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Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

Edmonton, Canada
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Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

One of the Bolivian tourist sites shows this as an active rail line. Everything I have found on it indicates it is a once weekly, very basic service that is unpredictable and uncomfortable .... if it is running at all. It does however travel an incredible route and if we can figure out how to get to Calama economically, might be worth going to the trouble to take.

Any recent reports?

Edmonton, Canada
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1. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

Tupiza Tours, the company we did our Bolivia/Northern Chile tour with shows it running twice weekly. You can see it here.... www.tupizatours.com/eng/tupiza_comollegar.php

If you do the 3 day salt flats tour you can choose to end it in San Pedro (instead of returning to Uyuni) and then just take a bus to Calama from there. This would be the easiest and fastest.

Santiago, Chile
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2. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

I am not sure where you can check if it is still taking passengers. It is basically a cargo train which tacks on a couple of passenger carriages once a week, used to be Wednesdays in the evening. I haven't seen anything posted by anyone who has taken it in a long time. I do remember it took nearly 24 hours once it had stopped at every village and broken down a couple of times. I have a feeling it doesn't take passengers anymore. There is a bus from Calama to Uyuni apart from the regular salt flat tours. I think both are worse alternatives to a three day tour through the salt flats if you are after scenery.

Edmonton, Canada
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3. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

Part of what we are after is the train ride so as uncomfortable as it may be it is still attractive. There are a few such rides in the Western Hemisphere, including the one not so far away in Salta, Argentina. We have done the Copper Canyon and the Whitepass & Yukon and many years ago, an engine ride through the Fraiser Canyon in the Canadian Rockies. This one gains a lot of altitude in some hard to see country using "mature" equipment. The breakdowns and grocery drop offs for some of us just add to the ride and photo opps.

I tried the Tupiza site and could not get it to load on my slow connection. What I am hoping to avoid is a jam packed rushed Cruiser tour (which may also be part of the "ride"). I understand a lot of the folks who offer these tours on the web are just brokers who fill up other company's vehicles. I prefer to book as directly as possible and to this end am inclined to explore options here, but not book until I am on the ground. Given that we are going to be there in October, overbooking and lack of reservations should not be an issue.

Thanks for the quick responses

Santiago, Chile
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4. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

I don't think you will find a crush of passengers trying to get on the train. As I say, I have a feeling it is no longer an option but you can check when you are in Calama. The train is very basic, I don't believe it has heating, which means you really need to bundle up.

Edmonton, Canada
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5. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

I finally have it through my thick skull what direction you want to go in. I'm pretty sure dancingmolly is right that it no longer operates. This is the website of the company that operates the Western Bolivian train system........ http://www.fca.com.bo/index.php

If you click on the map, they show their portion of the route you want but it doesn't show up as being a passenger route.

Stanley, Falkland...
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6. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

Have you tried the Man at Seat61.com?

Geneva, Switzerland
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7. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

Hello Bruce,

I was in Calama early July this year. I went to the train station to see what is there to see, unfortunately, their small museum was closed, as it is being shifted to a new location. The old, historic railway station will be razed to allow the road to be widened.. The train to Bolivia is only for cargo, they don't take any passengers. I wanted to travel Arica - Tacna by train, but also this services is disfunctional since some years. I was told it should re-open in 2016. To be seen. The only train ride I managed to do in this region is Orouru - Uyuni and the stunning Lima - Huancayo (once per month only). Happy travels!

Walter

Santiago, Chile
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8. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

Too bad about the CH-BO trains. I trained around Peru, Bolivia and Chile in the 70's and had a ball. Nice old wooden cars, Ice inside the train, ladies peeing beside the rails on stops or between cars while moving, contraband everywhere, magnificent vistas. There are some short routes being revived in central/south Chile, but in general it is all in decadence, mainly cargo.

Edmonton, Canada
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9. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

Thanks for the info Walter & Casey

I have seen some wonderful videos and pics of that ride up from the coast and was hoping (beyond hope it seems) that the schedule of this train trek had be lost in translation. Though beyond my ambitions, I also have seen some videos taken from inspection and cargo locomotives in Bolivia in places where passenger trains no longer move. I imagine the fares paid for those expeditions did not involve tickets.

We land in Santa Cruz in early October and have found no passenger trains moving west from there and will probably end up bussing it. It looks like we will have to make do with the Uyuni -> Orouru run in Bolivia. The Lima <-> Huancayo run in Peru might be very interesting if we can fit it in. I found this scheduling page for it: https:/…en_cronograma.html

Happy Trails

Bruce

Quito, Ecuador
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10. Re: Calama -> Uyuni Bolivia by train

From Calama to the Bolivian Border is no passenger train service available. From the Bolivian Border post at Abaroa leaves a cargo train with a passenger carriage every Monday and Thursday at 12:00 PM and arrives in Uyuni at 18:10 PM. Bring food and something to drink. Abaroa is in the middle of nowhere, there are no shops and restaurants and it can be freezing cold. The train trip to Uyuni is fantastic.

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