Updated: 1 August 2019

Please note that the route in train between Villazon and Tupiza is functioning again since 28 July 2019.

The trip from Villazon to Uyuni is one of the favorites of tourists coming from Argentina in the months of December and January, a must for those who want to reach Uyuni by bus or train. Villazon is a border town with a population of 30,000, located at 3,400 meters above sea level. It is a few miles from the Argentinian town of La Quiaca, which has a population of 18,000. The climate is warm in the day and chilly at night. Here are  5 tips for making your trip from Villazon to Uyuni perfect and decide the best way to get to Uyuni. 

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Salar de Uyuni

1. Take your time crossing the border

The border crossing between La Quiaca and Villazon is open 24 hours. Nevertheless, the attention at their offices for migration paperwork (sealing of travel documents, tourist visas, etc.) are open between 7:00 am and midnight (12:00). It is important that travelers take into account this schedule in order to enter Bolivia legally. Another thing to keep in mind is that, during high season (December-January) the amount of people crossing the borders is enormous, causing lines up to 6 hours long at the migration offices. This, especially in the days close to Christmas and new Years. 

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Border La Quiaca-Villazon

2. Train to Uyuni

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There are pros and cons with each option, but in general trains are the preferred form of transportation by tourists due to its comfort . In order to travel by train, the options are Expreso del Sur and Wara Wara del Sur. Their schedules are as follows:

  • Expreso del Sur: Wednesdays and Saturdays at 15:30. The train makes a stop in Tupiza.
  • Wara Wara del Sur: Mondays and Thrursdays at 15:30 The train makes a stop in Tupiza.

The train station in Villazon is located here:

fca- villazon

Due to floods and heavy rains, the route between Villazon and Tupiza has been under repair for over 1.5 years. For travelers who want to take the train from Tupiza, they can easily find a public bus, shared taxi from the ex-terminal in Villazon. Taxis and buses leave when they are full which is about every 30 minutes-1 hour. It is an informal way of transportation. More regular buses leave from the main bus terminal in Villazon. The route between Villazon and Tupiza lasts about 1.5 hours.

Trains depart Tupiza as follows:

  • Expreso del Sur: Wednesdays and Saturdays at 18:25. The train makes a stop in Atocha.
  • Wara Wara del Sur: Mondays and Thursdays at 19:05. The train makes a stop in Atocha.

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3. Villazon to Uyuni by bus

Buses leave from the new bus terminal of Villazon located here.

Bus schedule from Villazon to Uyuni

Bus Company Seat class Time of departure Time of arrival Price Additional information
Auto Transporte Tupiza Semi lie-flat 08:00 15:00 US$ 7.30 Goes via Tupiza
Exp. 11 de Julio Normal 16:00 23:00 US$ 7.30 Goes via Tupiza
Auto Transporte Tupiza Semi lie-flat 16:00 23:00 US$ 7.30 Goes via Tupiza

4. Take into account the climate and altitude

Both Uyuni and Villazon are located at altitudes above 3,000 meters above sea level. This generates conditions that travelers should take into account in order to enjoy their trip without health problems. In order to assuage the effects of altitude in the body, fr example, you should not engage n heavy physical activity, drink too much liquids nor eat heavy meals, especially at night. A cup of coca-leaf tea can do much to improve the symptoms, which can include dizziness, shortness of breath and headaches.  

Also keep in mind that the climate conditions can be very similar to those in deserts: very hot in the day, and cold at night. It´s important to have warm clothes for the evenings, and light ones for the daytime. Also, due to the altitude and landscape of Uyuni, it is very important to have sunblock and sunglasses in order to avoid damage from the sun´s radiation. 

Tupiza, Bolivia
Cañón del Duende, Tupiza – Jan Beck via Wikimedia Commons

5. Don’t miss out on the surroundings!  

If you have time, make a stop in Tupiza, made famous by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This small town doesn’t lack charm and is a particularly good spot for those who enjoy hikes in wild, but safe, environment.

From Tupiza it is also possible to do a 4-day tour of the Salt Flats, which is a less touristic route and has the added advantage to stop at the sites at different times than the other tours coming from Uyuni or San Pedro. Tours from Tupiza are slightly more expensive, due to the extra day but are a good option for those coming this way and heading to Uyuni.

Not far from Villazon and Uyuni are the colonial cities of Sucre and Potosi, very popular tourist destinations that stand out for their beautiful architecture, rich historical interest and warm inviting climate. Both cities have been declared Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO. On the other hand, at only 10 hours from Uyuni is the city of La Paz, one of the 7 Wonder cities of the world due to its unusual topography, great night-life and cultural heritage. If you’re traveling between Villazon and Uyuni, don’t miss out on these destinations.

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