Traveling Between Uyuni And La Paz

Traveling Between Uyuni And La Paz

Traveling between Uyuni to La Paz can be a test of both logistics and endurance. Here is our guide to making the journey by bus, train and plane:

Bus between Uyuni and La Paz

The bus route between Uyuni and La Paz is 569km of mostly unsealed road making for a bumpy, uncomfortable ride. The road is unsealed between Oruro and Uyuni, approximately 2/3rds of the route. The trip takes 10hrs in good conditions, but longer in unfavorable conditions such as the wet season that runs from December to April, if the route is passable at all.

Nonetheless, it is the cheapest option for getting between the two places and tourists regularly travel between Uyuni and La Paz without significant problems.

Only night buses operate the route at night. There are daily departures to and from La Paz.

 

Bus Services

There are a number of companies running the route, and the level of the service varies significantly.

Some buses operating the route are in a very poor state of repair, with frequent break-downs. They can also be overcrowded and lack heating and toilet facilities. Thefts are also common on the route, so it is advisable to have luggage locked and watch it whenever possible. That said, the low-end public buses are usually the most cost effective way to make the journey, and are accordingly popular with the local indigenous population. They typically run only as far as Oruro at a cost of $3-4, from where a connecting bus to La Paz can be caught.

Other buses, such as Trans Omar, Panasur and Todo Turismo, provide a much more tourist-focused service, providing their customers with a small meal and hot drinks, heating, toilet facilities, and English-speaking staff members. Offering a superior level of comfort, some of these bus companies even have fully-reclining cama beds (though their availability is sporadic).

Tourist buses run daily between Uyuni and La Paz, leaving from Uyuni at 7.30pm, 8pm and 8.30pm and from La Paz at 8pm. The bus costs between $15-$25, depending on which bus company and seat type you choose.

Due to the quality of the road, it is not always possible for buses to run during the wet season (with March / April being the worst months). Due to their focus on safety, the above mentioned tourist buses tend to be the first companies to suspend their services in the event of poor travel conditions.

The majority of bus companies in Uyuni can be found on or near the corner of Cabrera St. and Arce Av. La Paz’s Terminal de buses is where you will find bus companies servicing the La Paz – Uyuni route.

 

Booking Your Bus Ticket

To ensure a seat on the bus between Uyuni and La Paz it’s highly recommended to book your ticket in advance (especially if you are wanting a fully reclining seat). You can book online using the following:

Train between Uyuni and La Paz

There is a train service which runs between Uyuni and Oruro, with connecting buses making the 4 hour journey between Oruro and La Paz.

There are two trains operating the route between Uyuni to Oruro per week, offering 4 services per week. They are operated by FCA:

Expreso del Sur: faster and more punctual of the two trains

Wara Wara del Sur: slightly slower, but correspondingly cheaper.

Schedule & Prices

oruro to uyuni train schedule and prices

Buying tickets

Tickets for the Uyuni – Oruro train can booked online using the following:

Alternatively tickets can be purchased from the FCA office at Uyuni station (Av. Ferroviaria, corner with Av. Arce), or by calling (591-2)6932153.

You can check the latest schedule on the FCA website.

Tickets for the ejecutivo class go on sale one month before the departure date, salon class tickets go on sale 1 week before departure, and popular class the day before departure.

Traveling between Oruro and La Paz

There are frequent daily buses traveling between Oruro and La Paz. The journey takes roughly 3-4 hours and costs around Bs. 45 ($7 US). To get between the bus station and train station in Oruro, you can take a taxi.

 

Flying between Uyuni and La Paz

Flights between Uyuni and La Paz are operated by Amazonas and TAM.

Airline Amazonas

Amazonas fly between Uyuni to La Paz daily. Their departures are currently as follows:

Uyuni – La Paz

  • Mon – Fri: 7.15am (arrive 8am), 2.20pm (arrive 3.30pm) and 7.45pm (arrive 8.30pm)
  • Sat & Sun: 7.15am (arrive 8am) and 7.45pm (arrive 8.30pm)

La Paz – Uyuni

  • Mon – Fri: 6am (arrive 6.45am), 1.30pm (arrive 2.10pm) and 6.30pm (arrive 7.15pm)
  • Sat & Sun: 6am (arrive 6.45am) and 6.30pm (arrive 7.15pm)

Flights cost between 1016 Bs ($149) and 1143 Bs ($167). Flights can be booked through the Amazonas website.

TAM

TAM, Bolivia’s military airline, fly between Uyuni to La Paz on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. These flights are via Sucre. There is a flight search feature on TAM’s website, but it doesn’t seem to be operational. Bookings can be made by calling 901-10-5510 or (2)2681111. Bookings can also be made in TAM offices, but note that TAM only have offices in La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Sucre and Tarija, not in Uyuni. Some travel agents / tour companies will be able to make the booking on your behalf.

 

An Alternative Route between Uyuni and La Paz

If you have a bit of time to spare, there is an alternative to travelling direct between Uyuni and La Paz. Rather than travel direct, there are a couple of alternative routes:

These routes are superior to the Uyuni – La Paz route as they are connected by Bolivia’s long overdue network of good quality, sealed roads. This means that bus journeys are significantly more comfortable, and this comfort is further enhanced by the fact most bus companies save their best buses for these smoother routes.

They routes also give you a chance to visit two of Bolivia’s popular tourist destinations, the harsh mining town of Potosi and the country’s charming capital Sucre.

 

Accommodation and Tours

If you haven’t already, be sure to book your accommodation in La Paz as soon as possible to avoid missing out:

For budget accommodation in Uyuni we highly recommend staying at Piedra Blanca Backpackers Hostel. For something a little more up scale consider spending the night at Hotel de Sal Luna Salada.

And if you’re wanting to know more about booking a Salar de Uyuni Tour, please check out A Guide To Discovering Bolivia’s Awe-Inspiring Salt Flats.

If you have any advice you’d like to share about travelling between La Paz and Uyuni please leave a comment below:

Let's Discuss...

  1. Trina says:

    Do you happen to know if busses still run frequently between Oruro and La Paz on Sundays?

    • brigid says:

      Hi Trina. As far as I’m aware busses still run fairly frequently between Oruro and La Paz on Sundays. Tickets Bolivia show Trans Atlas busses leaving from Oruro to La Paz at 6am, 9am, 12pm, 1.30pm and 4.30pm. Hope that helps and safe travels.

  2. Manuela says:

    Hello! thank you for the very useful article! we are travelling in February, we ar getting a flight from Cusco to La paz on the 8th morning and should be in Uyuni by the 9th morning, do you think it can e feasible by bus o train? Second question is, given the rainy season will we be sure that we can get to Uyuni taking the bus to Oruro and then the train?

    Thank you!

    • brigid says:

      Hi Manuela. The train from Oruro to Uyuni during the rainy season is a fairly reliable option, more so than taking the night bus from La Paz to Uyuni which can be delayed due to wet weather.

  3. Elena says:

    Is it necessary to book these buses in advance? And if so, how far in advance? We will be travelling round trip La Paz to Uyuni next month and we are wondering if we should go ahead and purchase tickets. We are currently in the US, however, so we are wondering if it will be cheaper to wait until we are in La Paz to book. Any recommendations?

    • brigid says:

      Hi Elena. Usually you can book your bus ticket up to 1 day in advance without problem from the local bus terminal – a cheaper option than booking online. If you’re schedule is very tight however, you might want to book your tickets via an online travel agent such as Kanoo Tours just in case buses do fill up.

  4. Taco says:

    Hi there,

    We’re also travelling in June through Bolivia, we are entering the country via La Paz then up to Uyuni or maybe viceversa …but now the Challenge how to get to the iguazu falls?

    Thanks, Taco

    • brigid says:

      Hi Taco. We traveled from Bolivia to Iguazu using the following route: Uyuni – San Pedro de Atacama – Salta – Cafayate – Cordoba – Iguazu Falls – Buenos Aires. Hope that helps 🙂

  5. Michelle says:

    We’re travelling the Uyuni>La Paz route in June 2016 after we complete the 3D/2N trip across Salar and are trying to make a decision between Todo Turismo and Panasur. From most online sources, it seems that the Todo Turismo tourist buses with semi-cama are in better shape and are therefore safer and more comfortable. However, I’ve also read that Panasur can be more comfortable not only because of the fully reclining camas as you point out, but also because they take a shorter route, which traverses more paved roads. Is this accurate?
    Given the time of year we are travelling, wet roads is probably not something we need to worry about too much. What is your recommendation?
    Thanks, Michelle

    • brigid says:

      Hi Michelle. From what I understand, Todo Turismo’s bus is the better option. While Panasur’s tickets are cheaper, the bus company don’t offer any food or assistance during their bus rides. Both bus companies take the same route to and from Uyuni, do be aware it is a bumpy ride!

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