Despite Uyuni’s relatively high stature around the world for being a can’t-miss natural wonder of the world, it’s still a place with a humble background. One of the ways it shows those humble beginnings is in the relative lack of banks and ATMs in the town of Uyuni.
For example, as recently as a few years ago, there was only one ATM in the town of Uyuni: the ATM next to the BCP bank.
Now, there are a few more ATMs in the city, at the branches of banks that have since opened. They work with foreign cards, but can be a bit moody. Whether they’ll work or not will also depend on your bank from back home–it’s tough to predict how specific combinations will work beforehand!
Having said that, the BCP, Banco Union, BNB and Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz are major banks that tend to play nice with foreign cards in ATMs.
Regardless, it’s a good idea to have at least a little bit of cash on-hand when possible when traveling to Uyuni. Some tour operators and hotels may accept credit cards, but it’s probably a 50/50 chance at best for budget providers, and you have little chance of having credit cards accepted outside of tours and hotels.
There are also no ATMs in any of the destinations frequented by multi-day salar de uyuni tours. Plan accordingly!
Where Can I Exchange Money in Uyuni?
Banks typically aren’t the first choice to exchange money in Bolivia. Rates are relatively high, and money exchanged in the street is generally reliable and safe.
In Uyuni, there are change houses (casas de cambio) that offer a comfortable intermediate along Av. Potosí–choose the one that looks most trustworthy. Don’t forget to ask them to stamp your bills!
Some hotels, tours, and shops may change dollars, but will not offer competitive rates.
In Uyuni, like most of Bolivia, the U.S. dollar reigns supreme, and gets competitive rates of exchange in banks, casas de cambio and on the street.
Other overseas currencies, like Pounds and Euros, may be received in some places, but likely aren’t worth it to exchange.
Similarly, other currencies from South America, including Chilean Pesos, may be accepted for exchange in Uyuni, but rates are poor, and these should be exchanged before arriving to Uyuni.
An easy strategy is to always keep a few crisp U.S. $20 bills as backup, just in case. We hope you won’t need to thank us for it!