We arrived in Potosí after a 9.5 hour journey from La Paz with Bolivar. Very comfy journey except there were no toilets (except for a 3.30am stop in the middle of nowhere and a 2 BOB fee) and the bus must have stopped about 6 times whilst leaving La Paz. There’s honestly no such thing as a direct service in Bolivia, whatever you’re told. Our 7am arrival in Potosí (and 15 BOB taxi journey to the main square) was WAY too early. Absolutely nothing was open. I asked a local what time the city starts opening up and she said about 10am or 11am – WHAT?! We tried a couple of hostels but they all told us to come back after 10am.
First impressions were why did we come to this hellhole? First impressions turned out to be correct. Freezing cold and pouring with rain most of the time. Ugh. Funnily enough we ended up in Potosí twice, once on the way to the lively city of Sucre, and once on the way to the Salar de Uyuni or Salt Flats. We stayed at a damp place called Maria Victoria (80 BOB) on our first visit and the far nicer Hostal Carlos V Imperial (160 BOB).
The main square in Potosí, Plaza 10 de Noviembre has a pretty cool mini Statue of Liberty and a nice cathedral too. Cafés we checked out included Cherry’s (they have a fireplace, wifi and cookies so a winner in my book), Café La Plata had a bit of a train station vibe (food isn’t great but there’s a nice enough atmosphere, and the very popular gringo hangout of the Koala Café (also a tour agency). We didn’t eat well in Potosi full stop so couldn’t wait to move on!
There’s a hill towering over the city called Cerro Rico or Rich Hill, a silver mine which kept the Spanish in the jewels they had become accustomed to. There’s a story that says a bridge made of silver could have been built from Potosi to Madrid and the Spanish would still have had silver to bring over it. Intense. There’s still a huge mining culture in Potosí, about 10,000 locals still work there and you can go visit (Koala Tours had a tour for 120 BOB) but we decided against that as the conditions are supposed to be appalling and we didn’t want to contribute to the misery.
Potosí actually has a great bus station. It’s a huge circular building with all the bus companies upstairs. There are a couple of stalls so you can pick up something for your forward journey. There’s a departure tax at the station (2 BOB) which you can purchase inside or on the bus. They’ll find you!
Buses to Sucre: There are plenty of buses throughout the day to Sucre from Potosi’s Neuva Terminal. We went with Alonso de Ibanez for 20 BOB and we had a lovely (and ancient) driver that gave every single car a massive wave. This journey took 3.5 hours.
Buses to Uyuni: You’ll need to go to the Old or Ex Terminal in Potosi to catch a bus to Uyuni (unless you want a 12.30pm bus which goes from the new or neiva terminal) You can get to the Ex Terminal in a taxi for 10BOB (which we did at 6.30am) or on one of the many micros that race around the city for 1.50BOB (A, F, J, P, 6, 8, 50, 70, 130 and 230 all go to the Ex Terminal). Our 7am bus to Uyuni with American took 4 hours from Potosi.