Cusco To Uyuni Made Easy: How to Get to the Bolivian Salt Flats

For many exploring the wonders of South America, the journey from Cusco to Uyuni is almost a rite of passage for those coming to the end of their adventure in Peru, and beginning a new one in the beautiful country of Bolivia. Travelers have several options to choose from when deciding what method of transport to take across the border. A flight can be a fantastic way to reduce the journey duration, but will undoubtedly be costly. Taking a bus can minimize costs significantly, but can be limiting for those traveling on a tight schedule. We recommend that everyone intending on traveling to the salt flats checks out the official Salar de Uyuni site for an abundance of information to get you ready for your journey!

Group of travelers jumping at Bolivian salt flats after journey from Cusco to Uyuni

Cusco to Uyuni by Plane

Flights from Cusco to Uyuni are most definitely expensive, with the majority of flights tending to cost in excess of $400 and requiring many layovers along the way. Only 3 airlines currently fly into Uyuni airport, with very few flights landing in the airport daily. The majority of comparison websites suggest flight plans with stops at Lima and La Paz, meaning total travel time often totals at 12+ hrs once layovers are included, making traveling this way more than a little bit tedious.

Travelers have the option to take a plane to La Paz before continuing onto Uyuni by bus, which may reduce the cost of the journey somewhat. Buses from La Paz to Uyuni take 9 hours, so night buses tend to be the more popular choice.

In general, this method of transport can be very expensive and doesn’t exactly reduce the journey duration significantly enough to make the investment worth it. Obviously it depends on your budget, but this travel option could be out of the price range of many wanting to explore the Bolivian salt flats.

Cusco to Uyuni by Bus

Taking the journey by bus can most definitely provide a more cost effective method of reaching the salt flats on a budget. The journey is often split into two sections: Cusco to La Paz and then La Paz to Uyuni. Buses from Cusco to La Paz often stop in Puno and Copacabana to break up the journey. Bolivia Hop offer this service for $49 or $39 if you can do without the stop in Puno. The flexibility of Bolivia Hop and the range of passes they offer makes them quite an attractive service provider for this leg of the journey.

The bus from La Paz to Uyuni can be a little more complicated, depending on how you want to travel. Many travelers take a night bus to the salt flats meaning that buses featuring beds or partial beds tend to be the most popular. However, these options can be more expensive. The average bus price tends to be between $15-$20, meaning the total journey by bus comes to between $54 and $59.

The total travel time by bus is about 32 hours, depending how much time is spent at different stop-offs along the way. Although the journey duration is somewhat longer than taking a flight to Uyuni, the money saved when choosing to travel by bus is quite significant, potentially making this a more attractive option along with the cool destinations you can spend time at on the way to Uyuni!

Salar de Uyuni at Night

Cusco to Uyuni by Train

Another, potential option is to take the journey by train, or partly by train anyway. There are no trains from Cusco to La Paz meaning a bus is necessary for this leg of the journey. To get a train to Uyuni you must depart from Oruro meaning, you guessed it, another bus! This time the bus is only 3 hours, and leaves every 30 minutes from La Paz so it’s not too tedious.

From Oruro, the train journey begins. Wara Wara del Sur and Expresso del Sur both operate services to Uyuni which shouldn’t cost more than $10. The route itself passes through the Bolivian Altiplano, where the Andes are at their widest, making the journey itself quite incredible! The train journey should last around 7 hours meaning the total travel time comes in at around 34 hours, similar to the bus from Cusco to Uyuni method.

The Best Option for you?

Whatever method you do choose though, safe travels and enjoy the Bolivian Salt Flats of Salar de Uyuni! For more information about the salt flats and how best to prepare for them, make sure to visit the official page at Safe travels!