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“Good tour operator, strange business practices”

Red Planet Expedition - Day Trip
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Day Trip to Uyuni Salt Flats
Ranked #2 of 39 Tours in Uyuni
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
San Francisco, California
Level Contributor
71 reviews
21 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 39 helpful votes
“Good tour operator, strange business practices”
Reviewed March 31, 2013

We booked with Red Planet Expeditions for the 3 day/2 night Uyunni tour with a transfer to San Pedro de Atacama, after researching a variety of different options. We were sold on Red Planet as our friends traveled with them the month before.

As we were on a tight timeline, we needed to book our tour in advance, which is when we realized that the business practices were a bit odd. Our friend who toured with them 3 weeks earlier was quoted a different price (cheaper), and when we wrote to Red Planet to ask them about the discrepancy in pricing and subsequently, cc'ing one another, we were ignored. And continued to be ignored, until we buckled and said we'd pay their quoted price. Obviously, not candidates for best business practices.

The tour itself was interesting. 2 caravans departed, we were fortunately in a car with 3 others (5 total) so we had a bit more space, than people who were 6 in a land cruiser (your knees and legs will suffer regardless). The landcruisers are late model cruisers, and each of the drivers is your guide for the 3 days. Snacks are provided, as are top 40 90's and early 2000's tunes (which can be fun).. Day 1 is in the salt flats, Day 2 in the desert, and Day 3 brings you to the sulfur hot springs.

Red Planet provides all meals, sleep sacks, hot water bottles for the hostels (which you will want). The hostel in day 1 has a shower with "hot" water, which you'll pay for.. it's up to you whether or not you want to pay for it. We used baby wipes for 2 days. Also, since you're at a high elevation and in a desert, bring at least 3L of water per person/per day.. The guides don't pack enough water for people on the car. You'll get soda, but, that doesn't hydrate.

Visited November 2012
2 Thank Ace_Coco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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11 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“Great tour company”
Reviewed March 25, 2013

We booked in advance after hearing good things about this company from fellow travelers. Most other people thought that their tour was just ok, and we wanted great. It was a bit pricier, but I think it was worth it.
we were met at the bus station and taken to the main office. The guide, Alberto (?), was fantastic. His English was perfect, and the car was in great condition. The first day we saw the train graveyard and the salt flats. We were supposed to stop at one of the salt hotels, but they were cleaning it. This was unusual, and Alberto was on the phone right away. However, we were still not allowed in. We got to see the packaging of salt and things though. Alberto helped us take photos in the salt flats.
The accommodations were very nice. I had a comfortable sleep both nights. The food was also good. There was limited eggs for the first breakfast though. The other thing was that we were supposed to tip everyone, and we didn't realize this, so I didn't have enough Bolivianos (I ended in Chile).
It was easy to get into Chile. Timing was never an issue, and the bus to San Pedro de Atacama met us when it was supposed to.
I would recommend this company.

Visited March 2013
1 Thank 611RTWtraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
16 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
“Red Planet Tours - easily the best quality tour”
Reviewed March 2, 2013

Straight off, Red Planet is a bit more expensive (1200bs for 3 day), but really, while it may seem a lot more, on exchanging it to you currency, its probably not a lot. What the extra bs buy you how ever is more than worth it.

Firstly, you get an English speaking guide. Sadly, and this is why I would have like have given 4.5 not 5, if there is a lot of interest they book two 4wd, but only one guide. So one vehicle will have a driver and a separate guide, the second will only have a driver, ours was very friendly, but really didn't speak English. When we got to the sights, the guide filled us all in so you don't feel left out, but it is worth noting. Our guide, Oscar, had excellent English, was very knowledgeable about the area and very easy going, professional and friendly.

Both out vehicles were in good condition, the ride was as smooth as it can be for the area and comfy (they were both Land Rovers). The drivers were always alert and a no point did I feel unsafe. They kept good time, while not compromising safety.

The accommodations were warm, comfy, clean and had hot showers (extra 10bs, a nominal amount), they were both located very near a shop, so a few of us brought some beers, we shared with the drives and the guide, they took us up on the offer, but would never have more than 1 or 2 beers, they were always well rested and alert on the road. The food was simple, tasty, fresh and filling (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner). I found little need for snacks as they kept us very well fed.

Also, booking is a breeze, the lady at the office spoke fluent English and was wonderfully polite and helpful (which can be a rarity in Uyuni).

All in all, vastly worth the extra bs. In Uyuni, if you get a cheap deal, you're paying for it somewhere. Save yourself the hassle, book with Red Planet

Visited February 2013
4 Thank Symon-von-Vagabond
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Excellent tour”
Reviewed February 16, 2013 via mobile

I went on a 3 day tour of the salt flats around Dec 20th 2012. As with a lot of people posting reviews here, I had read all the horror stories about drunken drivers and dishonest tour companies on tripadvisor so I decided to pay a bit more and go with Red Planet who have the best tripadvisor rating. I'm glad I did! To be honest I think the quality of your experience depends a lot on luck, as you just have to hope you are allocated a good guide and that nothing bad (break-downs, drunken village parties, accommodation problems) happens during your trip. But if you pay the extra and go with a generally reputable organisation such as Red Planet, you are more likely to have a good experience.

We had Israel as our guide, although I think he's left the company now as he said it was his last tour. He was excellent, spoke really good English and explained every sight along the way. The jeeps were comfortable and ran well, and we didn't feel cramped as there were 11 of us and the guide spread between two. Food and accommodation was good as well, considering we were in the middle of nowhere. The weather at that time of year is a bit changeable and it did rain for some of the second day, but this didn't really detract from the experience. The only slight disappointment was that there were road blocks in the far south when I was there, so it wasn't possible to go to Laguna Verde and the border crossing to Chile and San Pedro involved a lot more travelling than it should have. However, this was nothing to do with Red Planet and they adjusted the schedule to accommodate the problems. They also explained the changes before we set off so we were all aware of the problem.

Overall I would certainly recommend Red Planet - I strongly believe that you get what you pay for and you are more likely (although of course not guaranteed) to have a better experience if you are prepared to pay a little more.

1 Thank rich2232
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
371 reviews
130 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 205 helpful votes
“3 day trip - Incredible scenery, very poor guide”
Reviewed February 12, 2013

Red Planet charges you 300 Bolivianos extra for an english speaking guide, promising full guiding, information and explanation for the extra cost (900 B's pp without a guide, 1200 B's with a guide).

Based on our experience, it is not worth paying the extra money as the guide they provided was hopeless. Not only did he sit mutely in the car and barely explain anything, he was rude and extremely unprofessional. We had to ask him questions if we wanted to know anything - including the simplest things like what the next stop would be and how long a drive - or he would not have said a word. And the info he did provide, or the answers given, were always very brief and delivered in a curt, rude manner, like we were imposing on him.

The food provided was just ok, nothing special at all and less than promised at the office. Minimal water was provided, even at meals or after meals for a hot drink. The driver/guide practically got angry at us if we asked for more and straight out refused to provide any water on the 2nd day. This was typical behaviour on his part. He shouted at one of our group when her door slammed shut in the wind, as if she had slammed it herself. He told off another group member for not finishing his desert!

There was no briefing at the end of a day, nor the beginning. On the 3rd day he told us to be ready to leave at 5am but then disappeared for almost an hour without any explanation, leaving us waiting in the cold. And then he hurried at every stop that day, telling us we were running late!

We were often left waiting in the cold for him, at each stop, while he hung out with his friends (the drivers/guides in other vehicles) rather than collect us and leave, even when he could obviously see that we were ready to go, waiting beside the car, or in it. He never once asked or checked how we were dealing with the altitude (even though it was evident one individual was very ill). He showed resistance when we asked to stop to take a photograph or go to the toilet or asked about meals plans/times. He often ignored our comments or questions.

Sure, he drove well and safely, cannot complain about that at all. But we paid for more than a driver. At the end of both days he even had trouble finding our accommodation, like he'd never been to either place before.

The trip itself, the destination, sites and sights are incredible, unmatched, stunning and obviously a must-do in Bolivia.

However, even if we had only paid for a driver, we would have expected someone who, at the very least, informed us each stop where we were, what the next stop would be and how long - and to have been friendly, caring and professional. To pay extra for a guided experience and to barely even receive the most basic of information - let alone to be treated rudely and with such little care - is unacceptable and compromised our experience.

We emailed Red Planet on 3 occasions to report our experience and complain about the driver. They did not respond to any of our emails and have not replied to date. As such we can only assume that they condone this sort of behaviour by their driver/guides and are indeed quite happy to charge you extra for non-existent extra services, ie poorly trained guides.

As such, we would not recommend Red Planet. Go with a different operator or at least decline to pay extra for their 'guides'.

Visited January 2013
5 Thank travla67
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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