First: renting a car to visit the Uyuni salt flats is for advanced travelers only. This is not an easy place to drive, and it is a very remote place where minor repairs or other nuisances could leave you stranded and alone. If you’re off of the typical tour paths, you could go days without seeing other people.
There are other ways to visit Uyuni without a tour, if that’s your primary motivation!
We discourage most people from driving on the salt flats by themselves! More on that later…
Can I Rent a Car in Uyuni?
You typically cannot rent a car in Uyuni itself.
The city is overrun with 4x4s, but tour agencies control them, and many drivers are just contractors–they don’t own the vehicles to rent out privately.
That means, if you’re interested in renting a car to visit the Uyuni salt flats, you will need to rent it either in La Paz or Sucre. You’ll also very likely have to return it to that same city once you’re done with it.
Where can I Rent a Car in Bolivia?
In La Paz, there are a few places that will rent:
In Sucre, the following places may have rentals for the Salar de Uyuni:
Things to Ask Before Renting
Always be sure that you tell the agency that you’ll be using the car to drive on the salt flats, and ask that the insurance you’re purchasing covers you for it.
Typical insurance won’t cover driving on the salt flats, and many companies will flat out prohibit it altogether.
Most insurance policies only cover minor scratches and dents, it’s worth asking about, and possibly asking for, additional coverage for the vehicle.
Cons of Driving & Precautions to Take
There are many cons to driving on the salt flats, including but not limited to:
- How remote the Salar de Uyuni is
- How rough driving on salt is for vehicles
- Aggressive driving habits in Bolivia, generally
- Lack of cell service and internet
- Poor driving conditions in the rainy season
- Lack of established/designated roads in most areas
Another noteworthy con to driving on the salt flats is the cost–expect to drop $1000 minimum for a 4×4’s weekly rent. This may not even include gas and additional costs for driving to Uyuni itself.
Where Can I Drive Onto the Salt Flats?
It’s very important to understand some nuances about driving on the salt flats as well.
First, you can’t drive onto the salt flats wherever you’d like, most of the boundary of the salt flat is quite soft and will result in your 4×4 sinking into the salt “sand”.
There are several “entry points” where the salt is harder and you can safely enter without stranding your vehicle.
The most common entry point, and the one closest to Uyuni is near the town of Colchani. Know where you’re going to get off, and know the GPS coordinates as well.
Have Fun with It!
Finally, if you do decide to take the leap and rent a car in Uyuni, have a great time doing it! Ask the locals where they’d go. Spend some extra time on the salt flats or taking photos.
Stay for sunset or stargazing, but only once you know where you’ll be driving off and where you’ll be sleeping!