Deciding what to pack for Salar de Uyuni can be challenging. This stunning destination is incredibly remote, and at such a high altitude you’ll experience some extreme temperatures you’ll need to plan for.
Much of what to bring to Salar de Uyuni will depend on how you plan to travel. Are you planning on a multi-day jeep tour of the area (highly recommended!), or just visiting for a day or two and staying at a hotel in Uyuni? Or something in between?
This ultimate packing list for Salar de Uyuni includes some of our travel favorites – the tried and tested things we’ve used over the years as expats and backpackers, plus the specific items we had (or wished we had!) when visiting Salar de Uyuni.
We’ll also cover season-specific items to pack for Salar de Uyuni, and some travel safety gear you should never leave home without.
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Backpacks and Luggage for Salar de Uyuni
Depending on how you plan to visit Salar de Uyuni, you may want to choose a different way to pack. Check out these recommendations for what you’ll need when visiting the Salt Flats.
For our 4-day Salar de Uyuni jeep tour, I got away with a North Face Daypack, which was the PERFECT bag for this kind of trip. Even though during most of your trip to Uyuni your backpack will be in the jeep, it’s good not to have too large a bag, especially when on a group excursion.
The North Face Daypack I’ve had for years is my favorite backpack by far, great for traveling or just toting your laptop around.
You’ll also be fine bringing your larger backpacking backpack on the multi-day jeep tours of the Uyuni area, though it’s preferable to store them at a hotel in Uyuni and just bring a daypack if your travel itinerary allows for it.
The Osprey lifetime warranty was huge for us, and you know when you purchase one of these bags you’ll never need to buy another one again.
If you’re traveling to Uyuni for just a day or two and staying in town, bringing luggage is fine!
I wouldn’t recommend bringing luggage if you’re planning on a multi-day tour, unless you can stash your luggage at a hotel in Uyuni and head out with a daypack.
These are the hotels we always recommend in Uyuni, all of which will gladly store your luggage for you:
Travel Essentials for Salar de Uyuni
Never heard of a Steripen? These water sanitation pens are a game changer for international travel. Stick the UV light into any water, swirl it around for a few seconds until you hear a beep, and the water is safe to drink.
You’ll save money on bottled water when you travel internationally, and cut down on your single-use plastic consumption. They’ll pay for them selves in just one trip.
Water Bottle with Filter
Even with my Steripen, I also like to carry a water bottle with a filter when I travel, especially when I’m out and about for the day. These Lifestraw filtering water bottles are genius; you fill them with any water sources and when you suck through the straw, the water is filtered and ready to drink.
If you’re headed out on a multi-day jeep tour of the Salt Flats and beyond, you’ll likely need a sleeping bag.
You won’t be camping, but it can get so cold at night that you’ll need a sleeping bag under the sheets and blankets at your accommodation. We used ours every night!
You don’t need to pack these from home – the tour companies have them – though keep in mind you’ll want to make sure they’re included, or ask to rent them for the tour.
Sleeping Bag Liner Sheet
If the thought of using a rented or borrowed sleeping bag creeps you out, grab an inexpensive sleeping bag liner sheet to bring with you. They fold up to next to nothing, and you can reuse them for camping or even in hotels.
White Noise Machine
A tiny, portable sound machine can make such a difference when you’re sleeping somewhere new. The places we stayed while on our Salar de Uyuni jeep tour were in remote towns and very quiet, but I always travel with one because I never know what to expect.
It’s like a tiny insurance policy for your sleep while traveling.
Even if you don’t usually sleep with an eye mask, bring one along when you travel. They can be a great way to make sure you’re getting enough sleep to enjoy your adventurous days, no matter where you’re visiting.
Reusable silicone ear plugs are another travel must for good sleep, as it can be hard to know if your accommodations will be noisy. Especially if you’re going to be staying in hostels, these can be a lifesaver. They’re also great on airplanes or public transportation.
I HIGHLY recommend bringing a travel towel for a trip to Uyuni. If you’re headed out on a multi-day jeep tour, accommodations will likely be very basic and not provide towels.
Plus, you’ll need a towel when visiting the hot springs. These microfiber, quick-dry travel towels fold down to next to nothing.
This cozy travel blanket is one of my more versatile travel items; it’s perfect for airplanes, as a picnic blanket, a beach blanket…. the list goes on and on. It also folds down to next to nothing.
Silicone Reusable Bags
There are a million travel uses for silicone reusable baggies. I use them to bring my jewelry, throw a wet swimsuit in my bag, keep passports and tickets safe and together, and store toiletries.
Plus, these aren’t just great for travel – I also use them at home to store food, pens and pencils… anything you can think of, really.
Clothing for Salar de Uyuni
The temperatures you’ll experience on the Salt Flats are extreme year round – remember, you’ll be at very high elevation here, so it’s generally chilly, but can get hot in the sun at times. The nights are downright frigid.
You’ll definitely want to dress in layers, and make sure you have plenty of clothes for the cold. This includes a hat, gloves, and scarf, though you may not end up using them all the time.
Hiking Boots or Sneakers
Hiking boots can be overkill at Salar de Uyuni, unless you’re planning on hiking Tunapa or going on a trekking excursion.
Don’t bring hiking boots just to travel to Salar de Uyuni – durable athletic sneakers will be fine. However, if you’ll have them with you for other travel experiences, bring them!
I’ve had the same Merrell hiking boots for over a decade now, and they’ve been to dozens of countries, and show no signs of quitting. Jose has some men’s Timberland hiking boots that he loves and recommends.
My go-to sneakers for travel at the waterproof Loom sneakers. For many trips I don’t even bother taking Chacos or water shoes anymore, as the Loom sneakers are truly waterproof, ultra comfortable, and look stylish even if you aren’t traveling.
Merino Wool Base Layer
My favorite outdoor recommendation is to use a merino wool base layer. This magic wool keeps you toasty when its cold out, and cool when it’s hot and sunny. At Salar de Uyuni where the weather can change quickly, this is exactly what you need to be comfortable throughout the day.
Here are our recommendations:
- Women’s Merino Wool Base Layer Top
- Women’s Merino Base Layer Bottom
- Men’s Merino Wool Base Layer Top
- Men’s Merino Wool Base Layer Bottom
Layer pants and a jacket over the base layer, and remove as needed. It’s the best way to stay cool / warm (and also protected from the sun).
Merino wool hiking socks are also a great idea for Salar de Uyuni. However, long, comfortable socks will work just as well. You’ll want to bring some extra pairs – we were somehow always getting our socks dusty or wet the entire journey.
Light Down Jacket
The Eastern Mountain Sports Feather Pack Jacket is a cult favorite so good that I straight up stole my husband’s and made it my own, with zero shame. These are light enough for a fall afternoon, but layer well for the dead of winter.
The best feature for travelers is that they are PACKABLE, and fold into a little pocket, taking up minimal suitcase / backpack space. This is a must for Uyuni!
If you’re not planning on packing a base layer, pack a few long sleeve cotton t-shirts for your trip to layer under your jacket.
Sweater or Sweatshirt
You’ll want a good, comfortable sweater or sweatshirt to layer with, especially in the cold evenings.
If you aren’t taking a merino wool base layer, a standard pair of leggings are your next best bet.
Remember, comfort is key while at Salar de Uyuni, and leggings will give you just that – plus, they can be layered under pants depending on the weather you experience.
Jeans or Pants
You’ll want something to keep you warm, and allow you flexibility and freedom of motion to walk, climb, and hike. If you don’t plan on hiking, just touring around, then hiking pants probably aren’t necessary.
Remember, if you are headed out on a jeep tour, you’ll be sitting in a car for a lot of the day, so make sure you’re going to be comfortable.
You will need gloves here, especially towards the evening where it can get quite chilly, even frigid. We love the North Face e-tip gloves that allow you to easily operate your phone or camera without taking your gloves on and off – they come in handy here.
At such high elevation, you’ll want something to keep you warm, but also keep the sun off of you. Bringing a sun hat, but also a beanie, is a good idea.
Yes, bring a bathing suit, despite the cold weather. If you’re headed out on a multi-day jeep tour, you’ll likely stop at the volcanic hot springs, and you’ll need to have your suit ready! Another reason why a good travel towel comes in handy.
Rainy season in Salar de Uyuni is from December to April, with December and January being the wettest months. If you’re traveling during the rainy season, these season items are MUSTS.
You NEED rain boots or waterproof hiking boots if you’re planning on traveling during the rainy season. When you’re on the Salt Flats, there is no way to jump around the water or avoid it, as the Salt Flats are extremely… well, flat.
I recommend L.L. Bean or Sperry duck boots, which tend to be comfortable enough for decent walking or climbing, and aren’t too heavy.
A decent rain jacket is an absolute necessity during the rainy season. You’ll be outdoors while in Salar de Uyuni (or on a jeep tour from outdoor site to outdoor site), and having a quality rain jacket will allow you to enjoy your time no matter the weather.
We’ve both had the same Columbia rain jackets for years, and can’t recommend them enough.
Toiletries and Personal Care Items for Salar de Uyuni
Located on Bolivia’s Altiplano – “High Plain” – the Salt Flats stand at a very high elevation, around 11,995 feet / 3,656 meters. You’ll burn fast here, even on a cloudy day. Make sure you have plenty of sunscreen on hand.
Lotion and Lip Balm
Even during the rainy season, the air is dry and thin, and you’ll need to slather yourself in lotion and lip balm at the end of a day in Uyuni. You can buy some in town at the pharmacy, or plan on bringing some from home.
If you’re planning on a multi-day jeep tour around Salar de Uyuni, bring soap! For some reason, a lot of the places we stopped along the way didn’t have soap, even in our accommodations. Throw an extra bar in your bag, or purchase one in town before leaving on your adventure.
A travel gear favorite, these silicone toiletry tubes for shampoo, conditioner, and lotion let you get every little drop out! Fill them with what you’ll need for the trip – the accommodations we stayed at during our jeep tour didn’t have shampoo or conditioner available either.
Aspirin / Ibuprofen
You might need some pain killer to help adjust to the altitude in Uyuni. You can buy some at the pharmacy in town, but make sure you bring some with you before you head out on a jeep tour – there are no pharmacies in the tiny, remote towns you’ll pass through on your journey.
I always like to travel prepared in case of an upset stomach, so I always pack some Imodium or a similar product just in case. We didn’t have any stomach issues while traveling in Bolivia, thankfully, but I recommend bringing this just in case.
I also like to travel with electrolyte powder packets, for the same reason. Throw a few in your bag and cross your fingers you’ll never need them.
Altitude Sickness Pills
You will feel the altitude here as soon as you arrive – the air is thin, and even just walking slightly up hill will make you out of breath.
Do as the locals do and drink coca leaf tea – you’ll find it everywhere here, and it really works! – but if you’d like, you can also grab altitude sickness pills from Amazon before your trip.
I’ve never taken them personally, but have heard good reviews from other travelers who were initially quite concerned about the effects of the altitude.
Feminine Hygiene Products
As I’ve said, there are no pharmacies along the jeep tour route once you leave from Uyuni, so make sure you have what you’ll need ahead of time.
Tech and Photography at Salar de Uyuni
Aux Cable or Bluetooth Speaker
Aux cable? Those still exist? Yes! If you’re headed out on a jeep tour, bring an aux cable (if your music-playing device has this port) to connect to the jeep’s radio – this is a must for the long drives.
If your device doesn’t work with an aux cable, bring a portable bluetooth speaker, for the same reason.
A good power bank (we love the Anker power banks!) is a necessity for travel. Especially if you’re headed out on a Salar de Uyuni jeep tour, a power bank will keep all your devices charged for the days in the car.
Travel Adapter / Converter
You may need a voltage converter or plug adapter when traveling to Bolivia – we did, with tech gear from the United States. We always travel with our favorite travel electrical adapter and converter – it has several USB ports and plugs, so it also serves as a power strip for hotels with annoyingly few outlets.
Our iPhones these days take such great photos, but we also love traveling with cameras – it just allows us to capture so much more. Especially at Salar de Uyuni. If you’re in the market for a travel camera, the Nikon Coolpix B500 digital point and shoot is our favorite for beginners.
For a DSLR that lets you get quite professional shots on the smallest Nikon camera body for a DSLR (perfect for travel, right?) opt for the Nikon Z 50 Mirrorless camera. It’s a gamechanger.
Camera Memory Card
Bring an extra memory card for your camera, and carry it with you. Don’t get stuck without a memory card in one of the most photographable spots on Earth.
Hotels and restaurants in Uyuni will have wifi, but if you head out on a jeep tour, you’ll be without wifi for the duration of the trip.
Bring a tablet (Jose loves his Amazon Fire tablet) with some shows, movies, or music downloaded if you don’t want to go “screenless” for your trip.
Wired Headphones and Headphone Adapter
If you don’t want to worry about your wireless headphones dying, bring wired headphones along – I usually have a pair of wired headphones I keep in my bag for travel, plus a wired headphone adapter if you need one.
Bring a headphone splitter if you’re planning on using wired headphones and want to share music or shows with your travel companion.
Drones are allowed in Uyuni and the surrounding areas, and if you bring your drone you’ll capture some incredible pictures of this wild landscape.
DJI drones are simply the best, and the photo and video quality you’ll get is worth the splurge.
If there is anywhere you want to travel with a small tripod, it’s Salar de Uyuni.
With the crazy perspective of the super-flat surface and the incredible mirror effect on the water, you’ll want to take some good pictures, and a tripod will help big time.
Travel Safety Gear for Salar de Uyuni
First Aid Kit
Having a basic first aid kit is a must for travel, especially somewhere as remote as Salar de Uyuni. When looking for what to pack for Salar de Uyuni, this is one of my number one items.
You can make your own – grab a pouch and add bandaids, gauze, painkillers, alcohol pads, etc. – or grab a simple travel first aid kit before you depart.
S-biner microlocks are probably my top favorite travel safety “hack” after I almost got my camera stolen in Ecuador. These tiny little s-biners can lock your backpack zippers together easily, providing just enough deterrence from petty crime to keep your stuff safe when traveling.
I always keep my luggage / backpack locked in airports or hotel rooms when I’m not there. I love locks with a flexible chain, as they fit everything, and they’re TSA safe.
When traveling solo as a female, I grabbed one of these inexpensive door stops with an alarm, and have traveled with it ever since.
You just jam it under your Airbnb or hotel room door, and if anyone tries to force your door open it makes an alarm, which is often more than enough to spook someone. It’s an inexpensive way to stay safe (and takes up no suitcase / backpack space).
I’m not a fan of money belts or special passport holders or anything like that – I just keep my bag clipped shut and close to me at all times, and I’ve never had any issue. However, a friend turned me on to the “passport scarf” and this is something I actually love and use.
This (actually cute) scarf looks like any other scarf, but has a secret pocket to hide your money, passport, phone… anything. They’re inexpensive, functional, and will definitely keep your stuff safe!
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.