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We found ourselves in a position that many others may have been in before. We needed to get from San Pedro De Atacama to Uyuni direct, without taking one of the many 3 day/2 night tours that are sold in town. There was very little information on this so we hope you find this of use.
There are two ways to get from San Pedro De Atacama to Uyuni direct:
1). A Direct Transfer
A couple of companies in town offer this service if they have the room. Tours that have started in Uyuni will often drop passengers at the border to cross over to Chile before the jeep returns to Uyuni. They will fill the seats with passengers wanting to do a direct transfer.
We went to ‘Salt Flat Expeditions’ opposite the ChilExpress post office. The lady that worked there was super helpful. They could not give the four of us a direct transfer, however she knew of two other companies offering the same. She rang another company ‘Pemela’ who also did transfers and we were good to go.
The cost is 30,000 CHP (Chilian) per person. You also need to have 150 BOB (Bolivian) per person for the National Reserve fees once in Bolivia.
You are picked up by minibus from your hostel/hotel between 7:30 and 8:00am and transferred to Bolivia. After immigration you switch to the 4×4 jeep which heads to Uyuni, stopping for lunch. Expect to arrive around 4:00pm.
Cruz del Norte busses leave San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni direct at 3am. Not the best time to depart but it is the cheapest option since you do not have to pay extra to pass through the national reserve.
An alternative service Atacama 2000 leaves nearby Calama at 8:00am on certain days. However, you would need to get to Calama first, so not a direct option from San Pedro de Atacama.
Hopefully this has given you the information needed for you to travel from San Pedro de Atacama to Uyuni direct. Safe travels.