The journey from Cusco to Uyuni or Peru to Bolivia is quickly becoming one of the most traveled routes in all of South America and is now a rite of passage for those making the easy transition from Life as a traveler in Peru to that of one in Bolivia. There are several ways to cross the border from Bolivia to Peru. We have gone through all the best options so you don’t have to! Here’s all the information you’ll need to decide how you cross the border to the beautiful Bolivian countryside.
We recommend that all our readers take a lot at the official Salar de Uyuni webpage, a great source of official information on the incredible salt flats, travel tips and much more.
Cusco to Uyuni by Plane
By far the most expensive option, flights to Uyuni regularly cost more than $400 and can be fraught with hassle due to the number of layovers required. Both Cusco and Uyuni airports are very small with few flights departing and arriving at each respective airport daily. A scan through a flight comparison website or two will quickly make it obvious that a flight to the salt flats is a little bit more tedious than previously imagined.
The normal flight from Cusco to Uyuni tends to involve a stop at both Lima and La Paz, meaning a flight that on paper is short, can quickly have a long travel time, +12 hrs in many cases. Passengers have the option of looking to a bus for one leg of the journey to reduce the total cost. A night bus from Cusco to La Paz followed by a flight to Uyuni from the Bolivian capital may reduce costs a little and definitely seems more logical than flying to Lima in a geographical sense.
Although it may be a little more comfortable and hassle-free than a handful of South American bus journeys, there are few that find taking 3 flights to travel from one country to a bordering country enjoyable. In an economic and environmental sense, this method of transport just doesn’t seem a smart investment in our eyes.
Cusco to Uyuni by Bus
Making the journey from Cusco to Uyuni by bus is most definitely the most cost-effective option and is great for those looking to explore the Bolivian salt flats on a budget. Most taking on the journey split it into two sections: Cusco to La Paz and La Paz to Uyuni. For the first leg of this journey, we recommend taking the secure and efficient service of Bolivia Hop. For as $39 you can reach the Bolivian capital or if you would like to break up the journey further, a pass costing $49 will allow you to spend a night in the beautiful Puno, home to the incredible Lake Titicaca and its magical floating islands. We have found that Bolivia Hop’s flexibility along with the peace of mind that their service provides customers makes them an obvious choice for this section of the journey to Uyuni.
Once in La Paz, the next task to be tackled is getting a bus to Uyuni. The majority of these buses are included as part of a tour package but can also be purchased separately in La Paz for as little as $15-$20. You can get buses a little cheaper if you decide to choose a bus service without a bed or partial bed but we don’t recommend this. The journey to Uyuni is long and best taken at night to enjoy your time at the Salar de Uyuni the most and we all know a comfortable night’s sleep is a good night’s sleep!
Depending on how you decide to approach the journey; where you stop off and how long for, the journey averages out at about 32 hours and a total cost of $54-$59, a lot more reasonable than the $400+ required to reach the salt flats through the air. The journey takes a little bit more time, but we believe the savings outweigh this and makes this method of reaching the Salar de Uyuni a lot more attractive. The Peruvian/Bolivian countryside is also incredibly beautiful and not something to be passed up on. A bus journey may just be the perfect way to take it all in!
Cusco to Uyuni by Train
Peru’s rail infrastructure is very poor, meaning a train from Cusco to La Paz just isn’t an option. For this section of the journey, you will need to take a bus to La Paz. As mentioned before we recommend Bolivia Hop. A train to Uyuni departs from Oruro, which means we’ve to find a way of reaching the train station from La Paz. For this, you’ve guessed it, another bus! This time the journey only takes 3 hours on average to reach Oruro with buses leaving for Oruro frequently.
From Oruro there are two train services available that will get you to the salt flats; Wara Wara del Sur and Expresso del Sur. Train tickets tend to be quite cheap from Oruro and shouldn’t cost you more than $10. Just like the bus journey, the train passes through a variety of incredible terrain including the Bolivian Altiplano, a section of the Andean Mountain range where the terrain is at its wildest, making for some incredible viewing along the way. In total, From Cusco to Uyuni the journey should take approximately 34 hours, very similar in the length to the Cusco to Uyuni by bus duration and may be a little more comfortable.
The Best Option for you?
The best option to get from Cusco to Uyuni really does depend on the individual. We believe that a flight to the Salt Flats is too tedious and expensive to be considered as a feasible option. We recommend that a Bolivia Hop bus pass from Cusco to La Paz is best option to reach the Bolivian Capital, but from there it really depends on personal preference. A train journey may be a nice change after a long time spent on a bus reaching the capital, you decide!
Whatever method of getting from Cusco to Uyuni you do choose, we hope you have an incredible time at the Bolivian Salt Flats. We recommend that you check out the official Salar de Uyuni website for more important information on the salt flats and what you will need to know before you go. Safe travels!