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“Turned into a nightmare”

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Cristal Samana Salt Hotel
Ranked #4 of 10 Hotels in Uyuni
London, England, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Turned into a nightmare”
Reviewed March 25, 2013

Where to start? We booked to stay here as a treat as we were backpacking and fancied a bit of luxury. The rooms were beautiful and clean and the layout of the place is amazing. The breakfasts are great.

But that's where it ends. We paid extra to have meals included but on the first night we were given toast as part of our meal because they had only registered that one of us was vegetarian, not two (that's about $20 for toast). Also note that no drinks, not even soft drinks, are included in the 'all inclusive menu' - we weren't told this, even when invited to a 'welcome drink' of coca tea.

We booked a trip with them to see the salt flats. We wanted to learn about the landscape and discover what the salt is used for. We were driven around with a group of Japanese tourists and simply dropped off in a couple of similar locations to take photos while the 'tour guide' sat and chatted to his mates. He didn't tell us anything about the flats (this tour cost nearly $30 US per person).

And then we tried to check out. We asked the guys at reception if they would call a hostel in town to see if it was available. They told us their phone wasn't working, even though we saw them using it for other calls, then they told us there was no answer. We needed the loo shortly after we checked out - they told us there were no public toilets at the hotel and we couldn't use the one in our room because it had been cleaned and reallocated to someone else (it hadn't, it was on the ground floor so I popped my head through the window and it was just as we left it). We asked what time the bus left and they told us it didn't have a timetable. Basically we were being lied to constantly - it felt very much because this was because there was no further money to be made out of us.

The worst thing was the taxi. We asked them to book one for us to take us back to Uyuni. The cost was 200 bolivianos (£20), which was a bit steep but we had no choice (given that the bus had 'no timetable' - with hindsight we realise they told us this so they could make money out of us on the taxi). The taxi turned up and had brought a delivery of food for the hotel - a bit cheeky, we thought. Then the guys started loading our taxi up with more stuff to be taken into town [2 photos posted to prove this], including a gas canister (10 tourists were killed in uyuni in 2008 when two cars carrying gas canisters collided). They were using our taxi to ferry their goods, without asking us. We objected to this and suggested they pay towards our fare, seeing as they were using it. One man said yes, but another man got aggressive and said no we had to pay the full fare, which suddenly shot up to 280 bolivianos (£28). The man behind the desk then lied and said he'd never told us that the fare would be 200 in the first place.

We had a nightmare arguing that this was our taxi. The men were rude and intimidating, and accused us of lying. It took a long time but we eventually got the cab for the original price without any gas cannisters in the boot, but it left us exhausted and angry. I can't recommend this place.

  • Stayed March 2013
    • Value
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Helpful?
5 Thank Kate B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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218 reviews from our community

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Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (8)
Date | Rating
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  • Japanese first
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English first
Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed December 20, 2012

At the edge of the Salar de Uyuni sits an incredible salt block structure. We had no idea we were about to pass through the entrance doors into a "winter" wonderland. The floors are covered in salt crystals and the furniture is made from salt blocks including the bed bases. We visited in December and the interior was filled with amazing salt statues of snowmen, polar bears, Christmas trees, Santa Claus'... The walls and headboard areas are all decorated with salt sculptures of llamas, frogs, flamingos, zorros and birds. There are 3 wings of rooms extending from the central reception area that each terminate with a lovely stone fireplace. Our wing had a games room with a salt pedestal table topped by a chess set, a card table and two salt sofas with cushions for comfort. Ascend the salt staircase to find a circular dining room with many windows to view the salar. We had an enjoyable dinner the night we arrived and a buffet breakfast the next morning with many varieties of breads and cakes as well as cereals, fruit salad, natural juices and Bolivian coffee and assorted teas. The very friendly and welcoming manager, Giovanni, is a civil engineer and is overseeing an addition to the hotel. He is Bolivian so speaks Spanish but also speaks fluent English. This is the most unique place our family has ever stayed and will most definitely be a treasured and lasting memory. Fully recommend without hesitation!

Room Tip: We had 2 rooms at the end of a wing for our family of 5.
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  • Stayed December 2012, traveled with family
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
1 Thank Rachel C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
17 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
Reviewed September 6, 2012

My wife and I travelled to Bolivia on our honeymoon. We stayed at Cristal Samana for one night when we were at Uyuni.

We were vegetarians and sadly they had no vegetarian food for dinner. Fortunately, we had some of our own ready-to-cook food which, after obtaining permission from the very friendly keeper/manager/whoeverHeWas, we used.

It is great to see the salt walls, floors and sculptures.

We had a little trouble with the heater in our room but it was duly fixed. Would definitely recommend this place.

  • Stayed June 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
Thank Abhiram N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London
Level Contributor
19 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
Reviewed June 14, 2012

A beautiful hotel built of blocks of salt (which includes bedroom furnishing). It's located approximately 20 mins drive from Uyuni near Colchani at the rim of the salt lake. There was electric light all night long but the heating was switched off in the morning which made the breakfast room very cold. The hotel has land cruisers available for trips across the lake.

  • Stayed May 2012, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank guatemaya
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Erbil, Iraq
Level Contributor
76 reviews
23 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
Reviewed April 22, 2012

First things First..... Who exactly travels to the Salar de Uyuni. It's not a question but more a statement. No one comes here expecting a 5 star. The more concerning guests come here hoping that you arent thrown in with a bunch of unbathed noisey backpackers. At the Cristal Samana you wont be. This hotel is still what I consider a "work in progress" as it is far from being completely finished. It is unique, it is within walking distance of the salt flats, the beds were clean and served us up a restful nights sleep, the showers sported hot water, and the bar/dining room was spacious and had a great view of the surroundings. Being made completely out of salt is an extreame novality in my opinion. It will require constant reparirs and maintanence however it is new enough to give the travel a very unique experience on top of the uniquiness of the Salar itself. I was suprised by the Christmas theme inside the hotel. All in All, no complaints. It was part of a package that we were on so I am not real sure of the per night rate.

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank JRH152
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oslo
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed February 23, 2012

We expected a romantic stay at this salt hotel. The night we stayed turned out to be a disaster. Warning: The hotel was staffed with one adult and two 15- year-old children. The prize for a double room with private bathroom was expensive so we had great expectations regarding the comfort. However, the room and bedding were not clean. When pointing this out, the hotel manger sent the two children to clean the room. They had obviously not the done this before and the room, hence, remained dirty. The shower drain was close. We were not able to get a new room even though the hotel was not fully booked.

So, why did we choose to stay here for one night? We had really no choice as we arrived late at night at were not able to get a taxi back to Uyuni. We requested a discount, however, the hotel manger was not at all service minded and actually started a dispute. We cannot recommend this hotel.

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
5 Thank Kirstin H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers are raving about these Uyuni hotels

Montreal, Canada
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed February 22, 2012

We stayed one night at this hotel because it was included in our package. The rooms are of decent size and the beds are comfortable. There was a horrible sewer smell coming from our bathroom. We heard that it could get pretty cold at night so we were prepared with sweat pants and sleeping bags. However we found it wasn't that cold and the hotel offers heaters and heavy blankets. The hotel is in a desert so there is absolutely nothing around it. If you are spending a few nights bring some entertainment, however there is a game room in the hotel with cards and a chess board. The hotel is located at about a 20 minute walk from the salt flats which is convenient to watch the sun set.

  • Stayed January 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank sixdee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Cristal Samana Salt Hotel

Property: Cristal Samana Salt Hotel
Address: | Carretera de ingreso al salar a 4 Km de Colchani, Uyuni, Bolivia
Location: Bolivia > Potosi Department > Uyuni
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 10 Hotels in Uyuni
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3 star — Cristal Samana Salt Hotel 3*
Number of rooms: 54
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
A modern building constructed entirely with blocks of salt extracted from the salt flats.Our 27 double, triple and family rooms, all in suite have hot water and heating all day long, which distinguishes our quality.If you're planing to visit Bolivia, you must come to Uyuni and enjoy the amazing experience of sleeping under the stars by the side of the salt flats. ... more   less 
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