For the longest time, we always intended to do the multi-day salt flats tour. That's what everybody else did, it's one of the 'must do things in South America' and we pretty much thought it was the only option.
Yet, as the time for us to venture to Uyuni drew closer and we began researching the trip, something just didn't sit right. It wasn't until the evening that we arrived, and began speaking with tour companies that also offered a day tour option that we confirmed to ourselves that, at that moment - 18 months into our Latin American adventure - it just didn't appeal to us any longer. Not so wanderlusty eh!?
However, one of our truths about long terms travel is that, after you've been on the road for a while, some of the places or adventure you were most looking forward to back home start to become less appealing. So, after seeing the alternative options in town, we decided that a one-day tour was the most attractive option to us and, as it turned out, it was perfect.
Here are a few more reasons why a one-day tour on the Bolivian Salt Flats may just be the right option for you.
you're on a tight schedule
Well, the clue's kinda of in the name, but the one-day tour is perfect for those that are really tight on time. We've spoken with lots of people, both whilst we were in Latin America and since we have returned, that are trying to squeeze a crazy amount of activities and miles into their two-week holiday.
Whilst that's not really our bag, we completely get why others would choose to do this, and by having the option to see the highlights of Salt Flats in one day, you'll free up a couple of days to check out another part of the country.
you're on a small budget
Bolivia is not an expensive country, and whilst $150 USD for three days of awesomeness may not seem a lot, when you multiply that by two for a couple travelling together, or factor it in to what you could feasibly spend to have a remarkable month in this country, you may too be looking for a cheaper option.
The cost of the one-day tours varied, but for 200 Bolivianos ($29 USD) we spent an entire day on the Salt Flats and got plenty of those iconic and hilarious perspective shots. If you're on a tight budget, this will seem pretty appealing!
you're not heading to chile......*
Many, many people take the three day tour because of the option of crossing in to Chile on the final day - but what if that's not your plan? In that case you're spending an awful lot of time driving on your third day just to return to Uyuni.
*We know that starting from Tupiza also fixes this, but given that this tour is longer and costs significantly more, this isn't an attractive option for everyone.
.....because you've already been there
One of the main deciding factors in our choice to opt for a single day tour, was the amount of time we'd spent in the north of Chile (check out our budget traveller guide to the Atacama desert). Whilst there is absolutely no doubt that the flamingos and coloured lakes you visit on the second day are absolutely mind-blowing, if, like us, you've already seen similar landscapes then may simply have other things you'd rather do in the country.
you hate the cold
We were on the Flats at the hottest time of the year - and it was still pretty darn chilly once the sun went down, which we guess isn't that surprising given that parts of it are at 5000m. However, 'pretty darn chilly' is nothing compared to what visitors to the area will face in the dead of winter, and given that accommodations are very basic for the cheaper tours, you will find yourself wearing everything you own at night just to get some sleep.
Now, don't get us wrong - we're not complete pussies. We have camped at the top of a volcano, hiked in snowstorms and negotiated Patagonia in the dead of winter, but knowing quite how difficult this once in a life time opportunity could be, we're still pretty happy with our choice! Being back in Uyuni at 9 p.m. for burgers, chips and beers and then a movie curled up in our warm hotel room was EXACTLY what we wanted after a long day!
small groups are preferable
Of course, if money is no object, you can have a fabulous Bolivian Salt Flats tour, just you, your other half and a friendly driver, but for the rest of us who have to watch the pennies, then we tend to travel in slightly larger groups.
There were six of us (plus a driver) on our one-day tour. Yeah, the car was full and there technically weren't enough seat belts to go around, but that's nothing compared to the larger group sizes of the multi-day tours. Of course, not all agencies are created equal, but it's something we definitely recommend confirming - three days at close quarters in a car with too many people is neither safe nor pleasant.
you want more time at the salt flats
Now, this is not true of every tour company that we spoke with offering one-day tours, but certainly the one we took actually provided more time at the Flats than the multi-day tours on day one, leaving early in the morning and not leaving the area until well after sunset. We didn't feel rushed at any point and our driver was willing to stop off on request - this may be particularly important to photographers seeking the perfect image!
you have safety concerns
The tour companies in Uyuni undoubtedly have a poor reputation. Drunk drivers, no seat belts, leaving backpackers stranded, rubbish equipment or outright broken promises - spend any amount of time on Trip Advisor and you'll see that many people's multi-day experience has been hampered by a rogue or irresponsible tour operator. Some have been banned and many have cleared their act up but, once you reach Uyuni, it can be quite overwhelming how many operators there are to choose from.
Ensuring that you do your research and pick a good, reliable company should be the number one priority for anyone doing a multi-day Flats tour - more important than cost - and, if you have concerns about this, then a one-day tour might be a better option to give you peace of mind.
so, who did we pick?
Our tour company - Hodaka - was, perhaps, an odd choice. Catering primarily to Japanese and Korean tourists (we are the only Europeans they had on any tour that week!), they have significantly higher standards than a number of other agencies in town. For example, they spent a good couple of hours more at the Salt Flats that most other one-day tours, and knowing that many people crave that perfect reflection shot, sought out an area that had flooded when most of the area was still bone dry - in addition to the usual sections.
We were also given ample time for perspective shots - around two hours in total providing each member of the group the time and opportunity to capture the image they wanted (not the easy one that the driver/tour guide could fulfil in the least amount of time). They also offered specific sunrise, sunset and star-gazing tours.
We paid full price for this tour, and were not given any added benefits/discounts in order to promote them. We recommend them because, for the one-day tour, they were simply the best option that we encountered and we know that choosing a tour company in Uyuni can be an absolute bloody nightmare!