Did you catch my Ultimate Guide to Salar de Uyuni earlier this week? If not stop right now and head over there for all you need to know about visiting Bolivia’s most popular attraction. Been there done that? Then keep reading for my guide on what to pack for the Uyuni Salt Flats.
I’ve deliberately omitted which clothes to pack as I think this is pure personal preference. So long as you have some warm clothes that you don’t mind getting ruined, a long sleeve top and a pair of hiking boots the rest is up to you. Here are some of the essentials that came in really handy when I visited.
Lip balm – Because oddly enough the world’s largest salt flat wreaks havoc with your lips.
Coins – ATMs were hard enough to come by in La Paz, never mind in the middle of the desert. In addition to some small notes for attractions such as Fish Island and Laguna Colorada take some coins for when nature calls, to buy an overpriced Coke from the rest stop and to tip your driver at the end of the tour.
Toilet roll – Pretty self-explanatory and you definitely don’t need telling if you’ve already spent any time at all in South America.
Hand sanitiser – The flats are a dusty place and your hands will get grubby really quickly. Also this is South America and many toilets barely have a sink let alone soap.
Thermals – We visited South America during the summer so our thermals were mostly just an annoyance that I wish I’d left at home. They did come in handy in Uyuni though – it gets super cold at night, even in the middle of summer. We didn’t need one but I’ve also seen a lot of people recommending bringing a sleeping bag or blanket as the temperature can drop to -20 in the winter and the hostels obviously don’t have central heating.
Flip flops – For walking across (or wading through) the disgusting bathroom floors if nothing else.
First aid kit – Your tour operator should keep sufficient medical supplies for emergencies however your trip will be much more comfortable if you pack your own small kit of painkillers, diarrhea pills, bandages, car sickness pills etc.
Water – Combine some pretty intense altitude and being in the saltiest place on Earth and as well as some spectacular views you’re going to get dehydrated. You will get some water with your meals but it won’t be enough to keep you properly hydrated and buying bottles at the rest stop is expensive.
Snacks – This is particularly important if you’re vegan or following any kind of restrictive diet, but snacks are a good idea for anyone. Our portion sizes were good, but with all that hiking at altitude you’re going to need some extra fuel. The long car rides can be boring too and we all know that a bag of crisps is the best remedy to boredom.
Torch – Electricity won’t always be available so a head torch is particularly useful for midnight bathroom runs and navigating your way to the jeep in the early morning.
Playing cards – Having to ditch Wi-Fi in favour of actually interacting with people sounds like the kind of thing nightmares are made of, but playing cards make it less daunting. You’re guaranteed to be the most popular person on the tour if you pack a boredom killer too.
Towel – On the last day of the tour we were taken to a thermal hot spring to watch the sun rise. But while stripping down to a bikini in the biting cold might not seem very appealing, it was so glorious. Especially after not showering in days.
Camera (and spare batteries) – As I’ve mentioned before electricity is scarce so pack some spare batteries to make sure you’re armed with Instagram content for your return… 😉
A hat – They may be hideous but those fake alpaca wool hats that seem to be a staple in every gringo’s wardrobe actually come in really useful. They keep you warm at night and stop your head from burning through the day.
Props – For the perspective pictures. Your tour will provide some but we wanted to bring our own. Step in, Brian the Alpaca.
Sun cream – Such an obvious one but an absolute essential when you’re out on that huge white reflective surface.
Sunglasses – Again, especially out on the salt flats where it gets really bright.
Scarf – As well as keeping you warm a scarf can double up to cover your nose and mouth so you don’t breathe in quite as much dust.
Wet wipes – Hot water is only available between certain hours of the day in your hostel, you’ll have to pay for it and it almost certainly won’t be anywhere near approaching warm. So I’d just cut your losses, pack some wet wipes and dry shampoo and slum it for a few days.
A plastic bag – For wet clothes and clothes that are covered in an inch-thick crust of salt. Also if you’re anything like me it might come in handy on those long, bumpy car journeys…
Have I missed anything from this list? Let me know your essential packing list for the Uyuni Salt Flats.