The Lonely Planet and the Colque tours:
If you are a Lonely Planet addict, you won’t probably have any doubts about the best travel agency for yor trip across the salar. Well, I chose Colque tours, as well (it was not my fault, it was my friend’s one), but there’s is something you have to know.
First: Colque is the biggest travel agency there, so they have at least seven cars for each tour, that means about 49 tourists and 7 drivers; no cocineras on board. Then...well, when we stopped (like about 150 other tourists in the same moment) at “isla de pescado” for lunch, I wandered around looking which kind of food was served with other agencies...I’m still dreaming of a wonderful “insalata di pasta” that I saw in Tonino tours dishes. Third: if you travel with Colque you’ll have to spend a night at Colque hotel in Chuvica. It’s one of the ugliest building one can imagine on the border of the salar. Moreover, it someting like staying in “colonia” .... sorry, I cannot translate.
But I cannot omit a detail: the sopa Emilio, the driver, made for dinner (the second night) was one of the best I ate there; same for the vegeterian ragu we had with spaghetti...just onions and tomates, but really great.
Fun Alternatives: Travel with Tonito tours and you'll have a great insalata di pasta!
Well, we were sort of trapped here. It was very early in the morning and we were given some time to soak in the natural hot pools of the area while they prepared breakfast. Believe me, no one wanted to get out of here and all thought breakfast should be served poolside. ;=>
Avoid this company like hell:
-Departure delayed for hours with no explanation. The owner hid in the Tonito Tours office rather than talk to us
-Sour driver with very little English
-Cook (Conception) was rude and was cooking tea for herself while we were left freezing in unheated room
-Overnight in Atulcha (outside the Salar) instead of San Juan
Unique Suggestions: Use other companies for the Salar tour. We heard good things about Esmeralda, bad stuff re Tonito Tours.
Fun Alternatives: Check the tourist office book of complaints and compliment before you book your tour. We discovered it afterwards and would never have used Janeth.
Unfortunately I can´t recommend a better tour guide, maybe our guide was ok, we only had bad luck...but let me just tell:
We did a half a day tour into the Salar, visiting the hotel de sal and thought also about going until the little "oasis" in the lake, when a wheel out of order stopped the journey. But what did they do? First waited half an hour for another jeep, but the others didn´t want to help, than our driver started to repair the problem, but that sloooowly... we lost two hours at least....
We had a female guide, very friendly, just to friendly, all the time talking and explaining, but nothing happened....so, my only advice: don´t let you twist around the finger by the guide...:-)
At least she did a sightseeing tour in Uyuni with us when we came back...hehe, Uyuni is not really big.... and we visited a museum with her as guide.....
Unique Suggestions: So, check up the jeep, check up the conditions and again, don´t let you twist around the finger, they can talk very well, all of them.... :-)
But thats not to take anything away from the area, and the people and animals that inhabit this part of Bolivia, Take time to explore the small towns and like this photo the little church yards that you come across
If you ever find yourself needing to book a tour to Salar de Uyuni, NEVER BOOK WITH ‘SUMAJ JALLPA’. Why?
- Their 4x4 is crap. We were over taken by every other jeep throughout the 3 days, and it seemed to be constantly overheating as the driver had to stop on several occasions to air it out and give the car a rest.
- We were promised breakfast on the first day ... no such thing!
- They do not have enough food for everyone. On the Sunday, at lunch, the food ran out so Renu was left with dry pasta for lunch (luckily Nico was sweet enough to share his meat), and in the evening we were all given a very measly portion of spaghetti, that didn’t even ‘fill a hole in the belly’.
- They advertise English speaking guide but poor Ricardo couldn’t understand a word we were saying.
- We asked the tour agent to book us two bus tickets with a specific company to get to Potosi but when we came back on Monday, we were surprised to see that they hadn’t booked anything yet so asked them again and off she went. We ended up in the worst local bus the day after (7 hours to Potosi...) because there were no more seats in the bus we wanted and they had 3 days to book that for us... She lied to us about the bus we wanted to take to be brokenand took a 25% commission on the tickets fare.
Unique Suggestions: Take plenty of food and drinks, a warm sleeping bag and warm clothes.
Fun Alternatives: Try Andes Salt Expeditions, the guides could speak English, was friendly and the food was plenty and looked good. Most of all, don't go for a cheap tour cause you'll have surprises with the car, the food, etc...
more than a tourist trap itself be aware of the agency you choose to visit it... the place is stunning! if you choose to go, I recommend Licancabur agency, we had a great time, great guide, good price, good and abundant food, max 6 people in a 4x4.
Avoid Colque Tours it may be a little cheaper than others but the quality of service is much lower, people squashed in the cars - up to 8, rushed tours and, most of all they are not reliable. do not believe a word they say, have them put it in writing, we were promise full reimburse for the cancellation of a tour which we never received, despite having contacted directly the owner of the owner of the agency to explain the situation -- and their promises!! Very poor customer service.
I had an excellent tour. I booked with Swiss Bolivian adventures based in La Paz, and they just took all the hassle away and arranged everything from the bus ticket from La Paz to the hotel in Uyuni and the tour on the Salar. On return I booked my jungle trip with them they were so good!