed. It hurts. It doesn’t look good. Apply lip balm generously. Even if that means you have to take off your gloves all the time. Do it as often as you can.
I swear on my cacao butter lip balm from Vaseline. This is pure fat, so it makes your lips shine and you only need very little to go a long way.
Other tips for the Uyuni Salt Flat Tour
No ladies don’t stop reading yet! These tips are useful for men and women so I include them in this practical guide to the Uyuni Salt Flat Tour. Just so you’re aware and come prepared.
- All tours advice you to bring 8 liters of water with you. Buy it and drink it. Take 1 smaller bottle with you in the car so you can easily hydrate yourself during the tour.
- Bring enough money with you. The tours will advise you how much to bring but take a little extra. The banks in Uyuni and San Pedro are not really reliable, so once the tour is over, you might be stranded for cash. Obviously, there is no ATM during the Uyuni Salt Flats tour. I arrived in Uyuni with my last Bolivianos and I wasn’t able to get any money from the ATM’s in town. I used my emergency stash of USD to get out of the town.
- Do your homework before you set out on the Salt Flat tour. There are so many fun pictures to take but you have to come up with ideas yourself. Bring props and experiment as much as you like. Check the UyuniSaltPics-Instagram account for inspiration.
And probably most importantly: book with a reputable company. I didn’t know my exact dates for the Salar de Uyuni tour, so I booked my tour in San Pedro de Atacama. But if you’re short on time or just want peace of mind, I advise to book ahead and lock in those travel dates for the Uyuni Salt Flats tour.
Check for the most reputable tours of the Uyuni Salt Flats here.
- Read more about my adventures in South America here.
- Catch up on your reading before you go with this Lonely Planet South America travel guide.
Have you ever done the Uyuni Salt Flat Tour in Bolivia? Do you have any other tips to survive the trip like a queen? Let me know!
Hi, I will be visiting Bolivia this October. I’m concerned about the lack of toilet facilities during my 3 day Uyuni tour. Do you remember which stops will have toilets? Are there at least squat toilets? Thanks!
I had the same fear but overall it worked out well. Just go every time there is an option. I recall western-style toilets mostly, but it depends where the tour takes you. Just ask your guide and he will point out any options you have Adrian. Have fun!
Great tips – thank you so much! Just packed my lip balm!
Excellent idea Heather. I did not think I would need it that badly, but it was a life saver. Have a good trip!
What a great post! How much did you pay for the tour from san pedro? I heard it is a lot more than in uyuni! We are in arequipa heading to arica and san pedro in a couple of days!
I paid 105.000 chilean pesos for the tour which was ok at the time. Did you check out my guide how to travel from Arequipa to San Pedro, Josie? Let me know if you have any questions!
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I just have a question regarding bathrooms throughout the trip? how does that work, like what if you had to go badly in the middle are there places to stop by to do your business…….showers I can do without for 3 days I can sacrifice that, but bathrooms is something I really fear if we have to drink lots of water
There are facilities along the way. I had bathroom breaks at the border, at the registration office, at the hot springs, at the camp where we stayed for the night etc. But there is no paper and they are not of our standards. But I think you’ll be fine Sarah. Don’t let it stop you from going, just take every toilet break you can get!