Backpacking in Bolivia: Potosi to Uyuni By Bus

Backpacking in Bolivia: Potosi to Uyuni By Bus

I made a habit of getting night buses while in Bolivia. Not only does it save time travelling between places, but it also saves a night’s accomodation, which to be fair, in Uyuni is hardly going to be a big deal, it costs about 2 pounds a night for a bed.

Potosi is the world’s highest city and had been some experience. From the view over the city, to the mining tour, to the miner’s market where cocaine and 100% alcohol were readily available to the walk round the city, inspired by Zelina, from the tourist company Koala Tours.

Anyhow as my time in Potosi’s high city came to an end, a closing bow was found in the slightly dodgy area where the bus station was housed.

Hardly central or easy to find. This bus station was basically a dusty road with many bus outlets on it. It didn’t feel too safe there for a foreigner.

I arrived at my bus company’s office and got checked in. My Spanish was surprisingly adequate at this point. Zelida had upgraded me to a Bus Cama for the same price, which meant almost a proper bed. But as with all buses in South America, this was of course untrue.

My seat did recline though. But more of Semi Cama rather than Cama. The bus company I used was Trans Emperador. A nice green bus – very compact and tight.

For once in South America I wasn’t the only foreigner. The four guys from New Zealand who were on the mining tour also got my bus to Uyuni (3 of them pictured with me there – the other took the photo). And were then doing the Salt Flats tour the same day as me, but with a different company. Yet we were on the same bus.

That made me feel a bit more safe on the bus, though I was sandwiched at the back, in a window seat beside a Potosian who didn’t want to talk. I decided not to use my iPod on this journey for that reason. You can see how dusty and drab there Potosi is.

Actually if I’m being honest, Potosi wasn’t a great city, but that negative aspect was lost on me as I revelled in the fact that I was in the world’s highest city, and doing a dangerous, special mining tour. Other than that, a walk round the city centre, reveals just markets, old buildings and even more lego block remains than La Paz.

OK so time had come to leave Potosi, a city so high up in the mountains, the only way out of it would be a descent, right at the start. Once seated on the bus I saw a sign for a furniture shop Muebleria (Spanish for furniture shop), seemed like an anagram of my Mum’s name so I photographed it.

My bus ticket for the Trans Emperador Potosie to Uyuni.

The view of the Potosi tower on leaving the city.

Bus window leaving behind the city of Potosi.

The dirt track, it wasn’t really a road to Uyuni, more a winding dirt track, luckily the weather was so hot and so dry there was no issue of sliding or being marooned. Many travellers have ended stuck in Potosi and Uyuni because of the poor transport links out of the city during bad weather.

I left Potosi before dark, yet this was a night bus which would arrive in Uyuni just after midnight, think it was due to take 7 hours or so. For this reason I didn’t want to be lingering on the streets of Uyuni until sunrise, and believe it or not, there is no bus station there to relax or wait at. The bus simply dumps you off on a street somewhere near the centre. I had done a bit of planning for this, and just 2 hours before leaving Potosi I got Zelida to phone a hostel opposite the bus stop and book me in. I paid her for the phone call plus more, as she needed to explain to them that I would be arriving late and to check someone would be on reception. Althought she said yes, I did worry of being stranded in case I couldn’t get in.

The bus journey was dark, winding and uneventful. And right enough, without stopping we arrived in Uyuni before 1 am sometime. 
I saw my hostel straight away! It was the Hospedaje El Salvador, a very cheap abode.

Straight off my bus and rang the bell, the hostel let me in, it felt homely and nice. I had my own bed and room, even a television, a socket to charge my phone for the trips ahead and a hot shower in the room outside. I was now in the darkness of Uyuni. Where, as it happens, yet another new adventure would begin…
Transport Used – Bus

Nationalities Met – Bolivians (or Potosians) and New Zealanders
Key Song:



7 thoughts on “Backpacking in Bolivia: Potosi to Uyuni By Bus

  • “… to the miner’s market where cocaine and 100% alcohol were readily available…”, it’s a common foreign misleading, dried coca leaves are not cocaine!! And obviously they don’t have same effects at all.
    — Javier

  • Hey mate of course I know the difference between Cocaine and Coca Leaves. I had coca leaves but I don’t touch cocaine I’m afraid. They are both readily available in Potosi, as I bet you know 😉 Safe travels Jonny.

  • After readibg your two first paragraphs I quickly realised you probably shouldn’t be writing: firstly, because Potosi is not the highest city and, secondly, because they’re called coca leaves not cocaine. Please, fact check in the future.

  • Hi Andrew. No – you are wrong. When I backpacked Bolivia and visited Potosi and Uyuni, I was offered cocaine many times. But I don’t take it, I don’t do hard drugs, I was also offered 100% alcohol, again I turned it down. Coca leaves are a different thing altogether you idiot!! They are legal leaves that people often chew to get rid of soroche! And yes – Potosi is the HIGHEST CITY in the world. So please check your facts before commenting on my ten year old expert travel blog, send me a link to your blog so I can also make fake assumptions on yer buck eejitry. Safe travels. Jonny

  • This is an article anyone visiting Bolivia should watch, thanks for the tips! Bolivia is also sometimes referred to as the Tibet of the Americas. Although remote, it offers a diverse set of geographical landscape and a fascinating Latin American culture for tourists daring to venture here.

    However, there are tourist-targeting scammers and petty crime to be wary of.

    Do be wary of overcharging vendors, spilling scam, Isla Del Sol scams, bag theft, fake bus station officials, ATM scams, fake currency and many more!

  • Hi David. Thanks for the comment. Apologies for the delay. I have been going through depression and only checking through my old comments and messages now. I hope you enjoyed Bolivia and thanks for the extra tips. Stay safe. Jonny

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